ABSTRACT: This report examines the evolution and current state of detail editing—including copy editing, proofreading, and other fine-level work—at Lone Pine Publishing, a mid-sized book publisher. Though budget and resource limitations and shifting editorial roles have necessitated some editorial changes, detail editing remains paramount to Lone Pine’s books. This report begins with an analysis of detail editing at Lone Pine, including several specific detail-oriented editorial projects, and establishes how detail editing fits into the larger editorial process. Next, it examines wider editorial trends in Canadian trade book editing, and what they mean: some critics have questioned whether texts are as well edited as they used to be. The report concludes with a case study of ebook creation at Lone Pine, and considers where detail editing at Lone Pine will go in the future.
For my mom,
who has always been my editor.
My sincerest thanks to Mary Schendlinger and Rowland Lorimer for their insightful, patient feedback and assistance in shaping this report. I am also grateful to all the students and staff of the Master of Publishing Program for everything I‘ve learned from them.
Thank you to everyone at Lone Pine Publishing and in the offices for sharing their time and expertise with me, especially Nancy Foulds, Sheila Quinlan, Gary Whyte, Nicholle Carrière, Faye Boer, Tracey Comeau, Wendy Pirk, Gene Longson, Ken Davis, Tom Lore, Glen Rollans, and Shane Kennedy.
Andy, Amy and Rick, and the GAP girls: your encouragement has meant so much to me. Thank you.
And thank you to my parents, Rob and Gisela Everton, for all of their love and support, and for always cheering me on.
Lone Pine Publishing, a trade book publisher in Edmonton, Alberta, was founded in 1980 by Grant Kennedy and Shane Kennedy. Lone Pine’s regional mandate was evident right from the start—its first book published was The Albertans, featuring profiles of noteworthy and influential Albertans. Lone Pine‘s main focus, however, was nature and natural history, and Lone Pine’s early titles focused on outdoor living in Alberta. One early title was the Canadian Rockies Access Guide, which is still in print.
Regional publishing flourished in Alberta during the early 1980s. From Lone Pine’s beginnings as a regional Alberta publisher, it expanded to become a regional publisher in other parts of Canada and the United States: “We have attempted to be a good regional publisher in every region where we are present.” This ultra-regional business model means that Lone Pine can produce book series like Birds of Alberta, Birds of British Columbia, Birds of Ontario, Birds of Washington State, and Birds of Texas—which may have considerable overlap but will also be tailored to specific regions.
Lone Pine’s editorial mandate is market-driven. Titles in a series are developed and selected based on how previous books have sold and in what markets. In the 1990s, Lone Pine published a series of gardening guides by Lois Hole, who went on to become Alberta’s fifteenth Lieutenant Governor; the success of these titles encouraged Lone Pine to develop its own lines of gardening guides.
A characteristic that sets Lone Pine apart from many other regional publishers is that it handles its own sales and distribution. A large percentage of Lone Pine books are distributed through non-traditional distribution channels, including through Lone Pine racks at grocery stores such as Superstore, businesses such as Canadian Tire, and small retail outlets throughout the country. Since Lone Pine has a distribution system in place, it also sells and distributes books for a number of other small publishers.
Lone Pine is a distinctive brand, especially in certain regions such as Alberta. The publisher’s name is known, and Lone Pine books are identifiable by the public as being published by Lone Pine, which is uncommon for book publishers. This brand recognition is in part a result of Lone Pine’s non-traditional distribution.
As of 2010, Lone Pine publishes twelve to twenty new titles per year, including gardening books, nature guides, popular history books, and cookbooks.
DETAIL EDITING AT LONE PINE
During the summer of 2010, I was an intern at Lone Pine Publishing. My job as an intern was to provide editorial support to the in-house editorial team, particularly with detail editing. During the summer at Lone Pine, most titles are in various stages of editorial development. Most books come out in the spring—for example, in advance of the gardening season—which means that books enter production during the fall so that they are in the warehouse for early spring. When one editor went on maternity leave early in 2010, Lone Pine decided that the addition of a summer editorial intern would free up time for the remaining editorial staff to focus on the bigger-picture work on their spring 2011 titles. My vantage point for this report, therefore, is that of a designated detail editor, a new layer of editorial support at Lone Pine, who was in a good position to both observe and experience firsthand detail editing at Lone Pine.
