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The Nibbies Marketing Strategy of the Year Award: Interview with Jodie Mullish

Jodie Mullish is Communications Director for Bluebird, part of Pan Macmillan. Previously, she was Head of Fiction Marketing at Pan Macmillan, and has held Publicity and Marketing roles at Quarto, Penguin and a number of award-winning agencies. Jodie has also occasionally worked as a freelance journalist and copywriter. Here, Norah Myers interviews her about what makes a successful communications team.

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membership economy

Content marketing for publishers – top tips from a professional

Melissa Romo
There aren’t many people who can describe themselves as a professional content marketer, publisher and writer. These are three things very close to my heart, so I was practically dancing round the room when Melissa Romo agreed to be my guest on The Extraordinary Business Book Club podcast. Melissa is Head of Global Content Marketing at Sage (the accountancy software company, not the publisher), and wrote a novel, Blue-Eyed Son, which she set up a publishing company, Red Ship Books, to publish. (You’ll have worked out by now that this is not a woman who does things by halves.) Content marketing is now mainstream in every industry. It’s part of what Melissa described as the ‘digital transformation’, but that doesn’t mean it’s always necessarily done well. Here are three top tips from my conversation with Melissa to check your own content marketing strategy is on track.

1) Start with them, not you

Melissa described how Sage ‘is striving to truly leverage content as a strategic element of its digital marketing in a way that it hasn’t been able to so far.’ One reason why it’s been problematic in the past was legacy structure: ‘The company has really been organised by countries or acquired units, and so activity around content has been relatively siloed in those countries or acquired units… there hasn’t been a holistic thinking about the audience.’ The audience is not monolithic, of course, and neither is it an abstract concept. The people you’re writing for are real people with their own preoccupations, fears, frustrations and hopes. ‘It’s the job of content professionals and content specialists to help define the audience, and put a face on the audience,’ says Melissa. ‘We worked on this last year, defining six personas for Sage, and that is how we define our content… we have, in the past, tended to start with the product we’re trying to sell, and what we are working hard to change at Sage is that we actually should start with the person we’re trying to sell to.’ Not the imprints. Not marketing vs editorial. Not the UK vs the US. Whatever way your company has been carved up to create neat reporting lines is almost certainly not the way you want to be presenting yourself to your readership.

2) But don’t lose yourself along the way

I was struck by the fact that Melissa is one person on Twitter (@RomoAuthor), despite wearing so many hats. It wasn’t always that way, she told me, but ‘trying to run three Twitter accounts as an author, a publisher and a content professional was too hard, and I realised I lost the synergies that go between those three types of roles, and so I just decided to dump the three and go with @RomoAuthor… I want to just be that one persona out there in social media.’ What makes her so special is precisely that blend of expertise, experience and interests. People buy people, so focusing on your audience should not mean that you lose your sense of yourself. The publishers who are winning at social media and content marketing today are those who let the personalities of their passionate, intelligent, sometimes snarky, often funny individual members of staff shine through. Having said that, you can’t always have a bright young thing on hand to answer a customer’s question so…

3) Keep looking ahead

I asked Melissa what she thought were the trends in content marketing – what do we need to be thinking about next? ‘What’s really hot right now is content coming out through robots… The bot that Sage has developed is called Pegg, and Pegg actually works through Facebook Messenger and through Slack… You know, if you ask Pegg about your accounting balance, or just “Have I been paid by this customer today?” Pegg will be able to tell you if that has happened or not.’ Some publishers are already using chat bots like this: HarperCollins has recommendation bots that work through Facebook Messenger (BookGenie and EpicReads), and Pan Macmillan are on the brink of launching theirs. The team behind it, BAM Digital, are also developing a recommendation engine for voice-activated assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, which as Melissa notes is taking the US by storm: ‘Everyone has Alexa on their kitchen counter.’ Content marketing is still a relatively young discipline. In some ways it’s simply what we’ve always done – told stories, connected with each other, made someone laugh or cry or think, or persuaded them to do something – but it’s also just beginning to explore the boundaries of what’s becoming possible in this disrupted world. Watch this space. 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

Startup Snapshot: Squirl

Jef Van der Avoort is co-founder of Squirl, the first location-based book discovery app. Previously he helped brands like LEGO, Philips and Hasbro to create engaging experiences on the border between the analog and digital world.

