“Which one social media channel will net me the most book sales?” an author asked me recently during my new weekly #BookMarketingChat.
“Which one social media channel will net me the most book sales?” an author asked me recently during my new weekly #BookMarketingChat.
If you’ve begun to query agents and editors, you’ve heard the dreaded P word dropped.
Earlier this month WHSmith launched Zoella’s Book Club in partnership with blogger and vlogger Zoe. Here Norah Myers interviews Amy Alward, one of the eight authors to be included in the Summer 2016 collection.
Zoe’s always been passionate about reading, and the WHSmith book club is the perfect way to share that passion with her viewers.
It’s incredible! I think those in industries who have worked with major YouTubers before, like fashion and beauty, will find it no surprise to see the uplift in sales. They’ve known the power of social media stars for a long time. But, for books, this is something completely new. For so long, YA publishers have been debating the best ways to reach real teens in the UK and beyond, without the benefit of a movie or TV show. Zoe is putting reading back on the teen radar in a BIG way.
I’m not sure! I’m very excited to see what she picks in upcoming book clubs – her taste so far has been spot on and even I’ve discovered some recommendations that have gone straight on my TBR pile.
So far, it’s been amazing seeing the reaction to the book club and the level of interaction during the online events. I hope that continues right the way through September, when the vote for the ‘favourite book’ is counted. As for beyond, I hope that the book club continues to shine a light on authors that otherwise would not be getting the attention they deserve, introducing more awesome and diverse authors to new readers. There is so little coverage of children’s books in general in the UK, especially not in places that will be seen by teenagers. This is an amazing opportunity to spread a love of reading far and wide!
Thank you so much. For me – of course, I’m blown away by seeing the jump in sales and by the hundreds of messages I’ve received from new readers discovering the series. All I know is that I have many more stories and adventures for Sam Kemi to go on, so I hope it gives me the opportunity to write even more books in The Potion Diaries series!
Amy Alward is a Canadian author and freelance editor who divides her time between the UK and Canada. In 2013, she was listed as one of The Bookseller’s Rising Stars. Her debut fantasy adventure novel, The Oathbreaker’s Shadow, was published in 2013 under the name Amy McCulloch and was longlisted for the 2014 Branford Boase Award for best UK debut children’s book. Her first book written as Amy Alward, The Potion Diaries, was an international success and the second novel in the series, The Potion Diaries: Royal Tour will be published in August 2016. She is currently travelling the world, researching more extraordinary settings and intriguing potions for the third book in the series. She lives life in a continual search for adventure, coffee, and really great books. Visit her at AmyAlward.co.uk or on Twitter @Amy_Alward.
At the launch of BookMachine’s Snapshots III I kicked off the talks by raining hard on the book industry parade. (Sorry.)
While I was on holiday in Dorset last week I wandered into a charity shop in a pretty market town and remarked on the number of books they had crammed onto their shelves. The woman behind the counter said wearily: ‘We’re not taking any more books. Everybody’s getting rid of them and nobody wants them.’
She didn’t know I was a book person. She had no idea she’d just delivered a punch to my gut. It’s not the sort of thing people in my world, and my social media bubble, tend to say. But it is of course true, or at least there’s truth in it.
As publishers, we spend our time with people who love and appreciate books. This is NOT THE REAL WORLD. For many people in this country books are an outdated technology. An irrelevance.
The Reading Agency reported last year that:
And for an industry that makes its money from the sale of books it’s a perfect storm because, as fewer people want to buy books, more books are being published than ever before at lower prices than ever before.
So what’s the answer? Well, there’s no one answer. There never is. But we can find AN answer, I believe, in the creating of connection.
We already know that for many readers a book is interesting only when it’s connected to something else, something beyond the book, that has meaning for them. If they love Bake-Off, they’ll buy the book. If they’re a devoted fan of the YouTuber of the moment they’ll queue up for a signed copy, if they’re at an event with a great speaker, they’ll buy the book at the back of the room, if they’re in a book club they’ll buy the book they’re discussing: they need a reason, they need a connection.
