The One-Week Bookstore @CornellPress opens its doors this Nov 5th!

A few weeks ago our team got an email from the Marketing Director that read: “Mahinder (our Editor in Chief) just sold a book! In Sage House. To a real customer. Fun.” A couple lines later in the same email, we found out that we were having a pop-up bookstore right here at Cornell University Press. The ball was rolling.

So as a result of this random but wonderful happening of selling a book in-house, on November 5th at 10:00am and for one week only, our doors will be open, our bookshelves will be filled, and Ithacans will march through the grand, old entrance to get their wishlist titles from our very first pop-up store.

There’s not much more to it. Walk in, choose your next reads, pay cash, check or credit card, and carry your books home. Or as our Exhibits Coordinator David put it: “Cash, credit, check, and carry!” Paperbacks will be $10, hardcovers will be $15. Taxes included. It’s a one one-time deal to make knowledge more accessible to professors, students, and all book lovers in the community. Plus, the chance to wander about Cornell University Press, and experience the magic of publishing books in the beautiful Sage House mansion.

I was not supposed to write this blog post. But the person that volunteered to do it is busy putting everything together for next week, so I stepped in. Looking for inspiration on what to write, I stumbled upon an article that said that “… pop-up retail tickles the parts of one’s brain that likes new things”. I instantly understood what had happened. At #CornellPress, we just love new ideas. And the opportunity to bring our customers face to face with the books we love, in our own backyard, and in such a spontaneous format, sold it for us.

The invitation is up: This November 5th through November 9th, stop by Sage House on 118 Sage Place to take part in The One-Week Pop-Up Bookstore, and get the books you want.

In the meantime, we’ll be busy preparing for it: part of our staff is being trained in the world of sales and retail, flyers are being distributed all over town, and books are piling up downstairs, growing our pop-up inventory. And as everybody’s doing their bits and pieces, I am curious to see what excitement, feedback and results our first and one time only pop-up bookstore will bring.

FLYER copy


About the author of this blog post: Adriana Ferreira is the Social Media Coordinator at Cornell University Press. Her birthday is November 9th, so if you happen to stop by the pop-up bookstore that Friday, make sure to give her your best wishes!

The One-Week Bookstore @CornellPress opens its doors this Nov 5th!

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

Let the Printing Wars begin at #BKBF!

Anyone who has heard me speak about it or read anything I’ve written on the topic knows I’m a big proponent of the benefits of print-on-demand (POD) technology for university presses. Even so, when I received an email recently from a gentleman at HP I was quite surprised. He wanted to let me know he’d seen a video of me speaking about the advantages of POD and wondered if I would mind having a phone call with him to discuss in more depth.

What takes place at the Brooklyn Book Festival on Sunday is the result of that call. If you stop by our Cornell University Press booth # 624 you’ll be able to see it for yourself and take part in the one and only CUP Printing Challenge sponsored by HP!

During my call with the Man from HP (I feel as though it needs caps; it’s seems so James Bond somehow), we started discussing the legendary “Pepsi Challenge,” a marketing promotion that allowed the brand to grab a significant market share away from its main competitor Coke. If you ever took it I bet you’ll instantly know what I’m referring to. Back in the 80s (or maybe it was earlier), Pepsi devised a worldwide marketing campaign in which people would be asked to blind taste a glass of Pepsi and a glass of Coca Cola and pick their favorite. The taster didn’t know which glass was which. As a result of the experiment, Pepsi announced with great fanfare that more than 50 percent of the participants preferred their sweeter taste and moreover, discovered that Coke was launching a new formula, in an attempt to resemble theirs. Pepsi USA declared that the “Cola-Wars” were over and gave its employees the day off. It was a festive day for the company. Even now, the “Pepsi Challenge” remains one of the most memorable marketing campaigns in history, and a great example of how consumer perception, and smart marketing, can tilt the scale in any way.

So, going back to what concerns us, the Man from HP and I started musing about something similar for offset and POD printing in the publishing world. It was my contention that most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the traditional and the newer methods of printing a book, and that like the “Pepsi Challenge,” perception was one of the factors inhibiting the university press world from making a more profound shift.