1) What exactly is Squirl?

Squirl is a location-based book discovery app that lets you bump into the real-world settings from books (e.g. The Plaza Hotel in the Great Gatsby). You can read the excerpt that takes place right where you are standing and check in to the literary location. You may also click through to buy the book. In essence, we are building an augmented story layer on top of the world.

2) What problem does it solve?

Book discovery is the number one issue for authors and publishers. We want to level the playing field by turning the whole world into a bookstore. The places you pass by become portals into different worlds, no matter if it is from a book by a first-time indie author or a bestselling superstar. It is a new, engaging and serendipitous way to discover your next read.

3) Who is your target market?

The casual reader is very important to us. These are people who read 2 or 3 books a year and are mostly overlooked when it comes to publishing tech. Discovering new books is not on top of their list, but they are interested in stories that are relevant to them. Through this geographic relevance we can excite these readers to buy a book they might not have discovered in any other way.

4) What results do you hope to see over the next few years?

Our first tangible goal is to see a book rise to the New York Times bestseller list because it was discovered through Squirl. On a more macro-level, we would like authors and publishers to see Squirl next to social marketing platforms like Twitter and Goodreads.

5) What will be next for Squirl?

We are very excited with the positive reception we are receiving and we already have some Squirl fans. We are currently raising a seed round to build some great features and advance Squirl to continue to enhance the experience for both readers and authors.

Instagram Brand Building for Writers

Carly Watters is a VP and Senior Literary Agent at P.S. Literary. Here she shares her top tips on Instagram brand-building for us to share with authors. Instagram is the last major social media frontier for many writers. It’s not new by any means; in fact, readers have been posting pictures of authors’ books since the platform’s inception. But where are those authors and why aren’t they engaging with all of those posts? Why haven’t writers joined Instagram as quickly as readers?

Why should writers join Instagram?

Many writers are reluctant to join Instagram for many reasons: 1) it takes time away from writing 2) it’s another platform to learn (when they were just getting the hang of Twitter!) 3) it’s against many writers’ natural instincts i.e. writers think they aren’t great at taking lovely Instagram-worthy pictures because they’re writers! I’m here to argue that writers, you CAN be good at Instagram if you think of it like the storytelling platform it is. That’s right, successful Instagram users create a narrative that brings followers into their lives. That’s the key to those people that everyone wants to follow. You’re following their daily journey because they control the narrative they’re telling and reveal it in a compelling way (much like a novel, hint hint!). For example, you can choose the parts of your life that you bring your followers into. Many successful users focus on certain elements: bringing a pet home, cooking and recipes, home renovations, a fitness journey, travel, and other hobbies. Also, by combining the daily posts with complementary “Stories” (i.e. The Snapchat of Instagram, which are the circle icons at the top of your app), you can make yourself a destination that people want to visit regularly.

Published writers have an additional digital marketing responsibility: finding brand ambassadors

You need to engage with your readers. Sometimes they’ll tag you and sometimes they won’t, but search your hashtags (your name, your book’s name, your publisher’s feed etc.) and comment on readers’ posts, follow them, re-post their lovely pictures (which saves you from having to take your own), and make sure they want to pre-order your next. Early fans can become passionate brand ambassadors. They’re out there reading your work so make sure you welcome them into your fold and authentically appreciate the work they’re doing to spread the word of mouth on social media. (One thing to avoid: talking too much about a work in progress. Unless you’re a multi-published author with a big fan base that’s craving a sneak peek it’s going to be lost on people. Focus on those tried and true Instagram hobby topics instead.)

