An insight into the publishing world…

Posts tagged ‘marketing’

Introducing Nathan Connolly, Publishing Director at Dead Ink Publishing

I was very happy to bag an interview with Dead Ink books, a publisher I’ve been following for a few years, since I met publisher Wes Brown at a Society of Young Publishers event, when they were an innovative new digital publisher. Here his partner at Dead Ink, Nathan Connolly, gives us an overview of the publishing house and how they went about building a community around their company…

Nathan Connolly Headshot

Please introduce yourself and give a brief overview of your career.

I’m Nathan Connolly and I’m the Publishing Director of Dead Ink. I started in Publishing when I began The Night Light, an online literary magazine, after graduating from University. I’ve worked with The Big Issue in the North, Crécy Publishing and The Society of Young Publishers.

Tell us about Dead Ink Books – how did the company come about? What’s its premise?

Dead Ink started towards the end of 2010 and it was set up with funding from Arts Council England as a digital-only press. This was around the time that ebooks were really just starting to blow up and there was a lot of both panic and optimism in the industry. With Dead Ink we were experimenting with what a book could be – at a time when that really did seem to be a valid question.

As the industry started to come to terms with digital, Dead Ink released its first print titles. When Dead Ink began, it was the medium that we thought was revolutionary. As we developed it became clear that the biggest opportunity presented by digital technology wasn’t in restricting ourselves to solely digital books but in connecting readers to them.

Our focus now is based on two strands. The first is to develop the careers of new literary authors and the second is to do that through experimentation with digital technology in publishing.

What challenges did you face setting up Dead Ink Books?

The challenge of setting up a small press today is that the industry is becoming increasingly concentrated and homogenous in terms of both publishing and retail. We’re fortunate in that we are represented by Inpress books who fight our corner, but overall I think the industry is becoming harder and harder to survive in. I wouldn’t be surprised to see further concentrations taking place in terms of partnerships and mergers.

I think this challenge is also an opportunity, though: publishing needs challenging small presses and I think readers enjoy them too. Hopefully the tide will begin to turn in the next few years and the independents will win back some influence and breathing space. Maybe it’s already begun?

What kind of literature do you publish?

We’re interested mainly in literary fiction. Specifically, we want fiction that is challenging, brave and confident. I try not to define the specifics of what I’m looking for too much. I worry that I will put someone off who would otherwise have been great. I think all the books that I have published so far have surprised me. I wasn’t looking for them and I didn’t expect them.

What achievement to date are you particularly proud of?

We work almost exclusively with debut authors and I think that is something that I’m particularly proud of. We take a huge risk on every author that we publish and put all of our resources into making their book, and their career, a success. Receiving a manuscript and taking it through the long road to publication isn’t an easy process and there is a lot that can go wrong. When we finally receive those books from the printer and we get to give them to a writer who has spent years of their life trying to reach that point then it becomes obvious that all the sweat and tears were worth it. Each time we reach that point we’re reminded of why we started Dead Ink in the first place. Despite our commitment to author development and technological innovation we’ve always been motivated to take a risk on people that nobody else will. That’s what I’m proud of.

How have you managed to build a community around Dead Ink Books?

This is a huge question and one we still don’t have the complete answer to. In fact, this is one of the major questions that we have to ask ourselves every single day in order to make the press work.

I think that we’ve been lucky in that readers seem to get what we’re doing and completely engage with it. There are a lot of safe decisions being made in the industry and I suspect that they find it refreshing to see a small press based entirely on the concept of taking a risk. Authors frequently commit years of their life to working on a book which may never see the light of day. They’re innately risk-takers and when they see a press with that same conviction I think it is refreshing.

On the other hand we commit a great deal of resources to building that community. We get out there into the world and interact with writers at readings and events. We also try to treat our readers as a community not just customers. They’re the reason that we’ve got this far and every time they do buy a book they are having an impact. I think people appreciate that connection. We’re very much not faceless.

Why is it important to have a range of both digital and print books?

