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JVs and affiliates – better together

It’s a fact of life – of my life certainly, and I’m pretty sure yours too – that you can’t do everything on your own. Sometimes you need to bring specific skills and experience into the business by recruiting, sometimes you need to partner with another company, such as software developers, to deliver a project. But those aren’t the only options. Entrepreneurs and small businesses are pioneering new, more flexible models for collaboration and for punching above their weight. Two of the most interesting are joint ventures and affiliate programmes, which are slightly different although the terms are often used interchangeably.

Joint ventures

Typically a joint venture is less formal than a full partnership, although it may be governed by a legal agreement. It usually involves two complementary rather than competing companies coming together to create a new product or service that will appeal to both their markets, or jointly promoting complementary products or services to mutual benefit.  Because it’s a two-way process, it typically involves negotiation to secure that mutual benefit. In marketing terms, however, joint ventures are more usually understood to mean an integrated marketing strategy bringing benefits to both companies. They could do reciprocal email campaigns promoting the other’s product/service/event to their subscribers, for example, or share synergistic assets to create a content marketing campaign that’s more than the sum of the parts. When it’s done right, a JV is a win/win: your community (and therefore you) benefit because you can offer them something of interest and value, while you leverage your partner’s network and community to reach new customers. When it’s done poorly, because the fit isn’t right or the benefit isn’t equal, it’s irritating to one or both partners and their communities.

Affiliate programmes

In an affiliate relationship, there’s less in the way of cooperation: the provider of a product or service provides a unique affiliate link or code that another organisation can use, and the affiliate receives a percentage of any sales (and/or advertising revenue) derived from that link. In an affiliate relationship the product or service belongs entirely to the originating partner, and the affiliate serves only to broaden its reach – there’s usually little if any room for negotiation. Amazon is perhaps the most obvious example – it bills itself as the ‘most popular and successful’ affiliate programme on the web.

Where are the opportunities for publishers?

You could argue that any rights deal is a joint venture – whether that’s for a translation or film adaptation. Or indeed that it’s a reasonable way to describe the relationship between publisher and author. Certainly publishing on behalf of an organisation is a great JV opportunity for publishers, such as Nosy Crow’s relationship with the National Trust or my own white-labelling services for organisations. But there are many non-traditional opportunities for using these models too, without getting into a fully-fledged joint venture. You don’t even need tracking URL technology for all of them, and one of the best things about them is that you don’t spend a penny until the sales roll in. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
  • Enlist co-authors for mutual benefit: for example one brings the time and ability to write while the other has the profile and reach to promote the book effectively. Patrick Vlaskovits, Neil Patel and Jonas Koffler brought a complementary set of skills to the table to create Hustle, published by Penguin.
  • Another twist on this is for the author of a general book to partner with experts in specific niches to create new ‘verticals’, as Michael E. Gerber did with the legendarily successful The E-Myth Revisited to create the E-Myth Expert series, for professions as diverse as vets, financial advisors and optometrists.
  • Your book launch will be rocket-fuelled if you get the right partners on board: in Launch, Jeff Walker describes how he generated over $1m revenue in an hour from a well-planned JV product launch. And since JV partners typically direct their subscribers to sign up on your landing page, you can simultaneously grow your mailing list at the same time, which over time is likely to be worth significantly more than the initial flurry of sales.
  • Run a multiple JV-partner direct marketing and/or social media campaign, providing marketing collateral or ‘swipe’ copy that they can use. Make it as easy as possible for them to promote your stuff, but allow them to adapt your copy and/or write their own too: they will have their own tone and stylistic quirks. (And hey, since as we’ve already established authors and publishers are by definition joint venture partners, why not make a suite of marketing collateral available to your authors too?)
  • You have great content. Your potential JV partner has a great platform and network, and platforms and networks run on content. Think creatively about what you can produce for them – a blog or vlog series, a webinar, free online training – to get the most effective exposure/content win/win.
  • Finally, and perhaps most obviously, why not take a leaf out of Amazon’s book and reward people who love your books and are willing to promote them? From the biggest (PRH) to small independents (Chronicle Books), savvy publishers run affiliate programmes typically offering up to 10% commission on sales, and often with an enhanced scheme for their own authors. In a world of horizontal selling and peer recommendations, this makes all kinds of sense.
If you’re a publisher or author running successful JV or affiliate schemes, I’d love to hear your story – perhaps you could share it in The Extraordinary Business Book Club? membership economyAlison Jones (@bookstothesky) is a publishing partner for businesses and organizations writing world-changing books. She also provides executive coaching, consultancy and training services to publishers. www.alisonjones.com

7 questions to shape an effective innovation team

When managing any innovation project, organizing your team is one of the most important challenges you will face. No matter if you found a startup or drive innovation in an enterprise environment, it is always about orchestrating the talent of your team members in order to generate growth. The perfect organization of any innovation team is lean and simple. It does not block progress but unleashes productivity. Innovation never loves being constrained by too many rules. There are so many ways to organize your team, from controlling to participating, from autocracy to anarchy, from hierarchy to holacracy. This article aims to provide you with some key questions to raise in the process of developing your ideal form of organization. Answer the following 7 questions to shape an effective innovation team.

1) What is our ‘why’ and what is our ‘how’?

For an innovation team it is essential to share a vision. Without this common idea of a better future, there is a lack of orientation. In innovation we have to run many tests, we experiment with our ideas, and we pivot regularly. Oftentimes we spend days or weeks in creating something only to trash it in the end. This can be very discouraging if you do not know why you are doing what you do. Based on the foundation of a shared vision, core values that are openly discussed will boost the productivity of every team. Just imagine a situation where you share a coworking space with a potential competitor. Imagine your teams sit together every day, share lunch from time to time, and of course, you are also exchanging information about your businesses. How do you act in terms of transparency in this situation? Does your team share knowledge or do you hide? Do you proactively help your competitor or do you only try to grab the best of their ideas? In this case, having defined a team value (e.g., ‘transparency and borderless collaboration’) will help your team to have a common understanding of how to act in complex situations.

