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How technology can make reading fun [EVENT]

Reading and technology are hot topics. If kids are glued to their devices, where do books fit in? How can we make sure they keep reading for pleasure? Our expert speakers will look at different ways to engage young people online to make reading fun.

This event is aimed at educational publishers, children’s publishers, teachers, YA bloggers, librarians and anyone else interested in how we can keep reading alive!

Thanks to The Salariya Book Company and Fiction Express for supporting this event.

Click here for more information and to book tickets. This event is free to attend for BookMachine Members.

Digital publishing

Digital publishing is now “fabric”, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy

This is a guest blog post by Steve Connolly, Publishing Director for FE and Digital at Hodder Education. This blog post first appeared on the Publishing Training Centre Blog.

When we pause for thought to contemplate the evolution of digital publishing, it is clear that a revolution has taken place in the way that content is produced and consumed. However, it is equally remarkable (and healthy to note) that print product still drives much of what the publishing industry produces and monetises. The most notable player in terms of driving the eBook revolution (now slowing to an evolution) is Amazon: a major disruptor in online retailing, positioning and recommending product, manufacturing innovative hardware (yes – Kindle was innovative in terms of adopting established technology and making it a mass market device), driving down prices and providing publishers with new ways of packaging and distributing their IP. In addition, mobile technology is now so prevalent worldwide that it cannot be ignored as a means of consuming content.

So, other than driving this rapid growth in digital consumption that can’t be ignored, what does mobile technology represent for publishers? It has promoted the creation of universally adopted (adapted in Amazon’s case) standards in the shape of ePub, and has forced us all to think in terms of the creation of our content in new ways. Any publisher who fails to think in terms of scalable and standards-driven workflow / outputs is not necessarily going to go out of business, but they will seriously hinder their ability to leverage their IP to its greatest potential. Others who have posted on this site have pointed to the ways in which copy-editing has evolved, with most editorial tasks now being completed on screen, including standard mark-up and tagging of content using consumer tools such as Word. This is a quiet but fundamental shift; and where we start to standardise the ways in which we describe elements of content (form and function), we have the foundations of a workflow that results in content that can be re-used with greater efficiency in a myriad of contexts – print, online, mobile, XML, interactive games and assessment etc.

For many of us working in what is ostensibly a creative industry, standards can seem to be the equivalent of watching digital paint dry. In my journey from being a print publisher to someone who creates and helps others create interactive content, I have discovered the importance of standards (tagging, XML, epub etc.) in the planning, generation and distribution of a range of published products – from interactive etextbooks to standardised assessment engines. All of this originates from a set of principles that were agreed across our business and were applied at each point in the supply chain. Some of what we do is driven by international standards and some by our own proprietary rules, allowing us to provide the market with innovative and high-quality content-led services at a faster rate and at lower cost than would have otherwise been the case.

Decisions on “digital” require a multi-component model that considers at least eight aspects, such as:

  • Developments in technology – what’s important and (importantly) what’s not?
  • Market expectations
  • Business expectations and rules
  • Analysis of the competition
  • Defining your product
  • Workflow and content creation
  • Return on investment
  • Marketing and selling

Steve is a tutor on the PTC’s flagship course for editors in the educational, academic, scientific and professional sectors, Commissioning and List Management (CLM) happening next on September 25 – 28 2017.

virtual reality

10 realities of virtual reality from #Quantum16

David Ingham, Director of Digital Media at Cognizant, and Phil Harper, Director at Alchemy VR before recently founding IMRGE, took to the stage at the Quantum conference today to discuss recent developments in virtual reality (VR) and what this means for publishers. Here are our top 10 takeaway points.

1) There are two ways in which virtual reality is viewed in business: I’m not convinced and I might not be convinced, but I’m not going to be left out and I need to invest in it.

2) VR poses the following challenges: what content should be used, on which platform(s), and on which device(s).

3) There’s a huge consumer demand for VR. Rather than a top down approach like 3D TV, grassroots demand from audiences has driven VR development. Bigger companies are playing catch-up with the kickstarters.

4) Users are often touched by VR. The user’s reaction to characters can be much more intense, opening up more opportunities.

5) There are many potential revenue streams for VR. For the home market, many are looking to the app model as the infrastructure already exists and consumers are used to it.

6) Partner with other companies. You’ll have their data and expertise, and will be able to translate your content into new and exciting formats.

