Tag: audience

Infrastructure of publishing business

The reinvention of storytelling

Thousands of years ago, we told stories to each other. The best stories were those that could be repeated over and over again, changing little, those that embodied tribal memory, with strong, often repetitive structure and big heroes and villains. There wasn’t much by way of interior monologue or intertextuality.

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Using social media to find new clients

How to start?

You have a Twitter account, are active on Facebook, have a LinkedIn presence and a website, but you need these to work for you. We all face the difficult task of finding new clients, but marketing via social media can make selling your services online much easier. Social media can be a great way of backing up how you engage with prospective clients and lead to lively and informative conversations online, if you have a clear and positive online presence.

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Writing for international audiences

Writing has a huge potential audience now as we have many ways to access the written word. If not done well, though, writing for a global audience will not reach some readers.

Who is the audience?

When writers are writing, they may not automatically have their worldwide audience at the front of their mind, or that their words may be used in translation.

For example, it is natural for a writer to focus on an English-speaking audience if that is the language they speak, read and write in. While native English speakers often read in phrases, international readers often tackle a sentence word by word.  The potential for confusion increases with longer sentences. If writers take this into account as they write, their text will be accessible to more readers.

How do writers do this?

Plain Language and Global English can help meet the needs of the target audience.

Plain Language and Global English have a lot of key areas in common. Recommended points include:

  • Use short and complete sentences
  • Use active voice or passive voice appropriately
  • Be consistent in spelling, capitalization and formatting
  • Use a common list of approved words
  • Prefer strong direct statements
  • Cut out unnecessary words and repetition
  • Be aware that humour does not always travel well
  • Proofread before sending out for translation, to avoid costly mistakes.

The idea is not to ‘dumb down’ but to be clear and concise and to explain any phrases or words that could be new to the reader. This can occur in surprising places, and we also need to watch for regionalisms and cultural references which may have different meanings, or nothing comparable once translated. For example, these show that a writer is being considerate of a larger audience:

  • Looking out for seasonal references, particularly when working for Northern to Southern hemisphere projects.
  • Being aware of nouns that are vague e.g. ‘local’ or ‘in our area’ unless the location is clear.

Reading through content on screen, on paper and even reading content out loud can highlight areas that are not clear.

Things to be aware of

Many international style guides use American English as the default option. British audiences do not usually take issue with this, but it does not always work the other way around. A quick visit to some internet writing or editing forums, or Amazon reviews, will reveal British English speakers being told by American English speakers that they have made spelling or grammatical errors in their books! Also, some cultures consider the active voice to be rude or condescending, and others find the passive voice to be impersonal and awkward. A favourite read on language and culture is The Meaning of Tingo by Adam Jacot de Boinod, who used to be a researcher on the quiz show, QI.  (www.themeaingoftingo.com).

What about translation?

Giving your translators the tools and permission to adapt to the target audience can help better reach that audience. Good feedback with the author can speed the translation process up and lead to better terms (and it can lead to smoother work on future projects).

A text can expand in translation, sometimes by up to 30%. Keep this in mind because it can significantly alter costings of a project and it can make formatting for webpages a bit of a headache.

Consider giving the translators a credit. This helps develop a good relationship with your translators. And, just as important, it makes it clear to readers that the content has been adapted and sets the expectations of the international reader.

Why bother?

Clear writing with well chosen words is a delight, and can aid communication and understanding.

Writing for an international audience is not vastly different from any other editorial task, and becomes natural after a while, if you consider it to be a normal part of quality control.

Mara Livingstone-McPhail was a bookseller, reviewed books on BBC radio and organized a book events in inner-city schools before being lured to London by the team who now run Chicken House Books.  A freelance editor, proofreader and writer, she reads every day for as long as she can keep her eyes open.

5 fun ways to use Snapchat for writers

We all live in the digital age and for us writers, that’s mostly a good thing. After all, it gives us more opportunities to tell others about our stories. The internet has evolved in so many ways through the years and the popularity of social media channels have given us writers a lot of platforms to put our works out there. And that’s a good thing, right? There are numerous channels we can choose from: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc. And then there’s Snapchat. Numerous companies have been using Snapchat to promote their businesses and make a name for themselves. Don’t be under the impression that Snapchat is only for millennials or for the young ones, though.

What, exactly, is Snapchat? It’s an app that captures videos and photos, with its filters making it fun to do so. You can also send those photos and videos as messages to your friends. The only catch is this: whatever you upload in Snapchat is only available for 24 hours. Given its fun nature in terms of sharing, Snapchat has become a hit. As writers, I think we can use this app to help gain more audience and keep a stronger connection with existing readers.