This question plagued us when we were digital-only and we always wondered if we were doing the right thing by focusing on a single medium. Eventually we decided that we weren’t. What is important about digital technology isn’t the end product. People want the option to choose whatever they individually prefer. The important part is how we connect. When we were creating just digital books we were holding ourselves back.

The success of that time was the community we had built. When we transitioned to paper books that became apparent and we’ve been growing steadily since. Readers want options and they want to feel involved.

What lessons have you learned about marketing books – what works and what doesn’t?

I still don’t know the answer to what makes a book sell. I only know how we have made it work for us. We don’t have unlimited reach or resources. There’s very little that we can do to actually market the books in a traditional sense.
What has worked for us is to build a community and reward everyone involved for the contribution that they make. I think early on we realised that we couldn’t just treat someone like a customer and forget about them. We really owe everything to the people who buy our books, so it didn’t seem right or fair to just market to them. If someone buys a Dead Ink book then they are taking a risk – just as we are in publishing it – and I think that sort of commitment deserves recognition and reward. That’s what I’ve tried to achieve with the community aspect of Dead Ink and I think that is what keeps us going.

What are you looking forward to for 2016?

2016 is going to be a big year for us with a lot happening. We’re already looking for next year’s authors and hopefully it will be our largest list yet. There are a few authors that we’re already interested in.

There are also going to be further developments in terms of our organisation and technology. I’m still thinking about the relationship between all of the elements of Dead Ink, and in 2016 that should not only grow but also develop to include something completely new.

Readers should expect more books as always, but also a new way to engage with a new type of literature. That’s all you’re getting for now though. We have to maintain an air of mystery.

You can follow Dead Ink on Twitter @DeadInkBooks

Find out more about them at http://deadinkbooks.com/

An interview with FutureBook founder Sam Missingham

Anyone who knows anything about the publishing world know that an interview with Sam Missingham is a Big Deal. Having worked for publishing giants such as the Bookseller, FutureBook and HarperCollins, she has forged an immensely successful and influential career in publishing and marketing within the books industry.

I’ve been an admirer and follower of Sam’s for a while now and I was very excited when she agreed to undertake this interview for my blog.

The lovely Sam Missingham

The lovely Sam Missingham

Can you give my readers a brief overview of your career so far?

 Sure.

I’ve spent the vast amount of my career working in magazine publishing. I started at a very small company that published financial technology titles. I learned a huge amount working in a small business with a very entrepreneurial boss. He taught me a few simple but important things – everyone in the company should be able to answer the phone & give a decent answer to any question about the business, also, pretty much every call coming into a business is a sales opportunity – if you understand everything that you sell.

I then worked at Centaur on many of their B2B magazines, including Marketing Week, Creative Review and New Media Age. I launched their community site MAD.co.uk (for marketing, advertising & design professionals). This is where I learned about building audiences/communities and the various ways you can get people to pay for content. And yes I was MAD Marketing Manager for a while 😉

 I took a career break to have my daughter, move town & divorce (why not do all of it at the same time, right?). I then worked for several years as a freelancer/consultant, always working on circulation & subscription strategy work. I worked on consumer magazines at Future Publishing on titles about weddings, cars, photography & design.

Seven years ago I was offered temporary freelance work on The Bookseller, where I stayed for 5 years. This was the most fulfilling 5 years of my career, mostly due to falling in love with the book business and being part of the industry while it transformed so dramatically. I launched the FutureBook community, blog, conference and awards while I was there which I am still very proud of.

One of the most exciting moments of my professional life, was when Charlie Redmayne, HarperCollins’ CEO offered me a job running events. Until that point I had NO experience in books, so I appreciate the leap of faith he made employing me. I have now been at HarperCollins for 18 months and I genuinely believe I have the best job in publishing. My remit is to come up with engaging events and campaigns across our entire list to put more books into more hands. Doesn’t get any better than that, does it?

 You originally studied maths and Russian at university. What lead you down the publishing and marketing career path?

Oh I forgot to mention above that I was also a spy for the KGB for a while. Kidding aside, I enjoyed studying Maths & Russian and although I haven’t used either of them directly, logic and arithmetic are useful skills to have in marketing. I didn’t exactly choose my career in magazines – I graduated in a horrible recession and it was the only job I could get. No regrets.

