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Heffers bookshop: Nominate your most characterful bookseller or customer [winning blog idea November]

Each month BookMachine offers a community member, with great ideas, the chance to write on the site. This month, publisher and author of ‘This book is about Heffers’, Julie E Bounford, writes on bookshops and their unique sellers and customers.

The 140-year history of Heffers of Cambridge, demonstrates that bookselling is as much about people as it is about books. As Janette Cross says recently in The Author, bookshops have people who know their customers, who read books and who live in the real world. I couldn’t agree more. People are smarter than algorithms.

In researching, writing and publishing ‘This book is about Heffers’, I interviewed over sixty past and present staff, customers and authors. What stands out about this remarkable bookselling phenomenon of the twentieth century is the character and style of its people.

For example, bookseller, Duncan Littlechild, a pacifist, disapproved of Winston Churchill and would say to customers, “You don’t want to buy that old rogue.” Littlechild began his 54-year career at Heffers in 1903 and was a WW1 prisoner of war. Considered old school by the 1950s – he had a reputation for kowtowing to academics – his favourite customer was the English comedian and character actor, Cyril Fletcher.

It wasn’t just the booksellers who were characters. Author Julian Sedgwick, who worked at Heffers from 1991, fondly recalls the parade of “influential, cosmopolitan, charming, grumpy, famous, notorious, odd and downright weird” customers.  He shares his most memorable in the book.

At Heffers many idiosyncrasies were accommodated. In the 1970s the Children’s Bookshop had a big round red seat, on which one adult customer liked to curl up and go to sleep. Another would play the violin in the main bookshop, and yet another would always wear a lifejacket (in Cambridge?). Mr Doggett, who still comes in every week, would stand at the front of the shop yelling the cast names from the 1947 film production of Oliver Twist. Recalling the multitude of interesting and eccentric characters, bookseller David Wilkerson describes bookselling as being ‘edgy’.

It strikes me that characters inhabit all aspects of the book world. We know that a well-told story will feature convincing characters. Unsurprisingly, many authors are themselves notable characters. Indeed, publishing and bookselling is, and always has been, populated by characters. Even the letters that form the words in a book are termed, ‘characters’.

So, where can we find characters in an online world of algorithm dictated bookselling? In a bookshop environment, characters contribute to the essence of the tangible book-buying encounter. Intelligent conversation with a knowledgeable bookseller can lead to rewarding discoveries that no algorithm could discern (and why on earth do the algorithms think that once I’ve bought something, I’ll want to buy exactly the same thing again?).

The book about Heffers is inspired by my childhood memories of visiting Heffers Children’s bookshop every Saturday morning. There was always time during the family routine for choosing books. I wrote about choosing books, living life in 2014 – http://jebounford.net/choosing-books-living-life/

If we stop using bookshops, we’re in danger of losing our connection with bookish people that have real expertise and character.

Who is your most characterful bookseller or customer, and why?

Dr Julie E Bounford hails from a Cambridge ‘town’ stock of booksellers, bakers and college bedders, and lives with her husband, Trevor, in a Cambridgeshire village. Julie spends her time on research and writing, and on running Gottahavebooks, the Bounford’s small indie publishing operation. Julie is the author of ‘This book is about Heffers’, published 21st October 2016. She’s available for talks on the history of Heffers and commissions in social history research and writing. Julie regularly publishes a blog on her website at http://jebounford.net and can be contacted via julie@gottahavebooks.co.uk

 

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.

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.

 

How important are ISBNs?

How important are ISBNs?

This is a guest post by Karina Luke. Karina was appointed as BIC’s Executive Director in February 2012 and has been instrumental in its restructure, which has seen the creation of an agile members organisation focused on driving and delivering meaningful change and education across all sectors of the book industry. You can follow Karina on Twitter @KarinaLuke.

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Nielsen ISBN store a hit

After nearly 50 years of promoting and selling ISBNs and prefixes to publishers in the UK & Ireland via a manual process, Nielsen has launched an online store that enables publishers and self- published authors to go to one site and purchase ISBNs, Book2Look widgets and a subscription to their BookData Enhanced service, enabling publishers to enrich their title records.

