Are e-book publishers repeating the mistakes of the music industry?

One of the biggest threats to the music industry has been pirating songs and cheating artists out of royalties. When publishers began digitalising novels, e-book piracy was a concern all parties involved had to consider. Although, piracy is not a novel concept; centuries ago, publishers used to spread censored texts on paper and ink, cameras were brought into cinemas and people used to record songs that played on the radio on tapes. Our parents might have fallen into that latter category.

While the music industry focused on attempting to install DRM (Digital Rights Management) software to prevent people from accessing content they didn’t purchase, pirates found their way around it. As sharing media digitally is the easiest solution, I’m asking the question of pricing, the impact of self-publishing on the industry and what actions the book publishers could take to solve the situation.

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What’s the impact on the music industry over illegal downloads?

As music started being shared digitally, companies implemented DRM into the code ‘that prevents copying’ as ‘a systematic approach to copyright protection for digital media’. Doctorow describes the problem in DRM is that all ‘systems share a common vulnerability: they provide their attackers with ciphertext, the cipher, and the key. At this point the secret isn’t a secret anymore.’ Because of this, users did not have to be that technically sophisticated to obtain illegal copies of the music or movies you were looking for. People just wanted the music they liked quickly and easily, the fact that they didn’t have to pay for it was an added bonus.

Napster was developed as a way for a group of friends to share music like people used to exchange records and CDs. The difference is that Napster exploded to encompass people from all over the world and that meant the creators of any content that could be shared online suffered by losing out on the royalties. Although, when Apple came out with iTunes music store with millions of DRM-free songs for under £1 each, it did not address the issue. Apple added a code to prevent users from accessing the songs from more than 5 different computers. So, it was easier to buy high-quality tracks for low prices, but if you changed devices often, you couldn’t access your media. That meant that people still preferred to pirate the music instead of risking paying for something they might lose.

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Many producers in the industry tried to crack down on music piracy, but with it being an ever-evolving hydra, it’s been impossible to stop completely. Despite having a huge negative impact on the industry, music makes up only 2.9% of everything pirated on the internet. It gives off the impression that no matter how hard the industry works to make sure the content people create is compensated; someone will always find a way to get it for free.

Is pricing the problem?

Some of the blame for causing the problem can be put on the pricing of e-books, as the price tag can be just as much as a physical copy of the book. Studies have shown that 70% of 18-29 year olds pirate media and a factor in so many students pirating is the cost. If their income is lower, they are more likely to look for free, illegal alternatives to accesing the content they want or need.

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Google put out a report in 2013 called “How Google Fights Piracy” and it spoke out against using DMRs. ‘The right combination of price, convenience and inventory will do far more to reduce piracy than enforcement can.’ This should encourage publishers to design more innovative and accessible services that are better value for the customer. There are services out there like Netflix and Spotify for books, such as Scribd and Oyster. However, because of different copyrights across the globe, they face the same issue as Netflix: it can’t offer the same content everywhere. Another issue McElhearn described with Scribd was that most of the library of books offered was self-published content from ‘authors looking for readers’, as ‘a lot of Scribd content is “documents,” such as catalogs (seriously), court filings, instruction manuals, and more.

The content unavailable is an issue with Scribd as readers might not be getting what they paid for could be off-putting for avid readers with tighter purse-strings looking for an alternative to pirating. But the subscription model for books could be useful in the future, but it would prove as advantage to readers who read quickly, as opposed to readers who take longer to finish each book. It would depend on whether a user would be willing to pay $8.99 a month to read 2 books or 6 books.

Is free the answer?

Coelho said that readers of his novels are ‘welcome to download my books for free and, if you enjoy them, buy a hard copy – the way we have to tell to the industry that greed leads to nowhere.’ His readers agreed; one reader said ‘You sir are right, by downloading your books I was determined to buy the hard copy! If I wasn’t a pirate I never would read your books! I consider it a preview, if you like it, buy it!’ If this was a model the whole industry could get behind, and use one platform to do so, it might be effective.

Of course, there will always be those against giving out creative content for free, even writers using sites like Wattpad, Kindle World, and Figment. Not to mention social media sites like Tumblr and Fanfiction, where writers can’t sell their content for fear of infringing copyright. These authors are most likely looking for a platform to share something they’re passionate about. However, writers have also bagged publishing contracts based on the popularity of a book they self-published, E.L. James with 50 Shades of Grey being the most well-known example.

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The rise of self-publishing (and how it’s affecting the market).

Many people have taken advantage of the new technologies to tell their stories and earn money by selling them online. Amazon Marketplace has self-publishing options in both e-book format and hard copy. However these self-published books haven’t been professionally edited or formatted and they are priced at less than £2 each. In the US, 235,625 print and electronic titles are released each year . The self-published books have a lower production cost, as the author is doing all the editing, cover design, marketing etc. as opposed to professional publishing houses that have a team of people dedicated to each novel they produce. This means that the independent authors can publish several books quicker, rather than publishers only being able to put out one or a maximum of two a year.

Over 25% of writers self-publish and they typically get their investment back, plus 40%. 86% of those who self-published said they would do it again. Flood  wrote that ‘Traditional publishing is no longer fair or sustainable’. Being published by a traditional in-house publishing company is no longer the only way to be successful in publishing.  The low cost, quick turnover and satisfactory content doesn’t devalue the professionally edited and formatted editions that come out of publishing houses. It does mean that self-publishers often have the same skills as a team in a publishing house and publishers must work that much hard to prove that traditional publishing is still the ‘better’ option.

However, Solomon argues that ‘publishers are doing less for what they get’ and ‘with ebooks, though, publishers’ costs are less, so authors should get a better share… Even on traditional books, publishers’ production costs have gone down but authors have not benefited from these costs savings.’ This could also be interpreted as an advantage to self-publishing: the author would simply get more of the profit for the work they actually do. This can also be linked back to being noticed as a writer. If you are a big-name author, your work will be pirated. But if you are less well-known, choose to self-publish and put a low price on it, people are more likely to buy your product than pirate it.

What is the book industry doing about it?

While E-book piracy is only 0.2% of everything that is being pirated online, it is still significant in the book publishing market. 4 out of 5 publishers are now producing e-books. Publishers don’t concern themselves with the circulation of one copy between ‘a small circle of friends or acquaintances’ rather than ‘collecting orders’ that could later ‘amount to issue to the public’. It is not a big enough threat to the industry if you share it around with a small circle of friends for publishers to take serious action. Whereas sharing a download link on forums that anyone can access freely are cutting publishers’ profits.

What’s likely to happen next?

It doesn’t look likely that books will drop down to being free downloads, however, they might drop in price to one set price. Many publishers are looking adding more value to the products they sell. For example, 31% of e-book publishers are producing enhanced e-books. Others are looking into bundling, selling several books at once, such as a box set of a series or the same book but in different formats (hard copy, e-book, audiobook). It’s like the middle ground in the print vs. online debate: how about all three? The industry could go in many different directions with their approach to e-book piracy, but I think they have taken note from the music industry.


What does the Digital Age mean for Print?

“I still think the best way to really learn something is to read a book about it” Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google

The current landscape

You and I are living at the dawn of the digital age. In the last ten years digital technology has made information accessible on a scale never seen before. The implications of this have not yet all been realised, and in the coming years we will need to continually address and explore the varying opportunities and problems this presents. With such an unrestricted platform for both receiving and creating information in the form of articles, blogs or books, comes the inevitable surplus of opinions taken as facts, and facts disregarded as opinion. The age of free information can be used to provide us with live streams of revolutions and civil unrest on the other side of the world before the official press has been given a chance to cover and manipulate the story. It can also be used to spread misinformation. Robert Darnton, writing in The Case for Books describes this sensation as ‘The sense of being overwhelmed by information and of helplessness before the need to find relevant material amidst a mountain of ephemera.’ This new era brings opportunities and problems for us all, and the publishing industry is not exempt.