As writers, here are the ways we can use Snapchat:

1) Give them behind-the-scenes glimpses

This will help your readers (both existing and potential) catch behind-the-scenes look. I think the rawness of this approach makes it more genuine and interesting. Think of capturing yourself while at a coffee shop, with your laptop or your tool of preference all ready to use and you talking about what it’s like to write there – your thoughts, your process, how the environment affects you, etc. Another interesting idea would be to talk about what tools you use when you write, like which software or what kind of pen and notebook. Letting your audience catch glimpses of these scenes help establish a deeper connection.

2) Connect with fellow writers

It’s already a fun app to use. Why not add fellow writers and see what they are up to within that day? This not only helps build friendship but it also encourages us to build each other up. We writers most certainly need each other, if not to keep sanity and loneliness at bay! Also, isn’t it more fun to send messages to each other with all those cute filters?

3) Allow account takeovers

Ellen DeGeneres’ Snapchat account is a perfect example of someone else taking over your Snapchat. It promotes establishing connections in a fun way with fellow writers or other similar brands / influencers. This captures attention of the readers of all the writers involved. Fresh faces and candid footage or videos are always interesting. This article here talks about the ways to get started with Snapchat takeovers.

4) Share, share, share

People are visual creatures. Let us writers leverage our Snapchat accounts by giving our audience some photos of a new book cover or maybe a snippet of that novel we’re working on. Or if you’ve been to a book fair or a book signing event, it’s a great idea to show them that. Sharing makes your audience feel like they can relate to you. Snapchat can bring you closer to others by simply sharing things about your novel and, sometimes, your life.

5) Ask your readers to participate

Don’t limit sharing to just yourself. Ask your readers to join in the fun. Like the aforementioned account takeovers, you can always ask your readers to share photos or their own videos. Encourage them to connect with you, be it via takeovers or Snapchat messages. Engaging them to participate and share with you helps create and foster familiarity and, hopefully, friendship.

Snapchat is really a fun way to grow your audience, expose your brand, and build connections. Why not give it a try and see how it goes for you? You can do just about anything with it while having a good time doing so. Got a story to share about what got you into writing in the first place? Or how about that time you got your first rejection and how that helped shape who you are as a writer? Perhaps you want to snap photos of that walk downtown as you clear your head when you’ve got writer’s block. Maybe you attended an open mic session and simply want to share that moment with your readers. The possibilities are endless! So go ahead. Use Snapchat for all it’s worth. Grow your audience and build your followers while staying true to who you are and what you’ve got.

anna-cunetaAnna loves stringing words together to tell stories, be it horror or conversations with friends. She also wanders and tends to get lost in the internet, always on the lookout for something new to read. Armed with her love for coffee and horror, she writes regularly to keep sanity at bay. Check out her blog, and follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

Startup snapshot: Leanpub

len_eppLen Epp is a Co-Founder of Leanpub. He wrote a doctorate in English Literature before working as an investment banker in London, so enjoys wearing the seemingly contradictory hats of resident corporate finance and literary type person at Leanpub. We interviewed him about Leanpub here. 

1) What exactly is Leanpub?

Leanpub is a book writing platform combined with a bookstore that pays a royalty of 90% minus 50 cents per sale. Leanpub is primarily used by self-published authors, and also some small publishers. To suit the preferences of different types of authors, we’ve built Leanpub so that you can write books in Word, in the browser, or in plain text; or, if an author wants to upload an ebook they have made themselves, they can also upload their book in PDF, EPUB and/or MOBI format.

2) What problem does it solve?

One big problem that Leanpub solves is: How can you build an audience while you are writing your book?

Our answer is to publish your book before it is finished, and then add new chapters and publish new versions until you are done. Leanpub is built around this idea, which has many benefits both for authors and for readers; for example, it lets the author get feedback early, and build a loyal following of readers who can help her improve her book (and it’s also great for publishing serial fiction, of course).

3) Who is your target market?

Leanpub is currently most popular with authors of technical books, partly because our “Publish Early, Publish Often” model is especially valuable for people who are writing or reading about cutting-edge technologies that are subject to rapid change. However, our target market is actually all self-published or indie authors, and we are doing more to try to attract new types of authors, especially fiction authors. Personally, I would love to see people start publishing in-progress books that follow political events, like election campaigns.

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

We hope to see our model of in-progress publishing catch on for both fiction and non-fiction books. It is very rewarding to build an early audience and it can help improve the quality of the final version of the book, which can of course be taken up by a conventional publisher when it is finished. Many of our authors also find this model inspires increased motivation to write, as you have readers out there waiting for the next chapter.