What Hashtags Should You Use? Try some of these:

  • #WritersofInstagram
  • #Bookstagram
  • #Booklover
  • #Bookworm
  • #BooksandBeans (for books and coffee)
  • #PupsandBooks (for books and dogs)
  • #Booknerd
  • #VSCObooks
  • #Instareads
  • #IgReads
  • And don’t forget the hashtags of writers you’re reading, publishers, book titles and locations you’re reading in.
Follow Carly on Instagram at @carlywatters.
BookTube 101 with Sanne Vliegenthart

BookTube 101 with Sanne Vliegenthart

This is a review of last night’s BookTube event by Abbie Headon. Abbie is Commissioning and Digital Development Editor at Summersdale Publishers. Her book Literary First Aid Kit was published by Summersdale in August 2015. Everyone in publishing knows one thing: that BookTube (as the community of book vloggers on YouTube is known) is important. What most of us don’t really know is how we can use it to bring our books to a wider audience – or even how book vlogging actually works. On 29 March 2017 we were treated to a fact-packed presentation from YouTube star Sanne Vliegenthart, aka booksandquills, at The Library Club in London, here are some of her tips.

Tips for making great BookTube videos

  1. If you’re a total beginner and don’t know where to start, the first thing to do is watch videos and start learning the language BookTubers use, such as ‘TBR’ and ‘book haul’, to get a sense of the kinds of structure you could try.
  2. Reach out to vloggers whose work resonates with you. BookTubers like talking to newbie video makers, and there are often meet-ups where you can connect with people who’ll be happy to share their expertise with you. You might even make friends with someone who will work with you on a collaborative video that you can share, connecting their audience to yours.
  3. Be as clear as you can about what viewers will find on your channel, such as books on a specific genre. You don’t have to only vlog about this topic, but having a central theme will help you build an audience who are into the same stuff as you.
  4. Organising your content into thematic playlists is a great way to showcase your content. It means people won’t only see your latest videos when they go to your profile page: you can have a playlist of Book Hauls, or vlogs about a specific book genre, for example.
  5. Creating good thumbnail images with a consistent style will ensure your channel is instantly recognisable. You don’t need Photoshop to create stylish thumbnails: free online resources such as PicMonkey do the job just as well.
  6. Always post on the same day of the week, with a minimum of one video every week.
  7. Don’t feel obliged to vlog about the books that everyone else is talking about – the internet is vast and there’s space for every interest, whether it’s Dutch fiction, the classics, or whatever you feel most passionate about.

Tips for publishers who want to work with BookTubers

An impressive £45,000-worth of books have been sold through affiliate links to The Book Depository on Sanne’s channel, plus an unknown figure through other bookshops. This is an exciting opportunity for publishers, but we can’t just bombard vloggers with books and expect instant success.
  1. Take the time to research vloggers and find out who is most likely to be interested in your book. Don’t contact somebody until you’ve watched at least three or four of their videos: you need to know what makes them tick before you get in touch.
  2. Send a personal email, telling the BookTuber about your book and why you think they will like it. This is much more effective than just sending a press release. And always always email before sending anything: it’s a waste of your marketing budget to send books that a vlogger isn’t interested in.
  3. Think of specific events coming up that they might want to vlog about, and suggest how your books fit into these. (It helps if you’ve done your research and you already know the vlogger always makes videos about Valentine’s Day reads, for example.)
  4. Offer suggestions, but be open to vloggers’ ideas: it’s not your job to tell them what to put in their videos. (Remember, nearly all BookTubers are making videos as a hobby around their full-time jobs, from sheer passion.)
  5. Vloggers like backlist as well as frontlist, so don’t ignore jewels in your back catalogue from previous seasons.
  6. Remember the BookTube community is small and well-connected, so don’t pretend you’re offering someone an exclusive if you’re actually not – you will be found out!
  7. Ebooks are easy to send but have nothing to offer as a video experience. A beautifully produced print copy, maybe accompanied by relevant goodies such as a postcard, bookmark or edible treat, will work much better on camera.
  8. What can you offer vloggers? Of course, BookTubers love books, but you could think outside the box and offer a personal, fun experience that relates to the book, which in itself becomes material for the BookTuber’s social media output.
  9. There are lots of views on whether payment is necessary or appropriate. Sanne says that if you’re just offering books or an experience, there’s generally no need to pay. But if you’re setting a specific date for the video to be published and specific guidelines about the content, then yes, you should pay. Remember, you’re not just paying for the vlogger’s time (Sanne puts in at least 8 hours per video, not including time spent reading the book she’s vlogging about) but also the access to their audience.
There’s a world of fabulous book vlogs out there, and I’m sure the BookMachine community has plenty of budding BookTubers in its ranks. I hope these tips inspire you to explore Sanne’s YouTube channel and the wider world of BookTube – and maybe even to set up your camera and join in! If you do, we’d love to hear from you. Lights, camera, book… and… ACTION!