2) Who owns the decision-making process?

Unclear decision-making processes are frustrating. You have an idea and it gets lost as nobody decides to realize it. You give your best for a whole day and in the evening, your team lead trashes all of your work. You are running a small innovation project and suddenly it turns out that you missed an opportunity to ask for feedback from some core decision-makers.

In an innovation team, it is important to have clear decision-rules that run fast. You want to decide within minutes, not in days. Speed in execution is essential for innovation. The team wants to know who to ask for what. Decisions have to be consistent. Ultimately, your team wants to be involved and take some ownership of the decisions. Nobody likes to be bossed, especially the ones with an entrepreneurial spirit. If you want to run a truly effective innovation team, a transparent and participative decision-making process is inevitable.

3) What are the domains each team member owns?

Have you ever worked in a team where the manager decided on every single detail of your work? You had to get approval for irrelevant things and were not able to decide on your own? If yes, you will know that this kills your motivation and your productivity. On the other hand, a team where nobody is ‘the boss’ soon gets out of control. Things are done duplicate, you decide again and again on the same things, and in times of failure nobody feels responsible. Giving people ownership of their domains will change everything. Let them decide and suddenly they are involved. This will not only help to raise motivation but also to speed up decisions. At the same time, somebody is finally responsible. You can set goals, clear expectations, and you know who to talk to, if things go wrong.

4) How do we structure our meetings?

Who does not know these regular boring get-togethers where you achieve almost nothing. What a waste of time! We tend to set up too many meetings that are too long and involve too many people. In the end, most of the time is wasted in discussions that are not related to  the original purpose of this meeting. There are simple rules that will help to boost your meeting productivity. Keep meetings small, set a clear structure that focuses on decision-making, and have a facilitator who restrains irrelevant speeches. Try to always leave a meeting with a clear outcome, e.g., an action plan or a decision protocol.

5) How to give feedback?

Everybody loves to work in a harmonious team but at some point, differing viewpoints will arise. Oftentimes teams neglect to utilize the power of dissonance. In discussions and feedback situations, we focus on the good things and avoid speaking out on the bad ones. Over time, this will intoxicate our team. There will be a growing number of things that are left under the table. Furthermore, situations of conflict hold a massive power for innovation. If we always agree, we will never invite something new. Only in disagreement and developing tradeoffs will we find new solutions. A formalized feedback process can prove a great asset to your team. Give feedback and ask for it. Encourage people to give negative feedback in a setting where they can feel safe.

6) What boosts our motivation?

Being motivated as a team is not only a question of bringing the right people together, not only of talent or skills. It is also a question of how we organize our work. Much too often we formulize vague projects with unspecified tasks. Procrastination evolves, projects seem to get stuck, and in the end we are demotivated. With some simple mechanisms, we can create motivation boosters: break down projects into actionable tasks and somehow visualize progress (e.g., with Kanban). If we constantly see progress, every small task that is executed transforms into a small win. Also, the atmosphere in which we work will transform. We feel that we are achieving something. This creates the breeding ground for a motivating environment that fosters innovation.

7) How do we manage ideas?

If you set the right atmosphere and encourage people to express their ideas, you also have to ensure that these ideas are valued. Too often we conduct brainstorming meetings and create a bunch of great ideas, just to see them fade away, written down on some piece of paper that is lost in your drawer. Idea management includes not only the idea generation process but also the mechanisms to evaluate, test, and realize those sparks of innovation. Tools like a Post-it wall or a Trello board can do magic.

Matthias Reinholz is a Digital Marketing and Innovation Manager. This post original appeared on his site, https://matthiasreinholz.com/ 

10 things that used to be part of a publisher’s day that millennials will find hard to imagine…

Yesterday I discovered I’d been shortlisted for the Women in Publishing Pandora prize for ‘significant and sustained contribution to the publishing industry’. By the time you may read this either Kate Wilson (MD of Nosy Crow) or Justine Solomons (founder of Byte the Book), my fellow shortlistees and true titans of the industry, will have scooped the award, but they can’t take this away from me. It did get me thinking, though, that use of the word ‘sustained’. It’s code I suppose for ‘been around a while’ (and of course I have: 25 years in the industry, no less, as author, bookseller and publisher). Which prompted me to remember how much has changed in that time. Here are 10 things that used to be part of a publisher’s day that millennials will find hard to imagine…

1) Ozalids

These were the very last set of proofs, created from the negatives used to make the plates for printing the book. They were absolutely toxic – light-sensitive paper coated in chemicals that reeked of burning ammonia. I remember feeling sick the first time I had to check them, but the smell grew on you, which in retrospect was probably quite a dangerous sign.

2) The NBA

Once upon a time, way back, before 1995, there was a thing called the Net Book Agreement, which meant that the publisher would set the price for a book and that WAS the price, no matter where that book was sold. Small independent bookstores could thrive alongside supermarkets and chains with bulk buying power, and authors received a decent royalty on every sale. It was of course hopelessly anti-competitive and doomed. Still, it was nice while it lasted.

3) Creating p&ls by hand

When I arrived at Oxford University Press in 1997, my predecessor Alysoun Owen had left a detailed set of handover notes including a printed ‘Pub 1’ template – a basic p&l for a book showing gross margin/profit over initial printing and one reprint – and instructions on how to complete it. ‘You can do this in Excel,’ she had noted, ‘but I strongly recommend doing a few by hand so you understand how it all works.’ It was superb advice. As with all technology, spreadsheets are great servants but terrible masters if you don’t know what’s going on under the hood.