Publishers and self-published authors can purchase these services 24/7 enabling them to work and shop at their convenience.

Stephen Long, Global Director Discovery and Commerce Solutions commented: “The ISBN is a critical part of the book trade and I am delighted that the Nielsen ISBN Store has been so well received. Our aim is to offer all our clients a fast and efficient way of purchasing ISBNs and the online store compliments the expertise of the ISBN agency staff.”

Stella Griffiths, Executive Director of the International ISBN Agency recently wrote an article on the importance of the ISBN: “Unique ISBNs aid discovery and disambiguation; they can also contribute to the marketing process by highlighting specific qualities in a publication, for example differentiating between product form details (e.g., whether a book is in PDF or EPUB formats), or between the accessibility options available for those with reading or print impairment.” The full article can be read here.

Read about the ISBN store here: https://www.nielsenisbnstore.com/

 

Do you need an ISBN? What’s its purpose?

This is a guest post by Stella Griffiths, Executive Director of the International ISBN Agency. Stella has worked in publishing and international standards related roles since 1989. She held managerial positions in both books and serials for over 10 years including roles at Wiley-Blackwell and Oxford University Press. Stella is the Convenor of the International Committee that is revising the ISBN Standard and is also Chair of the ISO Sub-committee that is responsible for Identification and Description Standards within the publishing, information and documentation sectors.

You’re close to crafting that final sentence, you want to start thinking about cover designs and marketing and you’re wondering whether you also need to get one of those odd-looking 13-digit numbers and bar codes you’ve seen on the back of books. Is it just some weird code for people in the know? Such a small thing, can it really be so important?

Those 13-digits may look insignificant but think of an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) as being instrumental in helping you to reach the widest possible audience. ISBN is an international standard first published under the auspices of ISO (the International Organization for Standardization) in 1970.

First, let’s get some basics out of the way. ISBNs are assigned by publishers to identify books. Who is a publisher? A good way to think of it is as being the person or organisation that is responsible for taking the financial risk associated with the publishing project. Are you the one paying to get your book printed or turned into various digital formats? Will you only make money if the book sells well? If so, then you are the publisher of the book and should apply for ISBN. It’s not something that your printer or designer or digital producer should do for you.

The essential concept of ISBN is really quite simple—each edition of a book that is produced by a particular publisher can be identified by a unique numerical string. The string remains associated with that specific book for all time, and can be used reliably to order it in any country. On a printed book, such as a paperback, the numbers of the ISBN are usually clearly visible on the bottom right of the back cover, either rendered simply as numbers or converted to bar-code form for easy and quick processing of sales. Such visibility has enabled ISBN to become a widely known and instantly familiar standard.

Thanks to an agreement among ISBN, GS1 (at the time called EAN International), and the Uniform Code Council (UCC) that allowed ISBN to be encoded into an EAN-13 bar code, ISBN has facilitated EPoS (electronic point-of-sale) systems since the 1990s. Thus, books with ISBNs can be quickly checked into stock in bookshops, processed efficiently at the till point and the sales data captured. In practical terms, it would be almost impossible for a bookshop in the UK to handle a book that didn’t have a bar coded ISBN – in fact many shops would probably refuse to stock them since they would have to handle each process manually with the associated risks of error, increased cost and inefficiency.

How did the book trade cope before ISBN? Quite simply, things were much more burdensome and even chaotic—manual, labour-intensive order forms, upon which full details of title, author, publisher, etc. had to be faithfully reproduced, were standard practice. In comparison, ISBN is a short “code” that can be verified and processed easily by machines; it quickly became an essential building block in the automated systems used by retailers, librarians, and publishers.

It would be wrong to think ISBN is an identifier that’s applicable only for printed books. Right from the introduction of the very earliest audiobooks, microforms, and CD-ROMs, through to today’s PDF, EPUB and other digital formats, ISBN has not been a standard only for printed materials, though of course, print will always be important. In essence, ISBNs should be used to identify materials that are text-based, available to the public and in monographic form (i.e. publications that are not serials or periodicals).

