SAY WHAT YOU WANT! #SWYW

Pay What You Want is over. Done and dusted. But it was great. We were able to bring customers together with their wish-list books at a price they could afford and continue to spread knowledge far and wide at the same time. And this month, we are doing something different.

Say What You Want is the name we have chosen for our new marketing campaign. The goal: to get to know our customers better, understand their needs and preferences and prepare to better cater to them in the future; to help professors in their mission to motivate and support students; and last but not least, to make sure that our authors’ experience with Cornell University Press as their publisher is one they are delighted with.

How it works: we have designed three different surveys,

  1. Our survey for customers and the general reader
  2. Our survey for professors
  3. Our survey for Cornell University Press authors

How to participate: Click on the corresponding link above and submit your responses, follow @CornellPress on Twitter and Facebook, OR visit our website and subscribe to our mailing list! The questions are short and simple, with a majority in multiple-choice format that reflect how much we value everybody’s time.

What’s in it for you: as a thank you present, you’ll get a 50 percent off discount code that can be used in our website to purchase any of our books. And here’s the icing on the cake: every participant will also be entered in a raffle for a chance to win $250 in #CornellPress titles of their choice!

I can’t wait to dig into the results and find out about the latest trends in reading and our customers’ preferences when it comes to books. What formats do they prefer? Do they listen to audiobooks while they commute, or maybe while doing laundry? How important is a title? And when it comes to professors, what are their main concerns regarding course adoption? How can we provide suitable materials for their students? Are our authors content with the way we are doing things at Cornell University Press? How can we improve?

In the competitive, forever evolving world of publishing, it is our belief that we have to be willing to take the next step and be flexible enough so that we can adapt to new environments, our consumers’ lifestyles, striving to improve our offer in order to meet their expectations and desires. Granted, surveys may not be the most ground-breaking and innovative marketing tool, but they have proved to be reliable, efficient, and if implemented successfully, of great use.

 


About the author of this blog post: Adriana Ferreira is the Social Media Coordinator at Cornell University Press. She will take any survey as long as the reward is tempting enough and would love to take part in the #SWYW promotion!

SAY WHAT YOU WANT! #SWYW

Gerri Jones, Professor Cleese, and Me

Last summer, Gerri Jones called to tell me that Cornell Professor at Large John Cleese would be coming to Ithaca in September for a week. She told me that she had scheduled me for a public talk with Cleese on September 11th at Bailey Hall that would become the last chapter of the book we were working on together.

Since joining this amazing Press in 2015, moments like this seemed to occur with some regularity. I attended a poetry workshop at Olin Library café with a former leader of the SDS at Cornell, a Nobel Laureate and an A.R. Ammons biographer. Today, I am surrounded by correspondence rejecting Vladimir Nabokov’s novel in verse and a ledger that holds the 1939 pencil-written royalty entries for the publication of The Nature of the Chemical Bond. I am also keenly aware at times of Cornell founder Henry Sage and his wife Susan who initially occupied the mansion where I work. Gerri Jones fit right in as part of an emerging entourage.

A small family of deer mingled outside my window looking in my direction as if waiting for an answer. Surely someone else would want the opportunity to have this conversation. Gerri confirmed that she had cleared it with the Provost’s office, and that the Provost would be introducing us both. I still didn’t believe it was going to happen.

cleese cover

More than one year after that call and the event that formed the final chapter of Professor at Large: The Cornell Years, Gerri Jones passed away on August 10th, 2018. She was 68. She died from an infection in the hospital while being treated for leukemia.

This mystical and extraordinary woman who first alighted upon the second-floor landing of the Sage House during a folk concert never got to see her book get published. It was Gerri who brought one of the world’s most impressive and hilarious minds to Cornell over a span of seventeen years.

“Start thinking about a plan for the conversation,” she instructed me.

