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.

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”

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

Doc Martyn’s Sage Marketing: Free Stuff!

free

This week, we’re focusing on Cornell Open, our partnership with National Endowment for the Humanities and the Mellon Foundation to bring classic books from our backlist back to the forefront of discussion through an open access strategy. As such, I’ve been turning my attention to how we market and “sell” things that are free. Continue reading “Doc Martyn’s Sage Marketing: Free Stuff!”

Doc Martyn’s Sage Marketing: Free Stuff!

Doc Martyn’s Sage Marketing: Disrupting the Workflow

Creativity

Recently, we spent two and a half hours in a marketing meeting. Yes, that’s right, 150 minutes. We spent that time brainstorming, discussing, agreeing and disagreeing, planning, posing problems and finding solutions, and much more. We didn’t go into the meeting with a plan to spend that amount of time, it just organically occurred, and it was worth every minute. What we didn’t do in that time was our usual work. We disrupted our workflow, and the marketing team (and by extension the rest of the Press) is better as a result. Continue reading “Doc Martyn’s Sage Marketing: Disrupting the Workflow”

Doc Martyn’s Sage Marketing: Disrupting the Workflow