Melissa J. Davies describes the origin story of Pigeon Books, currently Southsea’s tiniest bookshop. It’s a pop-up shop at the moment, and hopes to have a permanent home soon.
Melissa J. Davies describes the origin story of Pigeon Books, currently Southsea’s tiniest bookshop. It’s a pop-up shop at the moment, and hopes to have a permanent home soon.
What’s it like to be an Unbound author? Norah Myers interviews Jennifer Pierce to find out.
I like the idea of giving readers a say in what gets published.
When I first heard about Unbound, I thought that this method of publishing had a lot of potential for YA audiences. The YA marketing segment is largely made up of a generation that is even more connected than ever. They’re connecting with publishers, authors, and other readers to have conversations about books and publishing in social media spaces. Many of these readers run successful blogs and YouTube channels about books. These platforms give them an opportunity to share their thoughts about what they’re reading and what they want to read. There are so many new ways that readers can engage with literature, and this is a way of engaging with the publishing process itself.
I think it’s great that Unbound is using that engaging nature of social media to be more inclusive and allow anyone to become involved in the process, from selecting which books they want to see published, to gaining access to author updates, and receiving exclusive content or rewards for investing in projects. Additionally, Unbound functions as a traditional publisher once the crowdfunding phase is over–having marketing and editorial support from experienced industry professionals is a huge advantage as a debut author.
This is my first experience with crowdfunding–it is much more of a roller coaster than I expected! Although being your own promoter is time-consuming and sometimes frustrating, the amount of support and encouragement I’ve had from family, friends, other Unbound authors, and even strangers has been incredible.
My MA provided me with an overview of all aspects of the publishing process so I know what to expect going in as an author. My marketing class and work experience have been useful throughout the crowdfunding stage.
Go for it! Although Unbound and most of their authors are UK-based, don’t let geography limit you. Unbound has been doing amazing things lately as they grow their list and it’s a really exciting time to be an Unbound author.
Jennifer Pierce is a graduate of Oxford Brookes University’s Publishing MA and currently works as an Editorial Project Manager at Elsevier. Her debut Young Adult novel, Slow Motion is now crowdfunding with Unbound.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Full list of differences and similarities here: https://techcrunch.com/2016/08/02/instagram-stories/
Chicken 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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Small 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Many authors are intimidated by the thought of marketing their books. As I mention in a post on my blog recently, the concept of an author platform makes most writers run away or start talking to the dust bunnies in the corner.
The basic premise of book marketing is this: write great books that people want to read, then effectively market them. If you’re self-published, use professional editors, designers, and formatters so your book looks amazing. I self-published my first three books and invested in those services through scrimping and saving. Now you can crowdfund. It’s doable.
If you’re traditionally published, you will still be doing the majority of your own marketing. I have an agent now and am published by a boutique literary agency out of NYC. While they do a small bit of marketing, I do 90%. My BadRedhead Media clients are a mix of NYTimes bestsellers and successful indie authors, and they too are doing all their own marketing.
You must market your books so people can find them. Here are my top ten tips:
Who is your ideal reader? Most authors have no clue (I know I didn’t at first either). The best place to start: Pew Research Center. Tip: Everyone is not your demographic.
That’s where you need to be. Most authors spend their time on Facebook, whining about how their books aren’t selling. Facebook is the largest social media channel in the world – but is it where your readers are? If your books are YA, you need to be on Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube, which skews younger.
Too many authors blast and spam, with little to no interaction, which is not only ineffective, it also violates almost every social media channel’s rules. Listen, retweet and share, interact and reply. It’s not all about you. And for all that’s holy, cancel that automated welcome on Twitter. Newbie mistake.
This is effective for your SEO. Not sure what to blog about? Focus on your branding and keywords. What are you most excited about? Remember, we brand the author not the book. Write about what you are authentically passionate about or an expert in (Hint: it doesn’t have to be writing!).
This is seems so obvious, but so many authors don’t do it. If you make people search for ways to find you, they’re out.