I genuinely believe I have the best job in publishing

Over the years and in your many marketing roles in the industry, what are some of the biggest changes youve experienced?

 I suppose the most significant and seismic shift would obviously be the Internet. I worked on a magazine charting the very start of the Internet around 1996, a time when businesses were launching websites for the first time. So, everything that has followed; email, ecommerce, social, apps etc. Hard to imagine now.

Youve won and been nominated for a number of big industry awards. Can you possibly pick one or two that you are most proud of and/or most touched by and explain why?

 Well, I’m proud of all of them. But being runner-up for the Pandora award for outstanding contribution to publishing takes some beating. Also, I was a runner-up to Dame Marjorie Scardino. How cool is that?

In your view, what role has social media and digital played in attracting more people to reading and the industry? Why has it been so effective?

 Wow, not sure I can do that question justice as the impact is so huge and varied. In very simple terms, social media has removed the barriers/gate keepers between readers and authors. It has also facilitated an open and engaged conversation amongst all book-lovers. Authors can now talk directly to librarians, bookshops to agents, book marketers to readers. There is certainly still a way to go for publishers to fully maximise the opportunity social offers, but that’s the fun and challenge of continual change.

 In terms of digital, it would be impossible for me to understate the impact Amazon has had on the book business. Not least creating an ebook ecosystem that actually worked. They are a phenomenally impressive business, a week hardly goes by where they haven’t launched a new program, service or tech innovation.

Digital has had impact across all areas of our business in areas too many to mention; in no particular order, significant shifts in the last 7 years: the Ipad, apps, Wattpad, KDP, mobile, YouTube – the list goes on

For those unfamiliar with virtual events  how do they work and what are the benefits? What have been particularly successful and challenging about the ones you’ve launched?

Yes, these have been great fun. The virtual festivals replicate literary festivals, but are delivered on social media. I have organised virtual festivals in romance, crime and SciFi, delivering engaging programs for readers/fans. I suppose the thing that is significant about these festivals is that they are publisher-agnostic, open and inclusive and global – everyone is welcome. As far as know, no other publisher has run events/campaigns where they have included other publisher, organisations and indie authors. My view is we all have the same aim – more books into more hands and working together genuinely puts the reader at the heart of what we’re doing. How many readers buy books from just one publisher, for example?

There have been a few highlights during these festivals, one being Margaret Atwood’s Twitter Q&A – she is a goddess. We also had Agatha Christie’s publisher answering questions about what it’s like to publish the Queen of Crime. Fab.

You have worked as Head of Events & Marketing for two of the biggest publishing organisations in the UK today The Bookseller and FutureBook. What has been the most rewarding part of these experiences?

Launching FutureBook and building an engaged community as the book industry transformed. During this time I made many friends across the industry, many of whom were gracious and supportive when quite frankly I knew nothing.

 Most rewarding part of publishing? The people, by a mile.

In very simple terms, social media has removed the barriers/gate keepers between readers and authors.

How important is collaboration in this industry?

 Extremely, as mentioned in my previous question. A rising tide lifts everyone, yes?

How does it feel to be a huge influencer in the publishing industry and what qualities do you feel are essential for a person to become successful in this area?

 Huge influencer is overstating things. The qualities I try to bring are enthusiasm, a genuine passion for books and the business, a broader interest in news and trends with a little irreverence, perhaps. One thing I am particularly passionate about is supporting students and people at the early stage of their careers. I see that has my responsibility and also very rewarding. Nothing better than seeing someone fly.

What would your advice be to someone interested in the industry in terms of attending literary and publishing events?

 Id recommend you attend London Book Fair  lots of free events and also talk to people in the coffee queue. Making contacts is the NUMBER ONE thing that will help you at every stage of your career. Also, Byte The Book, Book Machine and SYP all run excellent events throughout the year.

Youve worked on both newsletters, magazines and now books. How important do you feel working on a variety of publication types to be when building a publishing career?