Snapchat: A summary report for publishers

Sarah Garnham is a Publicity Assistant at Ebury. Here’s her summary report of Snapchat for publishers, looking at the publicity opportunities it offers, and when to use them. 

Statistics

Although a number of these statistics are out of date or estimated (mainly because Snapchat doesn’t often reveal exact figures), it is clear that Snapchat is an incredibly popular app and user platform, particularly with younger target audiences.

Key Areas

Stories Stories are a really good way of updating our users with new news and updates and the recent addition of an auto-play function means that when they are checking their friends’ everything plays through. This is a delicate balance of making sure the snap is relevant and frequent (but not too frequent). Special events with big lead-ups can be very good if you know you’ll be posting a longer story on a different day as this way you won’t annoy too many people and can build the hype. PRH Careers did this prior to their long “follow me” stories for The Scheme where you got to follow an editor/assistant/manager for a day. Discover Discover seems to be a much more costly way of advertising as big companies such as BuzzFeed and The Sun use it. It’s a daily update from either a news/food/entertainment source and tends to contain about 10-30 snaps, videos and challenges. This function continues to gain in popularity with media outlets and could lend itself really well to publishing; however this would be an expensive task. You can however buy ad space in this feature, the price of which can be negotiated with that particular discover partner. This means that they can earn money back, and you can save money as it could work out much cheaper than advertising in between stories. Live Streamed from viral events, including the London location which is likely to be the most likely place where an event might get featured. However advertisers can buy time in between these which might be a possible way to advertise if you wanted to do so (although these can be skipped). At a larger event e.g. BAFTAs, new stories are created, with fans and those attending able to add images and videos to the story. One idea might be to try and get featured at bigger events e.g. Summer in the City as these will almost definitely have a Live feature or at the very least be included on the London stories function. In combination with a filter, this could be really popular. Filters Geofilters are digital graphics that layer on top of images or videos and are specific to a location. Often if enough of these are shared to do with certain events or simply as part of the ‘Our London Story’ function in a single day, then they can get featured and seen by many more people. There are two main ways in which a Geofilter could be utilised. Firstly is if an artist or designer submitted one and this was chosen by Snapchat. No brand logos are allowed, but this option is free. However this wouldn’t be particularly useful as it is likely that the location would only be the office, so generally used by staff. However visiting authors give it the potential to be seen by more people. The second way, which would probably be a lot more useful is by temporarily purchasing one for a special event e.g. a launch/reading/signing. These can be approved in one business day and start at $5. They can cover a space between 20,000 square feet and 5 million square feet, so would be able to fit the perimeters of a bookshop or venue. These encourage people to share their images and would be particularly useful at large blogger events. (This article goes through the steps of the process: http://techcrunch.com/2016/02/23/how-to-make-snapchat-geofilter/). Many brands and locations use these, and particularly well designed ones are likely to be further shared on Facebook or Instagram. As this is being proposed to be used for advertising the classics, you could really utilise the different designs of the sets e.g. birds and bees and they have a fun and bright design. Lenses These are graphics that fit over a user’s face, sometimes even available for multiple people in the shot. They follow the movement of the face and are often animated, usually when the user opens their mouth. A recent popular example includes the Cadbury campaign to push individual chocolate bar brands such as Crunchie, Twirl and Wispa. They launched a featured lens that appeared first in the list (before the popular dog lens) which appeared every Friday to tie in with their Friday Feeling campaign. It featured a gold mask which covered the whole face, music and a feature which rained Crunchie bars across the screen and said either “Give Me That Friday Feeling” or “Obey Your Mouth” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJEGL6Aa3xI). These are reported to be quite expensive, although they get a lot of traction. The Face Swap lens offers a way of utilising this function for free although you would have to promote it elsewhere.