Just having a unique, supply chain accepted identifier for your book is important in itself – quoting the ISBN will ensure that exactly the right book is ordered and supplied in the precise format required. More than that though, the ISBN facilitates the compilation and updating of book-trade directories and bibliographic databases, such as books-in-print catalogues and importantly internet bookseller sites. It’s a proven fact that “metadata” can really help your book to be discovered and also, potentially, for it to sell more copies. The metadata are the essential facts about your book such as its title, author, date of publication, price, product form, subject codes, reviews, short and long description, jacket cover image, etc. The ISBN is the identifier “glue” that will associate all the other elements of the metadata record that describe your book and so enable information about it to be found easily. Producing good, accurate metadata is critical to your book’s success – it creates the shop window for your book.

Unique ISBNs aid in discovery and disambiguation; they can also contribute to the marketing process by highlighting specific qualities in a publication, for example differentiating between product form details (e.g., whether a book is in PDF or EPUB formats), or between the accessibility options available for those with reading or print impairment. It’s very much the norm that the same content will be made available in a variety of different versions – different language editions in varying print formats, different digital formats, as well as perhaps audiobook and large print. Each of these is a unique product that must be described with its own distinct metadata and for that a separate ISBN is needed each time. ISBN can support you in the promotion and discovery of your book for each platform and channel that you want to target.

ISBN can also help publishers and others in the supply chain to evaluate the success of books – the accumulation of sales data is done using ISBN. For example, publishers can monitor and analyse the varying successes of different product forms and editions of publications, as well as examining comparisons between different subject areas and even different publishing houses.

ISBN is also important for authors and illustrators. In the UK, the Public Lending Right is based on the ISBN. This scheme enables authors and illustrators to receive payments proportionate to the number of times that their books are lent out by public libraries.

In short ISBN may appear to be just a number, but it’s an identifier that punches above its weight. An ISBN can’t guarantee that you will make sales, but it can help pave the way for your book’s success.

 

2017 in review

Where we read what: UK regions and their reading habits

While most popular books tend to have their sales spread throughout the country, I always find it interesting to look at how sales differ when moving from region to region in the UK – in BookScan we can separate sales into East of England, Lancashire, London, Midlands, Northern Ireland, Scotland, South West, Southern, Wales & the West and Yorkshire. This year, Joe Wicks’ Lean in 15 is comfortably sitting at number one in every region, followed by the paperback of Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train everywhere but the South West – Eden Project: The Guide has managed to outsell the thriller in that pocket of the UK in 2016 so far.

Looking at a selection of bestsellers for each region, only four titles appear in every top ten: Lean in 15, The Girl on the Train, The World’s Worst Children by David Walliams and Make Me by Lee Child. Here’s some more regional differences that stand out:

  • Three titles make it into the top ten for Northern Ireland but no other region: the film tie-in version of Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, Awful Auntie by David Walliams and Old School by Jeff Kinney. From another angle, The 8-Week Blood Sugar Diet ranks in the top ten books everywhere BUT Northern Ireland.
  • Ella Woodward’s second book Deliciously Ella Every Day is number six in London but beyond position ten everywhere else. On the other hand, London is the only region where Mary Berry: Foolproof Cooking does not appear in the top ten.
  • Scotland has shown more of a liking for John Grisham than other bestsellers this year – Rogue Lawyer is number ten when combining sales from Central Scotland, Northern Scotland and Border but further down in all other regions.
  • Colouring book sales have continued into 2016, even if they are a bit more subdued than last year’s phenomenon – but that hasn’t kept the Harry Potter Colouring Book from grabbing a place in Lancashire’s top ten chart.
  • As the year progresses, World Book Day titles usually relinquish their bestseller positions, but Roald Dahl’s The Great Mouse Plot still takes a spot in the North East’s top ten, and Star Wars: Adventures in Wild Space: The Escape by Cavan Scott appears in both the North East and Yorkshire.
  • Another Yorkshire variance is the presence of Sylvia Day – One with You is number nine there but not within the top ten anywhere else.
  • East of England, Wales & the West and the Midlands all have the same titles in their top ten lists, corresponding to the top titles in the overall UK, but no region has those titles in the same order.

And that’s just for the first half of 2016 – I had a brief look at all-time bestsellers, and while Fifty Shades of Grey is the best-selling book in the overall UK and most individual regions since BookScan began, The Da Vinci Code takes the crown in London, Scotland and Southern.

