A Guide to Book2Look
The Book2Look (B2L) service has been around for years now and is a helpful "look inside" tool for publishers and authors - it is designed to help sell books online by recreating the bookshop browsing experience. If you're not familiar with B2L, it's a URL that contains a package of marketing goodness as it contains your (online) promotional material in one central portal.
A B2L widget (biblet) allows readers to flip through a book, read more about the author, watch video or listen to audio, read reviews, order the book through shopping links and more! It also provides publishers with analytics to track views, clicks, embeds etc to work out what promotional activites and channels are creating the most engagement.
Here at RM Marketing Services we buy B2L widgets in batches for our clients as they are often part of the marketing mix for new books. We've been using them for a couple of years now and thought it was time we gave a rundown for publishers and their authors as to the best way to use the service to promote their books.
Setting up the content
Firstly, before you create a new biblet on the site, decide on what section of a book you'd like to offer up as a "look inside" for readers. It might be the first chapter, several chapters, selected pages. A fiction book, for example, might offer up the intro, set the scene, and then cut it off at the point the reader is invested in the story and wants to keep reading. A non-fiction book might provide longer chapters for viewers to get a feel of the book whereas a highly illustrated work would require selected pages to "show-off" the work. Scholarly presses would consider Table of Contents and contributor information, perhaps a chapter that provides a good overview of what the work covers without giving away the essence of it. Decide on your content and prepare the PDF. We prefer to extract the pages from the typeset file and have them in one separate file which you would mark as 100% view. Otherwise you can load the full content and select the nominated pages when you set up the widget.
What's not surprising about this particular widget is the view count. Views are very high (B2L provides a number of analytical tools) as it's been marketed in social media channels, EDMs, and websites. The book is $69.95 so the consumer can look inside and ascertain if the book is what they are looking for - either for them or as a gift for someone - before ordering online or going into a bookshop to purchase it.
One of the downsides to B2L is the rather limited number of websites they offer up as standard - particularly if you are in Australia and New Zealand. Of course they have Amazon, The Book Depository and Booktopia but we have a vibrant independent bookshop culture here who have a good online offering. As these logos don't come up automatically in B2L we endeavour to save our preferred bookshop logos, resized for B2L, and manually load them for each widget we create but this does take time, particularly if the logos are rectangle/too long for the available logo space in the platform.
We then put the shopping links in order as to the booksellers who have ordered stock or have it available to purchase. If an independent bookshop is doing a marvellous job marketing the books to their community, we put them higher up the scale to support their endeavours. If a chain bookseller has taken lots of stock, we take that into account as well. We provide readers with options - direct selling from the publisher's website, indies and chains. And yes we've had clients who don't want to list the almighty Amazon and those that want all the major sites to be listed. Find out the business philosophy and sales strategy that's right for you. Our one is to not limit sales avenues - an order is an order, make it easy for readers to buy your books, preferably with one click.
When you set up your B2L pre-publication you might not have reviews available but over time collate your URLs and add them to the widget. Another downside to the site is that you can't ATTACH a PDF of a review - it must be a URL and in the day of paywalls, that isn't a great experience for people wanting to read more about the book if the review requires a subscription to access.
Make sure you save your favourite quotes from a review and add them to your own product page - if selling directly from your site - use that URL as the primary link for the book when you set up shopping links. We always put the publisher's website first.
Over time the B2L site will pick up bits and pieces automatically to add to the reviews - it might be reader reviews from GoodReads or articles about the author in the mainstream media. You can actually use the tools on B2L to "fetch reviews" and can then manually add anything that hasn't been picked up via SEO. We try and check in our links every month or so for active titles.
Audio Files and Video Content
You can load audio files so if you've got an author reading an extract from the book, add it in the widget. Video content is also super helpful - and it's easy, grab your URL and include it in the relevant section. We put in book trailers for example.
Book2Look widgets are available through Thorpe-Bowker/My Identifiers and Nielsen. And of course RM Marketing Services offer them as part of a marketing campaign. Buying a single biblet through the bibliographic agencies can be pricey (pending special offers from time to time) so we buy in bulk for our clients to bring the cost down. Another reason to consider using RM Marketing Services for marketing, publicity and promotional campaigns. Contact us today.
