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.
A number of months ago a good publishing friend - a director of an Australian press - told me I should have kept freelancing as more and more publishers need to call on experience and expertise, particularly in sales | marketing | distribution | operations - which is what I've essentially done for 27 years! With budgets getting tighter and tighter, and headcount always a bone of contention, having someone to provide the suite of services I do "on demand" was attractive because 1) financially the model makes sense (an hourly rate, 14 day account) 2) publishers, vendors and distributors know they can outsource tasks and projects to someone who knows what they are doing and 3) I had a great reputation in the marketplace for listening to what clients - and customers - wanted and delivering a professional service.
I thought about this for a while. The business had been very successful when I originally set it up and I had been regretting letting it dwindle, particularly in the past 12 months, while I worked full-time for a previous client. Once I went full-time, it was exhausting trying to do both for the first year or so but there was something attractive about freelance | contract | consulting work that appealed to me and I was beginning to miss the variety, the clients and the work. And then when not one, but two restructures (!) hit me, I knew it was time to go back.
Many publishers, booksellers, libraries, specialist resellers, authors, academics and professional associations know me and have worked with me in a variety of roles over the years I've been in the book trade. I'm probably most known for my work as publisher relations & marketing communications manager at James Bennett (a Baker & Taylor company), where I worked for 11 years. I had an amazing time there working not only on the library supply chain (primarily with academic publishers and digital vendors) but also on the wholesale/distribution side of Inbooks, which reported to me and was in many ways my "baby". I covered everything "e" and "p" and worked on some wonderful strategic projects with publishers. From distribution to marketing, ops and sales, I had a blast - getting to know publishers locally and internationally, from the small to the large, and distributors and vendors as far as the eye could see. It was a heck of a lot of work, particularly when I took on marketing on top of everything else, but I thrived in that environment -- and learnt a lot in the process.
So what can I do for you? What can't I do would be an easier question! (The answer is mass market publicity --- there are publicity experts out there with well established media contacts for your high profile authors. Oh, and I'm not experienced in video editing but am currently working on it using the apps I have through my Adobe Creative Cloud subscription). We can start at the very beginning - Writing, Proofreading, Editing - the basics are ingrained! Design. Flyers, brochures, POS materials. I like being creative. Digital Marketing - social media, email campaigns - I output campaigns with ease. Campaign Management. I love it. And let's talk Sales. Whether it's sales management or key accounts or even targeted business development, I know a lot of people and have a good network to call on. I've sold - and marketed - digital products for years and in my most recent role called on accounts directly for print as well. Double whammy! Library supply. In my blood. Special accounts. I love servicing the specialist resellers. Websites. How can you not love them? Planning and preparation, content management, design, analytics. Fun stuff! Operations. I'm not too shabby at the serious, back-end stuff and know my way around Bookmaster after more than 20 years of using it (oh remember those green screens!). Distribution. It's a tricky one (see my old blog post). I'm not doing it myself but I have worked with publishers on researching the market, getting feedback from customers, and making the right call on who they should use. These days it's a hard reality but the UK and US wholesalers do a pretty good job at reaching the ANZ market and if you can't get a local distributor to take on your list, let's talk about how to best use who does sell books successfully to this market. Once you've got the supply chain set-up, let's talk about sales and marketing. And re-read this paragraph to see how I can help you.
And lastly, don't take it from me. Go to LinkedIn to see what others say about me including all my years as a publisher relations manager. There's some wonderful recommendations and endorsements there. Then when you are ready, contact me.
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.