Juan Pablo Alperin (BMath, MA) is a multidisciplinary scholar with over eight years of experience in online scholarly publishing. He recently joined the Publishing@SFU faculty, teaching “Technology and the Evolving Forms of Publishing” (PUB 802), “Technology and the Evolving Book” (PUB 401), and Publication of Self in Everyday Life (Pub 101). He is a collaborator on the Public Knowledge Project at Simon Fraser University and kindly agreed to the below interview.
Hometown: La Plata, Argentina
Research interests: Scholarly communications, social media metrics (altmetrics), Latin America, publishing technologies
Technology and the Evolving Forms of Publishing (PUB 802)
Publishing@SFU: This is your first semester at SFU, briefly tell us your career path? Where did you start? How did you get here?
My path to become a professor in publishing was a meandering one. I did an undergraduate in Computer Science at the University of Waterloo, a six month stint teaching and working in high schools across Uganda. Upon returning from Uganda, almost by chance, I ended up doing a Masters in Geography (also at Waterloo), where I worked on a Geographic Information System (GIS) for helping education planners in Peru.
Ready to leave academia and being a professional career, I came across an opportunity that allowed me to develop innovative technologies in a non-corporate setting. I accepted a position as the sole software engineer in a medical journal based out of a research centre in Toronto. The journal was a pioneer in Open Access, powered by the Open Source software Open Journal Systems, and it gave me the opportunity to be creative with software solutions to publishing problems.
After a year of living in Toronto, I returned to my native Argentina and worked as a researcher and systems developer for the makers of Open Journal Systems, the Public Knowledge Project. As I focused more on the research aspect of my work, I started a doctoral program at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education, which lead me to being a professor here at SFU!
Publishing@SFU: If you were going to design a program to be “Juan Pablo”, what courses would be in this program?
These five courses would probably be a good first semester in the “Juan Pablo” program.
Introduction to Scholarly Publishing: To understand most of what I do it is essential to understand the basics of how we communicate and disseminate research.
Open Knowledge: I am a strong advocate for Open Access and Open Source, and with these “Open” models comes a culture of openness that drives much of the knowledge ecosystem around academia. You can actually already take this course, as a MOOC, offered jointly be SFU, Stanford, UBC, and KNUST.
Global Higher Education: The reason I am motivated to work on scholarly communications is because I feel that strengthening research culture can have a positive impact of systems of higher education around the world that, in turn, can have positive impacts on all sorts of social and economic development. Research is only one output from a system of higher education and anybody wanting to be me would need to have that broader contextual understanding.
Data Analysis and scripting with Python: I love the Python programming language and I find it useful for all sorts of tasks. From Web Scraping, to data analysis, to small automation tasks on your machine. Its useful for programmers and non-programmers alike! I do all my bibliometrics and altmetrics analyses with Python.
Bibliometrics and Altmetrics: I do a lot of analysis of the production, reach, and impact of research. This involves traditional bibliometrics (coauthorships, citation networks, etc.) and more recently altmetrics (social media metrics).
Greatest professional achievement: I am proud of how I managed to gain a broad understanding of scholarly publishing in Latin America in a very short time.
Most marked characteristic of your teaching style: This might be my brutal honesty. I have high expectations of students and make it clear to them when they are not rising to the challenge. I do my best to do this in an encouraging way, but you have to ask the students how often I succeed.
Qualities you most appreciate in students: This is a little cliché, but I like students to be self-motivated. While I see it as my job to inspire students to care about the subject matter, I appreciate and thrive on their own motivations for learning. I do not like it when students are simply “Doing School”.
Alternative career: I have always had the dream of setting up a small hotel in the Patagonia or somewhere else beautifully isolated. My wife would take care of greeting the guests and making sure they were comfortable, and I would make them delicious sandwiches and espressos.
Lesson to live by: Do not be afraid to say what you think or ask for what you want.