 

As it always was with Gerri, I knew what she meant. Avoid the cliched version of the Professor. Don’t spend a lot of time on Python—which I already knew anyway. If my words didn’t energize Gerri—she became bored and disinterested. She’d make a face. You had to elevate your game to be on the field with her. Those words reverberated in the weeks after the call. I dove into the Cleese canon of books, movies, and television shows. His mind came first. I read the manuscript of lectures and talks over and over.

While studying the Minister of Silly Walks, I recalled Gerri’s return to Sage House after the folk concert wearing knee-length boots and John Lennon shades. She carried a white shopping bag of Cleese talks and lectures on CDs. She told us about the never before published lecture entitled “The Sermon at Sage Chapel” that included a passage about “The Psychopaths for Christ.”

I received word of her passing and attended her funeral. She was supposed to be in remission now.

Through her friends, I came to discover that this whole episode was another glorious chapter in the amazing life of Gerri Jones. She could tilt the universe in any direction. She brought the Dalai Lama to Ithaca twice as the house mother to the Tibetan monks. She carried Kurt Cobain’s ashes back to Courtney Love after the monks had prepared them. She had even used one set as a door stop. She broke Reagan’s blockade of Nicaragua. She was the pride of Central Islip High on Long Island. To everyone there, she was simply “Ger.”

She loved Mardi Gras, dogs and Professor Cleese fiercely. They trusted each other and their chemistry was telepathic. She engineered a schedule that both challenged and protected him and left him with enough space to be creative. “I can’t read him,” he told Gerri during our second meeting after trying to discern the meaning of my facial expression. I can tell you that in that moment I felt absolute joy. My preparation for the talk had been rigorous and thorough. Professor Cleese had been talking about the brain and I leaned back in my chair and smiled. Yes, I had a little secret. I had known exactly what he was going to say before the words came out but I didn’t want to tell him that in the aftermath. Getting to know John Cleese is like learning how to play guitar. The chord structures are accessible, but they merely serve as a launch pad into an endless galaxy of improvisation.

I was ready for the public conversation and had enough confidence in his presence to suggest how the show was going to begin. After nearly falling off the chair with laughter, he agreed. Until now, Gerri was the only one I told this to in the hallway after we left Cleese that day. She and I have other secrets related to the book. Those we will keep. She swore me to it.

“We make a good team, don’t we?” She pinched my arm.

GERRI
Photo courtesy of Slade Kennedy.

 

About the author of this blog post: Dean Smith is the Director of Cornell University Press.

Gerri Jones, Professor Cleese, and Me

Cornell Press BOOK #WorldCUP has kicked off!

The World Cup has kicked off in Russia today and at Cornell University Press we are playing along! To make the best sporting event even better, we’ve created our own Book #WorldCUP bracket, each country who made it to Russia represented by a book of our choice.

As the countries progress through (or are eliminated from) the World Cup, their paired books will, too, until we have a winner.

Each of our selected thirty-two books are discounted 10 percent on our website starting June 20. As each team advances on to the next stage, its corresponding book will earn a better discount. Books making it to the round of sixteen will be 20 percent off. Reach the quarter finals and save 30 percent. Forty percent off the semi-finalists, and fifty percent off the two books that make it to the final on July 15th. And because we love the World Cup so much (well Martyn and I do), we’ll give you 75 percent off the winning book to celebrate!

So, follow along with our Book World Cup bracket, and see which books win you a better discount:

GROUP A: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay

GROUP B: Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran

GROUP C: France, Australia, Peru, Denmark

GROUP D: Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria

GROUP E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia

GROUP F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden, S. Korea

GROUP G: Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England

GROUP H: Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan

——

About the author of this blog post: Adriana Ferreira is the Social Media Coordinator at Cornell University Press. She is obsessed with the World Cup and is convinced that Uruguay, her country of origin, will win the tournament. She is looking forward to getting her copy of Informal Workers and Collective Action with a 75 percent discount.