4) Clipping newspapers

My very first job in publishing was as an editorial assistant with W & R Chambers in Edinburgh, publishers of the Chambers Biographical Dictionary. And my early contribution to that august reference work was to spend day after day in a basement room, cutting out, photocopying and filing obituaries from The Times. I still have an encyclopedic knowledge of public figures who died in 1992. Morbid, but character-building.

5) In-house checking

OUP used to have a whole corridor of desk editors. During my time at Reader’s Digest our team was assigned a dedicated fact-checker, who would crawl over and verify every statistic and statement for accuracy. This was the pre-post-truth era, of course, when we thought facts and accuracy mattered. Seems quaint now, don’t it?

6) Multiple bookshop chains

It didn’t used to be just Waterstones (or Waterstone’s, as it was then), WHSmith and The Works on the high street. In the pre-Amazon days there were Hammicks, Sherratt & Hughes, Dillons, James Thin, John Menzies, Ottakars, Books Etc and probably others that I’ve forgotten. Plus at least one good indie bookshop in each town. It was fab.

7) Manuscript delivery by cardboard box

Twenty years ago when a manuscript arrived in house, you knew about it. Authors had to submit two double-spaced typed copies, with lots of space for that in-house copy-editor to make their corrections and query those facts, along with a floppy disk containing the manuscript in a form you might or might not be able to access: Microsoft Works, anyone? I remember the glorious moment at OUP when Alan Davidson delivered the manuscript of the monumental Oxford Companion to Food unannounced and nearly 20 years late: he, his wife and his son each carrying an enormous cardboard box proudly in procession. An email attachment or WeTransfer link just doesn’t have the same sense of occasion.

8) Visiting art galleries

There was a time when if you wanted to find just the right picture for your book cover, picture research involved actually getting up and going to a likely gallery or archive and browsing the collection. This of course took a terrible amount of time – but it was a nice way to spend an afternoon.

9) Losing your entire manuscript in a power cut

When I wrote my first book, using the Apple Macs in Edinburgh University library because I didn’t own a computer of my own, there was no such thing as ‘autosave’. So when my (then) boyfriend stretched out his legs at the next workstation and accidentally kicked the plug out of the power socket and the whole spine of computers switched off, I lost around 4 hours’ work. The person next to me hadn’t saved their thesis at all and lost the lot. Oops.

10) The single-track career

I joined as an editorial assistant, and dutifully worked my way up through the roles of assistant editor and editor to publisher. And then, suddenly, all bets were off. I skilled up in computing and became head of digital development, got an MBA and became director of innovation strategy. If I had my time again I’d seek out roles in marketing and sales (although I’m making up for that now as an independent publisher). There is no one route through the ranks these days, and no expectation or even preference that high performers will focus exclusively in one functional area (editorial, sales and marketing are particularly fluid). As the world and our industry become more complex, our greatest capabilities are not our functional skills and experience – valuable though these are – but our ability to learn, unlearn, relearn, adapt and flex. In 5 years’ time you’ll be able to write your own list of 10 things that used to feature in your day-to-day publishing work but don’t any more. Stay curious and enjoy the ride. membership economyAlison Jones (@bookstothesky) is a publishing partner for businesses and organizations writing world-changing books. She also provides executive coaching, consultancy and training services to publishers. www.alisonjones.com
membership economy

The membership economy

Millennia
Meet Millennia. Millennia doesn’t take a taxi to the airport, she books an Uber ride. She doesn’t buy a novel at WHSmith while she waits for the plane, she loads up the latest instalment of her favourite Wattpad serial on her mobile. When she arrives, she doesn’t head for a hotel: she’s going Airbnb and staying with locals, and she eats at the restaurants recommended by TripAdvisor, not a guidebook, wearing the new maxi-dress she bought off eBay, not the high street. While she’s away, she remembered to find someone on TaskRabbit to look after the garden. Millennia doesn’t know it, but she’s a poster girl for the sharing economy, enabled and driven by the internet (which is itself of course fundamentally a peer-to-peer network) and disrupting pretty much every industry in the process. But there’s a new business model on the block, which holds significantly more promise for businesses: the membership economy. Strategy expert Robbie Kellman Baxter, author of The Membership Economy and my guest in The Extraordinary Business Book Club this week, explains: ‘The membership economy is a massive transformational trend that is really transforming virtually every industry, moving from an emphasis on ownership versus access, moving from the transactional to the relationship, moving from anonymous to known relationships, moving from one-way communication to community. All of those things together are creating all kinds of new ways to build business models and, most importantly, to build long-term relationships with your customers.’ In the membership model the assets belong to the company: sharing economy businesses provide the marketplace for discovery and transactions but don’t own the assets themselves. In contrast, Netflix – an exemplar of the membership economy – allows its members to access its own content, rather than giving them a way to share their own films. A related trend is the subscription model, which has been the cornerstone of library journal and ebook acquisition for years, but membership need not involve a subscription, and a subscription alone is just a way to pay; it doesn’t necessarily imply membership. As Robbie puts it, ‘Membership is a mindset… there’s an emotional component there. A sense of belonging. A sense of building a tribe or people with a connection.’ Given how good books are at stirring emotions and building connections, it’s not surprising that smart publishers are tapping into the power of the membership economy. Small scholarly societies have been doing this for years of course, but more recently initiatives such as Pottermore and Osprey Members have shown what’s possible for trade publishers too. In an adjacent space, The Guardian has successfully established its membership model as an alternative to the other two dominant models in journalism: paywall and advertising. Guardian membership appeals to the readers’ values (‘fearless and independent’) and sense of identity, and the various levels of membership (supporter, partner, patron) allow a range of price points – how often do publishers allow those who really love what they do to spend serious money with them? So many of the most interesting initiatives in the world of books use the sharing model, driven by the passionate desire of readers to dive deeper into their experience with books, to connect with each other (and ideally their favourite authors), create their own stories based on the characters and worlds they love. Just take a look at some of the start-ups featured in the Bookseller’s Futurebook recently – Litsy, The Pigeonhole, Oolipo to name but a few – plus of course well-established players such as GoodReads and Wattpad. It’s been hard for publishers to gain traction with these models, with distrust flying in both directions. The membership mindset, on the other hand, gives publishers the opportunity to host the conversation, rather than sitting outside it, and to create new revenue streams at high margin. It’s a model worth taking seriously.  

