Tech Tuesday – Storytellers on Social Media: The Author as Digital Brand, hosted by The London Book Fair

In a flurry of tweets, re-tweets and excited anticipation, we arrived at The Hoxton Hotel in Shoreditch last night to attend the Tech Tuesday – Storytellers on Social Media: The Author as Digital Brand, hosted by The London Book Fair. Staff weaved through the crowd with platters of food and as 7.30 drew close, we took our seats to listen to the impressive panel and find out more about the power of social media in the publishing world.

The panel consisted of four authors: CJ Daugherty, James Smythe, Alison Norrington and Sarah Pinborough. The event was chaired by Katie Sadler of Harper Collins, who opened the talk with the question, “Are you a brand?” Each author answered in turn and though the answers were varied, and often contradictory, the issue of real-life persona versus social media persona resonated and resulted in an interesting hour long discussion.

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Sarah Pinborough spoke about her social media personality and how she allows her personal issues and experiences to come across on Twitter. Putting herself out there doesn’t, in her experience, provoke a huge amount of negative feedback and from tweeting pictures of herself to updating followers over a cup of tea in the morning, this is a platform that she engages with hugely and enjoys. In terms of branding, it is important to reach out and gather up more followers. Represent yourself on a personal level and being funny can ensure that your followers will then, ideally, become your readers too!

James noted the synchronicity that is evident between publisher and author social media content/trends when that author’s new book is released. This turns authors’ social media persona into a promotional machine and takes away from their relatable existence as a person. People don’t tend to react well to such sales-driven interaction and it is off-putting – maintain your identity if you don’t want to be perceived as an impersonal promotional tool.

As Alison Norrington pointed out, staying anonymous online by giving your fictitious character a Twitter page is a useful way of avoiding the marketing machine stigma while simultaneously promoting your work. Her approach to branding on social media is to avoid the personal aspect and to allow her followers to get to know her characters instead. She sees this as the difference between P.R. and the story. Maybe publishers should encourage authors to breathe life into their characters, to use their fictitious figures to speak in their place.

CJ Daugherty has found particular fame in Spain and Mexico. She has noticed a surge in her Twitter followers in accordance with her book being published and it has made her more aware of what she shares, specifically political opinions. She is careful not to give any feedback to negative comments and not to damage her brand by scaring her followers away. This is the drawback of social media – having to watch what you say in order to represent you and your brand the right way.

Generally, all four authors found that the battle to balance their real personality with their online projection is difficult. Sarah mentioned how she sometimes feels shy when someone tells her they are a Twitter follower; it makes her conscious of the fact that people will expect her to be just like her online identity and she may disappoint. James added to this by expressing his own disappointment at having met people in real life who just didn’t add up to the way they appear on social media platforms.

There is pressure to be who you claim you are via your online activity and presence, and this is a reality for all social media users today. There are certain people you would never approach if you saw them in a bar, yet shielded by the virtual cloak of social media, we are all that bit more outgoing. Is this wrong? Or is it not the point of social media in the first place? It allows us to network without the awkward initial approach of the proffered handshake.

Walking back to the tube, we discussed the pros and cons. Yes, social media allows authors to network with influential figures and progress in their career paths but it is also a minefield of provoked criticism. Striking the balance between who you are and how you want to be perceived is a struggle that existed before social media was born – the difference is that now others can have their say too.

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ALPSP Conference 2013

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Last week Inspired Selection attended the ALPSP conference, 3 days at the Belfry in Birmingham dedicated to the academic and STM publishing industry. Throughout the conference there was an overall theme of communication – ensuring we are speaking in the right language for our consumers and also a chance for everyone to network, learn and discuss current challenges that the industry is facing.

We kicked off on Wednesday with a keynote speech from Tim Brooks, CEO of the BMJ; Are we Waving – or drowning? He talked about the difficulty of change and how we can be so blinded by our own language that we stop seeing what the consumer wants and what language they communicate in. Tim discussed how to ‘storm the barricades’ so to speak and really encourage change by talking with everyone in your organisation and offer the opportunity for people with insightful things to say to talk. It’s important to push different disciplines together, let new members of staff input and influence the future as they will be the leaders of tomorrow.

The conference was jam packed full of fantastic information and ideas from the industry on what we’re doing right and what we could be doing better – specifically in the area of communication. As an industry we are strong on communication on behalf of our products and authors but perhaps we need to improve on our communication of what it is that we are responsible for in each of our roles within our publishing sector! To focus on key themes from the conference important for moving forward as an industry:

Data is the language of the future; it is clear that were are now entering a time of change where content is key but the way in which that content is delivered needs to change. The way we consume data through devices will adapt and grow and we will need to change the way we consume and sell this content. Hazel Newton talked about a way in which we can challenge the restrictions imposed by traditional print publishing with the input of digital technology; Palgrave Macmillan has created Palgrave Pivot – a way for researchers to publish their research at its natural length, quickly and fully peer reviewed.