 

Cornell Press BOOK #WorldCUP has kicked off!

It’s 70 Percent of the World, You Might as Well Love It

I grew up on an island, never all that far from the ocean. My dad met my mum because he sailed the ocean as a merchant seaman. He taught me to sail when I was little. I remember standing in the Atlantic Ocean just off Copacabana Beach in Brazil watching a big wave break over my head. I learned to surf in the Pacific Ocean off the Gold Coast of Australia. I skim-boarded the edge of the Atlantic Ocean along Higgins Beach in Portland, Maine, and, more importantly, proposed to my wife there. I’ve sailed in the Mediterranean and the English Channel and the North Sea. I’ve dipped a toe or ten into the Indian Ocean off the coast of Sri Lanka. I’ve been fortunate to touch the oceans and seas of the world from top to bottom. I love the ocean, its incessant sound, both terrifying and peaceful, its swell and fall, its wind, its colors, its life. I love the ocean, but I fear it, too, as any good son of a sailor should.

Happy World Oceans Day

——

Recommended read for today:

marine world
Available here

About the author of this blog post: Martyn Beeny is Marketing and Sales Director at Cornell University Press. One day he’s going to live on a sailboat. Until then, I guess he’ll carry on marketing books.

It’s 70 Percent of the World, You Might as Well Love It

And what is the use of a book . . . without pictures or conversations? (My first time @BookExpo)

I attended  BookExpo in NYC, last Thursday, for the first time.  I had no idea of what to expect, so I’m sharing here a recap of everything I took (and didn’t take) from BookExpo 2018:

The variety. People and books everywhere, I felt like Alice in Book Wonderland. Sometimes shrinking within the crowd, sometimes enlarging by book displays, only to find myself chasing The White Rabbit, always late for the next talk that I wanted to attend. What a fascinating conglomeration of publishers, titles, events, and everything that is new in the publishing world!

The networking. Whether in booths or in the long lines for book signings, the atmosphere was electric. I was delighted to talk to other colleagues with different interests and from the most varied backgrounds. The result: I walked out of BookExpo with fresh insights, new marketing tools provided by the speakers from Ingram, and more importantly, a handful of business cards with the contact information of people with whom I will collaborate in the future.

The University Press world. I spent my afternoon visiting the other university presses exhibiting at BookExpo. I met with fellow marketers and exhibitors, and we chatted about catalogue design, the most cost-effective merchandising for publishers, new releases, and last but not least, how to better promote our books on our social media platforms.

The food. More excited than the Hatter at the Mad Tea Party—and forgetting about that article with tips for first time attendees—I ate at the Javits Center’s food court. It had a surprisingly wide array of options, and even a vegetarian selection. Plus, I met a wonderful lady in line and we shared our lunch, talking about the importance of encouraging children to read from a very early age. Priceless.

The giveaways & galleys. My Queen of Hearts, both antagonist and favorite character. Even though I gathered some books and souvenirs, I felt a bit underwhelmed by the few giveaways available at the event. On the bright side, I found everyone at their booths to be very animated, always handing out a catalogue or business card when they didn’t have a galley to offer.

The maze. The King of Hearts. Even though by walking in circles I found exhibits that were not in my loop, I found the layout of the event to be a bit confusing. I spent a fair amount of time looking for the Midtown stage, with no BookExpo volunteers in sight to ask for directions, and a small map not suitable for a short-sighted person like me.

The wandering about. Finally, I just took the time to wander about. During this time, I wrote on the “What is the book that changed your life?” wall, entered a contest to win a book basket, wheeled my little bag around until I got a few children’s titles for my son, and even met a translator that recommended some books in Spanish that I will read in the near future.

All in all, I found BookExpo to be a success. I appreciate the contagious energy, the excitement, and the friendliness that transpired in that place. It reminded me of the magic worlds that open up with every page we read, and the fact that behind every book that is published, there is a story, an author, and a team of dedicated people who are working hard to bring it to life.