So where should you live based on your bookshelves?

Jaclyn Swope is a Publisher Account Manager on the Book Research team at Nielsen BookScan, where she assists a variety of publishers with understanding and utilising both retail sales and consumer data, through training sessions, presentations and bespoke analysis of book industry trends.

nielsen

Free Nielsen key findings report: The UK Children’s & YA Book Consumer

Since 2012, Nielsen Book UK has undertaken a Children’s Deep-Dive Study each summer to investigate children’s book reading and buying habits in the context of other leisure and entertainment pursuits.

For the first time in 2015, in addition to the nationally representative sample of 1,500 parents of 0-13 year olds and 500 young adults aged 14-17, the survey included 1,000 book buyers aged 18-25 to help investigate the phenomenon of adults buying ‘YA’ books for themselves. The research was undertaken in July 2015.

The 2015 research measured a drop in book reading on a weekly basis both among those aged 3-7 and 14-17 – though since 2012, the biggest decrease overall has been among 3-10 year olds. Books, however, still rank as the most popular activity for 0-10 year olds – but are in fifth position for 11-13s and drop out of the top 8 activities for those aged 14+.

For the first time Nielsen segmented the 0-25 book market into groups. ‘Superfans’ – the very heaviest readers – tend to be female, with an average age of 12. ‘Distractable’ and the ‘Anti’ groups are more likely to be males, with the ‘Anti’ group being older (14 on average) and the ‘Distractables’ younger (11 on average), whilst the ‘Potential’ group is as likely to be boys as girls.

This latter group are the ones reading e-books and magazines, and they too like adaptations; with the right content, format and messaging, this is a market that publishers can grow.

Download a free extract of the report here. Or you can purchase the full report via Nielsen here.

Snapshots I launch party

Organising a book launch: tips for making it awesome

If you read this site often, you will know that it is ‘book launch’ time. Snapshots III, BookMachine on Publishing is a compilation of the best of the BookMachine blog. It requires a big bash to announce its arrival. And, as any event organiser will know, the success is in the detail.

Snapshots I was a hoot, down in the basement room at Adam Street Club. Snapshots II was a North London affair, with crowds and contributors congregating upstairs at the Island Queen in Angel. All very London-centric we know; so for Snapshots III’s launch you can find us in London, Oxford, Cambridge or Brighton – take your pick!

So after organising quite a number of book launches, here are our top tips:

1) Remove chairs from the room

People want to move around and meet each other. They don’t want to be stuck sitting next to the person they sit next to all day at work. We recommend only having enough seating for 10% of your guests. It’s polite to let them know beforehand so that everyone is wearing comfortable shoes and can move around the room and sit through a presentation hobble-free.

2) Send timely reminders

Most event ticketing software does this for you, but lacks detailed information. If you are using Eventbrite, for example, it is worth customising the automated emails so that guests are reminded about catering (will you be serving food?), exact location (should they head to the 3rd floor?) and timings of the evening (can they arrive 20 minutes late and still catch the presentation?). This encourages people to show up, as they are clearer about what to expect – and also means you get less last-minute emails asking about the launch detail.

3) Ask people to help you promote the launch

You also want to remind those who didn’t attend the launch that they can buy your book. How do you do this? Encourage guests to tweet. Post the hashtag around the room, email it to everyone before the launch and remind them on the night too. It’s a great way for them to keep in touch with everyone they have met at the event, too. We often see #BookMachine #hashtag being used in dialogues days after a launch. It’s great for guests and a brilliant marketing tool.

Whilst we are here, talking about book launches – please do join us in June for the launch of Snapshots III, BookMachine on Publishing, in London, Oxford, Cambridge or Brighton.

marketing skills

Top 5 skills you need in marketing

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

1) Passion

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

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

2) Research

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

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

3) Communication

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

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

4) Analytics

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

5) Bravery

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

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

Thanks to Norah Myers for sourcing this guest post. 

2017 in review

All the facts and stats from the UK Children’s Summit

For the first time this year, Nielsen Book held a UK Children’s Summit at London Book Fair, covering the incredible growth we’ve seen in Children’s sales worldwide over the past two years, and will hopefully continue to see. As someone who spends a lot of time thinking and talking about book sales data, I couldn’t pick a better subject to present on right now than the children’s market.