BookGig: The ‘publisher agnostic’ initiative launched by HarperCollins

A new initiative hit the book world this week: BookGig, ‘all the events from the authors you love’. What’s interesting about that? Well, it’s one of the few initiatives launched by a publisher (HarperCollins) that isn’t narrowly focused on that publisher’s own lists. ‘Publisher agnostic’, they’re calling it. Which is exactly what readers are, of course. HarperCollins have recognised that to do anything worthwhile they need scale, and to get scale they need comprehensive coverage. (Their reward, apart from the kudos and the opportunity to promote their own events and authors, is of course the contact details of hundreds or thousands of book lovers aka potential future customers.) It’s also interesting because of the way it zooms in on a key point of differentiation – in a book ecosystem dominated by Amazon’s sheer scale, author events are a blue ocean of opportunity. (BookMachine fans know the value of a good event better than most, of course.) They’re also a win-win-win scenario: for the author, the opportunity to convert readers into raving fans; for publishers and booksellers, the opportunity to sell significant quantities of books; for readers, an experience that gives depth and texture to the book itself. I’m fascinated by the range of events already featured – not just your traditional author readings and book launches, but book clubs, business breakfasts, workshops, even a walk. The possibilities are infinite: masterclasses, demonstrations, debates, all-night readings, fan fiction competitions, maybe a sneak preview of a new book with the opportunity to contribute or collaborate? This for me is the most exciting space for publishing in the digital age – brokering not just a transaction but a relationship between author and reader. future of the bookAlison Jones (@bookstothesky) is a publishing partner for businesses and organizations writing world-changing books. She also provides executive coaching, consultancy and training services to publishers. www.alisonjones.com

Irish book sales up by 20% as feel-good factor returns to publishing

The book trade in Ireland is booming with sales up by more than 20 per cent to date this year. Here are some of the highlights from The Irish Times’ article.

The Stats

  • Sales up to September 10th were €76.4 million, up 20.3 per cent on 2015, according to Nielsen Bookscan
  • The largest growth has been recorded in non-fiction (up 24.5 per cent to €31.4 million) and in children’s (up 24.4 per cent to €26.7 million) book sales
  • Fiction is up 8.4 per cent with sales of €18.1 million
  • The bestseller of the year has been Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (selling 56,300 copies to date).

Attributing Factors

  • The improving economy meant more disposable income and discretionary spending
  • The decline in the value of sterling has meant books are also cheaper in Ireland
  • The publication of a number of big titles most notably the new Harry Potter book.

2016 Trend Report: What publishers need to know

The Future Today Institute has created a terrific, free report summarizing key technology trends and what they mean for tomorrow. I’ve embedded the report below so you can quickly flip through it. I read the whole report and highlighted the most noteworthy elements for publishers below. That leads me (once again) to the topic of curation, a very important (current and) future publishing trend. Curation is becoming as important as creation, especially as we’re bombarded with more information than we can possibly consume. As you read through my curated list below, with slide numbers in parenthesis, be sure to look at each item through the lens of publishing. How will each one of these affect how your content is discovered, acquired and consumed in the future?

Bots

(Slide 15) – This type of automation will be combined with other emerging technologies, leading to things like highly customized audio learning platforms where the UI is totally voice-controlled (see SVPAs below).

Natural Language Generation

(Slide 17) – I’ve written before about Narrative Science and I’m confident we’ll see more and more algorithmically-generated content in the future.

Smart Virtual Personal Assistants, or SVPAs

(Slide 22) – Alexa is the one I use every day when interacting with my Amazon Tap device. Expect this one to evolve quickly as today’s functionality will be considered very primitive in a year or so.

Ambient Proximity

(Slide 23) – Beacons haven’t taken off yet but they represent such an interesting opportunity. Think of all the interesting things your local bookstore could do with beacons and promotional content.

Attention

(Slide 25) – Despite the lame name, this one will have a significant impact on the ongoing evolution of content presentation, especially when married to beacons and additional knowledge of the user’s current state.

Ownership

(Slide 36) – Up to now, creators of user-generated content seem more interested in visibility than compensation, but how long will that be the case?

One-to-few Publishing

(Slide 39) – Podcasts are dead, right? No, in fact there’s a significant opportunity in smaller, more tightly-focused audiences. This market concentration likely leads to higher subscription prices and/or advertising rates.

Intentional Rabbit Holes

(Slide 42) – Great concept that’s all about deeper engagement. What services can you add to your site or content to encourage readers to take a deeper dive and perhaps expose them to additional monetization opportunities?

Augmented Reality

(Slide 52) – It’s been around for a while but was only recently legitimized by Pokemon Go. Think of all the ways your content could be augmented via tools like Layar, for example.

Internet of X

(Slide 63) – Let’s say you’re a publisher of architecture books and other short-form content about design and construction. What’s preventing you from creating The Internet of Architecture? Each of these are on different timelines, of course, and won’t affect content at the same moment. All of them, however, are likely to have a profound impact on just about every type of content in the next few years. 2016 Tech Trends from the Future Today Institute (formerly Webbmedia Group Digital Strategy) from Future Today Institute (formerly Webbmedia Group) Joe WikertJoe Wikert is director of strategy and business development at Olive Software. This post was originally published on his blog, ‘Joe Wikert’s Digital Content Strategies‘, where he writes opinion pieces on the rich content future of publishing.