——

About the author of this blog post: Adriana Ferreira is the Social Media Coordinator at Cornell University Press. She is grateful to have attended BookExpo 2018 and more than anything, to the people at Sleeping Bear Press who gave her free cake for dessert!

 

And what is the use of a book . . . without pictures or conversations? (My first time @BookExpo)

#PWYW reflection (a recap of the most successful marketing campaign in CUP history!)

20,000 – number of impressions of first PWYW tweet

12,000 – number of reads of blog posts about PWYW sale

4,700 – number of books sold on PWYW day

1,500 – number of offers made on PWYW day

1,000 – number of views of PWYW mini movie

150 – number of website visitors every minute during PWYW

20 – number of hours team worked on the sale

10 – number of website visitors every minute when it’s not PWYW day

3 – number of pizzas eaten by marketing team

2 – number of videos made for PWYW by marketing team

1 – number of Inside Higher Ed articles written about PWYW sale

 

The dust has settled on PWYW Day so it’s time to take you through the most successful marketing campaign in CUP history.

When I first came up with the basic concept for the sale in February I thought it best to run the idea past our non-marketing colleagues to see what they thought. I didn’t want to run into resistance to the idea or miss something important regarding what was an extremely unusual marketing campaign for a university press. Overall, I received a lukewarm response. Some people raised concerns about logistics, some questioned the message it might send to customers and authors, some thought it gimmicky. I shelved the idea and turned our attention to a more typical end-of-(fiscal) year sale.

But the concept lingered in my mind. When the marketing team went through a strategic planning exercise last year, we created our own vision statement designed to push us to be the best possible marketers we can be. We focused on the words, pioneering and innovative. The pay-what-you-want sale idea seemed exactly that. We chatted again, as a team, and decided to use another of our deeply held mantras: trying and failing is not a bad thing. The PWYW sale was on.

Because of the slight delay between original concept and deciding to run with it, we had to push the sale through on a short deadline. All our scholars and academics shut down their computers and flee for vacations or sabbaticals in the summer, after all. Arbitrarily, we chose May 15th.

In the planning phase, I kept repeating to my team that because no other university press had done this before, we could not anticipate everything. We could lay out a solid foundation and project as best we could what might happen, but we could not foresee every eventuality, every odd email request, the reactions of the media, customers, our customer service team, and everyone else. We could though, focus on the promotional campaign. How would we get word out? Drip. Drip. Drip. The tease. A tweet, a video, progressively more detailed emails, more social.

And, obviously, as marketers, we didn’t focus on all the little, tedious details! How would our customer service team deal with the people who made offers, for example? Did we have enough helping hands? Would we use a central phone line? Had we even thought out the potential software glitches we could run into, or how to resolve the snafus of lost shipment?

We also, it turned out, completely underestimated the success of the sale. Prior to May 1 when we kicked things off with our first tweet—the one that got 20,000 impressions—I thought we’d maybe get a couple hundred offers. But once our social and email campaigns kicked in, we began to revise our estimates.

At the last minute we reconfigured the whole sale. Rather than receiving offers and pointing people in the direction of customer service to place their order, we created twenty-five special campaign codes to give to customers depending on what they offered. Those codes would then be used on our website directly. Customer service wouldn’t come into the picture until the aftermath: dealing with errors, issues, and fulfilling orders as quickly as possible. We ordered a gift basket from Zingerman’s for the CSRs.

A week before the sale, we went from thinking we’d maybe need three or four people checking emails on a semi-regular basis throughout the day to bringing the whole team (plus the director) into one room with laptops and desktops, putting all other work to one side, and barely leaving our seats or the room for twelve hours. And then Inside Higher Ed got in touch and published an article online about our no-longer-so-little sale.