One author complained recently that nobody was purchasing her books. I looked at her site and you couldn’t find a single purchase link anywhere! Lesson: add your books and link to Amazon (and other purchase sites).
Not sure what to tweet/post/blog about? It’s really easy: what interests you? Share that, even if it’s not at all about your book. So what? Unclear about your branding? Read more here: Branding 101.
I find most authors will flit from here to there, trying a bit of this and a bit of that, with no strategy or clear goals in place. Create a marketing plan, have goals, and measure those goals. Reset as needed.
None of the above will matter if your book is awful. Learn your craft. Spend the time and effort to work with a professional editor, formatter, and graphic designer. Use betareaders. Send out ARCs. Make sure your book is as close to perfect before release to have the best possible chance at success!
Jacob Cockcroft is Co-Founder and CEO of The Pigeonhole, a made-for-mobile digital book club, serialising their books in installments delivered straight to a reader’s virtual bookshelf on the iOS app or website. Here he writes on mobile reading and making digital work for your company.
E-books are on the decline. Digital reading is only for romance novels. Waterstone’s no longer sells Kindle eReaders. Excellent, publishers can go back to business as usual. The physical book has prevailed.
Well, OK, if you want to misread the tea leaves. The inescapable truth is that there will be 2.5 billion smart phone users by 2019, all potential readers. The largest industry oversight is a distinct separation between physical and digital reading, with digital being the cheaper, dirty cousin. There is a tally for physical sales and a tally for digital sales, count up the points and see who wins.
This simplicity fails to understand how mobile phones are hard coded into people’s daily routine, behavior and psychology. They are the single most important discovery tool for anything: holidays, clothes, kettles, and of course books, but this discovery tool could be so much more efficient, if used properly. The art is to exploit the opportunities smart phones provide and, most importantly, to use data driven analytics to hone the message. This is something physical books simply can’t offer (in much the same way that digital books can’t bring the touch, feel and smell of a physical book).
Interaction, sociability, discoverability, immediacy, pinpoint targeting, measurable ROI. View digital reading through a marketing lens and it can bring you all these things. But it has to be fun; it has to compete with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat on the home screen of every IOS or Android device. This is the business of habit-forming products, of providing that 10-15 minute hit of endorphins as someone breastfeeds, or waits for the tube, or a friend to turn up in a bar.
This is the battle that we wage at the Pigeonhole. We are building dynamic reading experiences, something to take part in, to feel as though you are on a collective journey with others, discovering the most exciting books of the moment. It’s not enough to just pipe content onto a phone and expect people to churn through hours of turgid reading, the temptations of the other apps are just too great, even for those with the best intentions. There is no great mystery as to why digital completion rates for traditional reading apps are so low.
You have to make it FUN. Satisfying. Exciting. Challenging. This is all possible, more than possible, it’s real. All of our publishing partners have given their experience the thumbs up, and over half who respond to our surveys would actively recommend the Pigeon to fellow readers. It is still early days (we have a community of over 12,000 users and our Android app is coming in September) but we are getting closer and closer to perfecting the experience.
And it is the author who benefits from us more then anyone. Many publishers are acutely aware that they aren’t delivering for their authors on the marketing front; they just don’t have the bandwidth. Our partnerships solve this, giving the author a direct line to their readers, creating genuine buzz around the book across social media, and facilitating those reviews on Amazon and Goodreads to boost the all-important algorithms. In turn, this drives the sales of physical books through direct click-throughs from our site to Amazon and both online and offline word of mouth.
We are the ultimate content marketing platform, using the most powerful thing you can – the book itself. Our serialisations allow any book to fit into any life, whilst offering a structured framework for conversations to play out through between the author and their readers
In this way, digital becomes part of an integrated strategy for the promotion of a book, driving discoverability, author profiles, digital sales and physical sales. Posters on the tube are great, but pound for pound, displays in the Facebook newsfeed of keen readers can be much more powerful. With a holistic strategy like this you really can fulfill the potential digital reading provides.