Instagram Stories

On the 2nd of August, Instagram launched ‘Instagram Stories’, essentially a direct copy of ‘Snapchat Stories’. This allows users to post photos and videos, overlay these with words, emojis and a drawing function. The photos and videos disappear after 24 hours and don’t appear in you feed. If you tap on someone else’s picture you can send them a DM about it and you can also make your story private so no one, not even your followers, can see it. You can see who has viewed your story by opening it and swiping up on the screen, you can see the number and the name and these statistics are private. It also offers an easy way to share a picture/video from your feed into your story using the (…) function. You can also download the images to your phone, much like snapchat. Pros
  • More things on one channel = build audience.
  • More drawing options e.g. neon and calligraphy pens and custom colour control.
  • You can pause the screen and go back and forth between images.
Cons
  • Missing a lot of Snapchat’s key features e.g. location, lenses, custom sticker emojis
  • Can’t add old content.
  • Can’t see who has screenshotted content.
  • Can’t save a whole day’s content in one go.
Full list of differences and similarities here: https://techcrunch.com/2016/08/02/instagram-stories/

11 questions to boost your video content marketing

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/ 

Marketing vs Design: Photo/Twitter blog

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.
social media

Can social media make a difference for your authors?

This is a guest post by Alison Barrow. Alison is Director of Media Relations at Transworld. You can find her on Twitter @alisonbarrow. This blog post first appeared on the Publishing Training Centre Blog. “Really? 140 characters or links to images or a blog are crucial influencers in promoting and selling books? It’s just a load of old blather isn’t it? Can social media really help publishers? “So, first up, this is a short blog. I’m speaking solely on the account of a publisher. I’ve been given about 400 words to sum up why social media is important – more than 140 characters, but still, not much – so here’s some key pointers and examples of how vital it is… “Twitter, Facebook, GoodReads and Instagram are essential for Communicators. Readers speak with authors, who connect with bookshops and bloggers, and a whole conversation ensues. It’s a feat of choreography to avoid repetition and remain interesting and relevant, but by snapshotting these images and posts publishers capture that previously elusive word-of-mouth and demonstrate to a wide online audience enthusiasm and positive reaction to upcoming books. This creates interest and demand. “PRs and marketeers are Sharers – when the supportive chat online about a title and author builds, this is communicated to sales teams who pass on to the booksellers. A huge number of successful publications over the last five years have seen their campaigns play out to great effect over social channels – think The Snow Child; The Miniaturist, The Lemon Grove, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, The Girl on the Train, The Widow. The author doesn’t need to be in that space – campaigns for Maggie O’Farrell and for Kate Atkinson are propelled by publisher in tandem with book trade, bloggers, fans and media. “Social media posts can be like pinboards – Collators of print coverage, an event in a local bookshop, a soundbite from an author, an image of a location which inspired a book, collecting offline nuggets and creating a display of praise and popularity. Reviews in papers and magazines, articles written by authors can be showcased to a targeted audience. “Last week, a BBC radio producer emailed to say that the presenter had been reading the lively Twitter exchanges about a novel, and wanted to book the author on a show. Many are watching, not overtly participating – which is also why it can be tricky to chart a journey to a book sale. “It’s an Educator – with one or two clicks publishers can check on what their peers are doing. We have learned so much from other authors’ book tours, rooftop book events, partnerships with influential bloggers and media. We watch how others secure word of mouth and connect readers with writers, and we learn, and fashion elements for ourselves. “It’s a great big Thank You card too – writers and publishers send appreciation back to those who have joined in the cheerleading… and the whole positive reaction is captured and continues…”
Publishing