On the big day, I arrived at 7:30am, closely followed by a colleague. We set up, sat down, and quickly realized we had no way of accessing the specially created email address for the sale to start responding to offers. We had decided to assign one team member to the email address and she would forward emails as they came in to each team member in rotation. I called and texted. No answer. Thankfully, our email forwarder showed up fairly soon; she had been walking to work and her cell phone was on silent. My mild panic reverted to excitement.

The “war room” quickly filled up and we had to make a little more room at the table as Dean Smith, our director, joined the fray with a perky (it was 8:30am!), “is there room for me?”

After the first hour it was already apparent that we hadn’t even come close to anticipating the response level we would get. We’d hit the 100 emails answered mark, and Adriana (our email comptroller) kept saying things like, “there are so many,” and “I can’t believe it.” Sort of to herself. Each of us, I think, had no idea how many emails she even had in her inbox.

A couple of hours in and we had established a rhythm and a system. What we had planned for went pretty smoothly. What we hadn’t planned for, we dealt with on the fly, creating new systems and procedures as things came up. By lunchtime the banter was quick witted, the music had already gone from jazz to rap to show tunes to big-hair bands and everything in between. I learned a lot about my team’s musical preferences. Four hundred emails had been answered.

By lunchtime it was undeniable that even with nine people working non-stop, we couldn’t keep up with the volume. We were answering emails that had come in four hours earlier in some cases and the sale inbox just kept filling up. This was another unexpected development, but, obviously, a good one. For us. We didn’t want customers to wait and wait and wait but we also didn’t want to conscript other CUP staff because there was a reasonably steep learning curve involved and the team was in a groove.

Many of the emails we received from people making offers included stories or explanations about why they were making this particular offer. Some of these stories were fascinating. Some emails contained profound declarations of appreciation for the sale and the opportunity to acquire some of our books. When a particularly good one came in, we read it out loud. Cheryl, our publicity manager, told us about a priest and his desire to read some of our books. An hour later she exclaimed, “the priest is back.”

The vast majority of people made good and fair offers and we accepted them. The team openly delighted in saying, “yes” to a person’s offer and sometimes felt sad when we could not accept one. A few people made offers that caused incredulity, and every now and then a team member would gasp or chuckle with wry amusement. “Twenty dollars for fifty books!” or something similar would bring a shake of the head and a “sorry, your offer isn’t quite good enough” email was sent.

On Twitter, #PWYW got enough attention that for the briefest of moments it trended. Colleagues from other departments made the trek to the third-floor war room to offer encouragement and to see what all the fuss was about and discover why they hadn’t seen a marketer for hours. These delightful interactions – online and in person – gave us more energy and on we pushed.

At 4:30pm EST we started using our social feeds to let people know the end of PWYW approached fast, and that if they didn’t hear back from us on PWYW day, we’d get to their offers as soon as possible. I had set up the special codes to be live for three days rather than one just in case something happened that we couldn’t predict. By this time in the day I may have been pleased with my foresight!

By 7:30pm on the 15th, when the last of us left for the evening, we had responded to approximately 1,000 emails. I spent the rest of the evening emailing the remaining 500 people to let them know we’d get back to them on the 16th. Anecdotally, the team thought that on average people made offers for three books and that most people made offers between $10 and $15 for each book. There didn’t seem to be a clear “leader” in which subject areas interested people or which books had received the most offers.

On the 16th we regrouped and spent another eight hours responding to emails. On the 17th we dealt with those we inadvertently missed.

Within a week, people started receiving their books. I’ve never seen as many pictures of university press books being ripped out of boxes or proudly displayed in a stack with comments such as, “just got my CUP #PWYW books,” “It’s Christmas in May!” or “Yes, they’ve arrived! #PWYW.” In essence we’ve received a second round of social promotion. This we did not foresee!

The Pay What You Want sale was a success. Simple as that.