Communication is key; as publishers, a huge amount of time is spent talking about authors and their research – but are we talking in their language? A key theme of the conference was to ensure that we are looking at everything from our audiences’ point of view and ensure that we are communicating everything in a way that others can understand.

Accessibility was a strong theme for one of the plenary sessions. The focus was on making content available for everyone; the majority of popular books, newspapers and magazines are published digitally and there is an opportunity for those who are print impaired to read and access these products. The key challenge for publishers is to make everything available at the same time and price for print impaired readers – including academic content for students and researchers.

Publishing skills are changing – we are seeing more roles come through that are content, digital and platform focussed and for these roles there is a need to seek candidates with a different set of skills. Publishing is becoming more diverse and as well as current candidates within the industry adapting to the change in skillset we are also seeing a rise in candidates coming from outside of the industry. 

For researchers, there is a huge focus on making data accessible; this has a huge benefit for research but it must be done in such a way that it encourages researchers to make data available in an arena where they will get recognition and credit for doing so. Data could be made discoverable through Open Access however this could be taken beyond the discoverability of data to become knowledge sharing – a way of accessing the data and using the data to assist current research but also allowing credibility for the person who shared the knowledge in the first place.

The whole issue of current trends within Open Access publishing is a major factor for all publishers – both journals and books. Fred Dylla, CEO, American Institute of Physics led an interesting update on government responses (UK, US, EU) on the issues involved with the differences between Gold and Green Open Access publishing.

The conference was a fantastic platform for networking and for the sharing of information across the industry. It is a sector that is thriving with activity, change and exciting adaptations. Everyone we met and spoke with at the conference was brimming with new ideas and it’s clear to see how much passion publishers have for their industry and for the future.

Women in Publishing Event – Jobs in Publishing

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After work yesterday, we made our way to the Hotel Strand International to attend the evening’s Women in Publishing (@WIPublishingUK) event. Our Managing Director, Suzy Astbury (@Inspiredjobs), was speaking at the event and the topic was “Jobs in publishing”. This is our area of expertise and we work with recruiting for publishing companies every day, but there is something different about sitting in on an informal, intimate gathering, full of people who have a passion for publishing and want to either break into it or move upwards within their existent publishing careers. The atmosphere was one of networking, of learning, of feeding back experiences and of helping one another…we were in our element!

Suzy led the discussion, inviting interaction from the audience and asking people to share their opinions and experience. We talked through the CV and the cover letter, giving hints and tips as to how to present yourself as the ideal candidate for the role that you really want. We talked through the CV structure – how do you make it stand out from the batch? How do you format it? Should it be chronological or skills-based? While the floor was divided on some points, for example whether to give references and whether to put your education first, one message was loud and clear – skills, skills, skills! Show them off!

Moving on to the cover letter – the unavoidable and instrumental opening act to any job application. How does one decide on what elements of the job spec to address? We need to avoid it being too long but we still want to mirror the spec and demonstrate our suitability. This is where the real test is and we need to be smart and savvy and know what to filter out and what to focus on. Like an English essay, you need your start beginning and end and a good structure will read well and draw the Hiring Manager in.

Amongst all this technical advice and structured information, there was another message threaded throughout the discussion – one of hope and of encouragement. It is tough out there and it is hard to believe that you will ever reach your dream goal, but you must keep it in sight. Twists and turns will inevitably occur on the path towards it and few achieve that first stab attempt but it has to be kept on the horizon and you cannot lose that drive.

Make intelligent and necessary career decisions and keep networking. Have a strong CV that shows, if not the perfect experience, at least a consistency and a goal. Work hard and stay focussed. We hope all those who attended took something from the night and found inspiration within the advice given, the networking afterwards or, most importantly, from the obvious passion for publishing that existed in the room.CV image

Byte the Book: What lessons can consumer publishing teach the book industry?

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Last night, as the rain finally began to clear, we made our way to The Ivy to attend the evening’s Byte the Book event; ‘What can Consumer Publishing Teach the Book Industry?’. The evening unfolded into a lively discussion on the difference between consumer, magazine publishing and the more traditional book publishing industry. The panel was strong and the points raised and addressed were food for thought.Image

First up was Alex Watson (@Sifter) of Dennis Publishing who spoke about the subscription model and how he supports it. Alex’s company publish 19 magazines and subscriptions are evidently growing. People want to pay for a continual service and not for once off content and, most importantly, want to be able to access this information on multiple platforms.

The conversation then turned to the use of technology to understand users and the advantages to be gained within this arena. Toby Wright (@tobywright) led the examination of this and we delved into how the interests, habits and needs of the readership/subscribers can be traced through monitoring every button they click. Like following a treasure trail of read data, a profile can be formed and, consequently, catered to. Content can be tailored according to what the readership clearly wants and the power lies in the hands of those who monitor the websites and who have access to the records.

Can the power be taken back if consumer publishers and book publishers work together?