7) There are no experts with VR when it comes to VR. With the write creativity and content, there’s plenty of opportunity for innovation.

8) Mobile VR is most likely to be the first dominant device for VR. All that’s needed is a headset – phones already have adequate processing power and screen resolution.

9) For complete interaction, i.e. to pick things up, then you’d need a tethered device. Your subconscious works like it’s real, despite your conscious telling you it’s not. The power this offers and the direction you go with it is the creative challenge.

10) Knowledge retention is a key issue in educational publishing: people retain 10% of the information they read, 20% of that that they hear but 90% when they do. VR may be the solution to this. What you read/listen to in a classroom could then immediately be put it into practice with VR.

Check out altspace if you need a bit more convincing.


9 commissioning tips: educational, non-fiction trade and all-rounders

Becky Lovell has been a Commissioning Editor for 6 years across both educational and non-fiction trade publishing. She is currently Commissioning Editor for the international Humanities list in the education team at Cambridge University Press.Here are some tips that she’s picked up over the years.

Adaptability is a useful skill for a commissioning editor. Being able to respond to differing customers and markets is important. The following core principles have really helped me to manage a variety of lists in different publishing sectors.

Top 3 things to share from educational commissioning

1) Know what you’re up against

In order to create USPs that are genuinely ‘U’, you need to know what the competition is doing and how you stand out from them. Educational publishing is highly competitive with publishers often targeting the same customers at the same time, so honed USPs are critical. Get stuck in; in addition to keeping spreadsheets tracking competitor products, I have a bookshelf of key competitor titles that I can flick through and evaluate.

2) Help keep projects on track

Everyone in educational publishing is racing to publish before competitors. If you achieve this, you should see increased sales, but the process is rarely easy! Commissioning is only one link in the chain and so regular communication with the rest of the product team is essential. Brief authors clearly, contract them swiftly and help the production team where you can.

3) Overcome any fear of data

Number crunching doesn’t come naturally to me – I’m a literature graduate. But I’ve learned that sound data analysis is a great tool to back up your proposals and guide your thinking. It’s easy to get a bit lost in numbers, so stick to the data that will help you make effective decisions or ‘tell the story’ behind product proposals – namely the numbers that tell you how big the potential market is, and how well (or not) you may already be selling to these customers.

Top 3 things to share from non-fiction trade commissioning

1) Understand the power of good marketing

You could commission the best book in the world but it will ultimately be unsuccessful if nobody knows it exists. Your product should jump out at customers, especially if you are targeting ‘browsers’ rather than ‘searchers’. Grab customers’ attention with striking cover design (I’ll admit to frequently judging a book by its cover) and copy that pops. Collaborate with the marketing and design teams to make sure that customers understand what you are offering them.

2) Don’t neglect your backlist

The temptation with commissioning is to get caught up developing new concepts. But don’t do this at the cost of neglecting your backlist. A brand new travel guide on Bhutan, whilst fascinating to work on, is unlikely to bring in as much revenue as an updated edition of a Paris guidebook. Be aware of your bestsellers and water your backlist to reap a steady revenue stream which will allow you to explore and invest in those exciting new opportunities.

3) Think beyond traditional authoring

There are now many ways to write and publish. Whilst you should always maintain a pool of tried-and-tested book authors, consider approaching appropriate bloggers for discrete, low stakes projects. Recruiting a more modern breed of writer can build flex into your author pool and widen your contact list.

And what never changes…

1) Appreciate your authors

Always cultivate good relationships with your authors, no matter what sector you work in. Spend time earning their trust and the whole process will be much easier.

2) Keep it all in focus

Knowing what not to commission is as important as knowing what to commission. Any new product proposals must be in keeping with your list strategy.

3) Do your research

Market research methods vary across sectors, but any way to gain insight into who your customer is and what kind of products they want to see will always be valuable.

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.

5 questions for Caroline Moore on mobile language learning [INTERVIEW]

Increasingly, Publishers and content creators are getting their material onto mobile devices. It makes perfect sense to be doing so, putting learning tools directly into the hands of learners, but it’s not as easy as just creating a great product. I met up with Caroline Moore, Director and Co-Founder of LearnAhead to find out more about mobile language learning and how their company is on a mission to get better language acquisition apps into the market.

