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Category: Branding

Emma Barnes taught herself to code after founding her own independent publisher, Snowbooks. She went on to build Bibliocloud, the next-generation publishing system. Now she’s on a mission to promote tech skills within the publishing industry and beyond.

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Crowdfunded publishing

Lauren Nickodemus is co-founder of the indie publishing company Monstrous Regiment, and works in book marketing. Originally from Michigan, she is now based in Edinburgh. She tweets very sparingly at @laurennicko and spends her free time writing speculative fiction.

Ellen Desmond makes up the other half of Monstrous Regiment. In 2016 she was awarded the title of Ireland’s Best Student Editor and nominated for an SAAI Award for contribution to Irish student media and publishing. She’s always happy to connect on Twitter @ellen_desmond.

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Pinterest is an easy option for authors looking to extend their platform, build their brand, and connect with readers. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

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Whatever the format or platform you use, every time your business communicates, you have an opportunity to strengthen your brand. Each communication is also an opportunity to further your strategic marketing objectives.

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Publishers spend a lot of time talking about building their brands, but most of us know in our heart of hearts that – for most of the readers most of the time – our brands are pretty much irrelevant. Some have nailed it – Penguin, Oxford, Nature, Rough Guides, Wiley’s Dummies Guides – but they’re the exceptions that prove the rule.

For the most part, the real brand in book publishing is the author. Which is a potential problem for publishers, as it leaves them vulnerable to disintermediation.

This week in The Extraordinary Business Book Club I talk to Alan Weiss, author of Million Dollar Consulting. Brand is central to who Alan is and what he does, and he offered two succinct definitions:

1) Brand is a uniform expression of value (as he put it, ‘Nobody goes into McDonald’s to browse, they know exactly what they’ll find in there.’)

2) Brand is how people think about you when you’re not there.

The first is where publishers have traditionally focused their brand-building efforts. They have positioned themselves as gatekeepers, curators, a guarantee of quality in a sea of indifferent (or worse) content. Nothing wrong with that. But does it go far enough?

I think that second definition is a great challenge for publishers. It carries a couple of implicit questions. Firstly, ARE people thinking about you when you’re not there? (For most of us, the answer is, not much, probably.) Secondly, WHO are the ‘people’ we’re talking about here? Publishers need their brand to have value for two (usually very different) groups: authors and readers.  And thirdly, WHAT is it they’re thinking about, exactly – your company, or your products?

Alan was clear that for him, the ultimate brand is simply his name. He wants CEOs to yell ‘Get me Alan Weiss!’ But he adds, ‘Beneath that, covered by that umbrella, you can have a multitude of brands.’

One is the ‘Million Dollar’ moniker itself, which now features not only in other books such as Million Dollar Maverick but across a whole suite of products and services including an annual convention, a regular newsletter, an online community and a training college. Daniel Priestly did something similar with Key Person of Influence, which has become a franchised business accelerator programme.  When you’re thinking of titles, it never hurts to use one with the potential for this kind of immediate recognition, something distinctive and resonant, with the ability to flex and extend beyond the book itself.

But one of the reasons that Alan knows his name is his strongest brand is that it’s the one to which people can connect most readily on an emotional level. Alan uses this very consciously, featuring his beloved dogs – Buddy and Bentley – in his videos (he even offers credit cards named after them), and often posing in front of his equally beloved flashy cars:

People expect a certain lifestyle from me. I don’t just tell people to create a business and to market better, and to write books and so forth. I help people to understand how to live, and so people are interested in my lifestyle. They’re interested in exotic cars, they’re interested in my travels, they’re interested in how I choose to live. I happen to love dogs… The more you involve your passion in your business, the better you are at it, it’s as simple as that.’

It’s hard for a business any business not just a publisher to achieve that level of emotional engagement. Certainly Summit Consulting Group as a brand doesn’t have the same cachet as Alan Weiss own name.

But here’s the interesting thing: Summit Consulting Group leverages the power of the Alan Weiss brand. The company fulfills the first of Alan’s definitions of brand – the uniform expression of value – and it’s reinforced and magnified by the more emotional connection inherent in Alan’s second definition: how people think about you when you’re not there. Clients know that when they work with the company, they’re getting something of the rock-star thrill of working with the man himself even if they never actually speak to him.