Helping Publishers Do What They Do Best
When RM Marketing Services launched in 2014 it didn't take long to see what the publishing industry lacked - someone with decades of senior product, marketing and management experience who could be called upon to help get jobs and projects done quickly, efficiently and without supervision for publishers and distributors who needed support. As marketing departments were reduced and budgets slashed, publishers and distributors were quick to take advantage of our honed skills and extensive industry knowledge - special projects and consulting gigs happened in quick succession. Over time the business morphed into two streams - outsourcing solutions and consulting services. Outsourcing sales and marketing solutions covers sales, marketing, digital marketing, website and social media management as well as publicity, author care, special channel promotions, corporate communications and just about anything our clients required! If you are considering outsourcing, read more about the benefits of using RM Marketing Services below...
Outsourcing is simply contracting work out to an outside supplier. For RM Marketing Services outsourcing involves taking on a specific role or set of tasks for a defined number of hours a week. We've provided outsourcing for as little as 4 hours a week to a maximum of 21 hours. A company email address is established (as, unlike consulting requests, we represent the publisher or distributor), goals and tasks are discussed, and we work with a nominated representative or team to manage the workload being outsourced and the deadlines. We encourage regular catch-up meetings, phone calls, strategy or team meetings - we are part of the organisation but don't have the downtime that other employees have for internal facing activities, professional training or other distractions - i.e. we can actually focus on getting the work done! Depending on the work required, system access is granted and training takes place. The publisher or distributor often requests for documents to be signed - their own contractor agreement and/or a Non-Disclosure Agreement for a multinational however for smaller presses we work to an email summary and occasionally a phone call depending on the existing relationship between our two organisations. Payment is via direct deposit, 14 day payment terms. It's not complicated to set-up outsourcing and the quicker the above is organised, the quicker we can get to the work.
Benefits to outsourcing. Oncosts of each employee is estimated at being 25-30% - these oncosts include superannuation, insurance/workers compensation, leave (sick leave, annual leave, long service leave), payroll taxes and other add-ons that eat into your business and profits. Of course, these are irrelevant when you opt for an outsourced solution! Check with your accountant as well as what you can claim on your own tax returns when using a consultant, as there may be additional benefits. Many organisations are also able to bring in contractors when there are staff freezes or restrictions. Rather than restructuring teams around staff who are leaving, and bringing added stresses to already heavy workloads within your organisation, why not consider outsourcing a handful of tasks to someone you can trust and your staff will thank you for it! It could be for as little as 4 hours a week...
Benefits to outsourcing with RM Marketing Services. Director Rachael McDiarmid has 30 years sales, marketing, product, and management experience in the publishing industry with a broad skill set particularly in all aspects of marketing and promotion. She has been privileged to travel the world to meet with publishers, distributors and library vendors; heavily involved in ebooks and digital platforms; played a pivotal role in bibliographic data collection; and has decades experience with publishing, book distribution and supply chain management in Australia and New Zealand. This has all been on top of a wonderful career, mainly in academic and professional publishing. (You can view her profile on LinkedIn)
She also has an extensive network of experienced industry professionals to bring into the mix, particularly for consulting projects but often for administrative and research tasks as part of an outsourced arrangement. With the knowledge, experience and determination she brings to your organisation, you can be assured you are in safe hands. And for everyone that knows Rachael personally, you know she's professional, has a great industry reputation, and gets on with the task at hand with no fuss.
Let RM Marketing Services help you get through your to-do list and ask us about outsourcing services today.
I've been in the book industry since 1990 - when you still had a typewriter (and Tippex!) on your desk. Fax machines were still the most amazing invention (I never got sick of sending or receiving something on it - the idea of a fax machine blew my mind!) and eventually "The Work PC" entered the marketing department. Of course, we didn't have a PC EACH. No, no, we had to share. We had to allocate the number of hours each person could spend on "The Work PC" and beg with colleagues if you needed longer. The marketing staff all learnt how to design "flyers" in MS Word or Wordperfect and how to create a price list in tables in Excel. There was no formal training but luckily we worked for a publishing company that published books on computers - software and hardware - so we picked up one of the books and taught ourselves.