 Not sure the publication types is the important bit. What is more valuable is working in different types of businesses. As I have said many times, retail experience is extremely useful, particular bookshops. But honestly, the skills you learn dealing with customers directly cant be underestimated. I grew up in a flower shop and also spent many years working in shoe shops and waitressing.

Working in other entertainment and digital businesses would also be useful. My philosophy is that no skills are ever wasted, so gain as much experience as possible.

Who are some of your favourite and more approachable authors and publishers that you have worked with and why?

I had the privilege of running an event with George RR Martin & Robin Hobb last summer. One of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. Spending an evening with George RR was how I imagine hanging out with Mick Jagger would be. A total rock star. He invited all of the Game of Thrones cosplayers back to his room after the event – you’d could see the real connection with his fans. Robin was an absolute delight too.

 On Twitter, there are a number of authors I think rock; Ian Rankin, Joanne Harris, Jill Mansell, Lindsey Kelk to name a few.

You can follow Sam on Twitter: @samatlounge

Check out The Bookseller and Futurebook sites.

Introducing Digital Marketer and ex-Editorial Assistant Lucy Houlden

Today’s interview is with Lucy Houlden, who used to work as an Editorial Assistant at my workplace Emerald Group Publishing. Funnily enough, we’ve never actually met in person, despite having formed a friendship online and knowing and working with many of the same people. She left Emerald a mere couple of weeks before I started. She noticed my new job role on LinkedIn and connected that way. Since meeting through Twitter, we’ve come to realise how similar our backgrounds and aspirations are. She’s an inspiration for me and further proof that coming from the North does not have to restrict your achievements in the publishing industry.

Lucy Houlden

Please introduce yourself and tell me a little bit about your background and your career so far.

Hello, I’m Lucy. I live way up north in lovely Durham, which is a great place for anyone who enjoys the essentials in life (tea and cake!). I come from Lincolnshire, but I moved up to Newcastle to study English Language and Literature, with a plan to pursue a career in publishing. Since then, I’ve picked up lots of different experience, including proof reading for a student newspaper, doing an internship with a literary magazine, starting up a company newsletter, doing work experience at Dorling Kindersley, and working in academic and business publishing. It’s been a very busy few years! However, everything is about to change once again, as I’m soon going to be moving into a new role in digital marketing.

What made you so interested in the publishing industry?

As a child, I nearly always had my nose in a book, so the idea of working behind the scenes to make books happen really sparked my interest. Spelling and grammar always clicked well with me too, so it made sense to pursue a career which involved writing and editing. Since working in the industry, however, I’ve realised that it’s about far more than just editing, and it’s opened my eyes to other skills such as marketing.

I also found it really rewarding to work closely with authors and editors.

Tell me a little bit about how you got into the industry.

I first started gathering experience at sixth form, by becoming the Editor of my school’s magazine. Then, when I went off to university, I became a proof reader for the university’s student newspaper. After I graduated, I did a 3 month voluntary internship with a literary magazine called Mslexia, which is based in Newcastle. I was struggling to find a paid role, as there are so few creative jobs up in Newcastle, but I didn’t want to leave as I’d fallen in love with the north and I’d met my boyfriend up here!

Eventually, I heard about an open day at Penguin Books called Getting Into Publishing. You had to apply for a place at the event, and I was lucky enough to get one. It was a brilliant day, with presentations by members of staff from Penguin, Puffin and Dorling Kindersley (DK). There was an opportunity to network with the members of staff, so I did my best to meet as many Editors as I could, and got hold of lots of their e-mail addresses. The next day, I got in touch with everyone I was interested in working with. I was also given a leaflet about a competition DK was running, where you could win work experience by promoting a DK product using social media. I actually ended up winning the competition, but was also offered work experience by one of the contacts I emailed, so I got two work experience placements!