So my message: Don’t be scared of digital and don’t turn your back on it. You just need to be smarter, more creative and ambitious with it.
Earlier this month WHSmith launched Zoella’s Book Club in partnership with blogger and vlogger Zoe. Here Norah Myers interviews Amy Alward, one of the eight authors to be included in the Summer 2016 collection.
Zoe’s always been passionate about reading, and the WHSmith book club is the perfect way to share that passion with her viewers.
It’s incredible! I think those in industries who have worked with major YouTubers before, like fashion and beauty, will find it no surprise to see the uplift in sales. They’ve known the power of social media stars for a long time. But, for books, this is something completely new. For so long, YA publishers have been debating the best ways to reach real teens in the UK and beyond, without the benefit of a movie or TV show. Zoe is putting reading back on the teen radar in a BIG way.
I’m not sure! I’m very excited to see what she picks in upcoming book clubs – her taste so far has been spot on and even I’ve discovered some recommendations that have gone straight on my TBR pile.
So far, it’s been amazing seeing the reaction to the book club and the level of interaction during the online events. I hope that continues right the way through September, when the vote for the ‘favourite book’ is counted. As for beyond, I hope that the book club continues to shine a light on authors that otherwise would not be getting the attention they deserve, introducing more awesome and diverse authors to new readers. There is so little coverage of children’s books in general in the UK, especially not in places that will be seen by teenagers. This is an amazing opportunity to spread a love of reading far and wide!
Thank you so much. For me – of course, I’m blown away by seeing the jump in sales and by the hundreds of messages I’ve received from new readers discovering the series. All I know is that I have many more stories and adventures for Sam Kemi to go on, so I hope it gives me the opportunity to write even more books in The Potion Diaries series!
Amy Alward is a Canadian author and freelance editor who divides her time between the UK and Canada. In 2013, she was listed as one of The Bookseller’s Rising Stars. Her debut fantasy adventure novel, The Oathbreaker’s Shadow, was published in 2013 under the name Amy McCulloch and was longlisted for the 2014 Branford Boase Award for best UK debut children’s book. Her first book written as Amy Alward, The Potion Diaries, was an international success and the second novel in the series, The Potion Diaries: Royal Tour will be published in August 2016. She is currently travelling the world, researching more extraordinary settings and intriguing potions for the third book in the series. She lives life in a continual search for adventure, coffee, and really great books. Visit her at AmyAlward.co.uk or on Twitter @Amy_Alward.
I’ve worked with a range of brands and businesses on their social media presence. Twitter accounts I maintain usually gain around 1000 followers a month. While these followers are targeted and engaged with on the basis of them being potential customers, not all of them are as much as a fan as you’d hope. Followers alone are not the greatest indicator of social media success. You could have 100k Twitter followers, but if only 3 are actually interested in your business or product then they’re not a very valuable audience. In fact, I worked with a musician with a pretty big following (of real people) nearing the 50k mark. Despite this, he can’t sell his music or even get a great deal of plays on his music videos. His followers are more interested in the funny content and memes he posts than the songs he makes. While it is a large following, its value can certainly be questioned.
So, if followers alone aren’t a good indicator of social media success, what is?
I place a lot more weight on engagement. How interactive are your followers? How much do they care about what you’re posting? I once had a client that was insistent on gaining as many followers as possible, no matter what. It didn’t matter to them whether they spoke the language or were even real people, they just wanted to see that number rise. Begrudgingly, I did what they asked. A few days later, they complained they looked fake because despite all these followers we were still scraping for three retweets. I look back hoping they learnt their lesson. For those of you yet to cross that bridge, here are some other indicators you can look at to see whether your social media manager is doing a decent job:
Now that Twitter has built in analytics and you can see tweet activity stats from the mobile app, it’s very easy to see your engagement rate. If your tweet has 50,000 impressions and two people interacted with it, something isn’t right. However, if your tweets are getting loads of impressions and interaction but you still have a small following, then it’s likely that the following will grow slowly and steadily off of the back of that (and that tends to be the best kind of growth – both valuable and manageable).