Since my first foray to the LBF in 2013, the children’s market has taken a turn for the better – after steadily declining from 2009 to 2013, revenue grew 9.5% in 2014, even as adult fiction and non-fiction continued to decline. Sales in 2015 improved even further, up 5.3% to £309m, marking last year as the highest year for Children’s since BookScan records began. And it wasn’t just one category, or one author, or one publisher. The three largest categories (Children’s Fiction, Picture Books and Novelty & Activity Books) all saw growth, as did the majority of top publishers. Even more impressive, 2016 sales to the end of March are already up 7.4% compared to the first three months of 2015, pointing toward 2016 being another excellent year.

The strength of Children’s Fiction in particular continues to amaze me – value sales grew 11.3% in 2015, and so far in 2016 the category has gone up another 10% in quarter one, topping £20m. Last year, 14 of the top 20 authors were in growth, with the top 20 taking about half of fiction sales. It’s a combination of new and old driving this – David Walliams’ latest Grandpa’s Great Escape was the highest selling children’s title for the last five years, but then we also see J.K. Rowling moving back up the ranks. The new illustrated Harry Potter contributed to her moving from the eighth largest children’s fiction author in 2014 to the third in 2015, and in the first few months of 2016, she’s moved into first.

Contrary to the other large categories, Young Adult Fiction saw a bit of a decline in 2015 (down 5.3%), but there were still some positives – half of the top twenty authors showed increased sales, including Zoe Sugg in first and Terry Pratchett in second. Actually, the top ten YA titles made more money in 2015 than in 2014 (£7.9m vs £7.0m), with 25% of revenue coming from those top ten, led by Girl Online 2: On Tour. We also saw value growth beyond the top 100 titles, and more debut authors earning over £100k than in the previous year, pointing to plenty of future potential in the YA sector.

It’s not just the UK that’s seeing extensive growth in Children’s – of the ten countries we measure through BookScan, only Australia was in decline in 2015, after a really strong 2014. Interestingly, when you look at the breakdown of the market in each country, Australia has the largest share taken by Children’s, at 44% of volume sales, closely followed by New Zealand at 42%. In the UK, Children’s takes about 34% of volume sales and 24% of value, which has grown from only 15% back in 2001, and only 21% as recently as 2012, all pointing to the continuing strength of print in the Children’s market.

Jaclyn Swope is a Publisher Account Manager on the Book Research team at Nielsen BookScan, where she assists a variety of publishers with understanding and utilising both retail sales and consumer data, through training sessions, presentations and bespoke analysis of book industry trends.

Frankfurt book fair

Top PR and marketing tips for an international audience

Kathrin Grün is the PR Manager for the Anglo team at the Frankfurt Book Fair and is in charge of all media relations with the international news outlets. She also coordinates the PR activities for the Frankfurt Book Fair’s offices abroad.

The Frankfurt Book Fair is the international publishing industry’s biggest trade fair, with around 275,000 visitors meeting in Frankfurt over five days. They network, they have meetings, they eat, they drink, they sleep occasionally, and they walk. A lot. In the PR and Marketing team we play our part in organising the 4,000 or so events which take place every October in the Business Club and on the Fair Grounds and, of course, we liaise with the press all year round. During the Fair itself, roughly 10,000 journalists descend on the Halls, so we are always on call.

But it’s not all about what happens during those 5 days in October. The Book Fair team are busy all year round, so it’s important that we keep abreast of what’s happening in the world of books, films and games on a daily basis, and that we keep our PR and Marketing messaging up-to-date.

As our thoughts focus on the London Book Fair, where we will meet up with friends and colleagues from around the world, I thought it might be useful to share some PR and Marketing tips with you, focusing on reaching an international audience.

1) Planning

Planning is crucial. Look at the entire calendar year ahead, so you can dovetail any promotion or announcement into an important/relevant event. Other international book fairs, like London and Bologna, are always good opportunities to unveil new initiatives. But timing is important, so make sure you don’t clash with something else happening at the same time, and spread your announcements out as much as possible.

