Kathy Atkinson got in touch from UCL Press, prompted by our review of the 10 most-read articles of 2019, of which 3 were about author resources. How does being an open access books publisher affect how UCL Press engages with its authors?
“As you know, we’re an OA press and our aim is to be as transparent as possible about how our books perform and the reach/impact they have. Our statistics dashboard enables authors to see the reach of their book in terms of number of downloads and where they’ve taken place in the world (we update it every month). Anyway, our authors love it and it saves lots of back and forth on download numbers etc, as they can self-serve – and we know, for example, that it will be really useful as they input into impact case studies for REF. We are investigating whether we can add more to the dashboard, for instance, print numbers – but I think in terms of authors having clear access to how their book has performed, and transparency generally, this is a good example of where we should be heading.”
I couldn’t agree more, Kathy! This is a brilliant example of sharing something the publisher already has access to, and should also be useful at motivating authors to self-promote, especially if numbers are relatively modest. After all, with impressive download stats for so many titles it’s clear that UCL Press knows how to reach its international audience, with the balance of the impact achieved by author engagement and by word of mouth, social sharing, and reviews/endorsements. The dashboard is open to everyone, not just authors, and is fascinating to explore.
See the UCL Press statistics dashboard
View our top 10 eBulletin articles from 2019
Our Academic Marketing Workshop is the place to be for more like this.
This week marks the 70th anniversary of the death of George Orwell, which is a perfect excuse to revisit his 1946 essay, written in praise of precision and clarity and damning pomposity and vagueness.
For anyone struggling to write clear and compelling copy in plain English for specialist products, his words could have been written today. Here are a few examples:
“As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen−house.”
“In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning.”
“As I have tried to show, modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug.”
Each of these observations, and many others like them, are supported by examples too numerous to share here. The whole essay is only 6 pages long and richly rewarding for anyone writing copy who sometimes despairs of doing it well with the material with which they have to work (often ‘draft’ copy written by authors).
Read Politics and the English Language
Bring your tricky examples to one of our Copywriting Workshops and we’ll prove that it’s possible to re-write anything in a way which is easier to understand whilst still being appropriate. This course is a very popular in-company training day, why not ask about bringing it to your office?
On my bank’s website’s FAQs page I spotted the following under a list of topics:
Losing someone close to you can be very difficult. Our step by step guidance can help you to know what to do.
CAN be very difficult? The person who wrote this can’t have experienced bereavement but they also didn’t stop to imagine how it feels to be someone who has. Not for one moment. Shame on them ...
This is an extreme example of a problem I see regularly in copy, where the writer uses a genuine fear or concern of the reader as a casual hook on which to hang a selling message. Simply imagining for one moment what it feels like to own that concern should be enough to enable us to reference it sensitively. For example, that bereavement line could have read:
It’s hard enough to deal with losing someone close without having to worry about financial red tape. Our step by step guidance is here to support you.
Doesn’t that make the world of difference?
Our Copywriting Workshop is the place to be for more like this.
Yes, this tip is about cheating. Here’s my justification. Most of us focus on what we’ve failed to do rather than on our achievements. If acknowledging some retrospectively helps redress the balance, that can only be a good thing for our motivation.