DRM – a class of controversial technologies that are used by those digital publishers/copyright holders/hardware manufacturers to control the use of digital content after sales – is, according to Matteo Berlucchi (@matteoberlucchi) of Northern and Shell, a symbol of the problems within the industry. DRM locks up innovation and is too easy to crack. Instead of trying to  physically stop piracy (which is nearly impossible), publishers instead need to consider what leads people to pirate content and address the issues that lie underneath. An example of something to consider, if individuals are pirating content, this can be because the price does not match the perceived value of the product and is too high. Therefore, rather than publishers putting DRM on their products, they could look at offering things at a lower price and encouraging people to then purchase the content.

Justine Southall (@Justinenow), Publishing Director of Marie Claire, discussed the issue of advertising and the potentially problematic existence (or lack thereof) of it in the book publishing world. Would it take enjoyment out of a classic novel to have a batch of adverts in its midst? Justine posed the question, “Why not monetise areas of the book and not part of the product?” Having reflected on this, could book publishers use this as another revenue stream, the way magazines do? Alex flagged the dangers of this in a traditional book publishing industry – the focus on advertising should not be to add revenue but more towards strategizing to help grow the business model, i.e.,  by gaining this extra revenue, what could the publishers then give back to their consumers?

This shift in the discussion toward the issue of branding led to some interesting points from the floor in which people argued that in book publishing, the brand is the author. It is safe to say that traditional publishing is challenged by brands and with the birth and growth of online/digital publications, there is a simultaneously growing need to have a brand that resonates with certain groups of people. Media brands used to be the container and now they are churning out content too. What is the solution? How do we marry both worlds?

Justine stepped in to answer this one. In her opinion, brands are crucial to magazines and the brand relationship that readers have with them allows that reach into other platforms. Understanding the brand is also crucial and since the web has taken over, brands are now becoming more fragmented, (eg. magazine editions catering towards teens as well as the original), but there is a need to stick to the core values that made them a brand. Under every umbrella brand are the franchises and they give people a voice and a platform from which to use it.

The overall message of the night was that the two industries can help each other. As we spilled back out into the night, Alex Watson’s closing words resonated; we need to simply embrace this change, embrace the big Californian companies who provide this opportunity to know what a publication’s culture is and who know how to monitor who reads that content every day.

Perhaps the time has come for a marrying of the industries. Book publishers need to learn how to work better with large technology and consumer driven companies such as Amazon and Apple, as consumer and magazine publishers have done. Rather than focussing on what control companies such as Amazon have taken away from them, they need to think about what they have given them, which is a chance to sell their products in a new way that can reach larger audiences than ever before.

Jobs in Publishing: An Inspired Approach

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Next Wednesday, September 11th, we are gathering at Hotel Strand Continental to hear our Managing Director, Suzy Astbury, speak at the monthly “Women in Publishing” event. This meeting will focus on jobs within publishing and how to take the next necessary steps on your career path.

As a specialist recruitment agency, Inspired Selection deals exclusively with publishing roles and Suzy is best equipped to explore this area in more detail bringing with her extensive experience and interest in the publishing industry and the best tips on what it takes to succeed. Suzy will cover, amongst other things, the skills that are in demand now in various publishing roles and how to get them.

Having worked with Michael O’Mara Books and The Quarto Group, Suzy has a finger on the pulse of the ever-changing publishing industry and, along with the rest of us here at Inspired, wants to spread this knowledge and enthusiasm and help people to make the most of their skills and experience.

It will be an evening to be inspired and to think outside of the box. Suzy’s key aim is to seek out talent and ensure that it is used and developed. For those of you who love publishing and want to work in the right role within the right company, this is an event not to be missed!

The role of the Publisher

As the Open Access debate rages on, and mainstream academic publishers increase their Open Access offering, it’s interesting to revisit the role that publishers play in bringing research results to market. This will certainly come to light in discussions at the upcoming ALPSP conference to be held 11-13 September, which Inspired Selection will be attending.

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Our specialist STM/Academic publishing team – Esme Richardson and Donald Smith – are keen to hear what current practitioners have to say. We’re certainly looking forward to attending some of the talks and getting up to speed with latest developments.

 

Proponents of Open Access have for some time been putting journal publishers under pressure to prove their worth, questioning their value beyond managing the peer-review process and copy editing materials. Scholarly Kitchen see the author community claiming that “journal publishers do so little”, but is this perception really just a result of the fact that they are only aware of a small part of the overall journal publishing process?

 

So what role does the Publisher have in light of the growth of Open Access? Scholarly Kitchen recently posted a thought provoking guide highlighting 60 key benefits  publishing companies bring to the table. This post highlights the added value that publishers offer – Scholarly Kitchen argue that many authors are not aware of the complexity of processes involved in preparing, promoting and disseminating scholarly information; nor the commitment and resource required to maintain and further develop the necessary technological platforms.

 

We’ll be at the ALPSP conference to learn more about the issues surrounding Open Access and the value added to the industry by both big and small publishers; if you’re there please don’t hesitate to get in touch we’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

Esme Richardson              e.richardson@inspiredselection.com

Donald Smith                     d.smith@inspiredselection.com