To improve this, take a look at what kind of social media posts are getting the most engagement and find a way to work more of them into your social media schedule and remove any unnecessary posts that don’t do so well.
Getting lots of retweets usually indicates that people (not just your followers) like the material you’re posting so much that they want to quickly share it. While retweets on your promotional content probably indicate higher levels of brand engagement than retweets on your non-promotional content, both are great as they put your brand in front of a whole new audience.
It’s pretty easy to retweet something, but having followers that go out of their way to actively share your website/products etc. on their profile signifies a much higher level of engagement. If you add your Twitter handle to the text that is tweeted when someone presses the share button, you’ll be notified of each share (using the button). You can then retweet these posts to your followers to say “Hey, this person loved our blog so much they shared it. You should probably check it out too.”
People taking time out of their day to interact with your posts is great, but clicking a button or pressing share on a web page isn’t too hard. Followers that consistently respond to your posts with feedback, questions, insight and general discussion tend to be some of your biggest fans. Reply to them and have a short and sweet conversation – they’ll be sure to be back for more!
Many people tend to think likes on Twitter are meaningless and, for the most part, I’d say they are. However, if someone likes your tweet it can mean a few good things. They may be saving it for later (likely to be the case if there’s a link in the tweet) or they liked the tweet too much not to interact at all, but not enough to retweet (in which case, you may need to figure out why that is). Also, people’s likes are stored, meaning in the future they (or someone else) could stumble across your post all over again!
Most of these statistics for your Twitter account can be found in the analytics tool Twitter provides. It’s free, so make sure you make use of it!
Thanks to Norah Myers for sourcing this guest post.
Social media is becoming one of the greatest assets you can use to grow your business. As a social media fiend, I’m particularly fond of using an online platform for recommending books to readers – I am here for great stories and even greater conversations about said stories.
If you’d like to grow your social media presence, here are some tips for doing so:
Are you going to be promoting your business? Promoting your personal life as a lifestyle blogger? Whatever way you use social media, know who you’re targeting and work with your audience. That’s not to say “give the people what they want!” but it’s more of an “if Instagram works because your product is better received visually, know that your audience is going to be more open to what you’re selling!”
I can’t stress this one enough. If you are passionate about what you’re putting out there, it will show and people tend to appreciate honesty and transparency.
Come up with interesting ideas on how to use your social platforms – I’ve noticed that Twitter is for quick news, Instagram is for aesthetics, and Facebook is for lengthy news. Create content that you can use across all these platforms in unique ways.
It’s so important to not only have a voice in whatever online community you are joining, but to also listen to other voices in that community. Create conversation, make connections with others, and have fun doing it. Social media is meant to be social – in my case, I’m a book blogger who loves to talk about books, but I’m a reader first. I’m on the same level as all of the other readers who follow me – it’s important to remember that!
Natasha Minoso is a Penguin by day and a book blogger 24/7. She’s here to recommend you hot drinks and hotter reads. You can find her living on Instagram @bookbaristas.
Thanks to Norah Myers for sourcing this guest post.
At the launch of BookMachine’s Snapshots III I kicked off the talks by raining hard on the book industry parade. (Sorry.)
While I was on holiday in Dorset last week I wandered into a charity shop in a pretty market town and remarked on the number of books they had crammed onto their shelves. The woman behind the counter said wearily: ‘We’re not taking any more books. Everybody’s getting rid of them and nobody wants them.’
She didn’t know I was a book person. She had no idea she’d just delivered a punch to my gut. It’s not the sort of thing people in my world, and my social media bubble, tend to say. But it is of course true, or at least there’s truth in it.
As publishers, we spend our time with people who love and appreciate books. This is NOT THE REAL WORLD. For many people in this country books are an outdated technology. An irrelevance.
The Reading Agency reported last year that:
And for an industry that makes its money from the sale of books it’s a perfect storm because, as fewer people want to buy books, more books are being published than ever before at lower prices than ever before.