Six gems about Marketing that may seem obvious, but are you really acting on them?

This is a guest post by Rachel Maund. Rachel is is Director of publishing consultancy Marketability (UK) Ltd and a tutor at the Publishing Training Centre. This blog post first appeared on the Publishing Training Centre Blog.

1. ‘Marketing isn’t a department, it’s a state of mind’

This was a mantra of an ex colleague, and very irritating it was too. It was only years later that I realised she was right. An editor visiting a lecturer is marketing just as surely as the marketing manager sending an email campaign.

2. Marketing isn’t clever, or technical, or expensive

The best results invariably come from what’s most obvious. What one business author I worked with called ‘opportunity spotting’. When I review marketing questionnaires returned by authors, their connections will often dictate the direction of the marketing plan. If they’re organising a conference for 2,000 people, then that’s where my resources will be concentrated. If they run an influential blog, I’ll be talking to them about how to promote their book there in the most appropriate way.

3. Really effective marketing is invisible

Everyone welcomes relevant content but nobody wants to be marketed to. Marketing fronted by authors is perfect, putting your expert directly in touch with their audience. We do all the back-end stuff (this really isn’t about avoiding doing the work), we just put their name to it rather than our own.

4. ‘There are two motives to action: self-interest and fear’

… said Napoleon Bonaparte. Spot on. Readers will buy/act when they’re persuaded that they personally will lose out if they don’t, so we need to be hard-hitting and confident about benefits.

5. The human attention span is now shorter than that of a goldfish

It is 8 seconds (2014 survey by the National Centre for Biotechnology). So give readers keywords that prove relevance and cut the waffle (fluff). Deliver messaging in chunks – including images – that can easily be scanned. Nobody’s reading paragraphs, trust me on this one. Did you know that Taylor & Francis are now producing cartoon abstracts of scholarly journal articles? Good for them.

6. What customers want lags behind the hype

Fact. In publishing we are constantly working on new formats and innovations, but our customers are living in the here and now. We need to be wary of investing in the ‘next big thing’ until our audiences are there. Just this month a schools publisher told me that a significant percentage of their orders from schools were online order forms that had been completed and then FAXED. Yes, really.  
Self-employed in publishing

Observing the audience: how reader analytics are influencing the industry

Reader analytics are garnering huge attention at the moment and there are at least four major talks at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair discussing how and why publishers and authors can collect data on their readers. But with reader analytics taking the spotlight in publishing, the debate over the ethics of data harvesting and its uses has been brought to our doorstep.

Consensual data is happy data

The big issues around data harvesting are not just what information businesses and official organisations are collecting about us, it’s whether or not they’re doing it with our consent. For once, however, publishing is ahead of the curve on getting this one right. Although big boys like Amazon remain the mysterious bastions of data collection they’ve always been, smaller companies specialising in reader analytics are proving to be honest, open and respectful about harvesting data. For example, Jellybooks use “reading campaigns” for as-yet unreleased books to provide information to publishers, in a similar way that a screen test would for a film studio. Jellybooks gathers data from readers who have volunteered to be monitored and received a free digital copy of the campaign book, which is clearly marked, so that the reader remembers they’re being observed. What’s more, while Jellybooks have said that “though in principle [non-anonymised] data could be provided to the author or publisher” they do not give it. Despite some rumours, Jellybooks also does not gather data by measuring eye-movement, but by observing how the reader interacts with their app as they read. Jellybooks, and most reader analytics collectors, are more interested in the time of day consumers read, how long they read for, when they highlight or perform searches on text, and the operating system, device or browser being used. These are added to information the reader voluntarily provides, such as gender and age. When working with companies like Jellybooks, publishers don’t need to feel compromised about using this data: it’s not an invasion, it’s a gift!