What is detail editing? It’s not a term found in the Editors’ Association of Canada’s (EAC) Professional Editorial Standards. Nor is it found in many other descriptions of the editorial process, most of which divide editing into roles: acquiring editor, stylistic (line) editor, copy editor, proofreader, managing editor, and so on. But editing is practically synonymous with handling detail. Editors “are people who are good at process…Their jobs are to aggregate information, parse it, restructure it, and make sure it meets standards. They are basically QA [quality assurance] for language and meaning.” Detail editing, then, is an encompassing term that differs slightly in meaning from publisher to publisher and from project to project. It covers the myriad of detail-oriented editorial tasks that are necessary in the completion of a project, which may include copy editing, proofreading, fact checking, and other required fine-level work. Since my internship was during the summer, when few titles are in production, my job involved less copy editing and proofreading than might be expected at other times of the year. But it did involve a number of important detail-oriented tasks that all came down to ensuring the accuracy and reliability of Lone Pine’s books.
Every publisher handles detail editing differently. Normally at Lone Pine, one editor handles all aspects of the editorial process for a specific project, including copy editing, proofreading, and other detail work. Typically there isn’t a designated detail editor who takes on those particular tasks. Some detail tasks—ones that aren’t necessarily specific to one project, for instance, or that are specialized in some way—are divided amongst editors according to their workload, skill set, and specific knowledge. For example, many Lone Pine books rely highly on commissioned illustrations of birds, bugs, mammals, and other species. Many of the illustration-tracking editorial tasks are given to one editor, Gary Whyte, because he has the best understanding of how the illustrations database operates. Other detail tasks, such as quickly checking over a reprint file from production before it is sent to the printer, are assigned to whichever editor is least busy at the time. Everyone in the editorial department at Lone Pine, then, is involved in detail editing.
Detail editing is important to all publishers. Publishers strive to avoid embarrassing typos and mistakes in grammar or usage because those convey a sense of amateurism and incompetence. Publishers want to be taken seriously and want to be seen as expert and capable. Mistakes and errors in all sorts of details suggest sloppiness and unreliability. This is true in more than just publishing: job seekers are nearly always encouraged to make sure there are no misspellings in their cover letters and résumés, because those imply a lack of care and responsibility. The importance of detail editing in publishing goes far beyond correcting typos, however. Ensuring attention to editorial detail adds a mark of professionalism to a publication, and with professionalism comes credibility. Credibility is one of Thomas Woll’s three Cs for successful publishing: “Credibility is a fragile trait that is built over time but it is one you ultimately must have to be successful. To be credible, you must focus on commitment and consistency.” Commitment and consistency are absolutely crucial, but detail editing can go a long way to ensuring a publisher’s credibility as well.
Credibility is particularly important to a publisher like Lone Pine, because their brand and reputation are built on small details being correct and trustworthy. Accuracy in details is especially crucial in the information-based types of books that Lone Pine produces, including guidebooks, gardening books, and cookbooks. A photo caption that misidentifies a bird species could be disastrous in a guidebook, which is supposed to be a dependable source of information; the reader, instead of understanding it was just a mistake, could easily assume the author did not know what he was talking about and discredit the entire book. Seemingly minor (and even unintentional) omissions or errors can seriously compromise the integrity of an entire publication. A 2003 issue of the Canadian Tourism Commission’s PureCanada magazine had a number of such small errors, including leaving out Prince Edward Island and misspelling Nunavut on a map; such infelicities call into question the reliability (and biases) of the entire publication. Similar mistakes have occasionally occurred at Lone Pine—a heading for a “Makkard” instead of “Mallard” that had somehow crept into a fifth edition of a bird book had one reader outraged and demanding his money back. Presumably he not only lost his faith in the book, but also in the publisher and the Lone Pine brand. Books like nature guides and cookbooks need to be reliable in their smallest details in order to be credible and taken seriously in their larger ones. The Lone Pine brand and reputation are built on being reliable and trustworthy, and so detail editing work is essential.