Juan Pablo is an instructor in Publishing Studies, with research interests in new media technologies and scholarly publishing, and he leads several research and development projects aimed at improving the quality, impact, and reach of scholarly publishing in Latin America.
His expertise include editorial workflow management, indexing, XML production, software development, scholarly communications, Web technologies, and social media metrics. He complements his professional experiences in publishing with a background in Computer Science (University of Waterloo) and Education (Stanford University).
Page Two, a literary agency with a twist, celebrates its first anniversary. Run by publishing veterans (and MPub alumni) Jesse Finkelstein and Trena White, Page Two represents authors seeking traditional publishing contracts but also atypical authors who are looking for innovative paths to publishing.
Jesse and Trena have 30 years of combined experience in the book publishing industry, and they worked together on the management team at D&M Publishers Inc., which at the time was Canada’s leading independent book publisher. Their personal career paths have instilled in them a commitment to high-quality editing, design and production, areas where the traditional publishing industry has excelled, and they bring that professionalism to all their projects.
Regarding Page Two’s origin says Trena, “we wanted to offer authors options and support them in publishing successfully and professionally regardless of which model they chose to publish under—whether traditional or self-publishing or some hybrid of the two. We felt deeply engaged by publishing innovation and wanted to create a new kind of publishing business model. The premise was that we wanted to be ultra-nimble, so we built a business that can be flexible as publishing continues to evolve.”
The focused, yet nimble, nature of Page Two is apparent when looking at their strategic publishing projects over the first year. Jesse and Trena act as traditional literary agents, brokering book deals between authors and publishers. They do consulting to self-publishers on everything from their book concept to distribution options and sales and marketing strategy, and often clients also hire them to assemble a team to produce their self-published books or, in the case of organizations, to help establish their publishing programs.
There’s nothing self about self-publishing and there’s little tradition in the way that authors traditionally publish these days. Trena and Jesse must draw on their diverse experience in all aspects of book publishing—editing, licensing, sales and contracts—to service their clients’ needs. The two provided the following example from the past year:
“Two of our authors had Globe and Mail bestsellers, and two, Michael Pond and Maureen Palmer, were on the B.C. bestseller list for about two months for their book, The Couch of Willingness. Two of those books were hybrid deals that we set up: the authors chose to self-publish and we brokered trade distribution deals for them with publishers. It’s that kind of arrangement that best highlights the creative ways we serve our clients. We’ve also been busy doing outreach to independent booksellers for the Association of Canadian Publishers and helping the Association of Book Publishers of B.C. with an ebook marketing project. And we just hired a talented project manager, Carra Simpson, who is also a graduate of the MPub program. Maybe our biggest success is that we’ve been really busy. There’s definitely a demand for our services.”
When asked what the year ahead brings, Jesse said, “we’re very excited to have just landed a contract with a US organization helping them establish a publishing program. We will be doing much more of this type of work — helping non-publishing organizations produce and monetize books.”
And somewhere in between their packed schedules and the end of the year, the team at Page Two plans to celebrate their first anniversary with a party to show their appreciation to the many people who have supported and worked with them over the last year. For the immediate ringing in of a new business year, this busy duo (now trio) will just have time for a toast over cocktails.
Word Vancouver—the literary festival that celebrates reading and writing‚ is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and many of Publishing@SFU’s instructors were on hand to provide free professional development sessions on a variety of literary topics.
Creating an Author Profile with Monique Sherrett
Authors today, whether self-published or contracted with a publishing house, must have solid self-promotion skills. In a digital world, authors must understand social media basics; how to build the right audience; how to work with editors, designers and publishing professionals; and how to use print, radio and other paid media.
Books get sold based on 3 things: Positioning, Author Platform and Sales
Positioning is how the book is positioned in the market. What it is about, who it is for, and why they should care.
The 7-second pitch in the book trade is the “sales handle.” Approximately 25 words that create a recognizable, and compelling, frame of reference. The sales handle often identifies the genre and audience, and includes anything noteworthy.