As publishers we can and should build our brands – at company, series, title level – and deliver consistently on the promise that each implies, but at the end of the day how we work to build our authors’ brands reflects back on us more powerfully than any marketing copy we can put out there. Quite simply when they succeed, we succeed.

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

If you work in book marketing, your focus is on running campaigns to sell more books. If you are a designer you know that no one will read a blurb, or download a sample without eye-catching covers and advertising material. So which matters more?

BookMachine teamed up with emc design for our event on Wednesday to pose this very question. Kate Roden (publishing, marketing and content strategist, and co-founder of design consultancy Fixabook), Matt Haslum (Marketing Director at Faber & Faber) and Mark Ecob (Creative Director of cover design company Mecob Design) took to the stage to battle it out. Here’s a photo/twitter blog to sum up the night.

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

marketing skills

Rosie Henry works as a Marketing Executive at Singing Dragon, an imprint of Jessica Kingsley Publishers. She has previously interned for the editorial department at Yellow Kite, Hodder & Stoughton, and studied for an MA in Publishing at City University London.

1) Passion

I’ve been observing marketing campaigns and marketers my whole life, and one thing I’ve learnt is that you need to be passionate to succeed. Personally, I have never met a top-notch marketer who wasn’t passionate about their product or brand, and believe that if you love what you do, then this will channel directly through the brand and into the customer’s hands – hopefully along with the book you’re marketing!

I love working with Singing Dragon books because I get to work with such a variety of interesting topics every day: alternative health; martial arts; yoga; aromatherapy – and the list goes on. But what I’m really passionate about is finding out where all of these audiences are, who they are and how I can make them aware of the book.

2) Research

I believe that research is the backbone of an effective marketing campaign. The best marketers I’ve seen are the ones who know their target market inside out – they know where they communicate, where they shop and how they behave.

For each book I look after, I make sure to put aside some time to research the target market. This might involve finding out which social media platforms they’re using, what they’re talking about, which hashtags they’re using, which publications they’re reading, and so on. In fact, I would say that this is the most exciting part of my job because it’s a bit like detective work, and I always learn something new along the way.

3) Communication

Marketing often involves liaising with different departments, authors, and external organisations, so I think it’s really important that you’re able to communicate effectively. I find communication skills are especially important when it comes to dealing with publications and bloggers because not only do you often have to negotiate terms with them, but there is also a relationship to maintain.

I’ve especially loved communicating with the market recently, as it’s been really rewarding to see how responsive customers have been to us winning the ‘Independent Academic, Educational and Professional Publisher of the Year’ award at the British Book Industry Awards!

4) Analytics

Whilst you don’t need to be a data scientist, I think it’s really important to be able to handle data and statistics to measure the effectiveness of marketing and social media campaigns. I didn’t have too much experience with analytics before working in marketing, but I think it would have been really beneficial if I did. Having said that, it was relatively easy to get started, especially with user-friendly tools like Google Analytics. I think what’s most important is that you’re able to use the insights from the analytics to better understand your market and to develop more effective marketing campaigns.

5) Bravery

Marketing has changed so much in recent years (understatement of the year!), and it seems as soon as you think you find something that works well, it all changes again. That’s why I think it’s really important to be brave and take calculated risks when it comes to marketing, especially digital marketing.

My favourite marketing campaigns are all ones that have taken risks. For example, Penguin launched a whole new website for their Little Black Classics collection, which was not only met with huge success but went on to win ‘Marketing Strategy of the Year’ a few days ago at the British Book Industry Awards – well done Penguin!

Thanks to Norah Myers for sourcing this guest post. 

Books podcast

Derek Owusu is a writer, podcaster, and mentor from Tottenham. He realised his passion for literature aged 23 while studying Exercise Science at University. Before then, he had never read a book cover-to-cover, his introduction to literature coming via a short story by D.H. Lawrence called ‘St Mawr’. Discovering literature was a revelation that came too late for his university path, so instead of switching course, he snuck into English literature lectures at The University of Manchester.

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Jodie Mullish is Communications Director at Pan Macmillan imprint Bluebird, publisher of Joe Wicks, Russell Brand and Jasmine Hemsley. She was previously Head of Fiction Marketing at Pan Macmillan, and has also worked at Penguin, Quarto and a number of award-winning marketing and PR agencies on clients as diverse as Banksy, Christian Aid and the Central Office of Information. Norah Myers interviews her here. 

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How do you get started on Snapchat?