Detail Editing Projects
The tasks I performed at Lone Pine were many and diverse, but all were detail-oriented. It should be noted that this discussion of detail editorial work is not limited to what I did as a detail editor, but applies also to all editors at Lone Pine, since editors often perform various detail editing tasks on their own titles. Also, many more reprints than new titles were published during the summer, which is why this conversation may refer more to detail editing in reprints than in new titles. But the tasks and theory of detail editing apply equally to all types of projects, including new titles and reprints.
One detail editing project was to do a preliminary edit of and create a style guide for an upcoming cookbook by the executive chef of a local Italian restaurant group, Sorrentino’s. Cookbooks present a number of genre-specific editorial challenges. Cookbook readers expect consistency and clarity. Ingredients must be included in both the ingredient list and in the directions: a reader would be most irate to discover, halfway through making a dish, that the recipe directions include an ingredient that is not on the list and that she therefore didn‘t pick up on her trip to the grocery store. Directions also must be straightforward and complete; leaving out cooking time or temperature would frustrate readers. Bonnie Stern, a cookbook author, demonstrates the importance of details in a cookbook by explaining how one recipe didn’t work: “In one of my books I included a recipe for a ‘magic’ cake. You put the dry ingredients in a baking pan and make three indentations. In one you put the vanilla, in another the milk, and oil in the third. Somehow, I neglected to say ‘stir.’ And no one did!”
To create a style guide for this new cookbook, I looked first to a previous Lone Pine cookbook style sheet. While it was extremely helpful—explaining, for example, to use both metric and Imperial measurements, and to add an s to the end of 2 lbs but not 2 Tbsp—it did not cover things like exactly how to form the telegraphed, or abbreviated, cookbook direction style (“heat milk in pot over medium” instead of “heat the milk in a pot over medium heat”), likely because previous cookbook editors had internalized the rules for doing so. The previous style guide also didn’t cover how to treat some of the rare Italian ingredients that hadn‘t been featured in previous cookbooks: should it be recioto wine or just recioto? recioto or reciota? capitalized or not? italicized as a foreign word or not? Many new decisions had to be made for the sake of consistency and clarity. Equipped with the previous style guide, I went through the cookbook manuscript. Some changes were obvious—for example, adding metric measurements of millilitres and kilograms in brackets behind the cups and pounds. Others were more debatable, and were added to a list of style guide questions. In particular, in the interest of creating a telegraphed cookbook style, should small words like the and a be used? If so, when?
Lone Pine’s offices have a collection of literally hundreds of cookbooks, so those were used to do an informal survey of how other publishers handle cookbook directions. Some used both the and a (“put the onions in a pan”), some used neither (“put onions in pan”), and some used one and not the other. While there were exceptions, a pattern emerged: oversized, photo-heavy, glossy cookbooks, the ones that often featured luxurious travel accounts and profiles, gave directions in full sentences, using the and a. Functional, practical cookbooks omitted the small words altogether and gave directions in terse, economical terms. The tone for this Sorrentino’s cookbook was to be somewhere in between: a beautiful gourmet cookbook by a local celebrity of sorts, but one with recipes that were intended to be made at home by real, everyday people. In consultation with the editorial director, Nancy Foulds, we established a new tone that was appropriate for this project, omitting the unless it was absolutely necessary and retaining a: “put onions in a pan.” A similar process was undertaken for every cookbook style question: a survey of what other publishers and sources did and an analysis of the options, followed by in-house discussion and a final decision. In this case, detail editing was crucial not only for consistency and clarity, but also for establishing and formalizing the tone of the entire book.