The sales handle is the basis of an author’s marketing. It can be used in a pitch letter to an agent or publisher, and later in outreach to reviewers and bloggers. The sales handle can act as the first sentence for the book’s description online, and be adjusted to act as the “About” blurb on social media profiles or as Tweets and Facebook Posts.
A previously published author has a sales history that is known to booksellers and helps establish how many copies the bookseller may stock. But comparable titles (people who like X, also buy Y) and competitive titles (people buy X, or they buy Y) can also be used.
If you’re in the business of being an author, then you really know your subject category: where your book is shelved, what is face-out on the shelf, what titles appear consistently across various retail channels, what titles are featured online or on special tables.
The business of being an author requires that you refine your craft but also work on building your reputation and credentials. Understanding the highly competitive retail market and researching what is successful tells you a lot about your book: whether it fills a gap in the market, continues a conversation that is ongoing, takes a controversial or insider look at the subject, etc.
Resources are limited, which means when building an author platform, you need a mix of owned media channels (your author website, email newsletter, blog), rented media channels (social media like Twitter and Facebook), earned media (publicity, reviews), and paid media (advertising).
Monique Sherrett has a passion for all things digital. She began her career at Raincoast Books, where she spearheaded online marketing strategies for various campaigns, most notable being Harry Potter. She founded Boxcar Marketing in 2007 and is a professor of professional practice in the Master of Publishing program.
Earlier this month, Page Two Strategies, Vancouver’s “new form agency” run by alumni Jesse Finkelstein (MPub 1999) & Trena White (MPub 2004), announced that they’d hired Carra Simpson (MPub 2007) as a new project manager who will work out of New York. Page Two’s announcement reads:
Carra Simpson has worked in trade book publishing since 2007, most recently as the publishing operations manager at Greystone Books and Douglas & McIntyre. She is also the grants administrator and project manager for the Tyee Solutions Society. Carra holds a master of publishing degree from Simon Fraser University. Currently based in Vancouver, she will be relocating to New York in October and working for us remotely from there.
Publishing@SFU can’t really claim any direct credit for this, but we are certainly proud of our alumni, and very pleased at this new alignment.
Find out what Regina, Ryan Gosling, and Bundling have to do with book publishing, and other sales and marketing tips shared by industry experts at ABPBC’s recent professional development day in this guest post from MPub Candidate Paulina Dabrowski.
On Thursday September 11th the students in the Masters of Publishing program were given the opportunity to sit in on a seminar put on by the ABPBC (The Association of Book Publishers of BC), which focused on marketing and promotional strategies for Canadian publishing.
Bruce Walsh of the recently re-branded University of Regina Press (formerly Canadian Plains Research Centre Press) gave an inspirational keynote address on how to stand out in a crowded marketplace, including pioneering the first reality tv show on publishing.
And after a collegial lunch at Steamworks, the attendees dug into the nuts and bolts of working with a sales rep and bundling eBooks.
The professional development day concluded with a roundtable discussion on the questions, frustrations and lessons learned by the members and presenters in attendance.
For those readers interested specifically in the “how-to” component of the day, here’s a recap of the session run by Kate Walker, sales rep and former owner of Ampersand, and Cheryl Fraser, VP Ampersand Inc. and manager of the gift division for the agency.
Everything you ever wanted to know about working with a sales rep but didn’t know what to ask
Kate and Cheryl have decades of experience in the industry and have worked with booksellers, librarians and specialty customers, authors and publishers. They described being a sales rep as follows, “we work with everyone in the publishing company, connecting book publishers to their customers, and customers with book publishers. Our goal is to get the books publishers acquire to the right customers in the perfect markets.”
In order to do this efficiently sales reps work hard to be good mediators. They spend most of their time communicating the right information from publishers to booksellers and back, and in order to do this they are constantly reading, and keeping updated on the book world. They need to keep track of which books are selling, which books are winning awards, and predict needs before they arrive. Kate describes sales reps as “adaptable chameleons” in that they must be responsive to the customers or book publishers’ needs.