Image by: The Threenity


EBooks, smart phones and tablets have all but eliminated any practical use for print. Yet it seems the end of print, particularly in the form of books is not yet on the horizon. Michael Cader, founder of ‘Book Industry’ news letter and the website ‘Publishers Lunch’ defends the intergity of books, saying ‘Physical books are closer to perfect and affordable technology. The printed book is much, much older than other types of media, and it revolutionised modern society. There was very little about it that needed to be reinvented.’ Technology aside, there is a strong bond of nostalgia that keeps many of us resisting the pull of the functional eBook. A company in France has attempted to counter this, by developing a sticker that can be attached to the front of eBooks that ‘will give off a fusty bookish smell.’ Yet that hardly seems to be a realistic compromise for the sensory satisfaction of reading a print book. Bill Gates, one of the fathers of the digital age has readily admitted in a controversial speech that ‘It’s quite a hurdle for technology to achieve to match that level of usability.’

‘Electronic enterprises come and go. Research libraries last for centuries. Better to fortify them than to declare them obsolete, because obsolescence is built into the electronic median.’


Trials and tribulations of publishing

The late Carole Blake, MD of the Blake Friedmann Literary Agency, was quoted by Alastair Horne in a speech entitled ‘Publishing: the last and next five years’, and after a long and illustrious career she considered the greatest challenge to the Publishing Industry as being ‘getting the public to accept sensible pricing.’  With the rise of giants like Amazon who pump out high volumes of  heavily discounted both print and ebooks,according to John Thompson, author of Merchants of Culture  we now ‘face a real threat that a growing proportion of book sales will be realised as eBooks that bypass the physical bookstores altogether.’ So we stand at the edge of a paradoxical market, nostalgia vs. practical, prestige vs. cheap. The next few years will define how Publishing will fare. As a market that has been widely unchallenged for most of its existence we now face a schism – can and will the publishing industry make the most of the digital age, will it survive and in what form?

The digital age has meant a great deal more exposure and highly competitive prices for us as consumers. Thompson explores the implications of this within Aggregation Theory, noting that ‘The internet has made distribution free, neutralizing the advantage that pre-internet distributors leveraged to integrate with suppliers.’  The internet has taken away much of the leverage of large publishing houses; Amazon have served as an equaliser in terms of what the large publishers can reasonably expect to sell their books for, both to the retailer and to the customer. As a consumer this can surely only be seen as a good thing. Suddenly a sector that has been largely unchallenged has a reason to lower prices and produce wider ranges with faster accessibility; the competition now offers next day delivery and online bargain bins of books that cost little more than pennies.

A more positive impact that the digital age is having on the business of print is that although the larger conglomerates of publishing houses may be suffering, Ingram reports that ‘sales of independently published eBooks has been growing’  This means that, with such a huge amount of choice when it comes to downloading onto your Kindle, we are no longer necessarily allowing ourselves to be herded into purchasing highly marketed releases of big commercial titles from Random House, but also newer titles, and authors who may have been otherwise overlooked. eBooks have given these authors a more accessible platform, and encourage diversity for lower prices. When the concerns of production value and distribution are removed, as they are with an eBook, there can be allowed an element of risk with what small and large publishers alike choose to produce, which only means more variety and experimentation for us, the audience.

Fig. 1 E-Book and Print sales forecast: 2014-2018: Deloitte 2015

Prosperity and pitfalls of the digital age

The digital age is not a cause for celebration for everyone, however. Writing for Fortune, Ingram says  ‘the share of established publishers has been declining.’ A great deal of pressure has been applied to these often long standing institutions as eBook sales rise steadily specifically in the US and UK(see fig.1). Ingram concludes ‘Print is likely to become a niche market over time, just as it is becoming in the newspaper and magazine industries.’ It is important to realise that it is not just the rise of eBooks that has affected print; this problem reaches every corner of the publishing market. Magazines and newspapers face the same problem, perhaps even more so. Darnton tells us that ‘Google is creating a database composed of millions of books, so many millions that soon it will have constructed a digital mega-library greater than anything ever imagined.’ To some this sounds like beginning of the end: for books used by students, encyclopaedias used by children, perhaps the end of research libraries altogether. As the funding dries up for services no longer crucial to the public, it is a very real possibility that books could become a niche purchase, something not deemed so critically important to have access to as a society that heavily relies on the references of Google.

How we buy and what we believe is available to us has changed radically. Thompson of says that ‘Previously, book publishers integrated editing, marketing and distribution. Amazon modularized distribution first via e-commerce and then via eBooks.’ By taking away the middle man, producing and delivering their own goods Amazon have and will continue to dominate areas of marketing, pricing and accessibility in ways that the publishing idustry has yet to compete with, but as Darnton reminds us: ‘Electronic enterprises come and go. Research libraries last for centuries. Better to fortify them than to declare them obsolete, because obsolescence is built into the electronic median.’

‘There are few other things more soothing to people of a certain type than leisurely browsing their favourite neighbourhood bookstore’  and while it’s true that eBooks are often cheaper and more practical there is much to be said for the buying experience. It’s been some time since department stores and independent book shops alike recognised the need to make book shopping a leisurely, tactile experience. We don’t just want to buy a book, we want people to see what books we read, we want a signifier of  our identity. We want our books to be, as phrased in Merchants of Culture, ‘regarded as prestigious, aspirational goods.’ So far the digital market is unable to compete with this, and so all hope is not lost for the traditional book shop market quite yet. We can see this reflected in sales figures such as those quoted by Thompson, J. in Merchants of Culture:  ‘Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, first published in 2003, has sold more than 18 million copies in hardcover in the US alone by 2006.’

We must deal with multiple, mutable texts. By studying them sceptically on our computer screens, we can learn how to read our daily newspaper more effectively – and even how to appreciate old books.

Our multi-platform future

The solution going forward has to be one that utilises the best aspects of both digital and print. Thompson, J. considers that ‘Instead of having firmly fixed documents, we must deal with multiple, mutable texts. By studying them sceptically on our computer screens, we can learn how to read our daily newspaper more effectively – and even how to appreciate old books.’ We now have luxury multi-platforms of choice, and it’s our job as the consumer to scrutinise and use the best of each.  Alba states that ‘Independent bookstores have kept surviving or thriving in spite of all the economic rationality of Amazon’s lower prices.’ This means we won’t be swayed purely by online bargain bins and lightweight technology; we are open to progress, but not so much we are willing to ignore better, older methods, and we don’t mind paying a little extra for the experience too. As Thompson, J.  articulates, when faced with a new piece of technology we experience ‘3 stages: an initial phase of utopian enthusiasm, a period of disillusionment, and a new tendency toward pragmatism.’ For newspapers, books and magazines, the markets of print and digital won’t need to wonder who will survive if they adopt the same logical thinking as their consumers, and evolve pragmatically into a market that utilises the best of both.


Image by: Michael Kozlowski


Are Publishers Missing a Trick with Consumer-Centric Marketing?

Online Marketing

We’re aware of very few marketing campaigns in the publishing industry, but we’re all too familiar with big brands like Apple and Coca Cola dominating our media platforms and capturing or imaginations. So maybe it’s time for publishers to take a leaf out of the big brands’ books, so they can sell more copies of their own.

What are publishers doing wrong? Ask the pros

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Many industry professionals would agree when I say publishers’ marketing skills need a little work. In his article for The Idea Logical Company, Mike Shatzkin discusses the idea that ‘publishing entrepreneurs were [when publishing houses started] motivated by the ideas for books, not by a better idea for production efficiency or marketing or sales innovation.’ Unfortunately, this attitude appears to have stuck with many publishers. According to The Bookseller, publishers had almost no relationship whatsoever with their readers when it all started. It claims ‘the entire supply chain of the publishing industry was set up around a premise that essentially ignored the end user’. After the rise of the digital era and, subsequently the birth of online bookselling, we changed the way we shopped, and the way we read. This article claims that ‘for the first time in almost 200 years, publishers had the opportunity to deal directly with their customers. Sadly, it was an opportunity that few grasped until very recently’. This failure to keep up with the times could partially explain why printed book sales have fallen over £150m in five years  and eBook sales have dropped 2.4% in 2015 for the first time since the digital age began.