Another of the editorial support tasks necessary at Lone Pine is to format manuscripts that have come in electronically from their authors. Usually, the project editor will do this at some point during the editorial process, but a detail editor doing some of the formatting up front will save the project editor time. The production department at Lone Pine requires that all files be submitted to them in Microsoft Word .doc files, 12-pt Times (not Times New Roman), with no styles or heading levels applied. Therefore, any styles that the author has introduced must be removed before sending the file to production—or in this case, before passing the file along to its editor. A number of other detail tasks must be done at Lone Pine when formatting an electronic manuscript, all intended to make the job of the next editor and production staff easier. Double word spaces between sentences—which generations of students were taught to do—are replaced with a single space. Paragraphs are separated by a single blank line. Soft returns or carriage returns, which show up as an arrow (↵) when viewing hidden formatting marks, are replaced by hard returns or paragraph breaks (¶). Extra paragraph marks that manually force paragraphs to start a new page are eliminated and, if necessary, page breaks are added. Lists or tables for which the author has lined up columns using tabs or extra word spaces are properly formatted. Non-breaking spaces between numbers and measurements—for example, 15 cm—are added so that the 15 won’t fall at the end of one line and the cm at the beginning of the next. Of course, all of these things will need to be quickly checked again just before the editor sends the file to production, but getting the bulk of it done at the beginning of the editorial process saves time and aggravation. The exact detail editing tasks performed depend on the manuscript. For one cookbook manuscript, I arranged all the elements of each recipe into a consistent order (recipe title, recipe contributor, story about the recipe, number of people the recipe served, ingredient list, and then cooking directions) and moved some material (such as contributors’ contact information and recipe submission numbers) out of the manuscript and into a spreadsheet. For one gardening book, the project editor, Sheila Quinlan, authorized me to fix any spelling or grammatical mistakes I happened to notice while formatting. Detail editing through formatting aims to create a smooth journey in-house for the manuscript, and therefore a clean final product.
Another example of detail editing work at Lone Pine relates to marketing. Editorial and production staff work very closely with marketing at Lone Pine. Many publishers prepare advance book information sheets (ABIs), or tipsheets, early in a book’s life at the publishing house. At Douglas & McIntyre, for example, an ABI “contains such information as the book’s title and physical specifications, as well as a summary of the book, perhaps a table of contents, an author biography, and a list of the author’s previous work. The ABI forms the basis of all jacket and catalogue copy.” At Lone Pine, editorial doesn’t provide a formal ABI that marketing later draws from; instead, marketing creates two sellsheets (one preliminary and one more detailed closer to the book’s release) in consultation with editorial. Instead of functioning as an in-house guide as ABIs do, sellsheets are targeted more at those outside the house, such as booksellers, and include information like title, author bio, and marketing copy. This marketing copy is written based on information about the book sent to marketing by the editorial director and the project’s editor. Before distributing sellsheets, marketing sends them back to editorial for approval. Attention to detail here is important not only to catch typos and use consistent formatting (for example, the first words on each bullet point on Lone Pine sellsheets is to be capitalized, and the last bullet point is to be followed by a period) but also to make sure that the description and its tone are accurate and that the information (such as number of pages) is correct. As a detail editor, I checked over several sellsheets and made corrections and gathered information when necessary—such as tracking down a gardening-related author bio from an author who had written other Lone Pine books, but not other gardening ones.
The detail editing project that this report looks at most closely is the editorial work that goes into reprinting books. At Lone Pine, books are expected to have a long life and several reprints. Books are intended to make money over the long term (on the backlist), which fits very well with the types of books that Lone Pine publishes: a guide to identifying edible and medicinal plants in Canada, for example, will be relevant not only in the year it is published but for many years to come. Accordingly, every year Lone Pine puts out several reprints. Books are reprinted based on projected sales; a database that tracks sales and returns predicts when a reprint will be needed, and production and marketing staff meet to review which books to reprint. In 2009, 27 books were reprinted. After Lone Pine decides what to reprint, production staff locate the most recent electronic version of the book. Depending on when the book was published or last reprinted, the file may have to be converted from one desktop-publishing format to another; for example, some production files need to be converted from Quark, which Lone Pine used previously, to Adobe InDesign. After production converts the file and makes any design changes that are deemed necessary, the file is passed along to editorial, as either a print-out or an electronic file. According to Gary Whyte, a long-time editor at and former editorial director of Lone Pine, it is Lone Pine policy that absolutely everything production does goes back to editorial for approval.