Utilizing sales reps effectively can save publishers a lot of time and money. Sales reps have a more personal relationship with book buyers than publishers, and they use this in-depth knowledge to place books where they will sell. Sales reps create and distribute lists on “hot topics” making it easier for book buyers to see a single collection of comparable titles from multiple publishers (books by First Nations People, for example). They make it a priority to visit and build professional relationships with book buyers, creating what Kate refers to as a “bankable trust relationship”, which is a huge benefit to publishers both immediately and for future productions.
Kate and Cheryl also took the time to explain ways of creating good relationships with sales reps. Many times this relationship begins at sales conferences, when publishers present their books for the season. It’s important for publishers to be prepared and speak clearly. Reps will be asking what they know their customers will ask so they expect presenters to know intimate details such as the author’s hometown, or sales history for previous books by the author. Kate notes, however, that it’s important not to make “promises” to sales reps about acquiring information they are missing in their presentation. It’s better to come with a thorough knowledge of the book, and enthusiasm to get sales reps excited. Publishers should know the competition as well as comparable titles, and be open and honest with sales reps as to where the promotion money will be focused, as well as be transparent about any pre-arranged special sales.
The next stage in an important publisher-to-sales-rep relationship is to keep the doors of communication open, and to share information about updates with the book such as pushed release dates, nominations for awards, or upcoming events. It’s also important for book publishers to have easily understandable terms of sale and distribution channels.
In planning author events, it’s important for the publisher to do their research. They have to ask themselves:
Who is this event for?
Is the author prepared and do they have the right personality for the event?
Where will the event be held; private spaces offer intimacy but public spaces open the event to potential new audiences.
It’s also important not to forget attention to detail; does the event have a microphone available, will the event need seating, does the date conflict with any holidays, will the publisher provide extras such as food and wine?
And, which channels will be used to advertise the event? Sales reps can assist with this type of planning, after all who doesn’t enjoy a good party!
Cheryl also explained the dynamics of the “gift market”. Gift books are fun and exciting, but not all books one might give as a gift are appropriate for the gift market. To give an example of the differences, below are two books by photographer Philippe Halsman.
The first is a coffee table art book, it’s large in size and is filled with Halsman’s well-known jump photography alongside accompanying text that share the stories behind the photographs. The second is a smaller, simpler book; a photo interview with Salvador Dali that is quite silly and playful, meant to share with the reader the many faces of Salvador Dali and his famous mustache. The first book, Jump Book is a great book to give as a gift, but the second book Dali’s Mustache is a book made for the gift market.
How gift books are bought by buyers differs in many ways from how other trade books are bought. Gift book buyers are really focused on the visual. They want to see the book, hold the book, place it by their cash registers and see how it looks. It’s important for gift sales reps to have physical copies of the books to bring to their customers. Authors are much less important, and the focus is all on the visual appeal of the subject matter. It’s no surprise to hear from Cheryl that her top sellers last season were books on Ryan Gosling, Cats, and Darth Vader.
The gift buyer also heavily relies on the print catalogue, which led to an interesting discussion about the use of electronic catalogues. But I’ll save that for another post.
After a short break, Mary Alice Elcock gave the final presentation before the roundtable discussions.
How to Bundle Up: Making the Most of your Bundled eBooks
Mary Alice is a MPub alumni who is VP of Marketing and Publisher Relations for BitLit. BitLit is an app that allows publishers to offer eBook editions to readers who have purchased a print copy. To quote Mary Alice, BitLit “connects readers to books, and connects publishers to readers”. BitLit’s main market are hybrid readers, ones who read both print and eBook, as research has shown more readers are beginning to fill this middle category.
Out of 120 million people who own eBooks only 4% are eBook only readers.
Their studies have shown that 48% of people would pay more for a print book if it came bundled with the eBook.
Currently less than 1% of customers have purchased both the print and eBook edition of a book, which means there is no cannibalization of sales for publishers if they decide to bundle.