So what’s the answer? Well, there’s no one answer. There never is. But we can find AN answer, I believe, in the creating of connection.
We already know that for many readers a book is interesting only when it’s connected to something else, something beyond the book, that has meaning for them. If they love Bake-Off, they’ll buy the book. If they’re a devoted fan of the YouTuber of the moment they’ll queue up for a signed copy, if they’re at an event with a great speaker, they’ll buy the book at the back of the room, if they’re in a book club they’ll buy the book they’re discussing: they need a reason, they need a connection.
When we write and publish today, we’re engaging in a battle for attention that’s more sophisticated and segmented than ever before. The people who really get this are the platform builders like Pat Flynn, Seth Godin, Jeff Goins, Joanna Penn, Hugh Howey, Denise Duffield-Thomas – and many of these are indie authors because they want control and they can reach their people directly. They have podcasts, blogs, YouTube channels, businesses: they have fans and/or customers instead of a sales force, and their book reaches new readers who become new fans and/or customers. It’s the attention they’re monetising – for many of them the revenues from the book itself are just a side benefit.
When rapper Akala spoke at Futurebook last year, revealing that his self-published books outsell CDs at his gigs, he asked ‘Why would I need a publisher? I have my own customer base.’
The good news is that books have an irreplaceable role in this new online/offline economy of connection and attention, but we have reached a tipping point: readers need a reason to read them. They need meaningful context. And the most powerful reason is always human connection – directly with the author, or with other people who’ve read and loved the book. Which means that publishers need to find ways to support authors to find their tribe and build their platform.
If we don’t respond to that challenge, if we don’t recognise that we’re in the business of making people care and connecting them, we’re simply adding to an undifferentiated pile of books that nobody has a reason to read. We also risk being left with a world in which only celebrities or business-savvy authorpreneurs can succeed in the book market.
Publishers have traditionally thought of themselves as gatekeepers, but once the walls have come down it’s a bit pointless continuing to stand beside the gate. And, even worse, if you insist on standing there you’re going to miss the party that’s going on inside.
Maybe a better metaphor for our future is as table hosts. Publishers don’t own the venue any more, it’s not even our party, but we CAN host part of it: we can lead the conversation in our area, give a voice and a platform to people with something interesting to say, we can make ours the table everyone wants to come to, where the best conversations happen and the most interesting connections are made. We can be where the party is.
And that’s much more fun than guarding the gate, right?
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.
Rachel Abbott self-published her first novel, Only the Innocent, in 2011 through Kindle Direct. It reached the number 1 spot in the Kindle store just over three months later,held its position for four weeks and was the second highest selling self-published title in 2012. In August 2015, Amazon confirmed that Rachel is the UK’s bestselling independent author over the last five years. She is also listed at number 14 in the list of bestselling authors – both traditionally and independently published – over the same five year period. Here are her top tips for promoting a title.
The one question I am always asked by writers is “How can I get my book noticed?”. As we all know, it is possible to write the most brilliant novel in the world but, unless people know it’s out there, how are they going to find it amongst the millions of books available for the Kindle?
The tips below might help you to be noticed and to build and maintain a high readership.
Don’t only think about marketing activities that result in immediate sales – focus on making sure that people recognise your books, seeing them in as many places as possible. Display your covers: at the end of each email you send; in guest posts for popular blogs; in tweets or Facebook posts. Awareness is crucial to success. When readers see your book in a store you want them to think ‘I’ve seen that book before – it looks interesting.’
Most bloggers post their reviews on Amazon and Goodreads as well as on their own blogs. Keep a list of the reviewers you like, and make sure you invite them to read the book before launch. Find other reviewers by searching similar authors, plus the word ‘review’. Send reviewers all the details they might need including what the book is about, the word length and genre. Good reviews create a desire for people to buy.
A perfect example of a marketing plan objective would be to increase your mailing list by 500 readers. Your actions might include putting a link to a sign-up page in the back of your books, running a promotion, creating a newsletter sign-up form for the author Facebook page, blog or website. Then you can send readers regular updates on the book launches.