Snapchat offers a fantastic support menu, which details all of the features and how-to’s, but I’ll help you get started on the basics.

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Vivendi, who took full ownership of the Paddington brand worldwide in 2016, and HarperCollins Children’s Book, home of Paddington Bear publishing for sixty years, presented today a ground-breaking, six-year deal for world publishing rights at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, the most important professional trade show dedicated to publishing and content for kids.

Paddington Bear is one of the most widely recognized and beloved children’s literature characters, with millions of fans all over the world. Studiocanal’s Paddington was the best-selling non-Hollywood family movie ever released and the brand ranks among the top five most influential franchises in family entertainment.

The deal marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter in Paddington’s history forming a powerhouse partnership of media and content creation that will introduce Paddington to a new generation of readers on the global stage. Launching with a movie tie-in programme, co-published by HarperCollins US and UK, to coincide with the Paddington 2 movie this autumn, the partnership creates a strategic alliance of heritage and future vision which will establish a worldwide brand loyalty for Paddington Bear and reach and entertain families across the globe.

In content marketing, we want to create value. The magic happens when we start to publish pieces of content that do more than simply propagate our sales. In the end, it is about generating loyal fans who come back to what we create. These fans are a great source of inspiration for more content and they will also help to spread the word.

YouTube does a lot to help video creators to create better content. One of these efforts is the ‘10 fundamentals of a creative strategy.’ Below you’ll find these fundamentals made actionable and see that they are enriched by a new one. These rules apply not only to content marketing on Google’s video platform, but they also help to optimize your efforts in video content marketing strategy.

1) How will anybody share this video?

A central part of success in content marketing is the power of word of mouth. By creating real value, you want to cut marketing dollars spent. Therefore, your content has to be optimized for sharing. Why should people share this piece of content? Do you provide them with the needed tools, e.g., share buttons? Do you proactively ask them for a share? What comments will people add when they share your clip?

2) How do I talk to my audience?

A video is also a way to communicate. You as the sender communicate with a viewer, the receiver. Oftentimes we tend to use one-too-many (‘I speak to a group’) or even many-too-many (‘We speak to a group’) language in marketing. This kind of language will not make your viewer feel connected. Think more in a one-to-one conversation. Talk as directly as possible to individual viewers.

3) Why should a viewer take action?

Shares, comments, conversations with viewers, likes – this is what really drives your video content marketing. When publishing a new piece of content, ask yourself the question: Why should the viewer take one of these actions? Why would anybody write a comment? Did you ask them to provide input? Do you interact with your audience in your video?

4) What defines my content brand?

In video content marketing consistency is essential. You’ll want your viewers to build some trust in what you do next. Also having guidelines for what kind of content you want to create in what way will help to create a unique brand. Recurring elements can be titles, a strong show format, a regular upload schedule, and a consistent personality.

5) Whom do I talk to?

When we create content, we usually start from what we are able to do first. As a company, you can only do authentic content marketing if you talk about what defines your brand. On the other hand, this oftentimes misleads us to forget to define a target group for our content output. Develop an understanding of who comes to your channel and watches your shows. This will help to provide inspiration for further videos.

6) How can I do more of this?

In video content marketing, we usually spend a lot of time in creating many videos of average success. Once we have found a ‘hit show,’ we’ll want to replicate that. Therefore, it is important to be able to create sustainable content. A single massively expensive longform video is great but will not be the basis of your regular, routinized video content marketing strategy.

7) Where does anybody discover this video?

We all have the dream of creating a piece of content, uploading it, and suddenly word of mouth drives millions of views to it. This will not happen. People somehow have to discover your video. Analyze search trends, optimize your video title, create content that can be found – because it is relevant to somebody now and here. Don’t stick to only one platform but chose your social networks according to your target audience.

8) Who can understand this?

Especially in expert content, there is a tendency to forget that not everybody accessing your content is an expert. Without providing context, your viewers will feel lost. Make your videos accessible. Provide value to a new viewer in every single video. Do not require them to watch a full series in advance. It is all about grabbing their attention very fast. You can do this only by letting them understand what they see.

9) Who can help me?

Too often we see our content strategy as unmated output. Why not collaborate with some other brands in order to see network effects boost your reach? Who could you ask to promote your videos? Who could you invite to provide some content for your show? Create a network of online brands in order to increase your visibility and create more valuable content.