We haven’t seen engagement with our brand, our books, and our people at such peak levels before. I don’t know, yet, if we can find them again with a marketing campaign, but we’ll certainly try. We know what this kind of success looks and feels like now and we’re all keen to experience it again. I’ve had people ask when we’re doing a PWYW day again. The answer, in all likelihood, is never. Certainly not for a long time. Part of the success came from the unexpected nature of this campaign, from the excitement it generated, from the agency people felt in telling us what they wanted to pay. I don’t want to try to recreate that success using the same formula. Instead, I want my team and I to be innovative and pioneering once again. I don’t want us to walk down the same path, even if it is a freshly trodden one. I want us to blaze a completely new trail.

Don’t worry, we’ll let you know when we put on our hiking boots again.

But what did we learn?

Well, people really liked this whole thing.

Grad students really liked this whole thing. It would seem that grad students want to buy our books but find the high-priced scholarly books they need too expensive.

Authors liked the sale. Perhaps less obvious but, anecdotally, the attention that some authors received went down really well. Yes, their books were purchased for significantly less than retail, but they’re being read!

Individual customers are willing to part with relatively large sums of cash for scholarly books if they believe they are getting a deal.

The act of making a deal is empowering.

Being told “you’re offer isn’t quite good enough” did not put too many people off; most people came back with a better offer.

Some people might have been trying to make a handsome profit off the sale by buying books as cheaply as they could and reselling them!

I’m not sure we learned much about the price points of scholarly books. The average offer was too low to be a sustainable business model for university presses. Perhaps, though, the average offer indicates that rethinking the pricing model used by most university presses is necessary.

You need a flexible and modern team of CSRs that is willing to go above and beyond in order to make this kind of sale work.

And, anecdotally, from the #PWYW team:

“PWYW was a sort of rejuvenation for me. I’ve been reminded, thanks to PWYW, that people still want to buy, and read, books. Given the overwhelming response we received from students, there is a whole new generation to pick up the slack.”—Nathan

“There was something exhilarating about directly interacting with so many ardent fans of our books in such a compressed amount of time. It felt personal and large-scale at the same time. I got into this line of work to help build communities of readers, and PWYW felt like we were doing exactly that.”—Cheryl

“It’s rare that publishers ever interact directly with their customers and I enjoyed hearing back from PWYW buyers who were deeply thankful and touched that we offered our books in this way. Late on the first night, a customer called us back and I helped her with a code and talked about her next book –an ethnographic study of living on the Afghanistan border in the early 2000s. It may end up with us.”—Dean

“My main takeaway is how unique an experience it was and how much fun it was to work together in one central *war room.* it was definitely one of the more memorable experiences I’ve had in 3 years of working at the Press.”—Elizabeth

“My impression of the PWYW sale was a feeling of gratitude from our customers. A positive experience for me and an affirmation of the importance of our books.”—David

“We received so many positive emails from students and professors deeply thanking us for this sale, and it felt really good to be able to help so many people get books they’ve always wanted.“—Jonathan

Recommended playlist (with just some of the classics that played on the afternoon of May 15th):

 

About the author of this blog post: Martyn Beeny is Marketing and Sales Director at Cornell University Press and a freelance consultant charging inordinate amounts per hour to other university presses for advice about running a PWYW sale.

 

#PWYW reflection (a recap of the most successful marketing campaign in CUP history!)

The really small influencer

Influencers are everywhere. You’re famous? Please hold our product, take a selfie, and post it to Facebook. You have the coolest Instagram account, with thousands of followers? Please hold our product, take a carefully arranged selfie, and post it. You tweet every thirty seconds? Please tag us. Companies are practically falling over themselves to take product placement to a new level.

hipster-mum-236831-unsplash
Photo by Hipster Mum on Unsplash

The days of carefully placed paid-for products in a film or TV show aren’t gone, but with watching habits having changed forever and audience segmentation at unheard of heights, paying vast sums of money to have your product held in a certain way or placed, just-so, in a shot, is no longer quite the value proposition it once was. Product placement didn’t disappear, it’s simply migrated. Move over Hollywood films and network TV shows, you now get an artfully positioned product in (it seems) almost every social post you see.