Data driven decisions

But why is data such hot property in the first place? Some have wondered – both in horror and hope – that reader analytics might effect the editorial process, but Jellybooks has said that this misunderstands how people read and the kind of data reader analytics can collect: “Readers judge a book as a whole based on storyline, language, characters, plot, etc. and not on individual chapters.” Though the data can be utilised in this way, knowing that “x” number of people dropped off at page 57 is not necessarily helpful to an author or a publisher. Excitingly, what reader analytics can provide are evidence-based assessments of how a book is likely to perform in the market. Data on completion rates and recommendations gathered during the commissioning stage, for example, can help reduce the risk inherent in signing new books by indicating whether or not a book might be popular. Later in the publishing process, analytics can also help marketing departments figure out how much budget to assign to their titles, what their audience looks like and how to find them – are they young or old, male or female? Do they binge-read on beach holidays, meaning you should get WHSmith Travel on board, or do they dip in on their on their commute to work, meaning you can grab them with a poster on the tube? Best of all, this data is available via third-party companies like Jellybooks, meaning that although publishers have to pay fees for their data, they don’t need to make the huge investments in building platforms and software that was previously required. This information is more easily available to publishers than ever before.

Scratching the surface

Reader analytics still clearly has its limits and they may never become a magic wand for book sales, but the truth is that the possibilities for using this data are only just starting to be explored. Moreover, the software for collecting this data are still in its – albeit impressive – infancy. Looking ahead there is talk of Jellybooks developing some kind of “FitBit for books,” which will take retail copies of books into account as well as the pre-sales titles currently available. Others claim that one day soon we will be able to use data to predict the next big bestseller. There can be no arguing that data harvesting is here to stay. The only, opportunity-filled question remains: how else are we going to use it?  

What can publishers learn from Pokemon Go?

Long considered nothing more than a gimmicky fad, it turns out that augmented reality (AR) is actually alive and well. At least that’s the case when it’s associated with a brand as large as Pokemon.
By now you’ve undoubtedly heard all the Pokemon Go stories and maybe you’ve even dodged a player or two, overly-focused on their phone while embarking on a virtual hunting expedition. On the surface it’s nothing more than another time-wasting game but I believe it offers some very important lessons for publishers. Let’s start with the hybrid, print-plus-digital opportunity. Recent reports indicate ebook sales have plateaued and growth has shifted back to the print format. There are a number of underlying reasons for these trends including higher ebook prices as well as the adult coloring book phenomenon. But as I’ve said before, publishers need to stop thinking about print and digital as an either/or proposition. Some customers prefer print while others lean towards digital. Many readers are in both camps, switching between print and digital based on genre, pricing, convenience, etc. Most publishers overlook the fact that digital can be used to complement and enhance print. Skeptical? Have a look at a few of the demos Layar offers on this page. Stop and think about how something like Layar could be used to bring your static pages to life. Maybe you publish how-to guides, print is your dominant format and you’ve always wondered how you could integrate videos with the text. You’ve tried inserting urls but very few readers bother typing them in. QR codes are an option but they’re clunky and take up precious space on the page. Why not use AR to virtually overlay those videos on the page without having to dump in a bunch of cryptic-looking urls or QR codes? Are you looking to engage your readers in the book’s/author’s social stream? Here’s your chance to integrate them virtually using a platform like Layar. Better yet… have you always wanted to know who all those nameless, faceless consumers are who bought your print book from third-party retailers like Amazon or Barnes & Noble? Here’s an opportunity as a publisher or author to initiate a conversation directly with your readers. Add an Easter egg to the print edition where readers can receive a reward via an AR-powered offer; you will, of course, ask for each reader’s name and email address before handing out those rewards. This approach to marrying digital to print is totally unobtrusive. Print readers who don’t want to bother with their phones can continue reading the book without interruption. Those customers interested in learning more, interacting with authors or uncovering special publisher offers will likely see the value of connecting their phones with the printed page. The possibilities are endless. So the next time you see a Pokemon Go player wandering aimlessly be sure to thank them for helping identify new ways of distributing, promoting and enriching content. 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.

