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!

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

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)

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)     

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

DOC MARTYN’S SAGE MARKETING: Shifting the POD Paradigm

pod artwork.png

What if we’re missing the real revolution of Print on Demand?

Think about it. With POD we could:

  • Make almost real-time edits and updates to a book
  • Feed content from a blog or website straight into a book
  • Create a system for marginalia printed in a book
  • Change content based on critique
  • Change a cover to suit audience taste more easily
  • Personalize every copy of a book

Why would we want to use print books in this way? Isn’t it better to simply allow digital platforms to handle this kind of change? On some level, absolutely. Print books can’t do what digital ones do; they can’t be changed or edited in real time. But what if we tried to mimic the digital experience as closely as we can in print books? How would that affect how we perceive the printed book? In other words, it’s time to flip the print-to-digital paradigm on its head and see if we can apply some digital-like assets to a printed product. Continue reading “DOC MARTYN’S SAGE MARKETING: Shifting the POD Paradigm”

DOC MARTYN’S SAGE MARKETING: Shifting the POD Paradigm