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BookMachine Oxford March [REVIEW]

Jonathan Davis (Chandos Publishing), who you might have seen on Twitter as @canadiancat has written this comprehensive review of BookMachine Oxford with Richard Sullivan – a great summary for those who missed it.

If BookMachine is “the most fun you can have with your clothes on”, the latest gathering had no problem in filling up the top-floor of Oxford’s House Bar on Wednesday night.

With a new, and untested, approach for BookMachine Oxford, organised by wunder-kind, Charly Ford of Osprey and sponsored by recruitment specialists, Atwood-Tate, the evening started with a short talk from Richard Sullivan, Managing Director of Osprey Publishing.

Osprey’s mission brings to life those epic war campaigns and medieval fantasies that many enthusiasts (of which there are many!) love to take part in.

Mr. Sullivan’s short talk on ‘Working with Non-publishers’ had a flavour of synchronicity, which even this blogger couldn’t deny, with it taking place in the ‘Games Room’.

Mixed with the anticipation of a short work week and happy-hour-priced cocktails, the audience learnt that Osprey’s latest projects venture into the realm of wargaming. And if there was a theme for the talk, and the evening, it was keeping people happy!

Wargamers are enthusiastic investors in their products and their community, Sullivan began saying. They are aware of their product, and devote both time and money to their cause – sometimes to the detriment of family and relationships, he added with a laugh.

So what is the key to happiness?

Most people can tell you it is in the relationship. The key is communication, Sullivan stressed. It is vital to unlocking the success.

So before you go a-courting, and looking to make new connections, reflect on the following questions at the beginning, and throughout the stages of development (I mean, relationship).

Everything stems from “the what and the why,” Sullivan added, as he guided us through the various stages of a relationship. What do you want to do? Why you do what you do? And do you do it well?

These questions have guided Osprey as they continue to innovate how they approach their readership and embrace new ways of working within and outside their company.

The initial date (also known as “the contract stage”) – the contract will outline the territory where you will both work together from, Sullivan said, always keep an eye on the financial arrangements – these can be negotiated. And continue to go back to the above questions, reframing them as the project progresses.

Manage Expectations – ask yourself the following: who owns the intellectual property; what licensing arrangements are in place; what’s your market position; who’s organising the publicity (is it a single- or joint-venture); does your partner have competing products; and have you explained how timelines work in publishing, how returns and remainders work?

How you explain these (and how often) will determine the success (or failure) of a product. Sullivan was quick to point out that each party will have expertise, so always be listening.

Sales & Marketing – Maintain an open line of communication throughout this stage, monitor the investment of time and money. If you are working with a budget, do your partners know this? Find out what your partners are doing. If it is a computer-based wargame are they setting up beta testing; do they have third-party, or external publications, lined-up for review and promotion?

More importantly are they selling the product? Do you apply royalties (AND a sales discount) to the merchandise? Be prepared to live and learn from your mistakes, Sullivan added.

And finally what’s the internal message of  the project? Does everyone understand what the company is doing, and are they on board? If not, find out why, creating a shared involvement will strengthen the support. Have a plan for mis-steps in place: what happens when a breakdown occurs?

An elevated response rate is important, Sullivan suggested – keep conversations candid and frank. The relationship should be strong enough to NOT HAVE to refer to the contract, he added. If that happens, it’s time to cut your losses and pull the plug.

The Breakup – Rule #1: Don’t believe your own hype!

Be upfront from the start, stay positive, but realistic. Know what your exit strategy looks like, and when you expect the project will end. And be prepared to part ways without holding onto everything you own; and like any break-up you may have to help each other to get back on your feet. An amicable split will keep your partners on-side, don’t court the bad press.

As Osprey have started aligning their publishing activities with those outside the normal realm an awareness of yours (and your company’s) goals and objectives is critically important to the success of any new product launch. Osprey is clearly one of those non-traditional/traditional publishers, actively taking their activities into untested projects, and successfully reaching new consumers.

The users and creators of these products are enthusiastic, passionate. And sometimes can be hard to control! Control freaks beware!

The next BookMachine event in the UK is at The London Book Fair on Monday 15th April – find out more here.

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