State of the Nation: Key Takeaways

POSTED ON: 23/04/20 TAGS: Bookseller Events M&P Conference Online

by Lucy Upton

Comms in the Time of Corona:

A Bookseller Conversation Series in association with BMS and PPC

Hosted by Miriam Robinson


Polly Osborn (Simon & Schuster)

Anna Frame (Canongate)

Laura Di Giuseppe (Publishing and marketing consultant)


Key Takeaways

– Overwhelmingly the challenges people face right now are staying organised and motivated during the uncertainty and unpredictability of this time, the changing nature of the retail landscape and the saturation of the online space.

– Tips for keeping your day structured and replicating the office environment included breaking your day into 90-minute microtasks, making time for informal chat over WhatsApp or Slack, making sure to stop and celebrate successes with your team, replacing weekly catch-ups with ‘coffee mornings’ for both work and campaign discussion, allowing yourself to find your individual rhythm based on your own set of circumstances, and sticking the kids in front of Disney Plus!

– Regarding furloughed staff, the panelists looked towards the autumn, asking that we be mindful of how busy it’s going to be when staff return to work. Right now communication is key – keeping in touch however you can, and keeping an eye on the trade press and Twitter if you want to keep on top of what’s happening in the industry.

– Physical sales of newspapers are down but digital views are massively up. Features editors are looking for your expert authors if you have them, alongside lifestyle and hobby titles. Remember that newspaper/magazine staff have also been furloughed so be patient, and make sure you’re updating them regularly about moving pub dates.

– When sending PDF proofs it’s all the more important to be precise and thoughtful with your pitches, highlighting page numbers you’d like to draw their attention to where possible. More journalist are using NetGalley which helps.

– When running online events, Zoom is currently the platform of choice. Solicit questions for the authors in advance and make sure you have a clear timeline for promotion shared with all stakeholders. When creating a virtual author tour, it should reflect the variety and quality of a real tour. Think about the audience for each virtual event when planning, and plan the chair and guests as carefully as you would for a physical event.

– On whether this event model can ultimately be a revenue source, panelists agreed it’s possible. 30-minute taster events can be offered for free now, with a more in-depth paid-for version later on. They looked at other models such as Spotify/newspapers with a hybrid free (perhaps with ads) and premium structure. Events have always had issues with accessibility so virtual events may provide some solution here.

– Like press, virtual events organisers require more focussed, creative pitches than ever. If you’re from a small press or have an unknown author, consider who you can pair your author with or whether you can create a compelling panel. Also require more planning – if possible to a test run for virtual events with authors to avoid complication on the night.

– For events and content, focus on building communities that have real profile, sales impact and engagement than vanity metrics. Seventy people tuning in to a well-curated event can go farther than 1,000 views on Instagram Live.

– Marketing during this crisis began as firefighting, moving everything from OOH to online. Now has seen increased engagement in social, display and newsletters, though all complicated by constant changes in the retail landscape. Expect budget cuts across the industry to lead to some hard decisions – make sure everything you do has the required effect/impact by testing copy lines. All of this may lead to greater innovation in the autumn.

We’re seeing an uplift in eBook and audio sales. People are dusting off their Kindles and also returning to tried and tested brands – safe, no-risk entertainment – for e and audio. Typical ‘commuting’ books such as business are not doing as well. Promote these formats with audio clips and narrators on social.

– In general, it’s worth investing in backlist marketing at the moment as people turn to safe, trusted classics.

– Children’s will also see an increase of evergreen classics. Opportunity for children to be engaging with screens with zoom hangouts for education.

To support bookshops publishers should prioritise them in the autumn for big-name events, ask their authors to recorded videos for their followers on social telling them to shop in their local bookshop, and send signed stock or anything else that creates a point of difference. When in doubt, ask them (or the BA) what they need!

– Asked what they hope to see change as a result of this crisis, panelists said they’d like to see publishers embrace smart, flexible working; to see events become more accessible with virtual options; and a renewed appreciation across the industry for marketing & publicity teams, who have done so much in a short space of time.

Watch the video here

Related posts