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Self-employed in publishing

Publishers Assemble: Christmas 2016 is the time to connect

Let’s face it, 2016 has been one heck of a year. We’ve had Brexit; Trump; the Zika virus; nuclear and missile tests from North Korea; terrorist attacks in Brussels, Lahore and Istanbul, to name a few; plane crashes; global CO2 levels exceeding 400ppm; plus that creepily increasing list of celebrity deaths – and scarily enough, it’s not quite over yet!

But as we enter into the darkest phase of the year, when night encroaches and the cold sets in, it’s time to reconnect with each other and undo some of the divisive work of 2016, not just because it’s good for the world, but because it could benefit your business too.

Time to shine

Almost every world religion has a festival somewhere in the winter months: Bodhi Day for Buddhists; US Hindu’s Pancha Ganapati; Judaism’s Hanukkah; Yule and Saturnalia for Pagans; and, in 2016, Muslims celebrated Milad un Nabi in early December. Even secular movements get on board, with Human Rights Day and Newtonmas.

Many of these festivals involve creating light: the Buddha gains enlightenment, the lamp in the temple lasts miraculously long, a star in the sky guides kings to salvation, the earth is reborn. ‘Tis the season shine as bright as possible and reconnect with friends, colleagues and business contacts too – and this year, we need that light more than ever!

Rekindling connections

One of the best ways to reconnect with or show appreciation to someone is to send them a good traditional card. It doesn’t have to be a Christmas card; in fact many people now prefer to send a more universal Season’s Greetings card. For special clients and contacts, consider sending a small gift their way, like a mini mulling kit or a box of chocolates.

If the postage fees for physical post seem daunting, send an email instead, making it special with pictures or GIFs. You can even take to social media to share the Wintermas spirit!

On a practical level, cards and messages are also a great way to keep people up to date with your business. Include a short story about your business year, making it jovial and personal. Generally people are more open to collaboration and charity coming up to the festive period, so thank them for their contributions to your work and gently sow the seeds for future collaborations too.

If you want to end the year memorably, think about hosting a party. Everybody loves a wintertime shindig, with twinkly lights and sparkly decorations. Remember to supply lots of food, as people need to eat more when its colf outside. Indulge in some seasonal favourites like iced gingerbread, mince pies, and canapés of nut loafs alongside roasted meats with Brie and cranberry sauce. Get experimental with your beverages: mulled wine and cinnamon cider always go down well, but don’t forget to have alternative booze-free options using red grape and apple juices for the tee-totallers. If you really want to celebrate, invest in some sparklers or hold little raffle for your guests.

Get yourself out there and go to other people’s parties too. It’s just as important for reconnection to brave to cold and show a friendly face and, what’s more, you might make some exciting connections to build interesting new projects with in 2017.

Positivity is power

Finally, look ahead with positivity. Wish people a happy New Year and start the ball rolling for 2017 so that when you return to work fresh from your winter break, you have some great projects to look forward to. Better still, honest positivity is contagious: turn up to a winter party beaming out that light, and soon everyone else will be beaming too. It the best way to rekindle old friendships, create new ones, and let people know just how much you appreciate them.

Don’t forget, 2016 hasn’t all been bad. It’s also been a year of incredible space explorations and leaps in environmental care and concern. Over 132 million babies will have been born into the world by the time the year is out – don’t we owe it to them to spread a little love in the world?

Our friends at Getty Images have a selection of festive images from iStock to provide you with visual ideas. Take a look here.

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).

The KU Big Read special edition has now landed

KU Big Read logoIncluding content specially written for the newest members of the Kingston University family, our KU Big Read for 2016 has now arrived, fresh from the printers.

The Humans by Matt Haig was chosen as this year’s novel for an annual initiative offering all new students the chance to settle in to university life by reading the same book. Launched last year, The Kingston University Big Read sees all new undergraduate and postgraduate students receive a special edition copy of a carefully chosen book to welcome them to the university. It helps bring the entire cohort together through a shared experience. We are the first university in the UK to establish such a scheme involving the whole institution as well as the wider community.

Thousands of copies will be posted out across the globe to students who have accepted a place at Kingston, from Brighton to Beijing, Norway to India, and all places in between (we have over 140 different nationalities within the student population at Kingston).

