Josie says: “My old CUP boss Andy Brown used to complain about monograph publishing that ‘The producers are also the consumers, but people produce what they’re not prepared to consume’, which mostly comes down to the fact that authors want (and are given incentives) to write a 300pp book, while not having time to read more than a 15pp article by anyone else.”
This has always been true, with academic authors blind to the irony of taking two different positions as author and reader. Something I’ve tried to diplomatically help authors see from time to time by asking questions of them as a customer.
“Somehow we need to find a way of aligning the way authors write (and how publishers package their content) with patterns of usage, including their own”, says Josie. “In a print world we had very little visibility of this, and no incentive to find out how much of our publications were being read once they were out of the warehouse; now we can document the downloads, there is no excuse and it’s a great opportunity to take this particular bull by the horns.”
Josie was a publisher at both Cambridge University Press and Palgrave Macmillan before founding Lucian Consulting. She’s now in great demand as a trainer of academics across the UK and Europe, which gives her a unique insight into the ways they view publishing today from their side of the fence. She is tutor on our Profitable Commissioning Workshop.
Read more about Profitable Commissioning.
And of course our Academic Marketing Workshop.
If you’re not sure what sender reputation is based on, or why it’s critically important to your email marketing, this 5 minute read on the Return Path blog last month will help. Especially useful is the advice about recycled spam traps and about why you shouldn’t use that list you’ve had for a while but haven’t yet mailed.
Read Email Sender Reputation Decoded on the Return Path blog.
Our Email Marketing Workshop is the place to be for more like this.
It’s the Wimbledon tennis tournament here in the UK. At the start of Today at Wimbledon last week the presenter promised “We’ll bring you coverage of every blade of grass”, and this got me thinking. Strictly speaking it’s inaccurate (coverage is of tennis, not grass), but as copy it works – it’s appropriate to Wimbledon and is positive and upbeat. But when I imagined having to get the copy approved by a certain type of publisher I could hear them saying “I don’t think we should say that as it’s not strictly true”. Do you recognise this as a reaction to copy you’ve written? Or perhaps you are a publisher who isn’t comfortable when copy strays away from the facts? (And yet as an industry we’re regularly guilty of claiming our products are unique, isn’t that a more serious crime?)
Publishing is, quite rightly, founded on quality, accuracy and peer review. But there are times when it pays to lighten up in the copy that we write or it may not be compelling enough to carry readers along. I have frequently recommended for a new edition of a textbook expressing what’s new in terms of a percentage, eg: “20% entirely new content”. Editors can be uncomfortable with this as they can’t measure it accurately. But the fact remains that it’s genuinely helpful to lecturers, students and librarians. It is, of course, still crucial that we are as accurate as we can be; we have nothing to gain (and trust to lose) by exaggerating. (But the bottom line is that if we can’t measure precisely, our potential readers can’t either.)
The moral of this story, assuming you agree that the blade of grass copy works, is to allow ourselves licence to not be too wedded to the literal. Copy’s role is to grab attention, after which the table of contents can take over the job of persuading a reader to buy.
Our Copywriting Workshop is the place to be for more like this.
Writing bullet points sharpens our focus, we’re less likely to resort to ‘fluff’ (waffle) or over-used adjectives. This tip is from a former participant on one of our Copywriting days, who said that he routinely wrote in bullet points for just this reason, after which he could then remove them and adjust the copy as needed.
Personal tips come from everyone on our Copywriting Workshops, which is just how it should be. Why not join us on the next one?