Marketing the books and journals the press publishes is important to ensure publications are seen by their intended audiences and communities. There are a number of ways to raise visibility and reach the target audience, many of which are inexpensive, but they will usually require some human resource, skills and knowledge to implement the marketing effectively. A press' marketing strategy will guide the press and be informed by its planned activities, desired outcomes, stage of development and agreed measures of success.
- Create a clear marketing strategy
- Create a marketing plan
- Using social media
- Print marketing
- Run email campaigns
A clear marketing strategy is important to the success of any press. It defines the overall direction and goals, is likely to cover a number of years, and should be strongly aligned to the strategy of the press. Marketing plans are then created to detail the tactics that will be used to execute the strategy, normally focusing on the year ahead.
The strategy should capture both the marketing of the press as an entity, as well the ways in which it will promote individual titles and authors. It should define the purposes of the marketing for the range of activities and audiences, identify the press' unique offerings and the benefits of its services, and detail the key audiences that should be targeted.
Stakeholders at the institution will usually be keen to understand how the press and its activities will be promoted, especially if the press has been established to deliver institutional strategies and is receiving institutional subsidies. Sharing marketing strategies at an early stage and ensuring buy-in at the institution is therefore an important factor in ensuring all stakeholders are working towards a commonly understood goal, with appropriate plans to support its implementation.
What to cover in your marketing strategy
The marketing strategy impacts the way the press is run, and requires input from all stakeholders and members of the team.
Ideally it will fulfil a number of wide ranging functions and should:
- Describe the press, its lists and products
- Articulate positioning in the market, ethos and goals, and the role of press publications
- Understand the competition
- Identify key audiences and other presses who will also be targeting them
- Detail the tactics that will be used (therefore allowing the pess to write plans that flesh this out) to achieve goals and reach intended audiences
- Understand author expectations and have a clear course of action and rationale for the press' chosen strategy
- Align strategy to operational plans - the volume of outputs, the budget available, and the resources needed to implement the marketing plans
You can also watch a useful 60 second video from the International Bunch on agile marketing with tips on how to be more effective. (Peck, 20201).
Marketing plans, at both press and title level, are a practical way to focus dissemination efforts and ensure that resources linked to these are focused and measurable. They need to cover the intended audiences and the channels to reach them, as these will vary depending on the intended activity.
However, due to limited staffing in many new university presses, dedicated marketing staff are rare. There are a number of alternative options to consider including:
- Minimum marketing plans (boiling activities down to the bare essentials)
- Working with marketing teams at the institution
- Ensuring authors are undertaking their own promotion
- Hiring external third-party marketing providers
- Using interns
The extent to which a press employs these different approaches needs to be tailored to its size and goals. For presses publishing a handful of titles per year, outsourcing and drawing on institutional support would clearly be more effective than having a dedicated member of staff. A press publishing a larger number of titles per annum will reach a stage where dedicated in-house staff are likely to deliver the best all-round, consistent marketing strategy.
Many marketing activities are relatively inexpensive or even free to undertake, but do require staff resources for implementation and author liaison. There are a number of ways of doing this depending on the size of the press and varying budgets and goals.
At press level, this can be about promoting the work of the press at the institution and beyond, attracting new authors and promoting open access publishing in general.
These plans should be a collaborative effort with input from press management, marketing staff and the institution or department’s own communications and marketing staff where possible, and should be in line with the press strategy.
The intended audiences for this type of activity includes:
- Institutional colleagues
- Senior management
- Wider scholarly communications community
- Other stakeholders working in higher education, funding and open access
What might it include?
Press-level marketing can include:
- Calls for proposals
- Sharing successes, such as download figures
- Launching new areas of activity
- Promoting open access publishing services
At the institution, this high-level work can be supported by the institution's central or relevant departmental marketing departments.
It can use channels such as staff news and intranet, the institution’s social media accounts and main university website, and the press' own social media accounts and website.
This can include activities such as conference presentations, workshops, blogs and articles in specialist publishing and higher education media outlets.
Title-level marketing is largely about raising visibility among target readers.
"Title level" can mean an individual book, but also the seasonal publishing programme and titles in a particular subject area (both frontlist and backlist).
For smaller presses publishing fewer titles each year, marketing plans can be quite generic and can apply to each title with some tailoring for specialist channels such as conferences, list-servs and book reviews. Title-level plans should be completed with input from press management, marketing staff and title authors/editors.
A marketing plan needs to cover the key channels that will best reach the intended audience, and needs to have costs and resource requirements attached to it.
It is most effective and efficient when it is planned 6-12 months ahead, enabling budget and resources to be planned too. This also helps anticipate lead times for external promotion activities that require advance information such as book reviews and conferences.