Over the years, as the software matured and became easier to use, we learnt how to "pretty something up" for an author or a customer. We concentrated on where to position images, how to ensure that all the features - and key selling points - of the book were highlighted, that all the essential information about the book were easy to find (price, ISBN, format, page count, pubdate, imprint - they are all drummed into me) and that we always had the right amount of information "about the author" (affiliations, career, other books etc). When the real designers (who did the cover art, posters, catalogues, direct marketing flyers and other corporate pieces) were busy you had to be able to pull something up quickly to meet a deadline. It had to be professional. And it had to be a good promotional piece - something that would encourage sales or publicity for the book/s you were promoting. You created templates. You worked out what worked and what didn't. And it became something so second nature you didn't think it was a skill at all. It was all on the job training.
Wherever I have worked, I have always been the "go to" person for making something look good. Whether it was a professional business document or a comms piece one of the more senior managers had attempted (that had to be quickly rescued), I was their person. So I had to always extend my training to cover what they required. I learnt Pagemaker while doing my communications degree but did not have access to a Mac for a very long time. So I had to work in Word (urgh, the things you do....) or Publisher. It took over TWO DECADES before I started my own business and the first thing I made sure I had was a Mac and Adobe products like Indesign. And training. But I had the design elements already part of my publishing DNA. The rest was just navigating the software.
Since April 2014 I've designed hundreds of brochures, dozens of posters and banners, social media assets, media releases, for all my clients. Digital assets (headers and other images) were required for enewsletters. Sometimes third parties wanted to have a range of banners to put on their website so you kept the core dimensions required by each customer and put something out that was professional, clean and sales-focussed. I created co-op materials with retail branding. Special order forms. Badges. Postcards. Fridge magnets. It's been an interesting few years....
I'm not a fancy designer but I know how to use Indesign. I use it every day. I dabble in Illustrator and have trained in Photoshop but I'm not one to manipulate photos and do "fancy fancy" things to graphics. In fact, for my own photos, I use other programs like Picasa and even just Apple photos to enhance photos. But yes, Photoshop can do amazing things and I can work my way around them if I need to. But Indesign is my software of choice.
Someone recently asked me to put together a portfolio of my work. While I design promotional materials for clients, I don't consider myself a Designer. It's not a career move. I don't have the formal qualifications or the years and years of experience a graphic designer does. But what I do bring to the table is THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of hours preparing sales promotional materials. I actually enjoy writing and creating a promotional piece for a client. I think it's the creative outlet I need to counter-act the business head that is required at other times. But am I actually a Designer or just the "Chief Pretty-Upp-er-re". Whatever I am, I can produce some professional and lovely works for a client so contact me today on firstname.lastname@example.org if you need some help with your promotional materials. Am I a designer? Take a look at some of the images below and tell me what you think in the comments.
For years I've been recommending distributors for overseas based publishers looking for representation in the ANZ marketplace. I've also managed a business unit responsible for book distribution to booksellers, specialist accounts and direct/academic sales. I've been a publisher, I've been a customer, I've been a supplier/distributor, I've been a competitor, I've worked for one of the largest wholesalers in the world. Many, MANY hats so I've seen the ANZ supply chain from a number of angles and to be honest, I don't like what I see anymore. The ANZ book supply chain is shot.
One of the problems we have in Australia is the lack of a physical wholesaler. The overseas wholesalers (Baker & Taylor, Ingram, Gardners, Bertrams) have a presence in Australia in one form or another (staff, agent etc) but they don't have a warehouse here filled with books. As most of us know, there are real benefits with the consolidation of orders to a wholesaler, not to mention metadata workflows, customer service, and operational efficiency. With their economies of scale and commercial pull, orders can be sent to Australia and New Zealand within a couple of days - something the local market cannot compete with no matter how hard they try. But that's wonderful for the major US and UK publications. What about locally published books?