But for scholarly publishers, “influencers” tend not to be (for the most part) household names or people with massive social media followings. Doesn’t matter. We can still join in the influencer fun. We’re already seeing a shift towards micro-influencers, and this could well be the moment to make our play. Micro-influencers can be defined however you wish, of course, and much of it is subjective. But smaller numbers of followers doesn’t mean micro-influencers have no power. Good news for university presses! Identifying and cultivating a couple of key micro-influencers in each field in which you publish could lead to significant leads and brand awareness. Or, more excitingly, it could lead to some great, awkward selfies of people holding books in front of their mirror. Honestly, if that happens, any investment in the micro-influencer model will have been well worth it.

But seriously, embracing the potential of scholarly micro-influencers on social platforms seems a really smart thing to do for our books. One could argue that the blurber is the original influencer in our industry, but many more eyeballs will see an influencer on social, than they will on the back of a scholarly book. The potential impact of the micro-influencer for university presses should be a significant ROI, since it’s a relatively inexpensive and resource “free” marketing campaign. Identify your key influencers, provide an incentive, embrace modern-day product placement at its finest, and sit back.

Recommended watch: What is an influencer?

 

About the author of this blog post: Martyn Beeny is Marketing and Sales Director at Cornell University Press. His Instagram account only has forty-six followers but he still dreams of being an influencer.

The really small influencer

Hot Take from #PWYW

Last week, the marketing team chatted about the forthcoming Pay What You Want sale. Last-minute logistics were discussed. I threw out the idea that maybe only three or four of us would be sufficient to handle the email offers on PWYW day. My team pushed back and said it would be best to start with everyone on board and see what happened. I listened. And now I pat myself on the back.

Still a little bit hesitant about our PWYW experiment, we used a mini movie, blog posts, emails, social media, word-of-mouth, and our website, to promote the campaign. We cross-promoted, we coordinated. Ahead of the big day, more than 24,000 emails went out with an open rate of 33%. Our first tweet hit 15,000 impressions. Our first blog blew past 2,500 reads. Before Tuesday, I already considered PWYW day a success. Now, I consider it simply amazing. The outreach, the branding, the goodwill, the communication, the media attention, and the buzz have been beyond my expectations; the number of offers made exceeded anything I could have foreseen.

mkt team PWYW
CUP Marketing team minus Marketing Designer Elizabeth Kim (from left to right): David Mitchell (Exhibits/Awards Coorinator), Nathan Gemignani (Metadata & Special Sales Rep.), Cheryl Quimba (Publicity Manager), Adriana Ferreira (Social Media Coordinator), Martyn Beeny (Marketing Director), Carmen Torrado (Marketing Assistant), and Jonathan Hall (Digital Marketing Manager)

Two days after the sale, I’m just floored by the response on the day. My team were right. We needed every marketing hand available, plus the boss. Nine of us spent twelve hours on May 15th, and another nine hours the next day responding to all the amazing people who made their PWYW offers. I don’t yet have the specifics, but I want to get my initial thoughts down on “paper,” in the immediate aftermath of what I believe was a truly innovative and pioneering marketing campaign in our little university press world.

Anecdotally, 1,500 people made offers to us. In 10 hours. They WANTED our books.

I can’t wait to dig into the metrics, to analyze the data from the day, to draw conclusions about what we do and how we do it. I’ll write in more depth about the sale and what we learned in due time, but for now, just know that I am proud of my team, proud of the books we sold far and wide, and so incredibly grateful to all those who thought highly enough of PWYW and our books to take a chance and make us an offer.

——

About the author of this blog post: Martyn Beeny is Marketing and Sales Director at Cornell University Press. He had a dream for PWYW; his team made it a reality.