The Man from HP agreed that we should try it, and so we devised the Printing Challenge.

We’re unveiling what it’s all about this weekend, at the Brooklyn Book Festival. Do you think you’ll be able to tell the difference? Do you think one way is better than the other? And do you even care? If any of this sounds intriguing to you, come on by. You’ll get a sample of two books to look at and you’ll be asked a few questions. And just for taking the challenge, we’ll give you 50 percent off your next CUP book, together with some special @HP giveaways!

Quite frankly, I’m fascinated to see the results.

If you are not able to make it to #BKBF, follow @CornellPress on Twitter for live updates and the latest news from our #PrintingChallenge

More on the “Pepsi Challenge” and experience marketing, here:

 

About the author of this blog post: Martyn Beeny is Marketing and Sales Director of Cornell University Press. He prefers Coca Cola.

Let the Printing Wars begin at #BKBF!

Subscribe Now, and Save 50%! Lessons from MoviePass

The woes of MoviePass recently made me reflect on some ideas we’ve been toying with to market and sell even more books. Loyalty programs, subscription models, premium customer tiers, and so on, have all been on our minds in the last few weeks here at CUP. Most of this came around because of our 150th anniversary next year, but when I started reading about MoviePass, it just came into focus even more.

This blog post, and the ongoing series that will follow, is about looking at non-book-world things in business, marketing, sales, pop culture, and anything else really, and seeing how it might tie into the business of marketing and selling scholarly books.

MoviePass, of course, took its business model from other monthly subscription media services like Scribd, that charge a small fee for which the customers get, in return, access to large volumes of media. The model works because many people sign up, pay the monthly fee, but then don’t use the service all that much. It’s like the gym. The most successful startups using the model have mostly focused on visual media (TV, movies, streaming services), but even books have received the treatment, and not just from Amazon. And though I’m not convinced that the “Netflix” model works for books; the latter is an inherently different kind of media, the 700,000 subscribers Scribd has might disagree. But I am intrigued by what possibilities could exist for a subscription model for a unique publisher.

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What can I offer my customers, that will entice them to pay a monthly fee, in exchange for becoming a “member” or a premium customer? What incentives would be needed to earn their loyalty over the long term? Does the “insider” content of early ESPN initiatives work? Do they need extra-special (read, bigger) discounts on their purchases? If I offer them a rewards program so that they get a free book after every fifth purchase, will that be enough to make them buy more books? Is free shipping all it takes? Of course, none of these standard marketing and sales concepts are new. So, how can we tweak them so that what we offer is different and powerful and exciting and makes the customer, want to buy and read all our books? Is Cadillac’s exclusive treatment the way to go?!  (“This version of our new book is only available in New York!”)

As we build our premium-loyalty-exclusive-subscription-reward model for the 150th Cornell University Press anniversary, the 1869 Club (work it out!) will be a hybrid. Different aspects from the most successful of the existing models will be included. Different tiers might exist. Different options for discerning customers will be featured on the menu. And one model isn’t going to work. We just don’t have the B2C base needed to sustain it. We don’t have enough new content (or existing content on the back list) to hold enough customers. But our PLEaSeR model might just have enough triggers to create and engender long-term commitments from students, scholars, and others to make it work.

The planning is underway, and I literally just came up with PLESR model (I’m pretty pleased so I hope it’s original), but as this new series of Book Marketing from the Real World continues, we’ll reveal more. (I’m not even hiding this behind an “insider” model. Although, I guess that might just change!)


 

About the author of this blog post: Martyn Beeny is the marketing and sales director at Cornell University Press. Follow him on Twitter @MartynBeeny. His blogs are always Premium content. He appreciates your Loyalty in always coming back for more. His posts are Exclusive to this blog. You can Subscribe if you like. And the Reward for reading all the way to the end of this bio is that it ends.