What does the future look like?

Digital marketing firm Chadwick Canon shared its predictions about the direction of the book industry at the start of 2016. It claimed there would be a small rise in the sale of print, but a decline in the sale of eBooks, which is exactly what happened. It also predicted an increase in book marketing. A spokesperson for the firm wrote:

Publishing has tended to lag in marketing innovation, but more and more, we’re seeing it catch up as publishers and authors use strategic content creation and distribution to grow their fan bases and win buyers. In 2016, we’ll see this trend hit publishing hard, with the majority of successful authors, agents, and publishers tapping into the power of content.’

To ensure the survival of the book, we can only hope the firm’s predictions come true. Another change Chadwick Canon is foreseeing is that publishers will invest more in digital marketing. While publishers have always forked out thousands to external PR teams, word has it that may change. Canon says this needs to happen, as ‘the trends of our information culture necessitate the change. People consume media differently, with social platforms and short-form, app-based media (think blogs, BuzzFeed lists, etc.) trumping once big-time TV and traditional radio and news sites.’

When talking about the changes in the publishing industry now compared to 50 years ago, Mike Shatzkin wrote:

‘Those that didn’t make that transition [from editorially driven publishing houses to sales driven ones], expanding their sales forces and learning to reach more accounts with their books than their competitors, fell by the wayside. The new transition is to being marketing-driven. Those that develop marketing excellence will be the survivors as book publishing transitions more fully into the digital age.’

What’s going wrong?

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Most publishers are given little to no advertising budget for each book, which puts them at a disadvantage in a world where consumers are overwhelmed by ads. But there are plenty of marketing strategies publishers can adopt which are completely free, the most obvious one being social media marketing.

Another difficulty the industry faces is how tough it is to measure book sales. Author of How to Market Books says it’s difficult enough to measure the number of books published, ‘…trying to establish how many books are published in other specific territories is a logistical (and political) nightmare…In short, there are no available numbers.’ If the number of books published is hard to access, it must be doubly hard to measure sales.

‘The Big 5’ vs independent publishers

In terms of marketing, the larger publishers often need to work less to gain more profit. Simply having their logo stamped on a book means a reader may consider it to be more worth their time and money than a book with an unfamiliar logo. This isn’t the case with small publishing houses, who are sometimes more likely to take risks on books they feel hold artistic merit. An article in the Writer’s Digest quotes Press 53 publisher, Kevin Morgan: ‘With a small press, there is no 90-day window to make your book a bestseller. We continue to market and support our books and authors years after the book is released. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.’

Book agent Chip MacGregor claims ‘a small publisher may not have any sort of marketing budget for most books’ and that utilising social media and other free forms of publicity is often the best route to take.

Who gets it right?


Source: Public Domain Pictures

Author of The Global Brand Nigel Hollis speculates Apple’s success:

‘Apple advertising stands in direct contrast to many of its competitors…Instead of focusing on how people interact with technology, those companies [Blackberry, Samsung and Nokia] focus on features and specifications. The first ads for the iPad did not focus on the product features, like memory, or speed, or slimness. Instead they portrayed someone relaxing on their sofa using the product. The ads didn’t tell us what the product was. They told us how we would use it, accessing news and entertainment whenever and wherever we want.’

Its ads highlight just how intuitive the products are. Hollis also claims that ‘the superlative product experience comes from an unusual combination of human and technical understanding…’, a claim anyone who has used an Apple product will know to be true.

The food industry

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Brands like Coca-Cola are experts in marketing, which is part of what makes the company so successful. According to The Wall Street Journal, the ‘Share a Coke’ campaign, which involved replacing the classic logo with ‘popular names among teens and Millennials’, created a huge buzz on social media. So much so, the campaign generated over 125,000 posts (particularly on Instagram) over the course of a month. Not only this, but 96% of consumer responses were either ‘positive or neutral’.

Author as a brand

So campaigns are one option, but what else could publishers be doing? Another feature of Coca-Cola is that it emphasises brand over product. In her article for Smartling, Warkentin explains that ‘Coke doesn’t sell a drink in a bottle, it sells “happiness” in a bottle.’ In a similar way that Apple does, Coke sells the lifestyle the product promotes – a lifestyle of ‘happiness’, ‘sharing’ and ‘friendship’ that is universally desired.

Forbes contributor, David Vinjamuri reiterates the importance of branding in publishing, and claims that ‘the popular perception of a book itself is colored by the strength of the author’s brand. When we view [the] bestseller list, part of what we’re seeing is a brand ranking.’

Fauzia Burke works to promote authors online, and she’s come up with a strategy that helps them build a strong online brand: ‘Design + Engagement + Visibility = Success’. She claims authors need strong visual branding in the form of a good website and an active social media presence – something her clients claim publishers don’t always help with. In terms of engagement, Burke suggests creating a relationship with readers through appropriate forms of social media. Her clients have said this relationship building pays off further down the line. Visibility is publicity, which is something publishers often spend a lot of time and money on. Burke suggests visibility plans should be in place six months before the book is published in order to create buzz and excitement leading up to its release.

Consumer-centric marketing – a potential solution

Different books have different target readers, so being aware of the audience is vital when choosing a marketing strategy. For example, a huge social media campaign is unlikely to succeed for books like Erik H. Erikson’s Vital Involvement in Old Age or Alan Titchmarsh’s How to Garden: Greenhouse Gardening.

So, demographics need to be considered before publicising a book, but that doesn’t mean certain books are unmarketable – quite the opposite.

In his article for The Bookseller, Chris McVeigh talks about his time working with large data sets and the patterns that emerge from analysing them. Many companies are hiring experts to look into their consumers’ browsing habits, which not only makes their next moves easier to predict, it allows companies to market their products more effectively.

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“The most important lesson publishers are learning is that they can’t bring the mountain to Muhammad. Publishers need to be where their consumers are.”

In Adobe’s marketing website CMO, an expert mentions three key data sets marketers can’t afford to ignore. The first is ‘location data’ which allows marketers to target the right consumers based on proximity to their target locations. The second is ‘purchase data’. This data set is easily accessible to marketers through the brand or retailer. The third, and arguably most effective data set is ‘census block data’. With this, marketers use age, gender, race and net worth to determine who they market the product to and where they are.

The most important lesson publishers are learning is that they can’t bring the mountain to Muhammad. Publishers need to be where their consumers are. They need to get to know each one of them, find out what they’re interested in and figure out a way to make them buy their books. This can all be done using today’s advanced technology, which the book industry could be utilising, not loathing.

Marketing in the Digital Age: Are you doing it right?

Digital marketing is a very broad generalisation of the marketing of various products or publications in a digital format. The publishing industry has been around for centuries and so has their marketing techniques. However, the way in which digital marketing has developed since the 1990s and 2000s has changed the way brands and businesses utilize technology and digital marketing for their marketing. Digital marketing campaigns are also becoming much more powerful as well as efficient. As digital platforms are increasingly incorporated into marketing plans and everyday life, as people use digital devices instead of going to physical shops. Or access various services online rather than purchasing in person.

However, generally speaking there are nine types of marketing. Search engine optimization (SEO), pay per click advertising (PPC), public relations (PR), social media marketing, content marketing, affiliate marketing, viral marketing, influencer marketing, and digital/online/web marketing.


Search engine optimization (SEO) is a type of marketing of which its goal is to help you rank higher up in Google searches. Most businesses require this to run successfully, some more than others. It is one of the strongest types of digital marketing you will come across. Of all the clicks in search results, 94% of them go to organic listings – not PPC. The methods have altered and changed over the years; but the target is still the same. To put your business higher up the list for potential or recurring customers when they search the Internet.