It’s all so easy to get hooked on Twitter and be on their all day – but use scheduling tools to cut down on the time spent on social media. Remember the average Twitter user reads tweets for no more than 15 minutes per day and follows 270 people, so if you want to catch their eye, you need to tweet at regular intervals.
It happens to everyone, to some degree. All crowdfunding campaigns – for books, apps, watches, whatever – all follow the same kind of pattern. A spike at launch, a spike at the end which gets them over the line – and, at some point, a plateau in the middle. But what to do when the campaign never gets off the plateau, when the whole project becomes marooned?
Obviously, the first point to make is that a lengthy fallow period can be avoided. There is no magic bullet to any crowdfunding campaign, other than the fact that activity begets pledges. In other words – if you stop, so will the pledges.
But let’s say, that you’re doing plenty and still the pledges have dried up. What next?
What are you saying to people? Are you getting the tone wrong, too blatantly asking for money? Are you explaining the project badly? Many a good project has stalled due to bad communications. Get someone you trust, someone who can be honest with you, to check over the messages you’re sending and see if they ‘feel’ right.
Next: Look at what you saying to people and get a second opinion – then re-write.
Where are you asking for support? In email? On social media? With a quill on vellum? The best campaigns are a mix of media and platforms, but they often concentrate more on one-to-one communication (usually via email) than the one-to-many of, say, Twitter. When I see a failing campaign, I often see a project reliant on a few tweets here and there – and that only gets you so far.
Next: Make sure you’re on the platforms which suit your readers, rather than suits you. And, almost certainly, make personalise emails a bigger part of the mix.
Are you targeting the right people? Most books have two audiences – people who want to support the author and people who want to read about the topic (which can make some fiction harder to fund). Many authors are too reticent about asking their personal networks and not sure where the subject networks are. The first needs chutzpah, the second needs research.
Next: Shamelessly dig deep on the the audience of people you know, and put the work in to find the people you don’t.
I’m a big fan of the elastoplast model for funding. A short, sharp burst of frenzied activity is better than dragging it out for months. To get a book funded, you should schedule some time every day, be contacting a good number of people each time to make sure those numbers keep ticking over.
Next: Remember when you used to schedule your revision and teachers would tell you to ‘make sure you do something every day’? That.
Reticence is a big problem with crowdfunding. Now is the time, as one author put it to me, to ‘unleash your inner American’. That means emailing people you haven’t spoken to in a while, replying to Twitter replies and Facebook posts. The more you talk to people, the more they become involved in the project. Blog about your book and the processes behind producing it. Without being too cheesy, take people on your journey. The people who read that will become your advocates.
Next: While writing is a solitary experience, crowdfunding isn’t. Gird your loins and get sociable.
Observe what’s working – and repeat it. Watch what doesn’t work – and stop doing it. It sounds obvious, but so many authors blithely assume they know what works, and are shocked when the data comes in.
Next: Look at the data on your project page (any decent platform will show that to project owners), and learn from it.
In short, if your campaign is flagging, it’s time for some honesty as to what is not quite working. Take the time to take your campaign apart a little, examine the parts and shine them up a bit. Then re-assemble on your way to 100%…
Thanks to Norah Myers for sourcing this guest post.
From our discussion I drew out three interesting observations about business book publishing in the 21st century.
Rachel and I hooked up in the first place simply because I bought her book on one of our ritual family trips to Waterstones in Basingstoke: once a month or so I take the kids in, we all choose a book, and then we head upstairs to Café Nero and ignore each other happily for an hour or so, each immersed in our chosen world.* Rachel’s was the book I bought – I loved the stark challenge of the title, that ambivalent word, which feels simultaneously stirring and disturbing, and particularly intriguing because written by a woman. (We talk more about this in the podcast.) I took a picture of the book beside my skinny cappuccino and was about to tweet it when, on a whim, I searched for Rachel on Twitter. I found her, tagged her in the tweet, and settled down to read. Within a few minutes the response came back, and within an hour we had an interview set up. Boom.