United Book Distributors (owned by Pearson) is arguably the best DC in Australia but there are other good operations like ADS (Hachette), HEDS (Harper Collins), Random et al. But they are not interested in taking on the smaller guys. It is not financially viable. The options for distribution with the mid to smaller presses is shrinking. We have Footprint (academic and specialist publishers), NewSouth (UNSW + local and international trade, specialist publishers), Woodslane (predominantly trade), Capricorn Link (trade), Peribo (trade), Dennis Jones (trade/independents) and a handful of others. But getting one of these guys to take on your list isn't easy. Publishers complain about the amount of calls and the set-up process, and then when they have distribution, they complain about lack of attention, lack of sales, and other issues that come from too many presses being distributed within one organisation.
No one is really interested in one book distribution - there isn't any money in it! Even publishers who do a dozen titles a year, that might sell a few hundred - or a couple of thousand even - is not worth it, particularly if the book is cheap. Margins have eroded, the sales aren't there to support it, costs of distribution are high, and if you are also doing sales & marketing representation, you really need high priced books to justify all your costs.
Overseas publishers, particularly niche, scholarly presses and those that publish less than 25 books a year, are having a hard time finding someone to represent them. The majority of these presses don't provide enough wholesaler discount to entice a supplier, costs of freight (particularly from overseas) are high, and returns are a nightmare for everyone. So my question for overseas publishers in particular is DO YOU REALLY NEED AN AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR? You are already doing sales and marketing in your own territory, you should already be working with the major wholesalers, and you should be digital. Can you do it yourself? Do you need a sales & marketing agent or someone on the ground in Australia to oversee things? There are dozens of questions you need to answer. Let RM Marketing Services guide you in this process.
What are YOUR THOUGHTS on the Australian book supply chain? With changes over the years at Tower/Scribo, DA/Central Book Services, the MDS closure, and future changes (Inbooks, Wiley rumours?); changes to the print and digital landscape; changes to consumer/bookselling buying habits - what are your concerns and issues? Are you a publisher? Are you a distributor? Share your story with others....
Well, it's what many of you are thinking so I thought I would just say it. Why not start my new blog with the bleeding obvious!
After nearly 11 years working for a key account for local and international publishers, with responsibilities that covered everything from retail (wholesale) distribution to library supply (academic and public), print products to digital (online reference and ebooks), marketing communications that included website, social media, enewsletters, print promotions and more - I've got more than enough experience to help others with the Australasian marketplace.
During my time at James Bennett/Inbooks I was always asked - and respected - for my advice on the publishing industry. From international wholesalers to small publishers, my role as Publisher Relations and Marketing Communications Manager was utilised by many - for free! *
And let's not ignore my 13 years in publishing prior to that - product, sales, marketing, key account management, business development....my career has been extremely varied and wonderfully rewarding. It's covered trade, professional and vocational education publications and all facets of marketing. And it's seen an awful lot of change - remember ordering everything via ocean freight (and adding two months to publication dates) or faxing through price and availability enquiries to overseas suppliers (no internet or email)? Ah, the good old days...
At the end of the day, the publishing industry is in my blood. I can't help it. Warts and all, it's a fascinating - and changing - industry. And the one thing that I've noticed the most - particularly for the larger organisations - is that they are now run by accountants. The nature of publishing has changed. Everything is counted, every cost reviewed, every cost saving initiative is introduced. No one seems to have enough resources - or time - to do even the most basic of jobs. There isn't the same flexibility, there isn't the same money available, and sadly there is also not the same level of experience in the book trade that there used to be. Too many people come and go because they have "digital" skills but they don't GET the industry, they don't take the time to learn it, and many lack basic customer service skills.
Isn't it the first rule of business? No one exists without the customer. It's about giving them what they need in order to sell or consume your product. I fear publishers have lost sight of that and I'm here to help.
In starting this enterprise of mine it took me all of two seconds to come up with my mission: helping publishers do what they do best.** Contact me today for any marketing service you require help with.
* OK there was the odd bottle of wine presented as a thank you gift
** And if you don't know what that is, you will definitely need my help!
Rachael McDiarmid has been in the Australasian book trade since 1990. Working in trade, academic and professional publishing as well as library supply and book distribution, she's worked with thousands of publishers, distributors, library vendors, and authors around the globe. She loves a belly laugh, strong coffee, wine, and good food. She is known for her no bullshit approach. This is her blog.