As mentioned above, pay per click (PPC) is also a form of marketing. Unlike SEO which is about ranking highly long term in the organic listings, PPC is usually about paying a specific search engine directly to be up there. When people refer to PPC they are most likely referring to the ‘sponsored’ links you find in Google searches; however they may be talking about ads in any search engine such as Yahoo or Bing. These links can normally be spotted easily and usually have a note to inform you it is sponsored. These can also be picture ads found on other websites. It is one of the forms of digital marketing that is completely short term and will only work so long as you are paying for the service. Once you stop paying, the ad will no longer exist. Anyone can use this method and profit from it but prices can vary and it is extremely high risk if the business doesn’t know what its doing.

Public relations (PR) cannot be overlooked, and although it’s not technically just a form of digital marketing it can have a large impact on digital marketing outcome and results. Out of all of the types of digital marketing, PR is one the most likely of techniques to gain the most exposure fastest. Public relations is based on business or service exposure, whether that’s in a news article or holding an event, its aim is to get your business well known out there and in the right places to thrive. New businesses benefit hugely from this technique but even huge well known companies continue to use it on a regular basis.The ultimate type of digital marketing for the publishing industry is content marketing. It involves combining several methods together to build a business into a serious success. These methods being SEO, PR and Social Media Marketing. Content marketing is a method that uses great content that your customers will want to read to encourage new sales and leads online. It can be content found anywhere – from YouTube to podcasts, tweets to infographs. However most often it’s blog content on your website, driving new traffic through search engines like SEO. The downside is that it requires a lot of time and dedication, and can be the most expensive form of digital marketing; but you get out of it what you put into it.

Unlike other types of digital publishing, there is no upfront cost for affiliate marketing. You can sit back and relax and let someone else do the marketing for you. However like most things, there is a catch. If they bring in a sale, you have to share the profits. By recruiting ‘affiliates’ for your business or service they draw in leads. In a basic sense they are sales people who are paid on commission when you make a profit. The ‘commission’ is determined entirely by you (the business). There are variations however; some organisations will offer a percentage of the sale made while others may offer a flat rate per product. Affiliate marketing is where you recruit ‘affiliates’ for your business, and they draw in leads. Affiliates are like sales people that you pay on commission. The ‘commission’ is determined entirely by you; some organisations offer a percentage of the sale made, others offer a flat rate per product. This marketing technique is mainly used for B2C, e-commerce businesses, simply because you have to be able to track the direct sales and where profits come from for it to work effectively. The best part of this method is obviously the cost or lack of cost. However it does of course mean giving control of your brand to strangers. It’s usually only a good thing, but might depend on what service you wish to provide. Therefore you have to be smart and set out clear terms and conditions before you dive in.


Viral marketing is very similar to PR in terms of speed of exposure, however viral is much more effective in a different way. Viral marketing involves getting a piece of your content to simply go viral; it could turn your business into an overnight success. To make your next marketing campaign can take a combination of a number of the other types of digital marketing – such as content marketing, PR and social media marketing – but it can also lead to some amazing results for your business. Viral marketing is when you release content that is strange, hilarious or ‘current’ in a popular topic at that time, which gets you noticed and shared – a lot (mainly via social media). It usually causes a big spike in traffic to your service over a short period of time. Viral marketing can help any business, however the biggest successes have come from large B2C businesses. This is mainly because the consumer goods are going to reach a much bigger audience than a smaller business, which is less well known. This method can however be achieved by any company that produces the right thing at the right time.

A much newer and exciting type of digital marketing is influencer marketing. It is equally effective as the other methods, however in contrast it is vastly different. Influencer marketing is relatively new – but it’s a very exciting form of digital marketing. It’s vastly different from the other types of digital marketing, but can be equally as effective. Influencer marketing is where sales are driven solely by striking a deal with someone who already has a following and ‘influences’ the same target market as you. For example, it’s like how Pepsi might sponsor Britney Spears as it’s spokes person. If your target market was other entrepreneurs for example, you might try to get Richard Branson on board to help market your business.

However in this day and age, with digital marketing as such a key element to drive any form of sales, and the prominence of social media sites; influencer marketing is extremely popular. For example, striking a deal with a popular instagrammer and getting the person to wear your brand of clothes or promote a certain product or service with a few photos – and this can influence huge sales for your business or service. But these days, with social media, it goes much further than that. If you can strike a good deal with a popular and relevant instagrammer and get them to wear your brand of clothes in a couple of photos this can massively increase the likelihood of your target market. This method is again mainly used by B2C eCommerce business owners, but not solely. For example, you could attempt to get an influencer in your industry to tweet about your business and this would also count as influencer marketing and be great exposure.

Digital, online, website marketing. These are all the same things. And they cover all of the digital marketing techniques above. It’s also referred to as an umbrella term. This means it covers all aspects, therefore when marketing for your company you should ensure you figure out which of the services you really want to use to reach your target audience before going to an agency that does this, so you know exactly which types of digital marketing you should ask for. Knowing your target audiences demographic is also a requirement for a successful marketing campaign in the publishing industry. Digital marketing doesn’t usually include PR but often includes a collaboration of any of the above.

Digital Publishing: Authors utopia or nightmare?

 Today, an average of 41.8 million people use the internet on a daily basis creating a new world of publishing. Digital publishing has undeniably, democratised the industry, creating opportunity for new, previously rejected, authors. However, is it truly a utopia for authors? Or has it, in fact, made the industry more challenging than ever?

Total Control

Digital publishing has opened up the ability for authors to self-publish. Technological advances have ‘levelled the playing field to an unprecedented degree’ for authors. Self-publishing has allowed authors to take total control over their work, something that was simply not possible with traditional publishing.

Editing platforms such as CreateSpace and Ingram Spark have enabled authors complete authority, allowing them to freely edit without restriction. For example, CreateSpace has effectively eliminated the need for publishing houses as ‘CreateSpace authors and publishers will earn industry-leading royalties on each sale while continuing to own the rights and have creative control over their work.’ Authors can now have control over what happens to their work, how it is published, and where.

These self-publishing platforms, coupled with print-on-demand technology, allow authors to upload their work and then publish it straight to online storefronts like Amazon. It has enabled ‘indie authors–as well as the smallest boutique publishers and micropresses–[to] sell their books through the same online retail storefronts that today account for roughly 50% of total US print sales.’ Works from Faber&Faber are sold alongside self-published works giving authors an equal opportunity and access to a larger audience. This technology has opened the door to independent authors who traditionally would not have been able to afford upfront printing costs.

At what cost?

However, although this technology has allowed more authors the opportunity to have their work seen, it is difficult for self-published authors to make a significant amount of money. Amazon offer 70% royalties to their authors, which appears a good rate but getting your eBook to sell in large quantities is very difficult. EBooks are sold for a fraction of the cost of print books and so need a higher turnover to break even. A survey of 1,007 authors found that ‘less than 10% of self-publishing authors earning about 75% of the reported revenue and half of writers earning less than $500.’


The few authors that do make a reasonable outcome tend to have large outgoings, many of the books that have succeeded in the market have been edited and designed by professionals. Book cover designs can cost anywhere between £100-£1000 and copy editors usual charge around £26.50 per hour. Even the platforms designed for self-publishing can be costly with ‘Lulu [charging] about $500, Createspace about $700.’ Self-publishing is usually marketed as free but many authors end up paying out to ensure their work is of good quality, so either way self-publishing can be costly for many authors.


Although it can be costlier, digital publishing has allowed opportunity for content that may have previously been refused. Self-publishing has allowed experimental genres, such as Fan Fiction, to be explored and it is these genres that are proving the most popular ‘56 of Amazon’s overall Top 100 Best Selling ebooks… were self-published indie titles.’ According to AuthorEarning ‘self-published indie Science Fiction books, indie Thrillers, indie Suspense novels, indie Urban Fiction, and even Cozy Mysteries by indies’ are amongst the top selling eBooks, showing the ever growing market and scope for new authors to be successful in.