When we write and publish today, we’re engaging in a battle for attention that’s more sophisticated and segmented than ever before. The people who really get this are the platform builders like Pat Flynn, Seth Godin, Jeff Goins, Joanna Penn, Hugh Howey, Denise Duffield-Thomas – and many of these are indie authors because they want control and they can reach their people directly. They have podcasts, blogs, YouTube channels, businesses: they have fans and/or customers instead of a sales force, and their book reaches new readers who become new fans and/or customers. It’s the attention they’re monetising – for many of them the revenues from the book itself are just a side benefit.
When rapper Akala spoke at Futurebook last year, revealing that his self-published books outsell CDs at his gigs, he asked ‘Why would I need a publisher? I have my own customer base.’
The good news is that books have an irreplaceable role in this new online/offline economy of connection and attention, but we have reached a tipping point: readers need a reason to read them. They need meaningful context. And the most powerful reason is always human connection – directly with the author, or with other people who’ve read and loved the book. Which means that publishers need to find ways to support authors to find their tribe and build their platform.
If we don’t respond to that challenge, if we don’t recognise that we’re in the business of making people care and connecting them, we’re simply adding to an undifferentiated pile of books that nobody has a reason to read. We also risk being left with a world in which only celebrities or business-savvy authorpreneurs can succeed in the book market.
Publishers have traditionally thought of themselves as gatekeepers, but once the walls have come down it’s a bit pointless continuing to stand beside the gate. And, even worse, if you insist on standing there you’re going to miss the party that’s going on inside.
Maybe a better metaphor for our future is as table hosts. Publishers don’t own the venue any more, it’s not even our party, but we CAN host part of it: we can lead the conversation in our area, give a voice and a platform to people with something interesting to say, we can make ours the table everyone wants to come to, where the best conversations happen and the most interesting connections are made. We can be where the party is.
And that’s much more fun than guarding the gate, right?
Alison Jones (@bookstothesky) is a publishing partner for businesses and organizations writing world-changing books. She also provides executive coaching, consultancy and training services to publishers. www.alisonjones.com.
Sanne Vliegenthart has been making videos on her YouTube channel, booksandquills, for the last 8 years, documenting everything from studying English in the Netherlands, to moving to London to find a job in publishing. She loves to travel, visit museums, go to as many bookshops as possible and discover and review the latest books, graphic novels and book to movie adaptations. Here Norah Myers interviews her.
I had been watching YouTube for about 2 years before I made my first video. Channels like the Vlogbrothers (John and Hank Green) and fiveawesomegirls made me realise that there were people with similar interests online that we’re talking about the stuff they love. When I saw that there were ‘auditions’ for a Twilight related collaboration channel, I decided to film my very first video.
I have a Google doc (which I’m a massive fan of) that I can access on my laptop and phone, in which I write down any ideas that might pop into my head. Sometimes they disappear to the bottom of the document, other times they turn into a full video or even a series. Very often I will be looking for something online, realise it isn’t there and end up creating it myself. Examples of this were a guide to how not to crack the spines of big books and also a guide to upcoming book to movie adaptations, in case you’d like to read the book first!
The BookTube community is in general a very welcoming place, though, like every other community, there happens to be some conflicts from time to time, which I try to stay away from. There is a huge variety of BookTubers but I always think there is space for more and for people who want to approach things differently. Working in publishing has given me the chance to be able to make some videos from the ‘other side’, talking about how books are created and giving advice on how to get into publishing, which I’ve found really fun.
I’ve learned that I really enjoy getting feedback from people and I love starting a conversation. I also get the most satisfaction from helping people get the information that they need, whether it’s travel tips, or the best bookshops in London. I’ve also become way better at public speaking and I discovered that I really enjoy speaking on and moderating panels, so I try to do as much of that as I can.
