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Ten things we learned at our June DMQ
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Posted by IPG
The IPG’s second Digital and Marketing Quarterly of 2016 heard from experts on big issues in ebooks and marketing. Here are ten of our takeaways

1 Video can be easy

Video is now one of the best ways to drive awareness of content and then sales, said James Erskine, strategy director of The Big Shot marketing agency. The Big Shot has produced video content for authors including David Baddiel and Alexei Sayle—but you don’t need to have the budgets of corporate publishers to film and distribute something. Get even more value from video material by slicing, dicing and splicing it across all your digital platforms, Erskine said. “Maximise the asset: it can be used at the heart of your social media, email, PR, media and advertising strategies.”

2 Reaching influencers is crucial

For video to work as a marketing tool, it needs to get in front of people who will rate it and spread it. Publishers need to identify the ‘influencers’ in their field: the bloggers, reviewers, journalists or celebrities who will trigger word of mouth. Engage with them rather than sell to them, Erskine said. “Don’t just talk to influencers when you want something… start conversations early, invite them to something or have them shape something.”

3 Big books often start small

Pavilion’s head of marketing and publicity Colette Whitehouse gave a fascinating case study of the remarkable success of Millie Marotta’s adult colouring books. It was a nice reminder that bestsellers can spring from anywhere: Marotta’s first book had an initial marketing budget of £200, and she has now sold 7.5 million products and counting worldwide.

4 Master your metadata

It is a familiar refrain at IPG meetings, but Marotta’s success showed how accurate, timely metadata is pivotal in getting a book discovered. Keywords are particularly important in bringing titles to the top of search engines. “Metadata’s not sexy but it’s so important… it’s really helped with sales,” said Whitehouse.

5 Be careful with trends

Millie Marotta’s success has prompted many other publishers to rush out colouring books. Jumping on the bandwagon can pay off, but publishers need to tread carefully, Whitehouse noted. “It’s worth taking a punt by jumping on trends early, but don’t compromise on your quality.”

6 Bundling works

Many publishers have experimented with bundling print and digital content over the last few years, and it is starting to get traction among consumers, said Mary Alice Elcock, vice president of content for ebook retailer and sharing platform Shelfie. Nearly half of consumers would pay more for a print book if it was bundled with an ebook, she said, and 1,600 publishers with 400,000 titles are now signed up to Shelfie. “The single biggest reason for people buying direct from F+W is that we bundle ebook and print,” added James Woollam, managing director of F+W and chair of the DMQ.

7 Ebook sales are holding up

“Everyone’s extolling the death or the plateauing of the ebook, but it’s not actually that bad,” said Hazel Kenyon, head of Nielsen’s book research publisher account team in a run-through of the latest market data. Sectors including children’s and illustrated books have proved fairly immune to ebooks, but in generic adult fiction in particular, they continue to eat into print sales.

8 Ebooks are benefiting from more male and impulse buys

There are more interesting sub-trends in the ebook market. For one thing, the gender balance is shifting. “Purchasers of ebooks have historically been older females… but men starting to buy more.” Another change is the increasing numbers buying ebooks on impulse, often because they have seen them on social media. A third and wider known dynamic is self-publishing, which accounts for up to 30% of the ebook market in some sectors now.

9 Digital content must be compatible

123Library founder Sabine Guerry ran through her company’s platform for distributing academic, professional and corporate ebooks. One of its biggest strengths lies in the universality of its platform, compatible with all desktop, mobile and tablet systems. With discoverability such an important consideration, publishers need to make sure their ebooks are accessible wherever and whenever people want to read them.

10 Publishing will cope with Brexit

Coming exactly a week after the EU Referendum, this DMQ was a chance for members to talk about the impact of the Leave vote on publishing. The IPG’s Independent Publishing Report showed that members were overwhelmingly in favour of Remain, but there is a sense now that publishing has to roll up its sleeves, adjust to the new order of things and understand what the vote has told us about the UK. Members can click here for detailed notes from the Brexit discussion meeting that preceded the DMQ.
The June DMQ was kindly sponsored by 123Library, which has a special offer for IPG members at the moment.

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