The first one was a three-week placement with the DK Editorial department, and the next one was a few months later and was a one-week placement with the DK Marketing and PR team. I had some really fantastic experiences with DK, including helping out with a photo shoot, going to an editorial meeting for Puffin children’s books, meeting the late Sue Townsend and getting her autograph, and going to a talk by the Editor of Vogue. I had a fantastic time, and getting the valuable experience under my belt meant that a few months later, I got my first paid role, as an Assistant Publisher for an academic publishing house called Emerald Group Publishing in Yorkshire. It was a long journey, and I had to be very persistent, but I got there eventually! After that, I went on to have a role with a business publisher in Gateshead, and moved up to Durham where I am now.

What has been the most rewarding part of your career in publishing?

I found it really rewarding when I ran campaigns at Emerald to promote the journals, and got some really good results from that. It makes you feel like what you’ve done is worthwhile when you can see the usage of the articles has increased. That’s what made me interested in pursuing the marketing route! I also found it really rewarding to work closely with authors and editors and solve any problems they had. When they gave me positive feedback, it made me feel really good that I was able to help them.

You might need to be flexible and make some compromises.

Tell me a little bit about Publishing In The North, your blog. What motivated you to start this up?

I started this blog quite soon after I started working at Emerald. As I mentioned earlier, it had taken me quite a while to break into a paid role in publishing whilst living in the north of England. I suppose I wanted to share some of my findings, and to show that it is possible to pursue a publishing career up here, although it’s very tough and there certainly aren’t enough jobs for everyone. I also wanted to try to create a central place for any news about publishing in the north to be advertised, such as events run by the Society of Young Publishers and job vacancies. Unfortunately, I have been extremely lax at keeping it going though, so it is woefully neglected!

I was partly inspired by a publishing blog called Diary of a Publishing Intern (now renamed Diary of a Publishing Professional, available at http://diaryofapublishingintern.blogspot.co.uk). It’s a really good blog as it lists opportunities such as work experience and jobs, but they’re mostly in London. I wanted to try to provide something similar for the north, although of course there is less going on!

What advice do you have for those who live in the North who would like to pursue a career in publishing?

Be persistent, as it’s not going to be easy if you want to stay up north! Do whatever you can to get some experience under your belt. For example, you could start writing book reviews, proof read your university newspaper or ask local media organisations if they could give you work experience. You might need to be flexible and make some compromises. For instance, you might always have dreamt of editing fiction, but if you want to stay in the north then you’ll have better job prospects if you consider a much broader variety of publications. You’ll also probably need to consider quite a wide search area. I worked in Yorkshire and travelled back to see my boyfriend in Durham at weekends for a couple of years, which was a compromise but it was worth it in the end.

Getting some work experience in London can also be very valuable in the long run. I know it might seem too expensive to go down there, but it is possible if you really want it. I did my work experience whilst on annual leave from my paid job in Newcastle (with their permission), and whilst I was in London I slept in youth hostels so that I could afford it! I would advise people to check out the Getting Into Publishing event at Penguin books as well, if it’s still running this year. It’s usually held in around October/November.

What’s next for you in your career? How has your time in publishing helped equip you for this next exciting step?

I’m soon going to be starting work at a digital marketing agency. I’ll be working in the Search team, so I’ll be helping clients to ensure their websites are performing well in search engine results, for example by making sure that their online content is top notch. There’s going to be lots to learn! Working in publishing has definitely helped me to reach this point, as I probably wouldn’t have realised marketing was a route I was interested in if I hadn’t experienced it as an Editorial Assistant at Emerald. There are also lots of transferrable skills between publishing and marketing, such as written and oral communications skills, problem solving, analysing data and working with external stakeholders. Working as an Editorial Assistant was extremely demanding and varied, and I think it’s prepared me for just about anything!

You can find me on Twitter at @LucyHoulden.

My (much abandoned) blog is at www.publishinginthenorth.wordpress.com

Do you have any further questions for Lucy? Input them into the comments box below and I will get them answered for you! Any other comments are also welcomed and encouraged.