In 2015 more than 13,000 copies of the first KU Big Read book, Nick Hornby’s About a Boy, were given to students and staff, while a talk by the author at the University was quickly completely booked. For this year’s KU Big Read, almost 100 titles were suggested by staff and students, which were whittled down to a shortlist of six by a specially written algorithm. Months of reading, discussions and deliberations followed before a selection committee of various staff and students chose the winning title.

matt haigMuch loved author, Matt Haig, will be joining us at Kingston University on Wednesday 28th September at 4.15pm for An Audience with Matt Haig – an interview followed by a discussion with the author who not only brought us The Humans, but also  the much acclaimed Reasons to Stay Alive, A Boy Called Christmas and The Radleys,. The audience will be invited to ask questions of their own as well as having the opportunity to get their books signed by Haig afterwards. There will also be a Waterstone’s pop-up shop offering some of the author’s other titles for those who wish to purchase on the day.

As well as meeting Haig, this event will allow Kingston University staff and new students to meet their new local community members for the first time. We hope that some ties will be formed between local residents, both established and new – and a good time will be had by all. .

You can register for the event via Eventbrite and in the meantime, copies of The Humans can be purchased from most bookshops.

“I’m incredibly happy that The Humans has been chosen, it’s such an honour to be part of such an initiative. I’d have loved the idea of being part of something like The [KU] Big Read when I was at university.” Matt Haig

Alison BaverstockThis is a guest post by Alison Baverstock, Associate Professor and Lecturer on the Kington Publishing MA. Along with a team of students, Alison co-ordinated the hugely successful KU Big Read.


Social Media: Why lots of followers doesn’t necessarily mean success (and what you should look at instead)

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:

1) Engagement Rate

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.

2) Retweets

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.

3) Shares

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.”

4) Replies

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!

5) Likes

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!

Aysh Banaysh is a freelance Social Media Manager for bands, brands and businesses. She’s also the editor of Eat More Cake and shares digital marketing advice and social media tips on her website.

Thanks to Norah Myers for sourcing this guest post.

social media

4 tips for growing your social media following

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:

1) Figure out what you want to give to your audience

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!”

2) Be authentic

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.

3) Be creative

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.

4) Interact with your community members

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.


Community Building: pleasure, pain and lessons learned

One evening a group of publishing people got together to think through ways to keep in touch throughout their careers. The aim was to keep it casual and get lots of people involved. There were too many conferences, a lot of formality – and really, lots of people they knew who just wanted to meet for a pint and keep connected to each other.

And so BookMachine was born.

Nearly 6 years on, with 77 registered events, 13,500 Twitter followers and an online Water Cooler (ever been to one of those?) we are organising the very first BookMachine event about ‘How to build a community’ – with Will Rycroft (Vintage Books) and Sara Perkins (ex-Mills & Boon, now Disney) sharing their wealth of experience.

With BookMachine the goal was defined from the start. It was something that we needed for ourselves. It wasn’t hard to find others to join us. Most of our peers liked the idea and wanted to attend.

The most painful experience was the very first night. We wanted it to start big. In reality there were about 12 of us sat around a table. Everyone seemed to have a good time though, buy into the idea, and told their friends to come, and before we knew it we were meeting 100s of people from across the trade – from niche military publishers to large education publishing houses – it has been interesting and a lot of fun.

Here are some lessons we have learned about community building along the way. They are in no particular order, as every community is different:

