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Marketability eBulletin

Welcome to our latest fortnightly eBulletin, posted here on 28 November 2017. In this issue:

Behind the glossy promises of self-publishing with Amazon

Amazon is naturally careful to position itself as an excellent alternative to signing with a publisher, hence claims about authors having full control of their own book, and earning ‘up to 80% royalties’. The company’s tempting promises have definitely undermined the value authors place on publishers. On the face of it a royalty even of 10% looks greedy.

But what happens when you dig around the Amazon website? The answer is that you unearth some very interesting facts that authors would find less appealing. Here are just three:

  1. ‘Up to 70% royalties’ when publishing on Kindle sounds lucrative, right? But the Kindle Royalties page says: ‘A customer can read your book as many times as they like, but we will only pay you for the number of pages read the first time the customer reads them.’ The phrasing is positive, but hang on, this is saying – quite clearly – that if a customer downloads your book onto their Kindle but only reads the first few pages that you’ll only be paid royalties on those pages. So 70% is predicated on reading ALL the pages of a book. How many books are started but never finished? I don’t know the answer but I’m pretty confident it’s a big number. If publishers are paying 5% or 10% on the whole book then the Amazon offer is starting to look alarmingly flaky.
  2. Publishing a printed book on Amazon: this means establishing a digital file ready to print on demand. Amazon claim that authors can earn ‘up to 80% royalties’ on this one. They also explain (on the CreateSpace royalties page) that they take 40% of the list price to pay for distribution, plus the cost of printing. Now maybe I’m missing something here but I don’t understand how 100% less 40% can ever leave 80%. And of course having a digital file available that nobody knows is there isn’t a great proposition either.
  3. The prospect of a ‘proper’ book featuring on Amazon and available to worldwide customers is enticing for any would-be author. But what they may not realise is that ‘having full control’ over publishing could be re-phrased as ‘we do nothing whatsoever except make free tools available to you to do everything yourself’. That’s a lot of time an author will need. Of course if they want to add in such professional ‘extras’ as copy-editing, or marketing, then Amazon helpfully makes this available. At a price. Authors can buy ‘marketing copy essentials’ starting from US$249, a Library of Congress number for a bargain $25, or the right to a review (not guaranteed to be positive) for $425.

Gathering such examples together is a fabulous way of helping to prove to authors that signing with a publisher benefits them too. After all, you do all of the work that the author would do themselves using Amazon tools, AND all of the services considered ‘extra’ by Amazon. And you have the expertise to make good business decisions on their behalf. Explaining a little of the financial picture behind the scenes could go a long way towards authors appreciating you more.

Shouldn’t we be making SO much more of this on our websites, especially on any author resources or ‘why to publish with us’ pages?

Our Impressive Marketing Plans on a Small Budget workshop is all about how to work effectively in partnership with authors which is a crucial part of managing expectations. Runs on Tuesday 5 December in central London, places still available!

Read more on Amazon as follows:
Take control with self-publishing, Kindle royalties, CreateSpace royalties, and CreateSpace professional services.


Training isn't just about external providers; here's a lovely example from De Gruyter

When running a training course at De Gruyter in Berlin last week I noticed a display of a selection of tweets annotated with notes and coloured stickers, all under a heading ‘How to write great tweets’. This turned out to be from a session run by Online Marketing Manager Pablo Dominguez Andersen, who explained:

‘The session was a 4 hour workshop I did with people in editorial who run Twitter accounts for their departments, journals etc. I organized it for them to share their expertise and experiences with each other. That display was the result of the first little exercise we did, I pulled some of the best-performing tweets from the past year from Twitter analytics, and asked everyone to guess which had the most shares and impressions (the little colored stickers were their votes). Then afterwards we talked about why they voted for certain tweets and what conclusions we can draw; I took notes on that too and that’s what you see in the display. We did a couple more exercises after that and overall it was a fun and productive session.’

I believe that sessions like this are hugely valuable at sharing the expertise that already exists in pockets around our companies. They’re brilliantly practical, genuinely improve results, and help to cut down on the number of ad hoc but repetitive questions being directed at marketing (or other ‘owner’ of the skill).

Before I started as a publishing trainer (not long after the dawn of time) I volunteered to run internal training sessions to editors at Routledge about the then genuinely ground-breaking new marketing database we’d just launched. Editors had been wowed by the benefits explained to them by the MD but this was without an understanding of how much work is involved at creating brand new product records for thousands of titles. I decided that the best way to tackle this was to become a database expert and then deliver short training sessions explaining what the new software could do and how to create the content that enabled us to optimise the results. Those sessions proved to be great fun and I volunteered as an external trainer as a direct result.

I’m not paranoid enough to think that promoting internal training will impact on the work we get asked to do as training providers, though if you’d like to do more internal sessions but would like a bit of support in setting them up and/or facilitating them then of course we can help with that too. Just email to let me know what you have in mind.

Thank you to Pablo for sharing the story of the Twitter workshop and for reminding me of my original training roots! You can see the ‘How to write great tweets’ display on The Marketability Grapevine, our Facebook page.


How do students really choose which books to buy?

Question: ‘You’re writing back cover copy for a textbook. Do you address the lecturer or the student?’

I ask this question regularly on Copywriting Workshops because it always stimulates useful debate. Last week while discussing it with a group of editorial staff at Cambridge University Press one participant made the following point:

‘When I was a student we were encouraged to read widely around a subject to help make our work stand out. So quite often I would opt to borrow the recommended text from the library but buy a supplementary one that I liked for myself instead, to help give me the edge.’

This is a really interesting observation which just goes to prove that reality is always a bit more subtle than we assume.

Read more about our Copywriting Workshop which can be tailored precisely around your company’s needs. This topic is also covered on our Academic Marketing Workshop (runs next on 8 February in London). 


Tip of the week: Think very carefully before re-branding

Re-naming an established brand is a very dangerous tactic. The history of marketing is littered with attempts received by widespread derision and cynicism. Famously the UK nuclear facility Windscale was re-named Sellafield after a serious accident at the plant in 1957, not a diversionary tactic that fooled anyone. The Royal Mail was briefly re-branded Consignia in 2001 but backtracked 18 months later.

And now there’s the Getlink story. If this has passed you by, Getlink is the new name for Eurotunnel, one designed ‘to mark the group’s passage into an exciting new era for mobility infrastructures’ post-Brexit.

Anyone else care to guess how long Getlink will last before quietly being pensioned off?

The moral of this story is to think very carefully before attempting a complete re-brand. Customers will at best be confused, and at worst will assume you’re trying to hide something. Plus nobody really cares about your brand’s name but you … they care about something reliable and beneficial they can trust.

See the Getlink story on The Guardian website.




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