AuthorEarnings February 2016 report showing the popularity of indie published books.

Amanda Hocking is a great example of seizing this new market, at the beginning of 2010 she was an unknown, paranormal fiction writer with seventeen unpublished novels. Yet, by the end of 2010 she would have four recognisable novels and have sold 1.5m books, making $2.5m. Uploading her novels onto Amazon and Smashwords has made her a household name and even secured her a press deal with St Martin’s for over $2.1 million. This is a clear indication that self-publishing has allowed authors the freedom to publish work that publishers would not accept and authors are making millions from this previously restricted content.

New Kids on the Block

Alongside new content the digital world has also created a new type of author. Commissioning editors are starting to steer away from traditional authors and are now offering book deals to young, social media stars thanks to their extreme popularity and a celebrity-like status.

Surely this is good for authors? Young stars are being given writing opportunities they may never have been offered, creating new content, and a new type of author. Books by Youtubers have flooded the market, 5 out of the 10 books in BookScan’s Autobiography: The Arts category are by YouTubers and GoodReads even has a top 100 Books by Youtubers section.

However, this is creating a new problem for authors hoping to become noticed. Financial pressure from the market is causing publishers to pick content guaranteed to sell and ‘if the publishers’ budgets are being sunk into luring already-prominent names, there will inevitably be a horde of brilliant unknowns, tapping away at their keyboards, forever unheard.’

Youtubers are being picked by commissioning editors thanks to their huge online presence which transcends across social media and the internet giving the most popular, like Zoella, an avid following of about 5.8 million. Controversies such as Zoe Sugg’s ghost writer scandal, demonstrates the pressure publishers are feeling. As Sugg’s ghost-writer points out ‘whether you like it or not, this is the financial reality of today’s publishing industry.’

Publishers are picking content based on popularity, and it is selling well, which leaves authors with a market that’s even more difficult to be noticed in.


The good news for these “horde of brilliant unknowns” is that there is no reason why new authors cannot create their own audience just as Youtubers have. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are all free marketing tools that can generate great interest and hype for authors and their work. Hashtagging and interacting with fans builds a following behind these authors and creates an often small but loyal market for their novels.

Mark Dawson is a prime example of using marketing to its full potential as he admitted ‘in order to be successful at this, you need to take off your artist hat and put on your marketing hat.’ Dawson has used social media to its full advantage, using it to build a rapport with his audience. He has created, much like the Youtubers, a loyal and secure audience and it has worked with Amazon paying him in excess of $450,000 a year. If authors can embrace the digital world and take full advantage of it, as a marketing platform, they can become successful and most importantly noticed.


Lost at Sea

Unfortunately, success stories such as Dawson’s are not in the majority. Amazon’s Kindle claims to have 105,688 new releases in the last 30 days and 1,412,329 books now available Kindle unlimited. This huge volume of work means it can be all too easy for authors work to be lost in the market. In 2016, only ‘40 independent authors have sold more than a million copies of their e-books on Amazon,’ a worryingly low number for a market so large. Even if authors are using social media to create a brand there is still a high chance they will become lost in the market and make little income.

Likewise, authors who choose to self-publish often find themselves isolated from the industry and there is often elitism among publishers against self-publishing. Andrew Franklin, the managing director of Profile Books famously said at the Writing in the Digital Age conference that ‘the overwhelming majority [of self-published books] are terrible – unutterable rubbish.’

 Bestselling authors who are talented and hard working – like Thor and Grafton – are inclined to believe that publishing is a meritocracy where the best work by the most diligent writers gets represented, acquired, published and sold.  But this is demonstrably untrue. –David Vinjamuri 

Many publishers in the industry share this view, making it difficult for authors to have their work recognised. Online success is often ignored in reality as ‘self-published books are not eligible for major prizes like the Baileys, the Costa and the Man Booker,’ which excludes a huge number of authors and their work from getting the recognition they deserve. Author Talli Rolland explains ‘I found it difficult to get my printed novel into bookstores, despite solid e-book sales figures.’ This highlights the difficulty many authors face when trying to get noticed in the industry and it’s a constant struggle to get self-publishing acknowledge as a viable medium.

So which is it? Utopia or dystopia? 

It is undeniable that the world of digital publishing has created new opportunities for authors. The internet has allowed authors control over every process of their work from the editing all the way up to marketing and there are success stories. It has created a more democratic system, one which has room for all authors and every type of content.

However, success in digital publishing comes at a price, the industry is more competitive than ever and equal opportunity for all means the market is continuously growing, making it increasingly difficult to become noticed. Is it a utopia? Certainly not. But, if authors are willing to work hard and embrace the new, interactive, fast paced world of digital publishing there is, at least, the chance for them to become the next Fifty Shades of Grey.


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How authors should use Snapchat to stay relevant with a younger audience


In a world of social media and technology, efforts need to be made to reach a generation who live their life through a small screen. Snapchat, originally introduced to the world as Picaboo, was created in 2011 and since then has become the fastest growing form of social media. The app, only available on smartphones, is designed to allow users to send photos and videos which can be viewed for a maximum of 10 seconds before they disappear forever. The vanishing content varies between a direct message to a certain person or being added to the Story – where they can be viewed as many times as needed in the space of 24 hours.

What started as a simple messaging app has grown into a strong platform for interacting with an audience, especially millennials, on a more personal level. With the Telegraph reporting up to 100 million users a day, Snapchat is a new and viable platform that authors are beginning to manipulating more and more.

Media and publishers were quick to jump on the bandwagon, especially with the introduction of Snapchat Discover. Whereas people can only reach the content on offer if they add the username to their friends list, Discover offers limited number of spaces which allows paying media outlets and publishers to reach all users with their own original content.

With the limitation of spaces, the competition for a spot is rife and earlier this year Yahoo! was dropped for Buzzfeed. The independent digital media company, who aims to deliver news and entertainment, report 21% of their total content views come from the discover section of Snapchat – just 6% behind their views from Facebook videos. Tastemade – the 4-year-old media start-up that specialises in food and travel videos – joined Discover in August and reoriented themselves around Snapchat due to the success they gained from it. These success stories suggest the fight for a spot is worth it, however, when faced with the statistics, 54% of daily users never view the discover stories making it an expensive risk to take.


Sign up and Snap

This is where creating an organic account comes in. Yes, it lessens the reach to an audience as people can only view content if they know where to find it, but it still creates a unique bond between author and reader, one that was previously lacking. In the past, these relationships have been strictly business but in such a digital age, readers crave more of a social connection.

A lot of authors have cottoned on to using Twitter to build on this, using question and answer sessions to engage with their audience, keeping them up to date and offering exclusive content. They create a place for themselves in the social media stratosphere. J.K Rowling is someone who has mastered the art of using Twitter to build up and interact with her audience.

With Snapchat being a newer, more alien concept, especially to those of an older age, it’s understandable why authors are sticking to what they know in this scary new digital world. Having just got to grips with using social media in the first place, authors are cautious about delving even further into the unknown world of social media. But with the app being so popular with the younger generation, are authors – especially those concerning Young Adult fiction – missing out by not joining in on the craze?

‘Only Ever Snapchat’

Business Insider disclosed that the majority of users of the photo sharing app are females between the ages of 13 and 25, and this demographic also happens to be of those most likely to pick up a YA novel. This makes Snapchat a great platform to target and interact with the intended audience. Louise O’Neill, author of ‘Only Ever Yours’ and ‘Asking for It’, started using Snapchat in February earlier this year and is a great example of an author capitalising on the success of the app. Taking to twitter to share the news, she tweeted:

“I’ve been messing around on Snapchat for about five minutes now and I hate it already”

She followed this tweet up with “It’s what all the kidz are doing! *clings to youth*”.  As a YA author, O’Neill evidently followed along with the hype to keep herself in touch with her younger audience, recognising the golden opportunity to better sell herself and her work. Three days later, she tweeted her praise and love for Snapchat and has become somewhat of an addict.