  • Everyone has a story to tell. It’s true. Even if you are the brand and craft your story impeccably, your community have their own stories too. Listen to them, ask about them and understand them. It will help build up trust and loyalty.
  • Don’t try and do everything at once. New social networks launch every month. You can’t respond and focus your energies everywhere. Work out where your community are and focus on one or two networks to start. Read all the advice you can, follow similar accounts and learn from them and most importantly engage every single day. Twitter helped to launch BookMachine. From there we created a popular Facebook account and Linkedin Group. With this as a foundation we were able to experiment with our own niche sites such as BookMachine Connect and more recently the Water Cooler.
  • Work with others. There will always be other communities appealing to the same audience as you. It’s better to work together than compete. Your community, and particularly your superfans are likely to belong to both. You could even run an event or a campaign together and help each other out.
  • Fail fast. A familiar phrase, which is true. If you try something and it isn’t working then stop it quickly. We can normally tell within 24 hours whether an event or a campaign is going to work as there is a flood of interest. Yes, you can re-iterate or re-launch; but if you have an ordinarily keen community and they don’t respond to a campaign quickly, it’s normally because it just hasn’t been positioned properly or just isn’t right.
  • Get everyone using the software. Everyone running the community needs to know how this works. If you send emails on Friday’s for example and the one person who knows how to operate the mailing list is off sick, you need to make sure someone else can login and keep the routine going.

To learn more specifically about growing a community of book readers and fans, join us in London on 18th May for ‘BookMachine Nights: ‘How to build a community’. The event will also reveal what’s next for publishing’s first ever online Water Cooler, and how you can get involved.



How to build a community: Interview with Will Rycroft

Will Rycroft is Community Manager at VINTAGE, and speaker at our next event, ‘How to build a community‘, on the 18th May. VINTAGE books have over 80,000 Twitter followers and over 250,000 fans on Facebook, so it’s quite the community. Here Norah Myers interviews Will to learn more..

1) Why was it important to include a podcast as part of Vintage’s community?

Audio has been growing in importance for several years now and podcasts and audio books have never been so popular or easy to download. The intimacy of the listening experience means it’s a really effective way of communicating about our books. We knew that we had a range of writers and books that would allow us to create brilliant monthly podcasts involving interviews and readings but also stimulating content like cocktail making, food and location-specific recordings. All of this is to show the diversity of VINTAGE’s publishing and also our place as part of a wider cultural conversation.

2) How have you seen Vintage’s offline community – book launches, literary events – grow as a result of the online conversation?

Social media has allowed us to live-tweet events so that people could get an idea of how amazing they can be (this enhanced even further when they see tweets from other people there too). We’ve definitely seen our online community keen to meet us and each other offline and when we trialed a literary walk in London last year, with no idea if anyone would turn up, we were thrilled to see so many join us. We’ll be doing even more VINTAGE Walks this year.

3) Which social media platform has been the most effective for engaging conversation? Why?

Twitter, without a doubt. That’s how the platform is set up really and our approach on there is all about starting and participating in conversation. The fact you’re communicating in real-time, to multiple people but without a clogged feed, means it’s perfectly suited. We’re not there to sell books directly; we’re there to share our passion for them. Even things like the new polling feature can help stimulate conversation and engagement.

4) Why does using visual content in posts – GIFs and pictures – increase engagement?

People love to share things on social media so if you have a gorgeous picture of your books, or a scene to share, then your followers are more likely to share it to theirs. I love GIFs, mainly because they make me laugh and can communicate several things at the same time. They also allow you to reference films, music and popular culture whilst talking about your books. If you imagine someone scrolling through their feed, what posts do you think are going to stand out: text-only or those with a picture, GIF or video?

5) How should social media managers prepare themselves to use new apps and platforms?

Don’t rush in with your brand account. Download new apps and platforms and try them out personally first. Follow other accounts to see what they’re doing and keep an eye out to see what works and what doesn’t. Beware of spreading yourself too thin however. New apps and platforms seem to launch every week and very few of those that break through are attracting lots of users a few months down the line. We concentrate our energies on the main platforms whilst keeping an eye on those that might fit us in the future.

6) What is the best publishing-specific advice you could give to social media managers?

Keep it authentic. People can spot a phony (and will relish the opportunity to point it out!). When it comes to books, the readers you’re talking to will be passionate and fervent so you have to know your stuff – if you get something wrong they WILL tell you. But generally, as long as you’re communicating who you are, what you stand for and doing so with belief, you can’t be wrong. Unless you’re actually wrong of course.

Will Rycroft seeks to engage the reading community wherever they are with his passion for books. He commissions and creates digital content for VINTAGE’s social media channels and the new Penguin consumer website. You can follow his musings on Twitter, his vlog on YouTube and hear him interviewing authors and more on the VINTAGE Podcast.

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