Subscribe Now, and Save 50%! Lessons from MoviePass

The difference between good and bad marketing

A couple of weeks ago, news broke of the Build-a-Bear mess. (Build a Bear offered customers a chance to pay in dollars whatever the age of their child was. The outcome was chaos and madness and thousands of people lining up to try and take advantage of the promo.) My wife texted me to share a story and commented that the “pay-your-age” tactic was similar to our #PWYW sale, but didn’t seem to be going quite so successfully! One day later, Chuck E. Cheese offered a similar incentive. (For the price of a child’s age, the child could play as many games as they wanted for thirty minutes.) I’m not directly comparing our #PWYW sale because circumstances are different in each case, but there do seem to be connections and things we can take from all three campaigns.

What’s the difference between good and bad marketing? Sometimes, it’s a really thin margin of error. When I read about Build-a-Bear and then Chuck E. Cheese and thought about #PWYW, it struck me how easily each of these examples could have gone differently. With a little more careful planning and a timely reaction, Build-a-Bear could have been the talk of the town with a smart, adventurous marketing campaign. Instead, they quickly became a case study in how not to handle unanticipated demand. Chuck E. Cheese barely caught any flak at all because of the timing of their much-more-limited pay-what-you-age campaign. At CUP, we rode a wave far bigger than expected, but we managed to keep our balance the whole way into the beach.

We can all learn lessons, though, even for something so different from young kids making the teddy bear of their dream as publishing scholarly books for academics and libraries. No matter the original scope or intention, customers love an insanely good deal. For parents, the opportunity to get a $30+ bear for less than $5 was too good to miss. For grad students, our offer to pay whatever they wanted for books that often run upwards of $50, made heads turn. Upset children who had missed out on a bear quickly found solace in Chuck E. Cheese’s timely offer. A bargain (especially a timely one) is going to draw customers in.

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I’ve already written about it and won’t pretend that we foresaw the size of that wave coming, but we made sure to react quickly and courteously, when we did realize we’d found ourselves on a monster off the coast of Portugal. When you’re reacting in real time to demand beyond your expectations you aren’t going to get everything right; but basic, sound principles of customer service and sales are going to keep your head above water. Sadly, Build-a-Bear just didn’t use tried and true customer service skills when this happened. Trying to placate irate parents contending with upset toddlers and young children with a gift voucher that didn’t even amount to the same price struck me as a recipe for disaster. The ingredients: bad PR, poor customer relations, and lost sales. When we couldn’t immediately cope with the demand during #PWYW, we sent every individual who emailed us a polite apology for the delay, promised we would address their offer even though the window for PWYW was ending, and then, as quickly as we could, responded with the same protocols we’d used on the actual day of the sale. In other words, we treated each person like a valuable customer, and offered them the same deal they would have got if the demand hadn’t been more than we could handle.

In marketing, there’s always something we could have done better, an outcome no one quite anticipated. But as book marketing becomes more dynamic, more content driven, more necessarily creative and non-traditional, these kinds of campaigns are going to feature more often. We’ll need to be on our toes and ready to handle a “crisis” as it happens rather than take the slow approach that tends to have accompanied much of what we have all done in the past. When customer reaction and interaction happens in real time, and is broadcast and shared in the same way, it’s our responsibility as forward-thinking marketers to react and interact in the same way. We must reflect on our customers, know them, think like them, and provide them with the brand experience they wish for, not the one we could simply afford.

————–

About the author of this blog post: Martyn Beeny is Marketing and Sales Director at Cornell University Press. He thought about trying the pay-your-age deal at Build-a-Bear, but you know, math. You can follow him on Twitter, @MartynBeeny

The difference between good and bad marketing

#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.

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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

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.

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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”

Recommended watch:

 

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)     

Listening to People Talking About Books

Just under a year ago, we started the 1869 podcast. We’ve published 27 episodes so far and we’ve had modest but pleasing success in terms of listens and feedback. The most recent episode took on the cost of medicines in the wake of President Trump’s State of the Union Address and the two authors interviewed tagged Trump and Prime Minister Trudeau in their tweets about it. I would just love it if either one listened!

Of course, I knew we weren’t the only university press in the podcast world so I put a request out recently to see which other presses have taken the plunge and started using the ever-growing podcast trend to help market their books and their brand. Here’s what I have so far. If you know of more let me know. Continue reading “Listening to People Talking About Books”

Listening to People Talking About Books