This blog post is the fourth post of an ongoing series by Rosie Johns, exploring the challenges and opportunities involved in book publishing in the current 21st Century environment. These posts are being written as part of Rosie’s second project on the Project Management and Research undergraduate module at Cardiff University.
Interview with Kathryn King, Marketing Manager at Policy Press, Bristol
Kathryn King has been the Marketing Manager at Policy Press for six years. As the head of a four-person Marketing team, she has a diverse range of skills and responsibilities. The following are extracts from the transcript of my interview with Kathryn on 19th March 2014.
Can you outline your role and responsibilities?
We are a Marketing team of four people and I oversee everything that happens, but between the three main Marketers– there’s an Executive, an Assistant and myself – we each look after different subject areas. We publish in a variety of areas – social work, social policy, public policy, criminology, social research, public health… So we divide the subject areas between the three of us and more-or-less shadow one, or two in my case, of the Commissioning Editors. We work quite closely with them so there’s a nice handover between the books being commissioned, all the editorial work, and the Marketing team becoming involved.
What is your subject area?
I look after criminology, social research, gender education, social justice; I work quite closely with Victoria and Alison, who are the two Commissioning Editors who look after these subject areas, and I also look after the Policy and Politics journal, Journal of Poverty and Social Justice and our new journal, Journal of Playwork Practice.
What would you say is your biggest achievement to date?
A year ago today we were holding a launch event in the House of Commons for a book we had published called Hidden Stories of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, by Richard Stone who was on the MacPherson Inquiry panel. He was there, and Doreen Lawrence (Stephen Lawrence’s mother) and various Lords were there. It was a really big event but we did it, so I think that was the biggest achievement.
How has the publishing industry changed since you took the position as Marketing Manager?
I’ve been in publishing for twenty two years and obviously things have changed a lot during that time, but I actually think the speed of change is increasing now. We are constantly dealing with different issues. Obviously digitization is a big aspect of it, but in terms of the marketing, the focus is all on data and figures. Marketing used to be about words but it’s so much more now. It’s great – marketing used to be sort of synonymous with advertising, because you did your marketing and then you had no idea of how that actually played out in terms of sales, but these days it’s so much more measurable. You can be so much more targeted and specific and you can track so much better the effects of what you’ve actually done, so if it works you can do it again, if it doesn’t you can tweak it and try again.
How have these changes impacted on the cost of marketing?
It’s very expensive to produce a direct mail piece and mail it, even more so these days, and we haven’t given up doing that but you can do a very quick email campaign as a test then tweak it a bit and run it again – you can do all sorts of variations to see what gives you the best effect.
So would you say the changes have been mainly positive?
I think so. I mean it’s challenging, because you’re constantly learning – as fast as you get to grips with one way of measuring your effectiveness another one pops up, and so we have been learning a lot! But we have decided on the tools we can use and regularly record the effectiveness of what we’ve done so we can report back on it.
How do you feel about globalization and working with large corporations like Amazon?
It’s a fact of life now. I think you’d get a different perspective from the Sales team because there’s been a huge move away from bookshops. We all love bookshops and love to browse bookshops. Amazon is both a good thing and a bad thing, I suppose. I am an Amazon user and from a Marketing perspective it’s a positive thing because you can gain direct knowledge of how many books are selling.
So you would say you gain a lot of important information by putting your books on Amazon?
Yes, but this is an area that the Sales Team are more involved in than Marketing.
Do they ever approach you to ask for copies of certain books?
All our books are automatically listed on Amazon because they are fed by Nielsen BookData [a global database] so they don’t need to ask us for any particular books.
Is it essential as a publisher for your books to be on Amazon?
In my opinion, you can’t not be on there.
Do you often sell books straight from your website instead?
Virtually all publishers allow people to buy books through their own website – we do, and we currently have a permanent 20% discount on there. From a Marketing point of view it’s much better, because we can capture the customer data and add them to our mailing list with their permission. But we are realistic and know that many people are going to go to Amazon.
Is it often cheaper for customers to buy books straight from you?
There are times when we’ve done a special promotion and our books have been cheaper than Amazon, so we promote that as a key selling point. Amazon don’t check what individual publishers sell them for – they will only change the price as determined by demand.
Is Policy Press engaging with new digital products such as eBooks?
We already make eBook versions of a lot of our books available – PDFs for libraries and EPUBs for individuals, which includes Kindle. We’re starting to produce digital only products. We’re just beginning to launch a new series of ‘shorts’ – quick turn-around, shorter products, sometimes with a print option.
Is the marketing process for digital products different in comparison to traditional marketing methods?
There are overlaps because a lot of the marketing we do for print books is online these days. But there really isn’t much point in producing a direct mail piece for a short-form eBook and mailing it, so there are some differences. We sometimes publish ‘Bytes’ in advance of the publication of books, containing sample chapters, for a small cost.
What changes are you expecting for the future?
Well, the way that we sell eBooks at the moment is that we link out to various suppliers from our own website, but we hope to be able to have eBook ordering on our own site in the future. That will enable us to capture customer data.
And finally, what are your specific aspirations for the future?
Well, we’re expanding. We’re in year two of a five-year business plan and part of that is expansion – we are increasing the number of titles we’re publishing, both books and journals, and we’re increasing the number of people we employ. We’ve just been through a re-organisation of the Marketing team and are moving into subject-based marketing. We’ve got a variety of projects we’re working on at the moment. I want to make all those things happen then move on to the next phase of the business plan. The whole management team will then be looking on to where the next five years will take us.
I would like to thank Kathryn King and Policy Press for allowing me to conduct this interview, and for consenting to the publication of this material online. My next post will feature extracts from the transcript of my interview with Policy Press’ Sales & Distribution Manager, Ann Moore.