BitLit bundling pricing is typically done in one of two ways. In all cases the bundling is available after point of purchase, but publishers have the choice of offering the eBook as a free add-on which is the case for about 25% of the books BitLit currently has bundled, or the eBook is offered for around 75% off the cover price.
Bundling gives publishers great opportunity to create extra net income. Mary Alice provided example pricing of a book and its net income in print, eBook, and bundling.
BitLit can currently be downloaded (for free) on Apple and Android devices. The user opens the app, takes a picture of the cover which is then recognized in BitLit’s system. To claim the book, the user takes another picture of their name written in capitals on the top of the copyright page, which BitLit uses to match with the user’s name on the credit card they provided in their sign up. Once the book is claimed, the user is given a link to their eBook if it is provided for free by the publisher, or the user is offered the eBook for the discounted price which they can then purchase. The reader can then choose to read the eBook on any of their eReading devices including Kobo, Nook, Kindle, or iPad.
For being only 2 years old (and local to Vancouver) BitLit has already made some major waves in the publishing world. There are currently 20,000 books available to bundle and many authors have fallen in love with the cross-media platform such as well-known horror writer Joe Hill (son of Stephen King).
BitLit’s next big move is a project called “Shelfie” which will save book lovers (and book hoarders if you’re like me) tons of time. Users simply take a picture of their book shelf and “Shelfie” will find all the books which are currently available to bundle, so there is no need to search titles one by one!
Last Tuesday Publishing@SFU welcomed the 20th cohort of MPubbers to the Master of Publishing program. Not only are the students new, so are some of the faculty. Indeed, a whole bunch of things are new.
This fall, the Publishing Program at SFU enters a phase of major renewal. We have a new faculty complement—John Maxwell, Roberto Dosil, Monique Sherrett, Juan Pablo Alperin, Scott Steedman and Shannon Emmerson—some of whom are new to the Masters Program, others new to SFU, and that brings a lot of new energy to the program.
Industry members and MPub alumni may notice that this year is the first year the Publishing Program will be running without its founding director, Rowland Lorimer. Rowly, who founded this program back in the late 80s, early 90s, designed it to strike a balance between rigorous research-based graduate study and hands-on, industry-engaged practice. The success of the program over the past two decades is very much due to his vision, and that balance. Rowly is on sabbatical this year, leading to his official retirement in 2015.
John Maxwell is the new Program Director. He has been with the program for a dozen years and is actually a product of the MPub program. John was a graduate of the very first cohort way back in 1995.
In his welcome message to students, John said the following:
“Publishing was a different beast back then. Much has changed.
“The world today, in 2014, is a much more exciting and interesting time to be studying publishing.
“What we are witnessing today is nothing less than the very infrastructure of modern democratic culture in tumultuous evolution, on its way to its next phase.
“If you ask me, there is no more interesting place to be in the world than right here. No more interesting time to be here. The world of publishing is in revolution; we will shortly witness which parts of it are destroyed, and which parts remain.
“Better, you are positioned to have a hand in it.
“Congratulations on a good choice! Congratulations on being here!”
The new faculty and students are all eager to get underway. For those readers unfamiliar with MPub, students spend two classroom terms at SFU—September to December, and January to April—doing a combination of practical, lab-based courses; seminars, and project courses in which they create things; make things. It’s a heavy workload, and each cohort goes through it all together.
The following summer, students participate in an internship at an industry placement. During the internship term, each student must define and conduct a research project on, and on behalf of, the internship host. Students conduct original research: a piece of description and analysis of how things actually work. Or perhaps how they should.
In the fall following the internship, students draw the research up into a formal project report. It’s like a masters thesis but a little shorter, more practical, and there is no thesis defense. There is, however, a supervisory committee of 3: two from the Publishing@SFU faculty, and one industry supervisor.