As a basic minimum, the title-level marketing plan should include:
- Social media - mainly Twitter
- Blogs - press blogs or ask authors to write guest blogs
- Subject conference promotion eg flier inserts, advertising, a stand
- Sending copies to targeted book reviewers
- Promoting open access books to list-servs
- Promoting internally at your institution to relevant departments
- Promotional flyers
- Content marketing
Once established, these activities should become routine and systematic for the titles produced. Some of the subject-specific activity should be informed by the author marketing questionnaire.
The author is the expert in their field and understands the communities and networks in their discipline. It is therefore important to draw on their knowledge and to undertake marketing as a collaborative activity, capitalising on each others' areas of expertise.
Send author marketing questionnaires
This should be sent to authors to complete at the contract stage or on delivery of the manuscript.
The questionnaire usually asks the author for information about their key networks (societies, conferences, publications etc) that will be interested in their new publications and can be used to feed into publisher marketing plans.
There is also a great deal that the author can do regarding self-promotion and it is important to provide authors with ideas and tips. For example, encouraging:
- Social media activity within their networks
- Blog writing
- Promoting the publication at lectures and conferences (with flyers and slides produced by the publisher)
- Promoting within their department
- Organising a book launch
- Use an email signature with links to the latest publication
What about promotion of journals?
For journals, similar promotional activities can be taken. The editor-in-chief often takes on some of the marketing responsibility themselves, such as title-level marketing etc. Article authors should also be encouraged to promote their work, in collaboration with the press.
It is common for publishers to use social media as a key tool to promote activities and publications. When harnessed correctly, it can be a powerful tool to engage with key audiences. Social media can also provide publishers and authors with feedback from readers and provide opportunities to collaborate and engage when used appropriately.
As with all marketing activities, having a clear sense of what the aims and objectives are is important. Social media activities should be guided by the marketing strategy and plan.
- At press level: social media can be used to announce plans, successes, calls for proposals, events and industry developments
- At title level: new titles can be announced, or older ones can be re-promoted, especially if there is an anniversary or event that they are relevant to or if there are book reviews and other accolades. This can support authors' activities
Define your audience
The marketing of academic books and journals is primarily about reaching the key audience for a specific title.
When starting from scratch, or publishing new disciplines for the press, some research is needed to discover and define the audience. These defined audiences should be the target of all marketing activity.
Knowing who your audience is - and where they are - is key to successfully using social media for promotions. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram are currently the most popular platforms used by publishers to reach their audience. In academic publishing, Twitter is the primary social network.
Make your message relevant
Understanding how users engage with the press' selected platform will help to ensure that content is tailored and relatable to the audience you want to target.
Follow competitors and important people in relevant areas to build an understanding of the types of content and messaging that resonates with them. Then, tailor it to the aims and business models of your press.
For newly published titles, social media announcements can be as simple as announcing the new book, providing a download link, and @mentioning the author and key people who have an interest in the subject and might repromote the book, as well as using relevant hashtags.
Encourage authors to self-promote on their social media
Some authors are more confident than others when using social media.
With authors who are already very engaged and have a number of followers, an effective and collaborative promotional campaign can be undertaken. Many authors start promoting their book on social media during the writing stage.
Less confident authors may find it helpful to receive encouragement and guidance about promoting their own work on social media and engaging with their communities. Beech (2014)3 offers some key tips for ways to share and discuss research. For example, when using Twitter, make sure authors know which hashtag to use when promoting their content.
Measure your success
It is important to measure the effectiveness of these activities and learn from any insights the data provides. It is this understanding that allows the press to hone its message and approach.
There are a wide range of social media management tools available to help monitor progress, including analytics provided by the platforms themselves. Twitter, for example, provides a number of different metrics for account owners to access on both a granular and high level.
The press may also want to monitor traffic from social media platforms to the website.
Print marketing still has a place in the marketing mix for academic books and journals, and can be useful when circumstances permit. Print materials commonly include flyers, brochures, business cards and catalogues, although their creation and production can be labour and cost-intensive.
Although some publishers no longer produce catalogues, there is some evidence to suggest that engagement with print catalogues is higher than with online versions (Magee, 2013).4
Benefits of producing a regular catalogue of new and current titles include:
- Promotion at events and trade fairs
- Use by senior leaders at the institution who want to share information about their university press' outputs and activities with their peers
- Promotion within the institution, eg information points, shared staff spaces or in the library
- Notifying librarians and potential readers of new titles. But you must make sure you are complying with GDPR
- Use as a selling tool for bookstores (if producing print copies)
- Attracting authors by showcasing current titles and authors in their area of expertise
Produce leaflets and flyers
Authors often request flyers and other print materials to take to conferences and other events, or to distribute to colleagues and other contacts.
Simple flyers can be produced in-house and sent to as a PDF to print. Some publishers may also produce business card sized materials for their authors to carry and distribute.
As with all marketing activity, the time and cost involved in producing the materials and distributing them to their intended audiences needs to be weighed up against the results. It can be difficult to measure the effectiveness of print collateral unless tracked to a specific promotion.
