Rodale Launches E-Singles Program With Runner’s World, Men’s Health Titles

Book and magazine publisher Rodale is looking to some of its most popular magazines for content as it introduces e-originals this week. First up are a Runner’s World “Essential Guides” series and a Grete Waitz title, to be followed by a Kindle Single on the Afghanistan War by Men’s Health editor Bob Drury.

The Runner’s World Essential Guides are “Barefoot Running and Minimalism,” “Fast Fuel,” and “Weight Loss,” all priced at $2.99 and going on sale October 20. The titles will be available on Kindle, Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), Nook, Kobo, Sony (NYSE: SNE) and Google (NSDQ: GOOG). A tribute to Grete Waitz, “The Great Grete Waitz,” is also available now for $1.99. In addition, Rodale is releasing its first Kindle Single, “Signature Wound: Hidden Bombs, Heroic Soldiers, and the Shocking, Secret Story of the Afghanistan War,” by Men’s Health contributing editor Bob Drury, tomorrow, October 18.

The Runner’s World guides focus on “perennial topics that are always popular in the magazine, that readers always have questions about,” Rodale Books executive editor and editorial director for Runner’s World and Bicycling branded books Shannon Welch said. Rodale’s running-related e-book titles are already among the company’s bestsellers. “While other publishing houses have structured partnership deals with magazine brands, Rodale’s unique position as publisher of both books and magazines allows us to use what we know about our readers to develop content in-house and respond to consumer interest quickly,” Welch said.

The Runner’s World guides include some original new content as well as content from the magazine. Rodale also plans to publish e-singles made up of entirely new content, like an ultramarathon e-book by Dean Karnazes that will be released for the London Olympics in 2012.

The company is looking at original e-book series across all eight of its brands. Coming next are personal health guides from Men’s Health and Prevention and niche gardening guides from Organic Gardening.

“In a lot of ways we’re testing the waters with these, but we don’t want to be too timid,” said Brian Perrin, digital product manager for books. “We’re getting a lot of stuff into the hopper and moving quickly so we can have it out there and get a sense of what the market is.”

Rodale’s magazines will cross-promote the e-books, including ad pages and “editorial mentions when appropriate.” David Willey, SVP and editor-in-chief of Runner’s World, will be writing about the RW Essential Guides in his December letter from the editor.

The company also plans to experiment with pricing on the e-singles (a strategy that Hearst has found useful with its “mini cookbooks”). “One of the reasons we’ve been particularly interested in organizing our e-original publishing into series is to experiment with price promotions and giveaways,” Perrin said. “At least anecdotally, we know that with genre fiction the technique of significantly reducing the price of one book, or even giving it away free for a limited time, has worked well to drive sales across the entire series. We’d like to see if this technique can be applied effectively to service-oriented and how-to books.”