If all goes well, by next Christmas, this year’s cohort will have completed all the requirements and be able to put those sought-after little letters after their names: MPub
More important, the program will change them and challenge them in unique ways. They will know vastly more than they do now. They will have experienced things, and accomplished things that are not even dreamed of today. They will have met a lot of fantastic industry professionals, and they will have a practical, working sense of what publishing is really about, and what matters.
By the end of the program, this year’s cohort will know enough, and know enough people, that each can forge a career in the field of publishing—whether that’s by landing a job in an existing publishing company, or by starting their own, or by doing something else that nobody’s thought of yet.
As John eloquently put it in his welcome message to the students:
“You will become—you are already, really, by virtue of sitting here this morning—part of a network of MPub people, who are shot through the publishing industries in Canada and even around the world. More than two hundred alumni, you will find them in every corner of the publishing world.
“Those people are your family now; they have been through what you are about to undertake. There’s a certain rite of passage element to this (and you’ll understand especially when you get into the Book Publishing Project towards Christmas) that binds all MPubbers together.”
One of the program’s many strengths is its ability to introduce students to alumni and industry guests over the eight months of in situ time, as well as the core faculty it draws. Briefly:
Roberto Dosil (MPub 1998 and multi-award winning book designer) is and has been one of the core faculty for 7 or 8 years.
Monique Sherrett (MPub 1997 and leading marketing consultant to Canadian publishers) has taught in the program before and is joining the core faculty this year.
Juan Pablo Alperin (fresh out of doctoral work at Stanford) is a new member of the core faculty this year.
Scott Steedman (professional editor) has taught in the undergraduate program, and joins the faculty to take over the editorial course from Mary Schendlinger, who retires this fall.
Shannon Emmerson (who runs Forge & Spark Media) is back for another year to teach the periodical publishing project.
Jo-Anne Ray (program manager) is the extraordinary woman who has the last word.
So, with this faculty—and with the MPub cohort of 2014—Publishing@SFU begins a new chapter in this program’s history.
Written by monique, September 09, 2014 |
Technical Operations Officer, Hansard Services, Legislative Assembly of BC
The key parts of the job are tech support for the editors and publication of transcripts in In Design and XML for print and Web.
Under the direction of the Publishing Supervisor, the Technical Operations Officer prepares the official report of the debates of the Legislative Assembly and related proceedings for publication. The Technical Operations Officer supports the achievement of production goals in a deadline-driven environment and provides first- and second-tier technical support to Hansard Services through consultation with users to understand, resolve or escalate incidents according to established protocols. The Officer initiates and supports systems-related projects and serves as a Hansard Services webmaster. The Officer also provides technical training and systems documentation and supports technical skills assessments for recruitment initiatives.
July 7-August 22, 2014; $11 per hour; 30 hours per week.
Applicants should send cover letters and resumes to firstname.lastname@example.org by June 16th
The New Quarterly is an award-winning Canadian literary journal published out of St. Jerome’s University. The student hired will serve as an assistant to The New Quarterly’s Managing Editor.
Work includes daily administrative tasks, including, but not limited to:
Tracking submissions & contest entries; correspondence with writers re acceptance and contracts.
Subscription management and customer service
Support towards the magazine’s events, website and social media maintenance (including writing occasional blog posts), as well as assisting in preparation for the Wild Writers Literary Festival
Support towards marketing and donations campaigns.
The student will receive training to conduct a marketing initiative.
excellent customer service and problem solving skills
excellent organizational skills, attention to detail
the ability to take initiative and work independently
excellent communications skills both written an oral
ability to work well with others in a small and often busy space
familiarity with MS Office programs
Eligible Student Participants (from Service Canada Guidelines)
To be eligible to participate in the CSJ initiative, individuals must:
Be between 15 and 30 years of age at the start of the employment
Have been registers as full-time students in the previous academic year and intend to return to school on a full-time basis in the next academic year
Be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or person to whom refugee protection has been conferred under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Be legally entitled to work in Canada in accordance with relevant provincial/territorial legislation and regulations.