2) Identifying what is relevant to each market

Do you research before sending out any press release or email blast. What might be relevant in one country may be totally irrelevant in another. Remember, if people can’t see how it affects them, they will bin it. If it’s not relevant, don’t send it.

3) Keeping the messages simple and easy to understand

Don’t get too close to the project or announcement you are working on, and don’t make it too complicated. Simple and concise language is always best. If no one understands your messages, it’s a waste of time and money.

4) Using social media to reach people internationally

Make the most of as many social media channels as possible. It’s the quickest and easiest way of getting to lots of different people around the world, all at once. And it’s free. But do remember about different time zones. It is pointless announcing something huge when half the world is asleep!

5) Trying to keep ahead of the curve

Keeping ahead of the curve is always a challenge, but it’s really important to be up to date with all the latest trends and developments around the globe. Try to build up contacts in as many international markets as you can, so they can keep you up to speed with what is happening where they live. Any press releases or marketing initiatives should reflect the very latest activities in a particular region, and should include the most recent statistics.

marketing publicity

Reviews are dead. Long live reviews!

There is no area of book publicity that has changed more over the last few years than the ‘book review’. Traditional reviews – the ones written by professional critics – used to dominate the publishing industry. In years gone by, they were so important that book publication dates were always Thursdays, so that review copies could be delivered to reviewers in time to get into in the Sunday papers.

But space and budgets for considered reviews of books in newspapers and elsewhere are dwindling. These reviews are still important – particularly because they are difficult to achieve and have the weight of authority behind them – but they are no longer the only kind of review that matters, for we are all reviewers now.

As technology has opened up publishing to almost anyone it has also done the same for reviews. Reviews are everywhere. And not just for books. If you go to a restaurant, you might review your Beef Bourguignon online when you get home. If you get a tooth capped you might critique the dentist. And if you read a book, you let everyone know what you thought about it.

Reviewing is now part of everyone’s everyday experience and, while our opinions may not be held in the same esteem (or as well considered) as those of the Literary Editors, there are a heck of a lot more of us. Star ratings on Amazon, Goodreads and other websites are an average of many reviews and you are not just getting one person’s opinion but a crowdsourced composite. Furthermore, online reviews reach consumers directly; they are on the site where you can just click a button to buy the book – to turn that review into a sale.

So how do you get more ‘real people’ reviews on Amazon and other online book sites? Setting aside the dodgy ‘pay for good reviews’ websites that have sprung up (and do set them aside, they are not worth it and can land you in hot water), my favourite options are NetGalley.com and giveaway competitions.

If you don’t know it, NetGalley.com is a website that allows subscribers to upload an ebook that can then be made available for free to reviewers through the site. Reviewers are mainly bloggers and enthusiastic readers and reviews are honest. It can be fairly expensive to subscribe to NetGalley but if you only have one, or a small number of books, it can be more affordable through a third party (such as Cameron Publicity and Marketing).

Giveaways are a great way to get printed books into the hands of people who may review your book. Goodreads has a very popular giveaway service for authors who join their author programme. Also, really good, established bloggers who specialise in a particular subject area or genre can have a huge audience that are exactly the kind of people that you want to reach. Offer them copies for a competition and even those who do not win may decide to buy your book anyway. When you send out books to giveaway winners, be sure to include a note asking them to review the book if they like it.

The role of the book review has changed and the way that authors and publishers think about reviews must change as well. For better or worse, a book is now judged by a collective star rating more than a single considered opinion.

 

publicity Ben Cameron is the Founder and Managing Director of Cameron Publicity and Marketing, dedicated promoters of authors and books. You can contact Ben by email, or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

 

cover, type, Ryan Ashcroft

Writing on the outside: Maximising the function of cover text

While the author is best placed to write the cover content, it’s the designer’s job to maximise its effect. This collaboration works better when the author sees things from a design and marketing perspective.

As a cover designer, I understand that what I’m creating isn’t necessarily a piece of art in itself but more an advert for someone else’s art, in this case – a book. And in any effective advert, a key part of that message lies not only in the actual words but how those words are presented. So what kinds of text can we find on book covers and how can it be used to maximise a book’s marketability?

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