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The first ELT Agent [INTERVIEW]

Nick RobinsonFor anyone who has been reading my previous BookMachine posts you will notice that I’ve been writing a lot about people in the ELT industry. The last post looked at a group of ELT publishing specialists who have set up ‘ELT Teacher 2 Writer’  where teachers register to a database designed to help publishers find new authors and content. They also provide training and development opportunities for authors to help write their materials.
This time I interviewed Nick Robinson about being the first ELT Agent and how he set up his company ‘Nick Robinson ELT Author Representation’.

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Design considerations when Publishing to a Global Market [VIEWPOINT]

A couple of months I wrote an article for the Futurebook blog in recognition of the site’s world-wide reach, and I thought it was time to share some of these thoughts with the BookMachine crowd and also re-visit some of the scenarios, which have now been published.

Working at a design agency that primarily works with educational publishers has given me an understanding of many requirements and considerations that need to be met for producing material (both print & digital) for many different markets. However, publishing for a global market is different to market specific publishing. The premise is that technology has made content (books, ebooks, websites, resources etc) accessible to a wider range of audiences across the world. This poses new challenges for publishers who need to meet the demands and requirements of a global market.

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Bring Your Own Technology

We keep hearing that America is a few years ahead of us in terms of technology. If this is the case then UK Publishers, Schools and Educators take note.

A recent report from the The Consortium for School Networking in America has highlighted that schools should be allowing their students to bring their own technology to the classroom, rather than just for use at break times. Whilst this is economically viable for schools it does pose a few problems, not only for the parents who will need to be buying this technology for their kids, but for educational Publishers. It essentially means that every title will need to work seamlessly across all devices. This is a big headache for educational publishers, who are creating digital components for their courses.

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ELT Teachers can become authors [INTERVIEW]

Continuing with the theme from my last post for BookMachine on interesting English Language Teaching (ELT) Publishing start-ups, I interviewed Karen Spiller, freelance ELT project manager about her most recent venture with fellow ELT professionals Sue Kay (ELT author) and Karen White (freelance ELT project manager).

What is ELT Teacher 2 Writer and who is it for?
ELT Teacher 2 Writer puts English Language Teaching (ELT) teachers, who are aspiring authors, in touch with publishers looking for new authors. It also offers an online training course in all the skills and areas new authors need to consider while they are preparing their material for publication.

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Writing for The Round [interview]

I support the roundThe changing nature of publishing is forcing Publishing houses, writers, authors – content creators – to think differently, experiment and look at working with new people in new ways.

Award winning ELT authors Lindsay Clandfield and Luke Meddings are doing just this. They have set up The Round, which aims to bring together creative people in English Language Teaching. It aims to bridge “the gap between blogs and books – and about the difficulty of placing innovative, niche or critical materials with the big ELT publishers.” And has so far released two books for public consumption. Their mission is to provide material for educators, give a fair deal to authors and share expertise and ideas.

Since starting The Round in spring 2011 they have released two new titles 52, which is an activity book for language teachers, and Webinars: A Cookbook for educators, a how-to guide for doing web seminars or lessons.

They release the new titles through a section on their website called Labs, whereby The Round team let you see new projects which are being developed and sample content can be downloaded. And feedback can be given to the authors via the comment boxes.

I asked Lindsay and Luke some more questions:

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Inanimate Alice is 9 years old. How’s she doing? [REPORT]

Welcome to the world of Inanimate Alice, a truly digital novel that has taken the educational world by storm. The idea for Alice first came about in 2003 and the team (Ian Harper, Chris Joseph and award winning author Kate Pullinger) published the first episode in 2005. The story is told by Alice through 10 episodes. Each adventure looks back through her childhood & into her early twenties, a bildungsroman.

The plot for the series uses Alice’s increasing interest and competency in game development to exemplify her transition from childhood to early womanhood. The first four episodes have been completed, the fifth is being released this year and the final five are still in development. With a team of creators fostering its relationship with its readers across the world, this is a novel on an epic scale.

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BookMachine Weekly BookWrap: publishing stories from around the web

Can both educational and trade publishers successfully extend their business and act as educators?

Yesterday I attended the International Digital Publishing Conference and Forum at City University. It was a real treat to attend lectures by key players in publishing, and also to hear talks by inspirational MA students. The topic of the day was ‘The Global Market place’ but I couldn’t help focussing on the content of the first plenary which left me wondering – can educational and trade publishers successfully extend their business and act as educators?

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