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Marketability eBulletin

Welcome to our latest fortnightly eBulletin, posted here on 18 September 2018. In this issue:

Academic publishing is under fire again from George Monbiot

If you’re an academic publisher and haven’t read this article in The Guardian yet, you need to, even though it’ll make you seethe. You need to to appreciate the strength of feeling against publishers which exists within the academic community, and because this is the context in which you still need to foster positive working relationships with authors/researchers/librarians.

The gist of Monbiot’s article is a familiar one. Publishers are exploitative, reaping fat profits from research that governments have generally funded. Which is immoral. Yawn. (Sorry.) A number of academics have added their strident support and (pirate website) Sci-Hub’s founder Alexandra Elbakyan is lauded as a heroine.

Every time this argument secures air-time and column inches it stokes the resentment in universities just a bit more. How can we counter it? Well here are a few ways.

  1. Quote Michael Mabe’s excellent point which appeared in a letter to The Guardian on 15 September: “Much research worldwide is indeed paid for by governments on behalf of the public, but funding that research is not the same as paying for publication. Funding pharmaceutical research doesn’t mean free drugs, and paying for the Olympics in London didn’t mean free tickets.” (Michael is CEO of the International Association of STM Publishers.)
  2. Read various excellent articles in The Scholarly Kitchen, starting with Why Hasn’t the Academic Community Taken Back Control of Publishing Already?, featured in the eBulletin a month ago. Then move on to 96 Things Publishers Do (2016, just search for it).
  3. Review the business case for why authors should publish with you to make sure it is really compelling, and look for opportunities to promote it. On your website, in emails, on social media, at conferences, in all your conversations. Many authors who self-publish initially find out the hard way that just producing a book or an article doesn’t get it read, and many of them turn to a publisher next time round for precisely that reason.
  4. Make sure you know what’s involved when an author publishes with KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). The big print looks like a fantastic deal, the small print really, really sucks. But nobody reads the small print so they’re covered but little impacted. Amazon publicly criticise publishers for exploiting authors, so isn’t it time we took the gloves off and spoke out about some comparisons of our own?
  5. Litter websites and marketing material with quotes from happy authors who appreciate what their publishers have contributed.
  6. If you’re an open access publisher, be proud and outspoken, but be transparent about how you’re funding the business too. Those APCs are there for a reason.
Doing all of this won’t stop outspoken critics of publishing from ranting. Or as an Elsevier spokesperson said last week: “If you think information shouldn’t cost anything, go to Wikipedia”. But take heart. Academics may be complaining, but they’re still signing with publishers. They DO now have the choice to self-publish, and for those who choose that route, good luck to them.

Read the article for yourself on The Guardian website (steel yourself).

Our Academic Marketing Workshop is the perfect place to discuss this topic. Runs this Thursday 20 September (in London) for anyone prepared to be really quick off the mark – and you can book at an eBulletin offer price of £275. But you’ll need to book TODAY.


Is it helpful to take a scientific approach to email subject line length?

This is what this short Marketo blog post does, analysing 100,000 emails to see how number of words correlated with engagement. Useful reading as most of us won’t be doing anything similar (though I hope you’re all doing A/B split testing on individual campaigns).

And what were the results? Well, you’ll need to read it for yourself, but the short answer is that they weren’t conclusive. Which makes me chuckle because no matter how much we try to pin our fickle readers down by establishing optimum word length or character count they’ll buck the trend we’ve spotted when we run a new campaign and we’ll be left none the wiser.

I love research like this but the best subject lines are the relevant ones, be they 2 words or 20. And as publishers we really should have an unfair advantage in terms of identifying engaging content.

Read Marketo’s What Email Subject Line Length Works Best? for yourself.

If you’re currently thinking ‘yes, but how do I judge what content will really work in my subject lines?’ there’s still time to catch our Email Marketing Workshop which looks at the topic in a publishing context. Runs in London on 27 September and eBulletin subscribers can book at a special late availability offer price of £275. To claim the offer click on BOOK NOW after the course date, choose ‘other price’ on the form and enter EB£275.


Lands End or Land’s End, where do you stand?

Last week Cornwall Council in the far west of the UK decided that Lands End will officially be referred to as Land’s End in the future (via discussions about Lands’ End, I kid you not). Were they right?

Try typing Land’s End into Google and it helpfully asks ‘Did you mean Lands End?’. There may be an advert for US retailer Lands’ End on the page too.

Personally I find the whole story both amusing and irritating. I’m passionate about the correct use of apostrophes, but this place name is a long-standing proper noun in its own right. Any suggestion of the land owning the end in 2018 just seems silly. Doesn’t it? But the most annoying fact in this story is that the Council sought ‘grammatical input from a Cornish history expert’. Which calls to mind Professor Loreto Todd’s famous ‘This usage was correct once, just as it was once considered correct to drink tea from a saucer’.

The English language moves on, and so should we, whilst fiercely protecting the grammatical conventions that aid clarity (the ONLY thing that matters). I’m currently working on a big copywriting project for a publisher and we’ve just agreed that, in line with current conventions, the use of punctuation should be as light as possible. They don’t want their website littered with more marks than are strictly needed to convey messages quickly and clearly. Quite right too.

Read the Land’s End story for yourself.

The act of copywriting in publishing is never simple: all your colleagues (and authors) will have strong opinions and you need negotiating skills almost as much as you do the ability to write. Our Copywriting Workshops always discuss this and you’ll pick up tips and strategies from other participants as well as from me.

We don’t just run training courses, we’re copywriting for publishers on a regular basis. If you could use an extra pair of hands, drop me an email and see if we could help.


On The Marketability Grapevine on Facebook

  • Where do you stand on the Land’s End apostrophe?
  • Be honest, what drew you to publishing in the first place? Lots of you are relating to this post.
  • Read something that hit the spot in this eBulletin? Click through and like the item or add a comment on Facebook
  • Watch the wall for postings of new jobs, or feel free to add to them.

Catch up on The Marketability Grapevine on Facebook


Tip of the week: Stop to anticipate and you’ll avoid bloopers

We’ve all been entertained by other people’s ‘bloopers’ from time to time. And mostly they wouldn’t have happened if they had stopped for a moment to think ‘what are all the ways my audience could react to this?’, and ‘who WON’T this work for?’. Stopping to see our proposed copy or creative as an objective customer might is a trick worth cultivating. The marketer who tweeted ‘I shop at Waitrose because …’ could have anticipated the enthusiastic responses (eg: Tabitha and Tarquin only eat phoenix eggs that have been collected by wizards who share their values) if they’d only stopped to think for a moment.




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