Hot Take from #PWYW

May 15th PAY WHAT YOU WANT day is already a hit!

We announced it a few weeks ago and our PAY WHAT YOU WANT sale that is happening next Tuesday, May 15th, is already rocking the Sage House! So far, our first blog post has 1,631 views, our announcing Tweet made 10,498 impressions, and our promotional YouTube video follows with 385 views.

So don’t miss out on this unique opportunity to get your Cornell Press wishlist books, at the price you name:

TUESDAY MAY 15*U.S.A. only

 

Recommended watch – featuring all Cornell Press actors & film crew:

 

About the author of this blog post: Adriana Ferreira is the Social Media Coordinator at Cornell University Press. She has been at the job for one month and is delighted to have directed a movie and helped orchestrate the most successful university press book sale ever, in such a short time!

May 15th PAY WHAT YOU WANT day is already a hit!

The reality of book sales (is an asteroid hurtling through space)     

In February, Publishers Weekly released data indicating that print book sales dropped 4 percent in 2017. The early-warning doomsdayers are looking skywards and believing they see an asteroid making its way towards the book publishing world. Perhaps. Although I don’t believe so. What I do believe, though, is that we’ve entered a new paradigm for book sales, particularly for sales of scholarly books.

cesar-viteri-426877-unsplash
Photo by César Viteri on Unsplash

If we consider recent data, it quickly becomes apparent that what was once true is no longer. Sales of individual titles are just not the same as they were five or ten years ago. The reasons for the drop are myriad, of course, and have been discussed over and over. To list just a few, libraries no longer purchase as many books, new types of courses that use non-traditional materials emerged, there’s a perceived aversion to print books from both students and younger scholars (although I’m not truly buying that one), and, of course, there’s the internet. And so on. Regardless of the foundational reasons, the reality is that what we all thought to be our baseline for sales on any given type of scholarly book has changed.

My study of books published in the last twenty-four months shows a drop of between ten and twenty percent in expected first-year sales (XFS) over books published in the previous twenty-four months. It’s a relatively small sample size, but it’s still indicative in a way, and will cause us to evaluate how best to approach sales projections in the next couple of years. What this little bit of analysis doesn’t show, is the three-year projected sales (or beyond). I’ll look at trends there in a coming blog post, but my hope is that we can overcome the drop in XFS over the longer haul through focused marketing and new techniques and technologies.

This reality check isn’t all doom and gloom. Sure, we’d all love sales to be ticking upwards at the same rate as they fall, but that isn’t happening. But the end of the (book publishing) world isn’t yet here and I have cause for optimism. These new real numbers will, if anything, push us to find efficiencies across the Press, and to look for the very best of all projects that have the biggest upside and show an XFS of n+25% (or some other wonderfully optimistic number). We’ll be forced to innovate, finding new and creative (and inexpensive or collaborative) platforms to use to help us boost sales. To borrow an oft-used phrase of a few years ago, we’re going to have to “git ‘r done.”

Having reworked the marketing team over the past six months, hired three new people, and developed a nascent marketing strategic plan, we’re well positioned to face the threat of diminishing sales. Our invigorated team is constantly brainstorming and experimenting. We’ve even invited our colleagues to sit in on open marketing meetings to see how we’re attempting to meet our challenges. New technology, integrated marketing approaches, and an openness to ideas from outside are all ways in which we will address the drop in sales of print books. We refuse to stick our heads in the sand like marketing ostriches. And though it’s no use pretending sales are what they were five years ago, it’s also not an excuse for sitting back and waiting for the asteroid to come crashing from the sky.

 

Related article on the topic: “Three experts share publisher expectations for 2018”

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About the author of this blog post: Martyn Beeny is the Marketing Director at Cornell University Press. He has the crazy idea that we’re here to sell books. You can follow him on Twitter @MartynBeeny

The reality of book sales (is an asteroid hurtling through space)