Rachel articulated perfectly the attitude that most business writers have towards books: ‘There isn’t any money in books unless you happen to be Malcolm Gladwell… it’s not about making lots of money.’ Not every author can afford to be so phlegmatic, of course, but when you’re writing a book to support your main revenue-generating business (speaking, in Rachel’s case) your concerns go beyond a simple focus on the royalty rate to questions of control and collaboration. Business authors need to be sure that the publisher will be a good partner as they build their wider brand, that they’ll have their say on questions of design, timing, publicity and so on. Book people love books and we can tend to have an over-inflated view of them as ends in their own right: it’s salutary for us to realise that for many authors they’re simply (beautiful) means to other ends. Which leads me neatly to…
I believe passionately that books are the jewels in the crown of your content strategy, but they’re not the whole crown. I help my authors identify the best mix of content and channels for their market and their message – podcasts, vlogs, blogs, online courses, guest articles, infographics, webinars, talks, workshops… you get the idea. But Rachel has taken this to a whole new level: prepare for Ambition: The One-Woman Show at the Gilded Balloon this Edinburgh Fringe. Because why not? When you have a powerful idea a book is a great tool for communicating it, but it’s certainly not the only one. The beautiful thing about a book, though, is the way it complements other platforms: I’ve no doubt Rachel will sell copies of the book at the show, just as my authors sell copies from the back of the room when they speak at a conference. Publishers like Canongate and Faber do this blending of online and off, book and other platform particularly well, but it’s one reason authors choose to self-publish, to retain unfettered rights and create campaigns that include the book but aren’t necessarily focused on it.
Three trends that open up incredible opportunities for publishers with ambition enough to follow Rachel’s advice to us all: ‘do and be more’.
*One of my favourite book-y quotes, by Neil Gaiman: “Books make great gifts because they have whole worlds inside of them. And it’s much cheaper to buy somebody a book than it is to buy them the whole world.”
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.
It is my firm conviction that the biggest shortcoming of traditional publishers these days is their failure to help authors help themselves with digital marketing. In my opening remarks at Digital Book World earlier this month, I said this:
At the very least, every house should do a “digital audit” for every author they sign that includes concrete suggestions for filling in gaps and improving discoverability and engagement. To my knowledge, not one does.
Perhaps it isn’t surprising that there are people in big houses, even some who view things from a high perch, who emphatically don’t agree with me. One senior executive told me I was “completely wrong”, and said their editors were very much up to speed with what authors do on social media. Another, a publisher from a different house, asked me if I really believed “landing pages were important”. Of course, if you don’t see the pay-off from creating and managing landing pages on an author’s website (or the publisher’s own!), you might make the mistake of thinking a robust social media presence obviates the need for an author website.
That is a mistake. And it is an increasingly common one.
Citing the expertise of editors as the lead claim for a house’s expertise is a tip-off. I have never seen the publishing house where editors were more expert in digital marketing than marketers are. Most author websites are sub-standard but most editors don’t have the knowledge to know that. And, on top of that, neither editors nor authors fully understand the different roles of websites and social media in the marketing effort for a book and author.
If the feedback from these two executives were exceptional or unusual, it wouldn’t be worth mentioning. But it is typical. And both of these houses are making substantial investments to upgrade their digital understanding and performance. They don’t have their heads in the sand.
It isn’t just my imagination that there is a disconnect between big publishers and their authors on the digital marketing front. This shortcoming is real and it is going to really hurt the big publishers, far beyond the sales they’re losing, if they don’t fix it.
I recently tested this idea with one of the most digitally-ept literary agents. I asked him whether he agreed that publishers are failing in this regard. He did. Completely.
If there’s a gap here, somebody is going to fill it. Just this week, the relatively-new Diversion Books announced a new initiative called Radius, a “full-service publishing services division” with distribution through their affiliation with Ingram. They are targeting “non-fiction authors with very specific and known audiences (consultants, experts in a field)” looking for help “with various aspects of the process–editorial, cover, production, marketing and publicity etc.”