10 tips for bookselling from the shop floor

chickenandfrod30ar03ap01zk-hayes3a_mdmChicken and Frog Bookshop is the only independent children’s bookshop in Essex. The family owned and run store opened its doors in October 2012. We have been book lovers since our childhoods. If you want to be a successful bookseller, passion helps! Lots of it. Over the past four years, we have learnt a great deal about bookselling, so here’s our top tips:

1) Set out your stall

The environment you create is key. It needs to be engaging and easy to navigate. Use shelf talkers, make collections of books, keep your displays fresh.

2) Your window is your main advertising tool

We change ours weekly if possible. It needs to make people stop and look. If it stays the same, people don’t ‘see’ it anymore.

3) Know your store

This is two-fold. Ensure that all staff know where things are – having a change around only works if you can still find the books you’re looking for! And know the books. You can’t make a recommendation if you don’t know what you’re selling.

4) Be ruthless

If a title has been dust collecting for 3 months, it needs to go. That can be really tough, especially if it’s a firm favourite of yours. But, you are not the customer!

5) Know your customers

This is related to tip 4. You may love obscure Japanese poetry, but if your customers don’t, don’t stock it. This was a lesson that we learnt pretty quickly I can tell you.

6) Embrace authors and illustrators

If an author or illustrator wants to visit, welcome them with open arms. They are awesome. But, plan carefully. Be ready and let everyone know about the event.

7) Schools mean business

If you want to survive, you need strong relationships with schools. The reality is, schools have very fixed budgets, so you need to show them how important you are! Offer discounts (if you can), curriculum evenings, free stuff (posters, not books!) and, your time.

8) Connect with your community

Support your community and they will support you. We don’t mean by putting your hand in your pocket – booksellers don’t tend to be rich! But, you can offer storytelling, raffle prizes for good causes, put up a poster or share a Tweet. All of these actions help to foster a sense of community and they make you feel good too!

9) Social media

If you’re a bit of a technophobe, you need to get over it. Twitter and Facebook are effective tools for reaching out to people and getting your message across. The majority of our author links are due to being a little bit cheeky via Twitter.

10) Web presence

We can’t compete with the big boys on price, but we still need a web presence. If you take a look at our website, it’s not all singing, all dancing. We update recommendations, events page and the blog on a regular basis. Other pages are pretty static, but necessary and easy to navigate. Keep it simple. Chicken and Frog Bookshop owners, Jim and Natasha Radford, harboured the notion of opening a bookshop for many years, before finally taking the plunge. Jim’s IT background, coupled with Natasha’s teaching career, plus a passion for getting children reading, means that the bookshop is full to the brim with a wide range of books and enthusiasm by the page full.

The role of the print book in an increasingly online world

Back in 2010, working at a scholarly publisher, I had a bet with our Production Director that half our revenue would be digital by the end of 2013. I lost. (We weren’t too far off, in my defence – scholarly publishers generally migrated their library revenues to digital faster and more fully than trade publishers have managed, but still.) What he realised six years ago and I didn’t was the way that print as a technology suits us as humans so beautifully. For most of us, reading a book is more than simply translating the author’s brain output into our brain input. And reading on a flat screen, with the whole distracting noisy internet just one click away, is a very different technological and sensual experience. Not worse, necessarily, but different. This week in The Extraordinary Business Book Club I spoke to Dr Tom Chatfield, author of the gorgeously tactile Live This Book. It’s a highly designed series of provocations: invitations to explore our own minds rather than bringing our questions to the internet to find out what everybody else thinks. We talked about the role of the print book in an increasingly online world, and how it can work for both writer and reader. ‘This is a book that you write in, that you carry around with you, and I guess the genesis of it was the fact that I’ve done five books exploring technology in society. I love this idea of trying to use technology well. More and more as I spoke and wrote and consulted in this that I found people saying that their time, their attention, their focus was this incredibly scarce resource that they were really having enormous trouble keeping under control, and I became very interested in the kind of art and science of concentration, attention, and focus, and how actually a physical book and the physical act of writing on paper is an astonishingly good tool for kind of carving out a small amount of time each day for introspection, for planning a different type and texture of quality of time that you might not otherwise get in terms of working out what really matters, what’s really on your mind, what you’re really planning and hoping and dreaming of, and so on… ‘I’m very interested in getting away from tech bashing and a vague nostalgia for “Weren’t things better in the old days?” Some things are much, much better now. We have astonishing resources at our fingertips, so I’m interested in trying to be precise about this, and what you find if you look at the cognitive science is that resisting temptation, resisting the temptation to click elsewhere, to look elsewhere, to check your email, that burns through a certain amount of mental resource. I think attention management is one of the great skills for the next generation of workers and thinkers, because human attention is spent on our behalf and maybe mispriced by all of the services we use, and the physical tactile object of the act of writing, it lights up your brain in a very different way to stuff on a screen. ‘I’m very conscious of the fact that when I take my wonderful phone or my wonderful Kindle out, everything is in competition with everything else, and I’m dealing with suffusion, and so I think in a way to try to build different kinds of time into your day, and people, I think, are doing this more and more anyway in that nobody wants all their time to be the same kind of time. As human beings, we need difference and variety if we’re going to make the most of our mental resources. We need to sort of put things in boxes, have differentiation. Otherwise, in a way, we risk doing everything as if we were machines, as if we had a limitless data capacity and a limitless memory, and we’re not… We need interpersonal contact. We need things to have friction and texture. Really, memory and understanding are information plus emotion, if you like, and I think to make things stick in our minds, to make things really belong to us, to work out what we mean rather than just what is out there in the Web of information, this is becoming more and more valuable as we’re lucky enough to have more and more information at our fingertips.’ That phrase, ‘friction and texture’ summed it up for me: this is what print provides and a white screen does not. There’s a permanence and a fitness to the words on a printed page that is simply not there with a screen that will show something entirely different the next second. I’m no less in love with digital books and their possibilities. I love having instant access to my entire library, being able to access a new book immediately, searching for and rediscovering half-remembered phrases. But I better understand now why print is so resilient. I’ll continue to be ambidextrous, reading in print or online as the inclination takes me, knowing that both serve me in different ways. It’s all good. future of the bookAlison Jones (@bookstothesky) is a publishing partner for businesses and organizations writing world-changing books. She also provides executive coaching, consultancy and training services to publishers. www.alisonjones.com