Checking a reprint is similar to proofreading a new book, but condensed. The same types of things are looked for—errors in type size and style, image placement, text flow, etc.—but it is not read word by word as the first proof of a new book would be. If editorial notices any errors or changes that need to be made to a book after it is published, those are written right in the editorial department copy of the book and flagged. After editorial receives a reprint file, it is checked against the editorial house copy of the most recently published edition—a printed copy of the book in which editors mark any changes, mistakes, or inconsistencies that were discovered after the book was printed (or too late in the publishing process to correct). Any changes that were marked in the book are then marked on the reprint. For example, Container Gardening for the Midwest omitted a few of one photographer’s photo credits on the copyright page, so those were added when the book was reprinted. Any typos that were identified after the book was printed are also corrected in the reprint. For example, a reference to a ganzania that should have been gazania was noticed after Annuals of Ontario was published, and so was noted in the editorial copy and fixed for the reprint. Reprints are an opportunity to correct any mistakes in the previous edition and also a chance to keep the book up to date—for example, websites and phone numbers for nature organizations in Compact Guide to British Columbia Birds were updated in the most recent reprint.
While the reprint file is theoretically virtually the same as the file that was sent to the printer for the previous edition (except for revisions), various infelicities creep in on occasion. Conversion from one file type to another, such as from Quark to InDesign, may (or may not) introduce problems that weren’t in the original book. And, since original image files may have been edited or renamed, a photograph of a rose could be substituted with a different flower or missing altogether. Some of the most important things to watch for when checking a reprint at Lone Pine are photos and illustrations (placement, size, cropping), text flow (does the text wrap around images correctly? have bad line breaks or “rivers” of white space been introduced? is the right material on the right page?), page numbers and headings (does each page have a heading and page number, and are they accurate?) and fonts (are they used consistently?). In Lone Pine‘s bird guide books, each bird species gets a one- or two-page account, with an illustration, an overall description, and detailed information about the bird’s size, colour, nesting habits, bird calls, and so on; accounts are divided into sections based on bird types. In the reprint file for Compact Guide to Atlantic Canada Birds, the headings of one section were in a different font than the headings of the other sections, even though the heading fonts had been consistent in the original book. Editorial identified the inconsistency and production easily corrected it before the reprint went to press. In another bird guidebook, the 348-page Birds of Florida, overall descriptions for each species started with a drop cap. Editorial noticed that in the reprint file, whenever the first word of an account started with the letter A, the spacing around the drop cap was incorrect (but curiously, not when the account started with the indefinite article a). Also, when the first letter of the account started with a W, the justification of the line between the heading and the drop cap—the line that contained the italicized scientific name—was altered. It wasn‘t editorial’s job to determine why this was happening, just to point out the pattern that it was. Production was able to change the file settings to correct it.
After production makes the editor’s changes to the reprint file and the editor approves them—occasionally the document goes back and forth several times until everyone is satisfied with the changes—the reprint is sent to the printer. Lone Pine’s black and white titles are printed in Canada, while full-colour books, such as bird guides and gardening titles, are printed in Hong Kong. After the printer receives the file, they set everything up and return a proof, called a plotter, to Lone Pine. The plotter is a copy of the book as they will print it, although not printed on the same stock as the final book will be. (“Wet proofs” are printed on the same stock and with the exact colour as the final book; Lone Pine requests sample wet proof signatures for new titles but not for reprints.) A plotter isn’t bound, but is gathered into signatures. Production checks the plotter, and then gives it to editorial to quickly check for anything that may have gone awry, such as an image missing or pages in the wrong order. Since changes made to the book after it has reached the plotter stage are expensive, minor errors that editorial notices at this stage, such as typos, will likely go uncorrected (but flagged for correction in the next edition). But any mistakes that were caused by the printer, or that are egregious, or that indicate some other problem, will be fixed. For example, editorial noticed that none of the changes they had made to the reprint file of Birds of Texas showed up in the printer’s proof: for whatever reason, a wrong file had been sent to the printer. Without editors to check for the smallest details, the wrong reprint file would have ended up being printed. Detail editing is not just about the details; the details point to and shape the big picture.
