This blog post was written by Emily Felton, Marketing Assistant, Liverpool University Press.
One of the foremost principles in academic books marketing is to ensure that the research of an author gets the exposure it deserves. Publishing within the academic markets of the humanities and social sciences ensures that we often encounter some of the more niche denominations of wider subject areas. As a result of this, determining the most effective approach for our market segments can be challenging. Where one segment of the market is responsive to one method of marketing, another often is not. A consistently effective books marketing strategy is thus reliant on a combination of both digital and traditional tools to which various audiences are receptive.
Whilst traditional methods of books marketing enjoy a degree of success, digital marketing methods are increasingly preferred by publishers for their wider outreach, accessibility and ability to create an ongoing dialogue with customers. Digital marketing platforms have the potential to be profoundly useful owing to their ability to be measured though metrics, views, shares, likes, and retweets. Because of this, publishers can identify what works and disregard unsuccessful approaches and therefore build a successful digital marketing campaign in a relatively short space of time.
The force that is social media must now be acknowledged as one of the most useful tools in books marketing. The ever-developing platforms of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram allow publishers to showcase new titles and their content in a way that is easily accessible and cost effective. Social media platforms are used to announce the release of titles, share reviews, engage with the academic community and project the content of our titles directly to our followers. The marketing campaign for Using Primary Sources is continuously conducted predominately on Twitter and allows us to creatively interact with our five-thousand followers to encourage them to engage with the resource. Recently, we have used the hashtag trend ‘Flashback Friday’, posting images from Using Primary Sources to demonstrate the resource’s rich archival material, from the historical to the humorous. If nothing else, we provided pictorial evidence that Friday Feeling was a thing in 1890! Our ‘Caption this’ campaign also encouraged and challenged our audience to engage with the content of Using Primary Sources by tweeting us their own captions for the resource’s images. The response from our followers, alongside the metrics obtained from Twitter, reveal how effective social media has been in spreading awareness of Using Primary Sources to a wide international audience, as users in over 31 countries have engaged with the e-textbook within the first year of its launch. This is something that would have been much harder to achieve through traditional marketing activities.
As the first port of call for many customers of the press, the Liverpool University Press website is a natural space for marketing activity. The blogging aspect of our website provides a space where we can devote considerable attention to a title, which we did for Using Primary Sources. Recently, categories were introduced to the blog, so that visitors could browse the content by subject area. We are thus able to promote the content of our books more directly to each segment of our audience through our multitude of marketing platforms. Marketing activity for a title can be accompanied by a link to the subject area blog which directs a potential customer to content of relevance to them. We regularly release interviews and original pieces to promote the content of books and research of the authors. By interviewing an author, we draw out the most interesting aspects of a book, asking how an author’s work furthers scholarly discussion within their field. Snippets of the content of blogs can be adapted for social media to draw in readers. This year, for example, we promoted a military history interview with the headline ‘Why Everything You Thought You Knew about The Battle of Crécy is Wrong.’ A blog piece is arguably the medium by which we can share the most in-depth information about a title, and reach out to our audience in a personal and accessible tone whilst allowing an author to champion their own research.
Amidst the success of digital marketing approaches, we also reap the benefits of more traditional marketing practises. The pre-digital practise of reviews marketing is a ritual by which ourselves and other publishers still abide. By arranging for journals to review our titles, we create considerable exposure for a book through a medium that is directly relevant to our various segments. From the huge variety of academic journals published, we select those which reflect our niche subject areas to cultivate reviews. If you look hard enough, there really is a journal for everything!
Another well-established avenue of books marketing is attendance at conferences. Again, a side-step from the digital approach to marketing, conferences provide an excellent opportunity to showcase an entire list with physical stock and promotional material for forthcoming titles. The opportunity arises to discuss a list in terms of forthcoming titles and commissioning with potential authors or to arrange reviews of recent titles. Presence at a conference can be very beneficial in terms of expanding and commissioning lists as well as raising the profile of the press.
This blog post is a snapshot of some of the marketing activities we employ at Liverpool University Press. It hopefully shows that with a bit of creativity, you can engage directly with your audience and bring a resource like Using Primary Sources to life.
Thanks for the blog post. I have a follow up question – do you record successful approaches in the difference subjects and then concentrate on those areas for the next publications in that discipline?
Yes, I’d say there is an element of trial and error and looking at what works for audiences segmented by subject. For example, we’ve found that traditional methods of books marketing work well for research monographs whilst titles connected to Digital Humanities pick up a lot of traction on social media (so we’d take a more digital/ traditional approach accordingly).