O’Neill offers readers a behind-the-scenes insight into her life, allowing them to connect with her on a more personal level. Through the use of her Snapchat Story, she targets the readers as if they were friends of hers, keeping them up to date with not only news surrounding her books, but also normal activities throughout her day. This gives them a chance to get a better sense of her as a person and negates that previous divide of seller and consumer – the reader feels more valued and connected to her as a person as opposed to just another costumer.

She uses her Story to announces events, for example, a live podcast she’s partaking in, inviting those in the Dublin area to come down and join the fun. As well as adding videos of her mum or her dog, creating a wholesome image of her as more than just a woman behind the words of a book. She recently took to the app to announce that she’d been longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award for her latest book, giving her audience the chance to celebrate her success as she promotes herself simultaneously.

A ‘Story’ away from success

Any young person with a smartphone is more than likely to have Snapchat downloaded onto their device, giving an author the chance to have their work deposited directly into a reader’s pocket. Granted, the content will only be viewed if the reader seeks it out so the use of other forms of social media come into play here as a means of directing readers to the exclusive, vanishing content. But once the initial connection is made, an author will have a first-hand line of communication. Many big companies are already using Snapchat to stay relevant in a digital age, but how is this applicable to authors?

Joe Warnimott suggests the way big name brands use the social media app can easily be applicable to coincide with the writing and publishing of a book. As the content only lasts for 24 hours when added to a Snapchat Story, sending out a picture of the first page of a novel, encouraging people to share it on other social media platforms, is a great way to create a buzz around an author’s up and coming works. Getting people excited before the book is released is a great way to increase the sales as people will already know they want more.

Another effective method is using Snapchat to reveal the cover of a new book. This will make readers feeling like they’re getting an inside scoop of exclusive content, encouraging them to follow along on Snapchat. When the book is finally released, exclusive discount codes can be sent out via the app will make readers feel valued and rewarded. By making the reader feel like they’re getting a lot out of following the Snapchat Story, both personally and as a customer, they’re more likely to invest in an author’s work.

Snapchat popularity continues to grow

Though many people argue it isn’t as polished as other forms of social media, Snapchat is quickly growing in popularity and in doing so, platforms like Instagram are conforming to the individual selling point on Snapchat by introducing ‘Instagram Stories’ and reports reveal Facebook is in talks to follow along in the trend. This emphasises just how popular Snapchat has become in these past few years. Even though the key demographic is mainly younger people, Marketing Dive reported that in 2015, the number of 25-34 year olds using Snapchat grew by 103% and the number of over 35’s grew by 84%. With the amount of users growing every day, Snapchat appears to be the perfect platform to build up a personal reputation on, allowing an author to appear more realistic in the eyes of an audience and furthering book sales at the same time.




Are Publishers Capitalising On Web Series?

Web series are episodic shows that are available on the Internet. Typically each episode is less than ten minutes in length and most shows are posted on YouTube.

A significant number of web series are categorised as literary web series, meaning that they are based on books. A large number of the current literary web series original source material comes from books that are out of copyright. This connection to the book industry from an increasingly popular media is something exciting for publishers to explore.

Book Trailers

Publishers are already involved in YouTube as well as other visual media outlets when it comes to book trailers. The term book trailer was trademarked in 2002 by Circle Of Seven and Sheila Clover English, when they made their first trailer for the Dark Symphony by Christine Feehan. At the time Clover English believed it was the first trailer of its type because of limited distribution methods for digital media. YouTube was not invented until 2005, so it was definitely among the first book trailers.

Many book trailers today are a far cry from Dark Symphony’s four minute, narrated trailer on Circle Of Seven’s own YouTube channel. They are fast paced, one to three minutes and often either on the author’s own channel or the publishing companies. There is still huge variety within trailers. 52 Reasons to Hate My Father by Jessica Brody and Crossed by Ally Condie are both live action however Condie’s uses narration and Brody’s is more film trailer-esque. To add to that feel 52 Reasons to Hate My Father uses multiple shots and locations whereas Crossed only has two locations. Then there’s Soman Chainani’s The School for Good and Evil, which has an entirely animated trailer.

Whatever style the producers of the book trailer opt for if a publishing house or author is hiring a company to make it for them it will cost somewhere in the region of £300 to £1700. This comes with no guarantees that audiences will engage with it. The only real benefit, according to Rock Your Writing website, is that they can help your search engine optimization occasionally.

Even then because of Amazon, Goodreads, book blogs or even pirate sites, book trailers will not be the first thing to show up on Google. This is because the other sites have a higher number of tags and content. In addition to this “most of the trailers I’ve seen are lucky to make 2,000 views” which is a tiny amount compared to other forms of marketing. Book trailers just haven’t seem to have taken off. This might be due to lack of interest in being sold something on a primarily entertainment site. Alternatively it could be down to budgets or other reasons. One thing is obvious though, book trailers are beginning to fade from usage.

Web Series

So what does this mean in terms of web series? The obvious drawbacks to web series again include the cost and the potential lack of engagement. However web series and book trailers differ in purpose. Book trailers are designed purely to make the audience do something, to buy the book, web series are for entertainment. YouTube’s primary function for many is entertainment and so web series will be a more attractive option for many site users. They also have the promise of more to come, which eventually leads to emotional investment.

In terms of money there are huge variety of web series out there. At the top end of the budget is something akin to brand sponsored Carmilla by KindaTV where each full season “costs $500,000 to $1 million”.

At the bottom of the scale is My Dead Friends by Perspective Productions. Perspective Productions is a student run group who had “no budget for the season 3 filming” and ran a Kickstarter to get new equipment costing £350 to £470. They also couldn’t afford to pay cast or crew. My Dead Friends stands out from many as it is an original idea and not based off a literary text.

Another student production that is literary based is Nothing Much To Do. Despite being lower quality than KindaTV it has amounted a solid repute and fanbase. The penultimate episode, which many took to be the finale, gathered over 43,000 views. Nothing Much To Do led on to another web series using the same characters but with an original storyline, Lovely Little Losers.

There is a difference in quality depending on budget, but when it comes to YouTube these differences are less noticeable. This means that creators with little funding can still be successful.

Success On Screen And Beyond

A successful web series producer is Pemberley Digital, having made the likes of

©Pemberly Digital, 2016

Frankenstein MD, Emma Approved and most notably The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. They have 120,000 subscribers and have won multiple awards for their work, including a Primetime Emmy award for Original Interactive Program in 2013. Like many literary web series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a modern adaptation of the original text and so elements of the story have been changed. This keeps the experience

©Pemberly Digital, 2015

fresh and exciting for audiences. It also allows writers to fix any problems contemporary viewers have with the original text, such as marrying your cousin. Following Lizzie Bennet’s success The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet was released. This was a novelized version of the web series with added scenes that couldn’t make it onto screen. Later the company also released The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet. Pemberley Digital have mastered the web series format and by bringing in the novelization aspect they provide a key example to publishers of how to deal with going from text to web series to beyond.

Another example of text to web series to beyond is the Carmilla web series. Carmilla was commissioned by feminine care company U by Kotex. The company “didn’t even tell people there was a brand behind it until Ep17 in Season 1”. When this was revealed separate branded videos on a different channel came out to sell the product while the show continued like normal. After three seasons KindaTV, Carmilla’s host channel, gained over 193,000 subscribers.

Due to its huge popularity, it was announced in 2016 as the third and final season aired that a movie is going to be made. Its success is also reflected in U by Kotex’s sales. The brand has seen 20,000 new sales and while this may not be solely due to the show, a survey of 10,500 viewers in early 2015 found “that 31% claimed they brought U By Kotex because of the show and 93% knew that the brand was backing the series”.

Although no data has been collected on how many people have read the source material after watching web series, by looking at TV we can guess correlation. As an example the Game of Thrones series has seen a massive increase in sales due to the HBO program. In 2008 it is estimated A Song of Ice and Fire had accumulated 7 million sales. During 2011, when the first season of the TV series was released, 9 million copies were purchased. By 2015 G.R.R. Martin enjoyed a total of over 58 million sales between all of his published works.