We expect that the next few years will bring a lot of growth in the market for self-published ebooks. In some quarters this is considered to be a controversial view; for my own views on the matter, please see my article ‘On The Dark Matter Of The Publishing Industry‘.

5) What will be next for Leanpub?

The next big thing for Leanpub is to work more on building community within the Leanpub platform. We want to encourage communication between authors and readers, and readers and readers. This will include lots of development work on our reading app (currently the app is available for iOS users, and we will be adding an Android app as well).

Authors marketing

When it comes to supporting authors in marketing efforts, no publisher has it right yet

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.

Where publishers are going wrong

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.

A gap to fill

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.)

Who should do what

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.

Collaborating with authors

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.

The author marketing checklist

  • Here’s a quick checklist of what a useful publisher audit of an author’s digital footprint might be looking for:
  • A robust author website to anchor an author’s complete digital presence and act as the central hub and source of authoritative information on everything about the author, her books, her work, and life
  • Complete author and book information at book cataloging and community sites like Goodreads and LibraryThing, as well as at all online retailers (especially an Amazon Author Central page)
  • Google+ to signal to Google who an author is, what she writes about, and all of the things connected to her
  • The right social media mix, which can vary — and evolve — depending on the author, the type of books she writes, and the interests and demographics of her audiences
  • Mechanisms to collect, manage, and effectively use email addresses
  • Ongoing efforts to maintain accuracy and relevance across all of these
  • Effective cross-promotion (across titles and authors)

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.

Giving it away: the magic of content marketing

Evie Prysor-Jones is Content Lead at Optimus Education. She’s a big fan of data driven digital marketing and alliteration. On Tuesday Evie will be speaking at the London Book Fair (5.30pm, Children’s Hub) about how to engage hard to reach audiences with content marketing. Here are some of her insights and tips ahead of the event.

Do you remember your first teacher?

Perhaps you remember them as Miss Honey, all smiles and supportive. Or, perhaps you still quake with fear as you recall your school’s very own Miss Trunchball. In reality, they were probably very similar to how you are now but with more grey hairs, larger bags around the eyes and spend much less time reading interesting blogs.

Lack of funding and support mean that, for some members of staff, using a computer requires elbowing colleagues out the way to get to the shared one in the corner of the staffroom and bringing a crank to get it vibrating away as it brings up the oldest version of Internet Explorer still allowed.

For us working in the education publishing world, this is our market.

Yes, there are many very well-equipped schools and some very digitally savvy staff, but you can be sure that staff apparatus and updating software will not be the top of the spend list.

Give ’em stuff for free!

My genius, yet by no means original, idea is that to start a conversation with schools we need to give them stuff for free and, because we’re publishers, by ‘stuff’ I mean content.

In the publishing industry, giving words away for free is a scary business. There are plenty of arguments against it:

  • It devalues the content.
  • It will be copied.
  • People will take it, read it and never come back!

All of these are true to some extent, but there are also plenty of counter arguments:

  • The rewards for your business will regain any value conceived to be lost.
  • Of course it could be copied, we copy each other all the time. That’s why you need to be the first out there with the story, write it in the most engaging way and market it better than anyone else can.
  • Yes, about 80% of people who take it and read it will never come back. But what about the 20% who do? You’ve got yourself engaged customers willing to be loyal in that 20%. They are worth more to your business than come-and-go-ers.

What are we talking about when we talk about free content?

I don’t count blogs as free content. Yes, blogs are content and they’re free, but they always are and that’s the point of them. At the top of your sales funnel you’ve got your traffic drivers (social media, email campaigns), so blogs sit on the second step of your funnel – awareness. Your customers have discovered you, through Twitter perhaps, now they want to increase their awareness of your company by reading a bit more about what you think and where you stand on issues important to them. I.e. your blog.

Free content sits happily on the next step – increased awareness/approaching consideration. (I admit by steps need catchier names). This is content that plays to one of the three human weaknesses: money, fame and access. In this case, access. People will go to extraordinary lengths to get to the next level, whether it’s attending the glitzy Hollywood party normally behind closed doors, skipping to the front of the check in queue or being able to experience something before everyone else. In our case it’s as simple as letting them have access to content that they would normally have to pay for.

Don’t overstretch yourself

What’s brilliant about this content is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Usually, the content can just be stuff you already have that you can reformat in a new, shiny way. HubSpot are great for this. At Optimus Education, we’ve followed the same principle with content from our Knowledge Centre. If we have several articles or resources on a particular topic that will fit together well, these can be recycled into a PDF ‘toolkit’ which we can then use as content marketing. For example, our Prevent toolkit.