Seth Godin’s three charges against publishers

“As repressed sadists are supposed to become policemen or butchers, so those with an irrational fear of life become publishers.” – Cyril Connolly Publisher-bashing is a popular sport, particularly for authors. Always has been. We shouldn’t feel too special: we’re in good company along with lawyers, journalists, traffic wardens, estate agents and used-car salesmen as the punch-bag of the dispossessed and disenchanted. Much of the bile against publishers comes from authors who feel themselves poorly served – either because they didn’t get a deal in the first place or because they found the terms or the treatment less than they’d hoped for. But just occasionally you get a really interesting, constructive anti-publisher rant that serves the book industry and society well by asking good questions and offering good ideas. George Monbiot attacked big scholarly publishers – aka ‘parasitic overlords’ – in an influential Guardian article in 2011. Hugh Howey put the boot into big trade publishers with his Don’t Anyone Put Me In Charge post in 2014. And Seth Godin did it this week on The Extraordinary Business Book Club podcast. He’s an author, of course, but he spent his early career as a book packager, so he has more industry insight than most. Here are three of the charges he levels at publishers:

1) They don’t have the imagination to take risks

‘In [Unleashing the Ideavirus], I gave the advice that ideas that spread, win, and that an idea that’s not bounded by paper, is going to spread faster. How could I publish this as a traditional book? I went to my book publisher, I said, “Here’s the deal. I’d like to publish this book, but a) I need you to bring it out in 90 days, and b) I want to give it away for free, online.” They said, “We’d love to publish your next book, but we’re not going to do it in 90 days, and you can’t give it away for free, online.” I made the bold decision to take my own advice, and I refused to take this book and do anything commercial with it. Instead, I just put the entire book for free, online. 3,000 people downloaded it the first day, 4,000 people the second day. By the end of a couple months, it was in the millions. Then I started getting email from people that said, “We hate reading this in a PDF. Where’s the book?” Because I had a background as a book packager, I know how to make a book. In three weeks, we turned it into a hard-cover, sold it only on Amazon, and it went to number 5 on the Amazon bestseller list, a book that we gave away, and that cost $40 in the year 2000.’

2) They’re locked in an outdated model

‘You would think that [publishers] are in the tree business or the paper business, the way they behave. They value paper books more than they value the spread of ideas… they think of the world in the scarcity model of paper. Once you get rid of that model, the opportunity for a book publisher is huge, because now, it’s true, anyone can publish their ideas, but very few people can curate them, and very few people have the wherewithal to promote them. The idea that an institution of people with good taste and resources, could find ideas on Monday, edit them on Wednesday, and promote them on Friday, is astonishing, but they’re just walking away from that and leaving it on the table.’

3) They serve the bookseller, not the reader

‘The giant cultural problem of western book publishers is, they think their customer is the bookstore… Since that’s your customer, that’s who you wake up in the morning, seeking to serve… I have discovered over time that the single best way for a book to spread, is for one reader to hand it to another reader.’ You might feel some of this is unfair, but you have to admit much of it hits home. Publishers themselves would probably be the first to admit that as an industry, we’re not known for our responsive, risk-taking, entrepreneurial hustle. And to be fair, I see more and more publishers engaging directly with their readers – I’d like to think we’re making progress in this area at least. But there’s much thoughtful criticism here that should challenge us. Do a quick audit: what risk-taking are you currently engaged in, and how are you learning from it? What opportunities are others seizing in your field from under your nose? What are you doing to connect directly with your readers and inspire them to share their love of your authors’ books? And if you’re lucky enough to have one of those imaginative, challenging, high-maintenance authors on your list, make the most of them. Listen to what they’ve got to say and think about how you can support their ideas. You might hit a home run, it might not work. But if you never try you’ll never know, until your author gets tired of not being heard and goes and gets the home run off their own bat, proving one again that if you want to innovate, you have to part company with your publisher. future of the bookAlison Jones (@bookstothesky) is a publishing partner for businesses and organizations writing world-changing books. She also provides executive coaching, consultancy and training services to publishers. www.alisonjones.com

Why small publishers sell more books with Nielsen Book2Look

ralph-moellersSmall independent publishers and self-published authors need to maximize the impact of their books and ensure they are easily found on the Internet. Ralph Möllers, the founder of a children’s publisher based in German decided to develop his own book widget, Book2Look, that would enable book buyers, both trade and consumer, to look inside the book before they purchase. The Internet makes content readily available for free. Ralph felt by offering easily digestible free content as a hook would encourage readers to want to read on and most importantly to click ‘buy’. Making the point of discovery the point of purchase. As a starting point before any book campaign, publishers should think about whom their current readers are and what is happening in the marketplace. Here are some of Ralph Möllers’ latest observations, together with how this led to the development and continuing enhancement of the Book2Look widget.

Your Readers are web savvy

According to BBC research, young people now spend an average of three hours online a day. This seems quite a conservative estimate really, and professionals must spend more than double this amount. Tech savvy millenials are wise to advertising and many use ad blockers to protect them from the ‘lure’ of online shopping ads, which are becoming increasingly sophisticated. According to eMarketer, about a quarter of all U.S. internet users, nearly 70 million people will use technology to block online ads in 2016. Publishers therefore need to develop respectful ways of promoting to these readers, as a result of this.  Nielsen Book2Look is therefore an ideal option that lets you share sample content, video, audio clips and other promotional material via the internet on social media sites, on your own site, author site or with retailers, bloggers and reviewers.  Each version can be tailored to meet your audience needs.

