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Marketability eBulletin

Welcome to our latest fortnightly eBulletin, posted here on 4 August 2020. In this issue:

After publication delays comes September’s tidal wave. How will we get our books noticed?

This was prompted by an article in The Bookseller last week which focused on the glut of trade books competing for publicity attention. There is only so much space available, whether in bookstores or in media outlets, so some books will inevitably be trampled in the crush.

Actually this is true for all sectors. And there are three very simple tactics for coping with it efficiently and well.

  1. Invest time in writing a really strong differentiating tagline/strapline/10 second sell for every title. You want to grab attention? This is how. If it’s good, readers will read on. If it isn’t, game over. Don’t waste the opportunity with something flabby or generic because you’re feeling uninspired, or ‘don’t have the time’.
  2. Coach your authors in the power of harnessing their networks via their existing social media (or other) channels. The most talked about and influential books all start out with friends, peers and fans sharing and recommending. Gently tell your authors that they hold the key to success right there in their hands, and you’re there to help them. If you think you may get resistance (‘hang on, isn’t that your job?’), line up a few examples from your sector of spectacular successes that started with authors’ own activities. They’re out there. If you’re not already collecting them, start now.
  3. Recognise that not all of your books have equal potential, and prioritise. Don’t spread your time/resources too thinly or the titles that have the capacity to generate the most income may end up losing out.
Amazon has just reported a 40% rise in net sales for the second quarter. Whilst it’s unclear (to me) how much of that is books, there have been regular stories in the news about strong book sales, especially of ebooks, as people turned to reading to help them through lockdown. If you want a piece of that action, you’ll need to be doing 1 and 2 above.

Read the original article in The Bookseller (subscriber content).

Our Impressive Marketing Plans on a Small Budget workshop has a strong focus on working with authors. It’s available to tailor to your company’s needs, adapted to run online.


Sound advice as we plan our marketing for an uncertain academic future

Thanks to The Scholarly Kitchen for Colleen Scollans’ article, in which she shares her six lessons for Marketing in Times of Disruption. From the importance of empathy, to ‘high value content is always welcome’, to pause (to plan) – all of this resonated with me.

All of us working in academic publishing will have heard ominous news stories about the impact of Covid-19 on higher education. In the UK, record numbers of students have applied for university places – but that’s no guarantee they’ll take up their offers. Meanwhile there are predictions of a 20% fall in international students from east Asia. Nearly 40% of Chinese students due to arrive this academic year have yet to decide whether to take up their places. The impact of this could be catastrophic, as the higher fees paid by students from overseas are critical to the financial viability of many universities.

No matter how many students apply, the actual impact will only be clear once they decide to take up their places or not. It won’t be until the start of the academic year that universities will know student enrolment numbers – and the income they bring with them.

In the light of all the uncertainty, how will we plan our academic marketing for 2020-2021? Our Academic Marketing Workshop has been sharing good practice for 15 years, and this autumn will be no exception. Available of course as an in-company tailored option on a platform of your choosing. But look out too for an open course taking place on Zoom. We’re gauging demand for this at the moment so drop me an email today if you’d potentially want to book onto this.

Read Marketing in Times of Disruption on The Scholarly Kitchen.

Read The Guardian’s article on the drop in east Asian student numbers.

Read more about our Academic Marketing Workshop.


What we can all learn from the blurb for David Walliams The World’s Worst Teachers

When a book will be read by children but (probably) bought or recommended by parents/teachers, should the cover copy address the child, or the adult?

Variations on this theme happen regularly during copywriting workshops. But copy is ALWAYS better if you address a reader directly. And those ‘gatekeepers’ are actually helped if the copy imparts some of the personality of the book.

My daily cycle takes me past a bus stop advert for David Walliams’ The World’s Worst Teachers, which shouts out: ‘Think your teachers are bad? Wait till you meet this lot.’ Perfect copy which works just as well for parents. The ad is positioned outside a primary school.

The cover copy goes on to introduce some of the teachers and their foibles. I love it.

However, it’s not all good news. There’s a separate paragraph of copy sitting above this on the website which is much less successful:

‘Millions of young readers have loved the World’s Worst Children tales – now they will revel in this delightfully dreadful collection of the most gruesome grown-ups ever: The World’s Worst Teachers. From the phenomenally bestselling David Walliams and illustrated in glorious colour by the artistic genius, Tony Ross.’

It’s less successful because the children are referred to in the third person, it’s more formal, the title in repeated, and the last sentence is relatively weak. It lacks the impact. But worse than this, on the website the excellent copy is sandwiched between two slightly different versions of the weak paragraph. I think this is an example of two different copy fields in the publisher’s database coming together and the disconnect has not been picked up.

If you know differently, drop me a reply! And keep writing the wonderful, fun, child-facing copy.

See The World’s Worst Teachers copy for yourself.

We’re still running in-company Copywriting Workshops, adapted to online modules, where a conversation about writing for child or teacher and about copy fields on databases took place just a few days ago. If this may be of interest, do drop me an email and I can tell you more.


On The Marketability Grapevine on Facebook

  • Fabulously well-observed cartoon of a meeting we’ve all been in, by marketer and cartoonist Tom Fishburne.
  • 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.

Visit The Marketability Grapevine.


Tip of the week: Back cover copy has never been more important

Thanks to Kathryn King, Marketing Manager at Bristol University Press, who alerted me to this news story in The Guardian. Staff at branches of Waterstones have been turning books round so the back covers are facing out, so that customers can browse without handling the books. Yet another reminder that making that copy compelling is worth the little bit of extra effort!





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