10) What inspires me?

Content marketing is a creative process. For creativity you need inspiration. Even if you have a great show idea today, at some point you will have to evolve. Keep your eyes open, search for inspiration, iterate on your existing content, and avoid creating videos only for the reason of a potential high click rate. Love what you do and your video content strategy will be authentic, provide real value, and own a high chance to be a success.

11) How can I track my success?

Comments, likes, shares, retweets, sales, revenue, ROI… no matter what your KPIs are, it is important to have them in place. Without a clear tracking strategy, you will be unable to allocate budget efficiently. Also in content marketing, being data driven is indispensable. Define your KPIs, set goals, and develop an action plan.

What are your most important KPIs in content marketing? How do you put them together? Do you use a dashboard?

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

I recently collaborated with an MBA student writing her dissertation. It was a fascinating experience, and a great opportunity for me to commission some top-class primary research into the way that the business of business books is changing.

One of the key findings of her research was that for business authors, the value of the book is its symbolic and cultural capital, and specifically the effect of that on the author’s brand, rather than any direct revenues. I wasn’t at all surprised to hear that, but I WAS surprised at the unanimity of this view, across all stakeholders: existing authors, aspiring authors, publishers and agents alike consistently expressed the view that:

‘book-related earnings, or economic capital directly derived from publishing a book, are not the main source of books’ continued value to the business publishing network. Rather, intangible benefits, such as brand building and enhancement through added prestige and a bolstered position of authority, contribute the most to books’ value. Tangible benefits were ascribed to publishing a business book, including more clients and more (paid) speaking opportunities; however, it is important to note that this economic capital was indirectly derived from the book… All stakeholders in the business publishing network generally hold this view, irrespective of their diverse experience and expertise.’

So how do we square this circle? On the one hand, business authors want to publish with a big name publisher, to maximize their symbolic capital, which will bring them significant economic benefits (‘more clients, more speaking engagements, more consultancy work’). But traditional publishers don’t get a sniff of the real value they help create – they can only monetize sales of the book itself, and quite frankly that’s not going so well these days.

There are fewer and fewer traditional publishers as the market consolidates, chasing fewer and fewer customer dollars. They’ve already cut costs to the bone – cut any further and they risk losing the reputation for quality that brings authors to them in the first place. Most are focusing their efforts on selling more books through the regular supply chain, but that’s a marginal game. They could raise prices, but that would mean fewer customers, and less visibility for their authors, which (it turns out) is what they’re mainly interested in, rather than revenue.

Tricky.

So where are we heading?

One potential solution is that the credibility of self-publishing or partner publishing simply stops being an issue. This has happened already for some authors: ‘As long as it looks professional,’ one of my authors told me when she signed up, ‘and works for my business, I’d rather have the control than a big name on the spine. Nobody really recognizes publishers’ names anyway.’

Another potential solution is that traditional publishers move to capture more of the value beyond traditional book sales through traditional channels. There are several possibilities here:

  • Servitisation – selling services to authors and/or readers that complement the publishing itself, such as coaching support, social media training, workshops, etc.
  • Non-traditional channels – thinking beyond both online and offline bookstores and supporting authors to sell direct, working with non-book retailers, negotiating B2B branded or promotional deals, partnering with service providers or network owners… the options are pretty much limitless, once you start looking.
  • Recalibrating the contract (which Richard Nash semi-joked about in Frankfurt – see my blog on his talk about 360-degree value) – changing the way we remunerate business authors to make it more of a profit-share, with incentives for the publisher to make the book work for the business.

Books are cheap, yet for business authors in particular they create enormous value. Imagine if more publishers saw their role with their authors as a partnership, maximizing the total value of the author’s brand, rather than simply trying to sell more copies.

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

 

brand


This is a guest post from Ricardo Fayet. Ricardo is an avid reader and startup enthusiast who has been studying the publishing industry with interest for several years. He co-founded Reedsy, to help authors collaborate with publishing professionals.

Branding is often an oversight for many authors. With so much else to focus on, creating a brand for yourself and your book can seem trivial, but creating a brand from the outset could be your key to success.

With so many books available, both in print and online, most consumers are only looking at your book for a few mili-seconds while browsing through an online or physical store. That’s where your “branding” comes in. If the customer immediately identifies your book as ‘yours’ and remembers having seen the pattern elsewhere, they’ll pay attention to it. Online retail search algorithms also make it easy for readers to see all the ebooks in a series (or by the same author) at once. If they all have the same strong visual identity, you will appear to readers as a professional and prolific author in your genre.