Of course web series don’t get 8.9 million people watching their season six finale. Carmilla’s final episode only has 275,000 views, The Lizzie Bennett Diaries 816,000 views. However with book trailers failing to make the cut when it comes to media marketing and with an increasingly media soaked society, surely publishers can find a way to engage with YouTube, or similar platform audience’s, over an extended period of time in order to market their products or even create new ones.

Whilst directly getting money for the content created is attractive, giving consumers free content promotes brand likeability and trust.

This is particularly relevant for publishers whose target market is millennials. A 2015 survey suggested that 63% use Adblock, preventing many standard internet adverts reaching them. During the same survey it was shown that “free content was the most effective way” for companies to look attractive to that audience. As much of YouTube is free, web series as a form of marketing is something that could potentially be most useful for YA publishers targeting millennials.

There is the option of paying through YouTube Red or other sites like Vimeo, but any publisher going into an endeavour like this would have to consider the benefits of both. Whilst directly getting money for the content created is attractive, giving consumers free content promotes brand likeability and trust. This, as shown by Carmilla, can lead to an increase in sales by the larger brand. Additionally any product resulting from the series, like a book or movie, is more likely to be purchased if consumers haven’t already been paying for content.

Publishers may not currently be capitalizing on the web series format, but it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t. There are many unchartered territories in this new and growing medium. It would be exciting to see what a dedicated publishing company could do with this media.


What Happens when you try to make an author out of a social media socialite?

Can celebrities famous for their lives online successfully transition over to the print industry?

Over the past fifteen years there has been a huge shift in what it means to be a celebrity; rather than being known for their craft, career or talent, a select few have been celebrated for their lavish lifestyles. Even more recently, many of them have chosen to write a book. But how does one successfully transition over to the print industry when you’re only known for your extremely active social media accounts?

In the past couple of years, there’s been a lot of discussion on what will happen to the book industry as digital starts to take over. But surely, it’s also important to see how those who have their career online make the transition over to print. Two examples of this are Zoella and Kim Kardashian, both extremely successful within in the bounds of their respective target audiences, released books within six months of each other, Girl Online (November 2014) and SELFISH (May 2015). Despite having the same job, in regards to their brand and product, they both took extremely different routes. Zoella rebranded herself as an author and wrote a fiction novel and Kim Kardashian put her brand into a photobook. These decisions undeniably affected the response they received from their target market and critics.

A Girl who started Online

Known almost exclusively by her online name, Zoella, Zoe Sugg has spent the last seven years cultivating an online brand empire. She has successful maintained long term partnerships with some of the biggest businesses on the British high street, such as Superdrug and WHSmith. In 2014 her brand grew expediently with the release of her debut fiction novel, Girl Online.


In the first week of its publication, The Bookseller announced Sugg had successfully “sold 78,109 copies….– more than JK Rowling, Dan Brown or EL James achieved with their first books”. One of the most prominent reasons behind these incredible figures is Suggs dedicated fan base of around 35.1 million across all her online platforms. But how did she manage to transfer the majority her online viewers to read a physical book? To answer this, you must ask: who will be buying the book? The parents. In a world where it’s becoming progressively harder to control what the young and impressionable look at, parents want to know that, if their child is going to be on be online, that they have a role model who will influence them in a positive way. This is exactly what the Zoella brand achieves and most distinctively so in her novel which preaches the importance of online safety.

Zoella Girl Online book signing at Waterstones Bluewater, Britain - 26 Nov 2014
©Glamour Magazine

Ever since the start of her career, Sugg has successfully created a persona (also known as her brand) that is uncanny to the everyday young teenager. Her channel is fixated on subjects and interests of a young girl growing up. She has triumphantly retained the same character that she had nine years ago, despite coming up to her late twenties. This causes her viewers to have a stronger connection between who they think she is and they also feel like they are growing up with her. With such a strong connection, it meant that Penguin could almost guarantee a strong reception to her book, despite nearly all her of her previous brand deals being executed exclusively online.

When entering an industry such as book publishing it’s crucial you build a positive reputation of yourself. But there is one aspect of her novel that caused Zoella to potentially lose the respect of her industry peers and more importantly, potential customers, and this was by hiring a ghost-writer.

When Sugg labeled herself as an author rather than a Youtuber writing a memoir, it suggested she wanted to branch out from her online presence. Yet expanding her audience is something that the Zoella brand may have been unsuccessful in. For an online brand, it is one thing to maintain the trust between the product and a regular customer but a whole different challenge to create a new relationship with a potential customer. When Girl Online was published, critics speculated whether she had hired a ghost writer. It was in December of that same year that a representative from Penguin announced “to be…accurate…Zoe Sugg did not write the book Girl Online on her own.” (Flood, Hannah 2014). It was from then on, that Sugg received a huge amount of criticism from websites such as the Independent. Reporters theorised the damage it would cause her brand which was built on being an honest and hardworking individual. It may also be the reason on why she hasn’t attempted to write a novel different from series she’s already created. Instead she’s only focused on developing the Girl Online Franchise.

It’s hard to criticise such an immensely triumphant franchise and whilst she did successfully integrate having a life online into a fiction novel, Zoella is proof that if you are going to try and stray from being a known only online and transverse to one of the most prestigious industries you must be honest with your audience. Stay clear of branding yourself as something that you fundamentally are not.

A SELFISH business venture

Unlike Zoe Sugg, Kim Kardashian West did the complete opposite. Instead of rebranding herself into an author she put her brand into a book. Published by the self-declared “most beautiful book shop in New York” Rizzoli, SELFISH is a 448-page book, which is literally filled with hundreds of seen and unseen ‘selfies’.

Copyright: Rizzoli

The Kardashian brand have a reputation for making items that have huge demand with limited availability (as can be seen in the Kylie lipstick range), by doing this they ride on the prospect that their products becomes more prestigious, one for the elitist. So, ideally if you combined a book, an authoritative and respected commodity, with a brand, known for producing desirable items, surely it would sell out almost immediately. This could have been one of the arguments behind Kardashian West’s concept. Her regular customer is most likely not interest in reading a book, yet there was a clear attempt to get past this. Her brand also doesn’t run on customer trust unlike Zoella. Kardashian West’s image is about decadence, luxury and self-exposure, so how do you guarantee physical sales? By marketing her product as a coffee table book and doing a pre-release, the photobook had to potential to gain recognition from those who don’t follow her online whilst still catering for her current fans. As stated by MENDO a coffee table book is a beautiful item which has the ability to pull in all different types of people, “from business men to art students”.


Unfortunately, what could have been an extremely successful concept, in reality, did not come through. In April of 2015 Kardashian West had a limited-edition presale comprising of 500 signed copies of her upcoming book. Despite the hefty price tag of $60 the customer response from this looked extremely positive with a sell out in less than a minute. Although, after this, sales dropped and only achieved 32,000 in first three weeks, a tiny number in comparison to what Sugg had achieved six months prior. Considering Kardashian West’s following is nearly five times (165.5 million) larger than Sugg’s, her book’s failure was extremely surprising. One would have assumed, with such a large audience, her book would be an instant success.

Kim’s attempt at making an autobiography through pictures, whilst seems like a perfect concept for a lifestyle socialite, lacks anything intriguing. Most importantly, why would her fans pay $10 for content they’ve already seen for free and this is what the sales figures seem to reflect. This may be the crucial reason behind the books hesitant beginning, Kim Kardashian West’s life is already plastered all over the internet. Any promoting that she would have attempted to do, such as her infamous ‘when you have nothing to wear’ naked selfie, most likely blended into the rest of her social presence.

kimk©Instagram: Kim Kardashian West

SELFISH is arguably the opposite to what can be learned from Zoella’s novel. It shows us that if you are a socialite famous, for being famous, you must work extremely hard to distinguish your celebrity memoir from what your fans already know about you. Because she didn’t re-brand her as an author customers lacked interest. As previously argued by her critics why would fans pay out $10 for something they’ve already seen for free. A problem we’ve seen widespread across the internet with multiple industries.