Shelf space is decreasing

Despite books such as the Cursed Child by JK Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, which achieve huge sales, shelf space for the average book in traditional book stores has been decreasing and this makes discoverability of new books extremely difficult for publishers. Author James Patterson launched an admirable initiative to help indie bookshops survive and thrive – however, in the UK in 2014, almost twice as many bookshops closed down as new ones opened. Between 2009 and 2016*, the number of independent booksellers in the UK and Ireland, has fallen by 25%. With fewer options to browse books in-stores, publishers need to replicate the ability to browse books online, and that’s where Nielsen Book2Look can help you reach a wider audience for your books.

The social media frenzy continues

Trends in Social Media usage are changing. Many Facebook users have migrated to Instagram or Twitter away from parental observation. Groups of friends prefer to communicate via closed groups on Path or What’s App. Professional networks such as Yammer give work colleagues a valid reason to chat online. Nothing remains constant but the one thing all forms of social media have in common is that they give their users the opportunity to share. Nielsen Book2Look lets your readers share sample content. It gives them a valid reason to communicate on their preferred social channels, and you can add a link to your preferred retailer, ensuring that you achieve sales. Nielsen Book2Look is a tool that encourages readers to share and spread the word about the books they like. A tool that supports your local retailer by offering customised sample content. And lastly but not least, it’s a tool that gives you great analytical data about the performance of your book content that can be connected to your existing Google analytics account.

Conclusion

Today Nielsen Book2Look is helping thousands of publishers of all sizes worldwide to promote and sell their books. Nielsen Book2Look has achieved millions of book views, last year the figure was 20m, and we expect that to increase this year.  Ralph Möllers says: “As a developer and as a publisher I am really proud of this contribution to our industry and I am delighted that so many publishers around the world can take advantage of this remarkable book widget. Even better news is that Nielsen Book has launched its new ISBN Store which enables publishers not only to purchase their ISBNs online but the Book2Look widget too – what could be simpler than that?” *2016 is seeing a number of new independent bookshops starting up, which might lead to a resurgence of high street retailing, but this is still a hugely competitive market with customers being offered a huge of point of purchase. book2look  

Why publishers should be like Bond (James Bond)

Last week I gave a talk at the CoreSource user group on success and agility. Ingram Content Group itself exemplifies both: over the last 20 years it’s reinvented itself by a steady process of acquisition, reorganization and diversification, from its early days distributing microfiche readers in Nashville to an international group offering solutions to publishers and authors at every stage of the print and digital workflow. (So, no pressure, then.) The theme of the day was ‘Secrets and Spies’. I began by asking: What is James Bond’s most effective weapon? Could it be the Beretta 418, the gun featured in the original Casino Royale? Or the Walther PPK that replaced it? The improved flamethrower from Live and Let Die? Or maybe the remote controlled BMW in Tomorrow Never Dies, with its sunroof missiles and the wire cutter hidden in the logo? It’s none of these, of course. Bond’s most effective weapon is his ability to adapt. He is the ultimate survivor – not just because he’s handy with a semi-automatic, but because he constantly changes, evolves, reinvents himself. Bond is agile, in every sense of the word. I’ve been in publishing for 25 years now, and in digital publishing for most of those years, and for pretty much all that time publishing has been ‘in crisis’ somehow or other, there’s been one villain after another threatening to take over our world. First there was ‘the threat of digital’, ‘the death of print’, closely linked to the hysteria over piracy. We’re navigating the transition and actually it’s been kind of fun – but costs generally went up and revenues generally went down. Then there was Amazon, disrupting the established bookselling industry, driving down prices, keeping its data on ebook sales to itself and leaving us guessing at the true size of the market. More recently there’s been ‘the threat of self-publishing’, and the rush of publishers to justify their existence, the fear of being disintermediated. Turns out there’s still room for traditional publishers, but because authors now have options, the terms for authors had to become more favourable, which erodes publishers’ profits, and the overall market share of the traditional publishing sector went down. Now it’s ‘the sharing economy’, fuelled by cocreation and collaboration, its core values open access and connection and access rather than ownership and loads of stuff that runs directly counter to the traditional publishing model of selling discrete units of content to people for money. So where does all this leave us? Each wave of disruption has tended to chip away at profits and add to costs. It feels uncomfortably like the laser is getting every closer to our critical bits. But of course disruption is just another word for opportunity. The reality is that for those with the imagination and the will to make the leap, there are more opportunities out there than ever before for publishers to make money. Content is the currency of our age, and we are experts on content. Everyone now needs the skills we have. But publishers who are still exclusively focused on picking one course through this explosion of possibilities, still wedded to the traditional model of selling content in books to consumers through shops to make a profit, are missing out on potential revenue today and I suggest may also  be writing their death warrant for tomorrow. Like Bond, and indeed like Ingram, successful and agile companies select and seize opportunities – and the best opportunities will be different for each – build on what’s there already to add new revenue streams in growth markets to supplement declining revenues in old markets. So what are YOUR weapons? What do you do best? How can you exploit that in new ways? Don’t forget that Bond didn’t operate alone. You can innovate faster and smarter if you collaborate with the right partners. Take a long hard look at your existing partners – are you making the most of the opportunities that they’re creating? And if they’re not creating opportunities for you, consider making some new partners with the right tools and skills to help your achieve your mission. After all, where would Bond be without Q? Alison Jones (@bookstothesky) is a publishing partner for businesses and organizations writing world-changing books. She also provides executive coaching, consultancy and training services to publishers. www.alisonjones.com

Here’s what book publishers can learn from the podcast model

Did you make the same mistake I did and assume podcasts are yesterday’s platform, that interest in them has plateaued (at best) and they’re not worth thinking about today? If so, here’s a short article that might help you re-think your stance. If you’re still not convinced have a look at the infographic in this article, paying close attention to the chart showing how podcast listening is on the rise. What seemed like a fad that’s dying off is actually showing nice growth. I’m contributing to that growth as I now listen to a variety of podcasts during my daily work commute. As I leverage this medium I’m realising it offers some very important lessons for book publishers:

1) Simple, easy subscriptions

When I discover a new podcast I’m interested in I literally click once to subscribe and the content stream comes to me. What could be easier? More importantly, what’s the analogy in the book publishing world? How do I “subscribe” to an author, series or topic? We all have our favorite authors. Wouldn’t it be terrific if a single click could initiate a subscription to everything they write in the future? That includes having samples of their new books delivered automatically to your preferred reading app/device.