I’ve been doing this for almost 8 years now, so I don’t see it going away any time soon because I enjoy it way too much. I know that the BookTube community in the Netherlands, where I’m from, has really started growing in the last year, and in general BookTube is getting more recognition and more companies are interested in working with BookTubers. I’m excited to see what the future will bring!
I actually first got in touch with the company where I got my first publishing job to review one of their books and, after I made a video and shared it with them, I stayed on their radar. I studied literature and translation, and everything I know about social media and video production I learned from building my channel. I’m currently working as Social Media Producer at Penguin Random House UK and it’s been great to work across the company and talk to different people about the YouTube-related projects they’re working on. As a side note, both for my previous and current job, I sent in a video application instead of a cover letter, and I do think that helped quite a lot.
As Shia Labeouf would say, JUST DO IT! It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the right equipment or don’t feel like you’re an experienced reviewer. Just take whatever you have and talk about the thing you love. I started with a picture camera the size of a brick that could only hold 30 seconds of footage at a time and I edited everything in Windows Movie Maker, so everyone has to start somewhere. I promise you will learn everything you need along the way.
With the advent of YouTube, media companies now have a unique opportunity to bypass broadcast and connect directly with consumers. Christopher Skala, Co-Founder & CEO, TaDaKids Ltd, who have recently launched the first portfolio of 16 YouTube Pre-school Channels, will be speaking at The London Book Fair on what this kind of production, brand and IP model looks like. Here are some of his insights ahead of the talk.
We can’t keep going on the way we have in kids TV. In fact, why kids TV? Why make content for broadcast anymore?
It’s just too painful, difficult and unrewarding. The power structure inherent in commissioning and licensing content creates a fundamentally skewed and unpleasant playing field for content creators and producers. The emotional rewards are risible; and the financial rewards even more so.
It’s time for a fundamental change.
The shortest time it ever took me to source, develop, finance and produce a TV show was three and-a-half years. That was MIKE THE KNIGHT. One show. Three-and-a-half years. That’s the quickest, and a little unheard-of (unless you work in Canada or France, which both have protectionist, subsidised markets).
In five months, from September 2015 to January 2016, my creative partners and I conceived, developed, produced and delivered for YouTube eight brand new shows. Eight shows. Five months. Over 14 hours of content. All at less than the cost of one 11-minute episode of MIKE THE KNIGHT.
That makes me very excited and feeling good about creating engaging kids content, the first time I’ve felt that way in over ten years. We’ll be creating six more shows before the end of July; and a further nine before the end of next January.
25 shows. One year and four months.
There has to be one, right? Yes, there is a catch. But before I get to what it is, let me also add in the further experiential joy of creating content without any input from broadcasters, distributors, and toy companies (I decline to be drawn into characterising said input. You may infer what you will). The only people I’m answerable to is the audience.
So, the ‘catch’. The catch is… ‘discoverability’. With over 400 hours of content being uploaded to YouTube every minute, the landscape is getting pretty darned crowded. The platform is also exhibiting strong signs of Network Advantage (to them that have, comes more…).
I don’t know, is the honest answer. At TaDaKids, we’re trying everything short of paying for AdWords, which in itself would render our business model null-and-void. Growth-hacking seems to be the groovy marketing term of the moment (we’re trying that). Off YouTube distribution (we’re trying that). Celebrity performers (we’re trying that). YouTube audience optimisation Best Practices (we’re trying that). And a whole lot more.
It’s too early to tell whether we will be successful. I hope we will be, because what we’re betting on is a generalised and easily applicable model of new content funding which is important for everyone in this business, not just us. If it works for us, it can work for you, too. Imagine that.
Christopher was formerly Head of TV Sales & Strategy for three years at Guinness World Records. Before that, he was SVP, Progamming at HiT Entertainment; and before that, at Tiger Aspect. Before that, doesn’t really matter much anymore.
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.
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.
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