In other words, they would like to partner with perhaps the most desirable category of non-fiction authors: those with a real marketing platform independent of any book publishing activities. Those authors often have pretty decent personal marketing already set up; if they don’t, they are delighted to have professional feedback about how to improve it. Radius will provide a powerful reason for those self-promoting authors to work with them rather than with an older and more established house.
It is worth noting that Diversion was founded by a literary agent, so it is highly sensitive to the author perspective. What they have built is essentially a customized front end to industrial-strength services provided by Ingram, with easy access even for individual authors through what is called Ingram Spark. Diversion is a new-era publisher. They created a service arm and community called EverAfter to serve romance authors; Radius will primarily serve non-fiction authors who have already built audiences. Undoubtedly, other entrepreneurs will build on-ramps to these Ingram capabilities for other segments of the author community.
Should publishers worry about this? Well, the ones who depend on authors can expect more and more services and fledgling publishers trying to make a more appealing offer to them. (And those that don’t depend on authors exist, but they are the exception, not the rule.)
The author platform question is further vexed by the way publishers are organized. Editors “own” the author and agent relationships. Marketers and/or sales departments “own” the marketing resources. To be good at their jobs, editors need to recognize commercial content, negotiate the many moving parts of a book deal, and help the author craft the most salable possible book. Knowing digital marketing or best practices for search engine optimization are not what editors are hired or trained for. Those are the bailiwick of marketers who are explicitly (in most houses) excluded from direct author contact.
Beyond that, there is the confusion in publishing houses, reflected in the question I got about landing pages, about what’s important and what’s not. I can’t tell how widespread this is, but I have heard too often for comfort that “author websites are a waste of time”, that social is more important, and that working Facebook effectively obviates the need for a web presence.
In fact, “search” is still the single most important component of discovery and author websites are crucial for Google to “know” who the author is and to have a contextual understanding of their expertise and their audience. Precisely how the website provides value depends on the author. For a non-fiction author, it can establish topic authority. For a multiple-title fiction author, it can provide definitive information for the order of books in a series or for the back story on the author’s characters (whose names, of course, can be important search terms for the book).
But what is always true is that the website is the one piece of digital real estate the author can actually own, which is not subject to some change in rules or process that will affect its discovery in search or the ability to use it for any purpose of the author’s choosing. Ideally, a publishing house will evaluate an author’s own website as part of an overall digital audit and make constructive suggestions for improving it. If the author doesn’t have one, the house should provide a simple placeholder site that gives fans a place to land or link and can be the ultimate authority of facts about the author and the book.
And only by controlling a website can an author or publisher control the single most powerful tool there is to promote an author through search: landing pages. Best practice is to optimize a landing page on the author’s site for each of the most commonly-searched terms that could lead to real interest or the sale of a book. Anybody who really knows SEO knows that. That’s why the failure to grasp the significance of landing pages high up in a big publishing house is so disturbing.
It really is terrific that so many publishers these days have a high-level executive with the word “audience” in their title and job description. It is a sign of real progress that many of the big houses have invested in vertical sites to build audiences they can tap at any time.
But they’re still missing the most important boat. The real focus needs to be on marketing collaboration with authors and giving them the support they need to maximize their effectiveness. Doing that requires tackling a lot of tricky questions because authors own their names and careers and publishers, at best, have a long lease on one or more specific books they’ve written. But both book sales and author retention depend on publishers taking on this challenge as an essential component of their offering.
I did a post for BookMachine some months ago spelling out a strategy for authors who were marketing themselves.
Mike Shatzkin has been in publishing since 1962. Since 1979, Mike has been an independent consultant (The Idea Logical Company) with clients that have included most major publishers in the US and UK, retailers including Barnes & Noble and Borders, wholesalers including Ingram, and a host of tech startups. You can follow him on Twitter @MikeShatzkin. This post was originally posted on The Idea Logical Company blog in March 2016.
The Knowledge Base is powered by our Editorial Board.