2) Steady rhythm

Your favorite podcasts are usually delivered on a predictable schedule. Some are daily while others are weekly. This rhythm leads to anticipation, knowing that today’s edition will be loaded on your device at the usual time. This is another concept that’s totally foreign to book publishers. Books are released according to seemingly random schedules and some publishers are still even locked into the old “season” model. If you’re going to enable readers to subscribe to an author or topic as described above, be sure to produce a steady, engaging stream of valuable content for your audience.

3) Discovery

This remains one of the hot topics, always on the minds of book publishers. If you’re focused on discovery think about this question: How well do each of your products enable discovery of your other, related products? Some publishers still rely on back-of-book ads, even in ebooks. How about automatically delivering other, related content to your audience? A good example is how NPR promotes new podcasts. Yes, they advertise by plugging new ones in old, established podcasts. But recently I noticed they took the bold step of automatically downloading the first segment of a new podcast onto my device. I don’t recall opting in to that and it might irritate anyone keeping a close eye on their data plans but it’s a novel concept. I wasn’t going to seek that new podcast out and now all I have to do is click “play” to try it out, yet another example of one-click access and engagement. If you haven’t been paying attention to the podcast marketplace it’s time to take a closer look. Subscribe to two or three that look interesting and see what other lessons can be learned. Joe WikertJoe Wikert is director of strategy and business development at Olive Software. This post was originally published on his blog, ‘Joe Wikert’s Digital Content Strategies‘, where he writes opinion pieces on the rich content future of publishing.  

Translated literature: Is the buzz to be believed?

Jonathan Ruppin is Literary Director at digital start-up Orson & Co and the founder of the English PEN Translated Literature Book Club. He was a bookseller for 18 years, including 13 at Foyles’ flagship branch on Charing Cross Road. Translated literature is having a moment, the press has being claiming of late. It’s being said by the sort of journalists who have previously claimed that short stories or novellas or enormous doorstop novels are having a moment. The press, of course, is always keen to portray itself as a keen trendspotter and constantly makes assertions based on having received three vaguely similar books in the post lately or perhaps just one particularly cut-n’-pastable press release.

The facts are these

According to Literature Across Frontiers, translated fiction currently makes up 4.5% of UK sales, up from 3% at the turn of the century. This compares with almost a third in Germany and around half in Italy. Discount unrepeatable phenomena such as Elena Ferrante and Stieg Larsson and the increase is negligible. If translated literature was really what everyone is buying, it would be reflected in what chain bookshops were putting in front and centre, in bestseller lists, in the pages of magazines as well as literary journals. And it’s not.

Translated literature, as the Twitterati smugly proclaim, is not a genre

To yoke books together on the grounds of their not being originally written in English is arbitrary and senseless. Except… consider, for example, a novel set in ancient Rome and another in revolutionary France sitting side-by-side on a table of historical fiction: many readers adore exploring the past by reading fiction and plenty of them are interested in more than one era. Similarly, readers travel the world vicariously through novels. An interest in Italy is unlikely to correlate with a passion for China but, in both cases, the reader is exhibiting curiosity about other cultures. A table of translated literature, therefore, makes perfect sense. Mostly importantly, it works: when I was at Foyles, we had one almost permanently, with an ever-changing selection, and it consistently outsold almost every other themed display. It’s all very well dreaming of a world where readers are language-blind, but hoping that we’ll get there by leaving translated books to fend for themselves in the run from A to Z is wishful thinking. Positive discrimination is needed, just as we need to highlight female, working class and BAME writers, to avoid the cultural default of just waiting for the new one from Ian McEwan.

There are some major issues with exactly what does get translated into English

Safer choices by publishers lead to a preponderance of male writers. The lack of languages among British publishers means that Western Europe dominates. A lack of familiar cultural references in commercial fiction or British perspectives in non-fiction apparently makes anything other than English-language titles in these areas too problematic to consider. Credit for the translator is often buried somewhere discreet, as well as remaining largely absent from reviews. Random House even removed the diacritic from the name of Jo Nesbø lest such exoticism startle fragile crime fans (although Simon & Schuster have more faith in the child readers of his Doctor Proctor books and kept it). We chose Senegal as the first destination in Africa for the English PEN Translated Literature Book Club, but were soon stymied: even names of global import such as Mariama Bâ, Ousmane Sembène and Fatou Diome are out of print in the UK. (Literature from any African nation can, incidentally, most often be identified by the hackneyed image of a sunset behind an acacia tree on the cover.)

The indies

We can only be grateful to the independent publishing sector, who have stepped in to cater for this vastly untapped market. Istros Books, for example, specialise in books from the Balkans. The main focus of Tilted Axis is books from Asia and Africa. And Other Stories and Peirene Press have achieved the sort of brand recognition that the big houses have long craved, signing up subscribers with a guarantee of literary intrepidity. This is being mirrored by independent bookshops, who have capitalised on the millions of readers in search of something other than the cosily familiar. Globalisation of every aspect of life on Earth is happening now, whatever the Brexiteers may think of that, and Anglophone literature can only be enriched by embracing the remarkable variety the rest of the world has to offer. Thanks to Norah Myers for sourcing this guest post. 
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