Checklist for using free content to reach your audience

While we’ve been discussing all this, our teachers are still waiting for their browser to load. So how will free content engage this audience if it’s digital? Make it easy.

  • Ask the audience: The idea for your content needs to come from them. No one wants to struggle through the quagmire of having a product, even a free product, which no one wants to read.
  • SEO: no, it’s not sexy, but it is vital. Teachers are short of time and need instant results. Once they’re on the Internet then your page needs to be the first page they find. Spend half a day sorting out your keywords (long tail and short) and Adwords.
  • Create a landing page: don’t make them search your site for what they want. For each campaign you need a new page.
  • Marketing plan: Use your personas. Teachers are not all the same (duh!) so think about who is the content is for (you should already know this from the first point). What channels do they use? Are they using the staffroom wind-up computer, the one in their office or do they use their smartphone?
  • Google Analytics: Yes, it’s the worst user experience in the world and you can feel like you’re drowning in numbers, but get it set up, all your goals in a row and track the hell out of your campaign. The numbers will tell you where to make changes and when.
  • Optimise your landing page copy: When people land on your page they should only need three seconds to work out what you do, what you’re offering them and what they need to do to get it. Test everything.
  • User journey: We know our teachers, so we know how many touchpoints we need to have with them before passing them to our sales team. When your customer has downloaded your content that should be the beginning of your activity, not the end. Will you email them? Give them something else? Map it out.
  • Review and reuse: Exploit your content as much as possible. If it’s an ebook, could you create a new blog about it? Could you take samples out as teasers? Are there images to use on Instagram? Is there a checklist or resource to be made from it? There shouldn’t be a shelf-life on a piece of content and a little refresh can take much less time than writing something new.

Transferring this to the book world

I grant you this is more difficult when the issue of copyright is entered into the mix. We own the copyright of all the content we have so splitting it up and chopping it up as we wish is no problem. However, in the age of digital innovation there are so many new reading models and platforms that the humble book does not always have to stay as it was. I think Inkle is a great example of exciting and new content mediums. Now is an exciting time to be creative and test new ideas, so just because an audience is hard to reach, it doesn’t mean they’re worth giving up on.

Publishing for kids: top online marketing tips

Charlotte Hoare is Digital Marketing Manager at Hachette Children’s Group and speark at ‘Publishing for Kids: how to reach book buyers online’ on 9th March in London. Here’s our interview with Sven.

1) As a marketer, what’s the first thing you think about when developing an online marketing campaign for a new children’s book?

The first thing to consider is always your audience. There’s three things to address straight off the bat: 1) Are we talking to parents or direct to children? 2) If the latter, how do we verify consent? 3) Where would our audience (parents or children) be hanging out online? Once you’ve thought about those three things, you can start thinking creatively.

2) What is the best children’s marketing campaign you have seen? Why is it so good?

I was really interested with what Mattel did for Monster High on YouTube, it’s a classic case of knowing exactly where their audience hangs out. They did a homepage takeover and tied in with some key YouTube influencers to produce a series of music videos for the brand, which they then followed up afterwards with a 4 week campaign targeting viewers who engaged with the takeover to deliver them additional Monster High content (from webisodes to toy adverts). What I liked especially was the way that the takeover was followed up with the more targeted campaign to encourage longer term brand engagement, it garnered them millions of views and YouTube was the perfect platform for the campaign.

3) How can publishers, in general, become better at marketing kids books?

It’s become increasingly clear that we need to move away from the ‘traditional’ idea of a marketing campaign (enewsletters, pub day tweets, bookmarks) and think outside of our publishing bubble. When we market children’s books, we’re effectively competing with the likes of LEGO, Xbox, Candy Crush, YouTube, etc. for kids’ attention. In order to stand a chance against such big companies (and their wallets), we need to spend our budgets more wisely on marketing ideas and digital properties that add real value to a book, rather than something that’s forgotten a week after it publishes.

4) What are parents looking for when finding books for their children online?

I think parents that are into books are always going to know where to find books for their kids, be that on Amazon or Mumsnet or wherever. In the majority of cases, though, I don’t think your average parents are actively looking online for books for their kids. I think for us, as publishers, it’s more about going to places online where they are looking for stuff – be that advice on how to get their kid to sleep or homework help – and seeding out our content to promote books that way.

5) If you could offer advice to any budding children’s marketing professionals, what would that be?

Don’t be lured in solely by the glamorous YA side of children’s publishing. For most lists, these won’t be the bread and butter books that you’ll be spending most of your energy on. Related to that, I’d say to read widely and with an open mind, as you need to be able to appreciate books that are aimed at much younger audiences.

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