But what does ‘branding’ actually mean? Branding means creating a clear and distinct image for yourself (a “brand”) that differentiates your books and authorship from others. Communicating your brand successfully entails keeping consistency throughout your work. You are essentially making a promise to your readers. If someone enjoys one of your books they will look for more.

Here is a simple step-by-step guide that should get you started:

1) Decide what you want your brand to say

Essentially this involves determining who you are as an author and what you want to be known for. For example, do you want to be known for chick-lit, or young adult fiction? As this will be the foundation of building your brand it can be hard to reverse later on, so make sure you are certain.

2) Are you branding yourself or a series?

If you are writing a series of books then you may decide to brand the series. This is the easier option because it gives you a clear focus and audience to aim your brand at. If not there is the option to brand yourself as an author or brand your work around a niche genre, as indie author Ben Galley did with the ‘Western Fantasy’ genre and his Scarlet Star Trilogy series (read more about this here).

3) What if I want to write in different genres?

Choosing to brand yourself within a specific genre is a long term commitment. Some worry that creating a genre brand will limit them creatively but this is not true. If you don’t want to commit to one genre, you can use different pseudonyms to differentiate between genres. Similarly, with a series, you can use different names to make your branding easier. For example, Madeleine Wickham writes under ‘Sophie Kinsella for a specific series, and as Madeleine for her other novels. She uses similar style covers to create sub-brands.

author brand

Whether she is writing as Wickham or Kinsella, her work is instantly recognisable.

Alternatively, if that doesn’t work for you I’d recommend at least trying to find some consistencies within your work to use as a hook for your brand. This could be something as simple as setting all your of work in the same location, or always making reference to a particular animal or flower. Bear in mind that the more niche your genre, the easier it will be to build a brand and get recognised. Amish fiction is a very alternative genre and thus it has been easier for authors Beverly Lewis and Wanda E Brunstetter to build a brand and become ‘reference’ authors in that genre.

4) How to build the brand?

Once you have established what you want for your brand, it’s time to take action:

Aesthetics

The simplest way to start establishing your brand is through your book covers. This is easier with a series, as you can create extremely similar and interconnecting covers like the Hunger Games series.

author brand 2

If you are branding yourself as an author, the cover is still important. Using the same font, complimentary colours and similar layouts will make your brand recognisable. Self-published authors Bella Andre and Mark Dawson make their names the biggest feature on the cover, which draws the eye to their name, thus reinforcing their brand.

They also have a clear visual identity for each of their series. This has several impacts:

  • It makes their name immediately recognisable in a sea of ebooks
  • It makes their series immediately recognisable as well

author brand 3 author brand 4

Using the same style of images, illustrator or photographer and keeping the layout consistent, can be an especially good technique. Judy Moody, for example, always uses the same illustrative style for her children’s books and her covers are instantly recognisable.

author brand 5

If you are struggling to come up with ideas, drafting profiles/personas of your target audience can help you gauge what will appeal to them visually. If in doubt, consider your favourite authors; what attracted you to them in the first place.

It’s not all about the cover, though! Think as well about the interior layout of your book, and, if possible, hire the same designer to both do all of the covers and all of the interiors in the same series. The interior design of a book doesn’t have the same “eye-catching” role as the cover, however it is vital to the reading experience, and works more subliminally in the reader’s mind.

Online Presence

author brand 6

Keeping font, colour schemes and layouts consistent throughout your website design and social media reinforces your brand. The aim is for your website to instantly show your brand. Coming back again to the example of Amish fiction, Wanda E Brunestetter’s website leaves nothing to the imagination when it comes to what her books are about.

If possible using the same handles across your social media makes it easier for readers to find you online. Another crucial element is to keep your tone and voice consistent on social media like Chuck Wendig. You’ll see him shouting, cursing, joking. And you know you can expect that from his books.

author brand 7

Hopefully these basic steps will get you started! Building up a brand can and will take time, and you won’t be able to see any results early on.  You will need to pair your newly formed brand with a killer marketing plan, to get your work noticed. But once you do,  it will be totally worth it, because readers won’t be just buying a book, they’ll be buying into your brand. They’ll keep coming back for more!

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