In a world of social media dominance, email campaigns can still produce results - particularly for publishers who have new content to promote on a regular basis.
Email campaigns rely on building up lists of recipients who have signed up to receive promotional information from the press, or on renting lists. In order to undertake email marketing successfully, there are a number of issues to be aware of:
There are two main ways to obtain lists of contacts for promotional mailings, both options come with pros and cons.
Building an email list
Building an email list can be useful to publishers. It identifies an audience who are interested in the press’s activities, and who are motivated enough to sign up to hear about them.
However, building and maintaining a list is a long-term strategy and may be an issue when getting established - for example, sign up may be low. A mailing list is something to build up over time
Renting an email list
Email list rental can be a useful way of capturing specific audiences. However, Turner (2019)5 warns that lists should not be purchased. Things to consider with email list rental:
- They can be expensive
- There may be issues around the "cleanliness" (ie how current they are) of purchased data through some brokers
- Campaigns are generally undertaken by third parties, which means that the data reported back may be more superficial than that from campaigns undertaken by publishers
- Most list rental is usually single use
Maintaining lists can also be complex. In order to fulfil the obligations under the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), sign up forms must be carefully designed and data should be stored and used in a compliant way.
You cannot simply email a list of contacts who have not consented to receive communications.
Most institutions have a data compliance officer or a communications and marketing department who will usually be able to advise on how to comply.
Email lists also need to be regularly maintained, with those who have asked to be removed and "bounces" (ie undelivered emails) removed (European Union, 20206, The Direct Marketing Association, 20187, What’s New in Publishing, 20198).
As with all other marketing materials, the key to email marketing is consistency and having a clear plan and purpose.
Whilst there are a number of issues to consider, Turner (2019) recommends 17 email marketing best practices and there are three issues worth paying particular attention to:
- Is the content relevant to your audience?
- Are you including everything that data protection rules require? (eg an unsubscribe link, data protection statements and more)
- Consider using a template (most email providers include these) or getting one designed that conforms to best practice and is less likely to be marked as spam
- Avoid unnecessary large fonts, large pictures and comic sans
- Try to ensure the design reflects your brand
Frequency and timing
This can be something of a balancing act for even the most experienced of email marketers.
- How often is too often?
- When should campaigns be sent?
Measure your success
Email campaigns need tracking to see how successful they are. The data can then be collected to improve the process.
Basic measures include:
- Delivery rates
- Open rates
- Click through rates (how many people have clicked on a link, expressed as a percentage of the total number of emails sent)
- Unsubscribe rates (Tiffany, n.d9)
Read more about how to measure your email marketing success.
For further reading on general marketing tips and specifically on the marketing of open access textbooks, please refer to Jisc's institution as e-textbook publisher toolkit (Jisc, 201810). For books, see How to market books, by Baverstock and Bowen (201911) and for journals, see The handbook of journal publishing, Morris et al. (201312).
- 1 Peck, L. (2020). What is agile marketing? Retrieved from https://www.internationalbunch.com/podcast/episode/2fcadfa1/what-is-agil...
- 2 University of Chicago Press. (n.d.). Marketing information for authors. Retrieved from https://press.uchicago.edu/infoServices/auth_resources.html
- 3 Beech, M. (2014). Key issue: how to share and discuss your research successfully online. Insights 27(1): 92–95. http://doi.org/10.1629/2048-7754.142
- 4 Magee, R.G. (2013). Can a print publication be equally effective online? Testing the effect of medium type on marketing communications. Marketing Letters 24: 85–95. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11002-012-9209-y
- 5 • Turner, J. (2019). 17 email marketing best practices that actually drive results. Retrieved from https://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/23965/9-email-marketing-bes...
- 6 European Union. (2020). EU data protection rules. Retrieved from https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/law-topic/data-protection/eu-data-protecti...
- 7 Direct Marketing Association (2018) GDPR for marketers: The essentials. Retrieved from https://dma.org.uk/uploads/misc/5a8eea20f3566-gdpr-essentials-for-market...
- 8 What’s New in Publishing. (2019). GDPR checklist for publishers. Retrieved from https://whatsnewinpublishing.com/gdpr-checklist-publishers/
- 9 Tiffany, J. (n.d.). How to measure your email marketing success. Retrieved from https://mailchimp.com/resources/how-to-measure-your-email-marketing-succ...
- 10 • Jisc. (2018). Institution as e-textbook publisher toolkit: marketing and distribution. Retrieved from https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/institution-as-e-textbook-publisher-toolki...
- 11 • Baverstock, A. & Bowen, S. (2019). How to market books, Sixth Edition London: Routledge. http://dx.doi.org/10.4324/9780429487002
- 12 • Morris, S., Barnas, E., LaFrenier, D., & Reich, M. (2013). The handbook of journal publishing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139107860