Introducing Content Marketing Executive Kathryn Palmer

My colleague at Emerald Group Publishing very kindly agreed to interview with me for my blog – I always want to offer my readers a look at publishing from a number of different angles. Kat works in the marketing department of the company and works closely with me day to day on our portfolio of titles. Here she provides a look at marketing in the publishing industry and the challenges of marketing academic research…

My Emerald Group Publishing colleague, Kat Palmer

My Emerald Group Publishing colleague, Kat Palmer

What attracted you to working for an academic publishing company?

Education has a huge, everlasting impact on our lives – whether you received a good or bad education has an influence on your career choices, development, and to certain extent happiness.

To be a part of an organisation which influences the best research for higher education students, as well as developing our knowledge and growth both economically and socially across the globe had huge appeal for me!

How much does it differ from your last company and in what ways? What was the most challenging part of moving on to such a different company?

It’s almost completely different; my previous company was B2B focussed selling document management solutions, so saying it was a bit of a culture shock joining Emerald is an understatement!

I think the biggest change has been my day-to-day job and the audience I’m now working for. At my previous company, I was doing lots of everything focussing on lead generation from paper-heavy organisations. Here, I am working solely for our academic audience (users and creators) in a much more strategic, focussed manner.

The benefits of marketing in the trade publishing industry are obvious to the general consumer. Why is marketing so important in the dissemination of academic research?

Humans have always wanted to know more, and to have the ability to find out more about their interests or specialist area and share it with other likeminded people; leading to a circular learning-understanding-sharing system.

But in a world where information online is growing faster than people will ever be able to read it, marketing is key in ensuring this process continues – if it weren’t for meta data, PPC, campaigning, positioning or communication, that research may be lost in cyberspace and the potential to learn a little bit more about the world can easily be lost.

The purpose of marketing in academia is to ensure this knowledge is found, read, understood and shared.

Marketing is a bit like watching a series on TV – miss one episode and you’re not quite sure how the story has developed.

What would you say are the most essential qualities that a successful marketing professional must have?

Understanding your audience and what they want is the first commandment for any successful marketer. You may get some success just ‘trying stuff out’, but if you want marketing to positively impact the growth, prosperity and reputation of your organisation, you must know your audience inside-out.

What do you enjoy most about your job and what do you find the most challenging?

I love the buzz in the office on a Friday afternoon after a successful week; I love the challenge of ensuring everything we do considers the customer first; and I love that my passion for creative writing is fulfilled every day through the work I produce.

The most challenging aspect for me is always wanting more – more analytics, more insight, more customer satisfaction. I don’t perceive these challenges as negatives though, more opportunities to help achieve a better relationship with our stakeholders.

The best companies in the world are the ones with the strongest relationships with its customers, no matter how big or small it is; and it’s a never ending, constantly evolving target. There is no bigger challenge, or opportunity, than that.

How important do you feel it is for academics and scholarly authors and editors to engage in social media and why?

I think it’s absolutely essential; people will do things for those they know, can communicate with and feel connected to. If scholarly authors want their research to be found and read across the globe, social media offers the perfect platform to create meaningful relationships with their audience through social media channels like Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. These global relationships would have been much harder, if not impossible, to develop before social media existed.

What recent marketing innovations and tools have excited you recently?

Marketing automation, big data, written and graphical storytelling as a form of marketing communication, the evolution of social media in marketing…. There isn’t much that doesn’t excite me about marketing developments, to be honest.

It’s a constantly evolving industry (like most) and moves and develops incredibly quickly, which is what keeps the job exciting, and helps me to stay motivated and innovative in everything I do.

The best company in the world is the one with the strongest relationships with its customers.

How do you keep up to date with the marketing industry and its developments?

I read a LOT; predominantly online research using Google Alerts, industry newsletters and webinars. I’m very committed to spending time finding out what’s happening in the industry in order to develop my own skills and help meet company goals.

It’s a bit like watching a series on TV – miss one episode and you’re not quite sure how the story has developed. It’s the same with marketing; you stop looking for the latest developments and trends and suddenly your marketing activity ceases to be as effective as it could be, if only you’d paid proper attention!

You can follow Kat on Twitter @KatPal24 and her portfolio subject at Emerald @EmeraldMktg

To find out more about Emerald Group Publishing, visit www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com

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