The Aftermath

Despite the ghost writing controversy, she encountered along the way, Zoe Sugg has continued to promote her sequels, Girl Online: On Tour, which have gone on to be extremely successful. Kim Kardashian remastered her book (October 2016) but is not promoting nearly as much, rather she focusing on her other business ventures. Possibly reflecting her personal views on the success of her book.

SELFISH and Girl Online both beg the question is it possible to create a successful book off of just your social media presence and lifestyle brand. Both Sugg and Kardashian West are extremely affluent from a result of what they’ve achieved digitally. Yet by looking at the response they received, in either criticism or sales, it’s crucial to know that if you do make the move from digital to print you must prove that what you have to offer is worth its weight in gold. It must have substance to survive the print industry and be profitable, and this is what Zoe Sugg got right in her transition. Books demand respect, time and deep consideration, they are not just a regular brand deal.

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What is Snapchat Discover and why is it important in the marketing industry?


Snapchat Discover is something that many people may recognise, but know very little about. From a marketing and publishing perspective Snapchat is a relatively unexplored and unused platform by major companies, mainly due to the app not being considered a viable marketing platform, since its launch in 2011.  However, with the release of Discover, is Snapchat trying to update its unprofessional stereotype?

What is Snapchat:

Snapchat was set up in September 2011 and was created for sending images and multimedia to friends. Nowadays Snapchat is the second most used social network after Facebook, with well over ‘150 million people using it each day’ and is fast becoming an incredibly important social media platform to use for marketing. Although originally seen as a platform for teenagers to send each other pictures of their pets, 63% of Snapchat’s users are actually 18-34 years old and over half of new users signing up are over the age of 25. So as a social media network in which 58% of students claim they ‘would be likely to purchase a brand’s product or service if they were sent a coupon on Snapchat’, why is Snapchat not taken more seriously in the marketing world?

Snapchat vs. Alternative Platforms:

Although Facebook is still the most popular social media platform, Snapchat is the fastest growing; a statistic that some advertisers may consider to be the more important. Americans have a greater brand awareness of Snapchat than either Pinterest or Linkedin, and Snapchat’s ‘swipe-up’ rate (their equivalent to click-through) is a colossal 5x higher than that of comparable platforms.

An Overview of Snapchat Discover:

Snapchat Discover Homepage
Snapchat Discover Homepage

As a way to be seen as more of a serious social media platform and a realistic option for large scale business marketing, Snapchat released the Discover update in January 2015. Discover is a separate section of the app in which the user swipes right, and is presented with all of the stories from the sponsoring publishers and media companies. On their website, Snapchat says:

‘Stumble upon channels from top publishers who curate content daily, watch Live Stories from an event, or check out local Campus Stories — you’ll never get bored!’

At launch, Snapchat selected a few companies that were allowed to post stories on Discover, with an initial range of 11 (including People Magazine, National Geographic, Cosmopolitan, Daily Mail, CNN, Yahoo, Warner Music Group, Comedy Central, ESPN and Vice) that has since expanded to approximately 20. They release articles (referred to as stories in-app) once a day that last for 24 hours, before being replaced by new ones; this constant refreshing of content is designed to keep the app’s younger audience interested.

It is important to note that the number of companies accepted into the Discover programme is intentionally kept low so as to keep the quality of the service high and to provide a secondary source of income to those companies via third party advertising.

With its release of Discover, Snapchat are attempting to rebrand themselves as an effective and accomplished news source. According to an article on Linkedin, Snapchat has ‘a wide range of sources that include some of the hottest media brands, […and] news that’s easy to find all in one spot… it has the potential to change how people access their news.’ By tapping into the growing trends of young consumers, Snapchat are in a unique position that enables them to capitalise on their strong presence in an emerging market and provide existing companies the ability to advertise to a completely new demographic that traditional media is less effective at reaching.

The Costs of Snapchat Discover:

Instax Advert on Cosmopolitan's Snapchat
© Instax Advert on Cosmopolitan’s Snapchat

There is not a lot of publicly available information on how much companies pay to use the Discover service. It is reported that Snapchat requires payment from the companies, which is to be paid over a specified amount of time, whether or not they are making any money or receiving any views.

However, Snapchat’s main source of revenue that comes from Discover is the ads that are placed on companies’ channels. For example, when CNN first launched its Discover channel in 2015 it featured BMW heavily as a partner.

There is no set price charged for adverts on Snapchat Discover; the price is determined entirely by the owner of the channel and can be negotiated. If the publisher themselves sell the ad, then they receive 70% of the profits, and Snapchat receive 30%; alternatively if Snapchat sell the adverts on their behalf then they split the profits 50-50. Daily Mail’s US CEO reported that he was speaking to advertisers about spending $50,000 per day on the platform. This proves that the Discover service is being taken seriously by prospective companies who are willing to pay large amounts of money to access the app’s audience.

Cosmopolitan On Discover:

Cosmopolitan on Snapchat
©Cosmopolitan on Snapchat

One of the most popular sponsors on Snapchat Discover is the American fashion magazine Cosmopolitan, who have had a channel on Discover since its release in January 2015. The company release on average 5 articles a day and ‘deliver them to [the user] by 8 a.m. everyday, so you can catch up on everything that matters before you even get out of bed’. They also claim that Snapchat has provided a huge boost to their marketing campaigns.

In the summer following the launch of Discover, Cosmopolitan had nearly doubled traffic to it’s profile, going from 1.8 million viewers a day to 3 million; in September 2016, Cosmopolitan reported that this had further increased to 6 million due to its partnership with Discover. When asked whether the app is worth the editorial effort, Kate Lewis, Vice President of Hearst Magazines (who owns Cosmopolitan) said:

‘Oh my God, yes. It’s been amazing, and we have about 3 million people a day on the Discover platform … Cosmo’s Discover Stories are shared up to 1.2 million times daily’.

National Geographic On Discover:

© National Geographic on Snapchat

Another company that claims Discover provided a boost to its marketing presence is National Geographic. Although sceptical at first and only using Snapchat to ‘experiment’, National Geographic has increased its usage of the service, and now claims that Snapchat is a great opportunity for ‘growth’.

The Vice-President of Social Media for National Geographic, Raj Mody, explains in a Nieman Lab article that due to the fact that Snapchat ‘caters to a younger demographic, it’s a great opportunity for us to reach new audiences’ and he goes on to explain that as a Discover user, they can get anywhere between 20,000 and 3 million views a day. Therefore, one can see that using Snapchat Discover has expanded National Geographic’s traditional target audience, and allowed them the opportunity to reach younger readers, which they hadn’t been able to access yet via other social media.

The Removal of Yahoo and Warner Music Group:

Despite all of the apparent success of Snapchat, there are examples of companies who have not managed to utilise the platform effectively. In October 2015 Snapchat announced that Buzzfeed and iHeartRadio would be joining Discover to replace Yahoo and Warner Music Group who were removed earlier in the year. There has not been an official statement as to why the two high-profile companies were removed, but it has been variously suggested that they weren’t attracting or entertaining the primarily younger audiences, Buzzfeed is better known with young adults and teenagers, or even that Yahoo’s content was simply not interesting enough and did not transfer well to the app.

It is clear to see, then, that many companies consider who are interested in targeting Snapchat’s younger audience consider Discover an invaluable source of marketing – provided they are able to adapt to make this 21st Century media platform work for them.

The Present and Future of Discover:

As is always the case in the world of social media, it is difficult to predict the success or failure of any individual platform. However, it is plainly obvious that the current companies using Snapchat Discover are thriving, increasing their spend on the platform, and increasingly consider it a core part of their marketing strategy. With its exclusivity, reach, and new approach, Snapchat has established itself as an indispensable tool for advertising and marketing for forward-thinking and adaptable companies.

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