Welcome to our latest fortnightly eBulletin, posted here on Tuesday, 4 March 2014. In this issue:
- Are publishers under-selling their legal expertise?
- Profitability should be the goal of every not-for-profit out there
- Book review: Alphabetical, irresistible for language lovers (and nerds like me!)
- On The Marketability Grapevine on Facebook
- Tip of the Week - Naomi Farmer on the length of subject headers
Are publishers under-selling their legal expertise?
We featured Scholarly Kitchen's '73 things publishers do' a few months back to help counter the argument from some authors that we're redundant or even exploitative. ('We do all the work when we write it, all you do is print it and bank the profits, right?')
Now here's another excellent post about the legal expertise publishers bring to the table, yet another of those invisible but crucial aspects of the process. Reaffirming reading that will help add another benefit in to your proposal discussions with authors.
If you work with academic authors, why not join us on our Academic Marketing Workshop in London on 18 March? It's not just a day for marketers!
Profit should be the goal of every not-for-profit out there
That same '73 things' post also prompted Josie Dixon, tutor on Profitable Commissioning, to write this:
It reminded me of a Book Fair presentation a few years ago asking 'what did publishers ever do for us?' along the lines of 'what did the Romans ever do for us?' from The Life of Brian film.
The answer was, of course, a whole host of innovations that had somehow been overlooked, most of them fundamental to modern life and civilised society (or in the case of publishers, to the information economy). But it's symptomatic of the culture that publishers are facing that the question is still being asked and still needs answering. The eagerness in some quarters to abolish the role of traditional publishers with do-it-yourself green open access came to a head with attacks like that of George Monbiot discussed in this bulletin a couple of years ago, and the Elsevier boycott in 2012. The worst sin of publishers, it seems, is to make profits.
I recall a fraught conference discussion in Chicago some years ago, where the general mood in the room could be summed up in a mantra reminiscent of Animal Farm - not-for-profit: good; commercial publishing: bad. The astonishing naivety of some of the views being expressed left the two publishers on the panel (myself and Bill Germano, formerly editorial director of Routledge in New York) momentarily speechless as we wondered whether to unleash the full firepower of all the arguments against this absurdly reductive view.
In the end I decided the answer could be summed up in three words: profit enables investment. Profitability is key to the future of any publishing operation (and those which are formally not-for-profit are arguably most exposed to this principle because they operate closer to the margins of viability - as one University Press publisher memorably put it, 'we're not for loss!').
I'd love you to join me on Profitable Commissioning to learn some essential strategies for maximising the profitability - and sustainability - of your list. It's never been more necessary.
Book review: Alphabetical, irresistible for language lovers (and nerds like me!)
This wonderful book gives each letter of the current English alphabet a chapter, explaining how it came about and how it's evolved. Shining through is the utterly random nature, showing how a language we associate with 'rules' has developed through a series of fashion fads, pointless pretension, and mistakes, all leading to the living language we use today. Try these for size:
'Alphabetical: how every letter tells a story', by Michael Rosen, is published by John Murray in hardback at £16.99. Highly recommended.
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On The Marketability Grapevine on Facebook
• Are our non-responding customers ignoring us or are we not relevant enough to be visible? Classic video.
• Read something that hit the spot in this eBulletin? Click through and like the item or add a comment on Facebook
• Watch the Wall for postings of new jobs, or feel free to add to them.
Visit The Marketability Grapevine.
Tip of the Week - Naomi Farmer on the length of subject headers
Naomi from Edinburgh University Press emailed me to share their experience of testing long subject headers in emails:
'I've experimented with the long header a couple of times and what I'm seeing is that it works... for politics only. Last test was 80/20 in favour of long, this one was 100 percent for long. For Philosophy, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies and American studies, the short one works better (Subject Name Bulletin from Edinburgh University Press).'
So the tip is not to assume that what works in one market will in another. Email remains a fickle beast, and I love this precise example.
Our Email Marketing Workshop next runs in London on 15 May.
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