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Sex, Food Sell In Hearst’s New E-Singles Publishing Program

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Hearst hopes that its snack-size Good Housekeeping “mini cookbooks,” which it is selling for $0.99 on Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and Nook, will entice readers to purchase more expensive e-cookbooks. The company is also experimenting with minis for other properties, including Cosmopolitan–joining the growing list of publishers who are releasing e-singles.

Hearst has released 33 cookbooks in digital formats so far, including five $0.99 Good Housekeeping mini cookbooks on topics like cocktails and cookies as part of a promotion that began in September. The company also partnered with Open Road to publish “Cosmo’s Sexiest Stories Ever,” a $0.99 collection of three stories by bestselling women’s authors. All of the e-singles hit iBookstore bestseller lists.

The e-singles are part of Hearst’s strategy to draw attention to its more expensive digital cookbooks. The mini cookbooks, for instance, led to increased sales for the enhanced e-book version of the Good Housekeeping Cookbook, which is priced at $20.99 and includes how-to videos. (A regular e-book version is $16.99.) On the Nook bookstore, Hearst said, the enhanced e-book version of the cookbook outsells the regular e-book version by two to one.

Next up is another pricing experiment, which will test $4.99 prices across several Good Housekeeping cookbooks.

The e-single strategy relies on “things that are already working well already, at the core,” David Kang, Hearst’s creative director of content extensions, told me. Because the Good Housekeeping cookbook was one of the company’s most successful titles in the book space in general, it made sense to expand related e-book offerings. “It’s content windowing,” Kang said. “We initially launch the large cookbook, then we try to find parts of the audience that might be more focused.”

Kang would not share e-singles sales numbers, and said only that he’s “pleased with how they’re doing. They’ve been successful in creating an on-ramp to graduating people” to higher-priced e-books. Hearst will publish e-singles for other properties in the future.

I asked if Hearst would consider providing exclusives to any one platform, as DC Comics recently did for the Kindle Fire. “In general, we like to be on all the platforms where consumers are,” Kang said. But he mentioned that Nook created a branded boutique around the Good Housekeeping mini cookbooks, and said, “There are instances where the retailer wants to be able to do a special promotion,” and didn’t rule out such opportunities in the future.