Startup Snapshot: Scriggler

Dmitry Selemir was once a physicist and hedge fund rocket scientist PM, and is now the founder and CEO of Scriggler.com, ‘the Soundcloud of writing platforms‘. We interviewed him here.20160826_132004

1) What exactly is Scriggler?

We define Scriggler as a writing, blogging and debating platform, but it is a lot more than that. It combines elements of social network, blogging platform and, above all, it is a community with the goal of not just providing its members with an opportunity to present their work, their opinions and ideas, but to give them a voice, by providing a significant promotional support both within the Scriggler membership circles and outside. It’s all about helping our members reach out to a much wider audience than they otherwise would be able to and also about helping readers discover stories, poetry, opinions and ideas that would resonate with them the most.

2) What problem does it solve?

The problem is exactly what any new author will be faced with – how do you get your work in front of people and ultimately make sure they are prepared to buy your books. Most still appear to think the solution is to write more books or write better books until you get noticed by an agent/publisher and they take care of the rest. In reality, whether you self-publish or go conventional way – arguably it’s your ability to get visibility, build your author platform that counts the most and publishers look at that ability as one of the major factors, books themselves almost come secondary. After all, they are in the business of selling books, not rewarding literary merit. What Scriggler aims to achieve here is to help our members through the most difficult stages of audience acquisition – their very first steps. We don’t just get their work seen, we help them develop the whole package – their social media presence, their website, newsletter; experiment with the strategy to find what works best for them. We also encourage them to find similar authors to partner with, either creatively or purely for promotion. We don’t forget about the bigger picture too. Scriggler is open to all genres and topics and is certainly not confined to showcases of fiction and poetry – our members share opinions, ideas, blogs, etc. It opens up the membership to a much wider mix of people, it’s not just writers mingling with each other. It also ensures much more diverse conversations and increases the chances of our contributors to connect with the actual audience, not just fellow writers, after all selling your books to other authors is a pretty difficult, if not impossible, task. It all contributes to our ultimate goal of becoming an intellectual and cultural blender, where all views and ideas are well represented.

3) Who is your target market?

There are two distinct parts to Scriggler – one is the website itself and the free services we provide, the other is additional, premium services, like our Twitter management and book promotion service. When talking about target market it makes sense to talk about these separately. The free service is designed to appeal to as broad an audience as possible, we are open to all genres and topics and certainly, would like all of them to be well represented. The premium part is designed for people who would benefit from higher visibility – for example, those actively developing their author platform. Primarily the services we currently offer concentrate on social media and predominantly Twitter, where we take advantage of both our expertise and current presence. This is the area we would like to expand on, making sure we give our audience access to as diverse a list of services and tools as possible. We don’t necessarily need to be the sole provider – so we are very much open to partnerships.

4) What results do you hope to see over the next few years?

We have big plans, of course, and some, particularly ones concerning future development, I would prefer to keep under wraps for the time being. Right now we are focused on growth of the already sizeable community behind the website, our ability to impact on the discovery and distribution of our contributor’s content. We would like to see more success stories from our members and certainly want to be a big factor behind it. I will also be looking to expand the team behind the website, ideally bringing in a new co-founder with publishing background.

5) What will be next for Scriggler?

In the immediate future, we’ll hold our current course – expand the social media presence and grow both the user base and the readership and start building relationships with other industry participants – anyone who would help us have more impact on the careers of our members.

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