Another example demonstrates the big-picture implications of detail editing. At Lone Pine, front and back covers are handled by a different member of production than book interiors, and the reprint files that are passed to editorial for approval usually don’t include the cover: typically no changes are made to the cover, anyway. The plotters from the printer, however, typically do include the cover. In one case, Lone Pine was reprinting a self-help book that had previously been published by another publisher, and so the design and layout were new. The foreword in the previous edition was removed and replaced by a foreword written by a different individual; the original foreword’s author no longer wished to endorse the teachings of the book. But when editorial received the plotter, complete with the cover, they noticed that an excerpt from the original foreword, credited to the author of the now-removed foreword, still appeared on the back cover. Certainly the author who wanted his introduction taken out also wished the complimentary blurb on the cover to be removed. Fortunately, this oversight could be corrected before the book was reprinted.
While reprints are not typically checked word by word, in some instances certain books, or parts of books, are checked more closely. In one book, a problem in file conversion meant that production had to re-create and rekey an entire table that featured many rows and columns of temperature highs, lows, and averages for different cities. In that case, editorial methodically checked every single word and number on the table against the original in the published book. This example demonstrates that communication between production and editorial is imperative. Had production not informed editorial that the table had been rekeyed, editorial wouldn’t have known to check it so closely and likely would not have done so. While it would be ideal to have each reprint checked word by word and line by line against the original, that would not be practical at Lone Pine (or most any publisher). Nor would it be the most efficient way of doing things. Instead, Lone Pine relies on editors who look for the most common things that can go wrong in a reprint, and on communication between production staff and editors to locate anything that might be an exception to the norm. It’s a balancing situation that speaks to detail editing in general: trying to achieve the best-quality product with the most efficient use of time and resources.
Editorial is a necessary step (or several necessary steps) in the reprint process at Lone Pine. Even though the reprint should theoretically be the same as the original book, which was already approved by editorial before it was printed, the above examples show that it is rarely so straightforward. While most elements of a reprint are correct and do not need adjustment, there are nearly always some details—from the relatively minor to the quite significant—to fix or improve. And whether the details are small or weighty, they are important and worthwhile.
Detail-oriented projects at Lone Pine, whether creating cookbook style guides, formatting manuscripts, evaluating marketing copy, checking reprints, or doing one of the dozens of other everyday detail tasks, reveal much about Lone Pine’s editorial priorities. Because reliability and trustworthiness are essential to Lone Pine’s brand, there must be good quality detail editing. But the company has had to adapt detail editing processes and priorities as new realities have emerged. When Lone Pine had a larger editorial staff, style guide updating was constantly in progress; now it is done more infrequently on an as-needed basis. This practice has disadvantages, as any editor would agree—for one, decisions that aren’t written down can be forgotten and need to be made all over again. But updating style guides less often is also an attempt to address the shrinking time and other resources available for detail editing, and to focus on the tasks that are most crucial. Overall, detail editing at Lone Pine demonstrates the company’s priority for a balance between quality and efficiency, ideally achieving both.
Detail Editing in Context
The Editors’ Association of Canada (EAC), a non-profit organization of in-house and freelance Canadian editors, has compiled and published a guide of Professional Editorial Standards, most recently updated in 2009. As its name suggests, this guide provides a list of standards that professional editors will live up to, and details what editorial tasks are carried out at different stages of editing. The first part of the EAC document, The Fundamentals of Editing, explains what all editors should know and do. Among other things, they will have knowledge of the publishing process and the editor’s role within it, and be able to determine and perform the appropriate editorial involvement. Above all, they understand what editing is and what the implications of the editing process are.
The remaining four parts of Professional Editorial Standards establish what needs to be done in the editing process, and divides editing into four stages: structural editing, stylistic editing, copy editing, and proofreading. Structural editing is “assessing and shaping material to improve its organization and content.” In this stage, the editor evaluates a manuscript’s organization and restructures material as necessary. The structural editor may suggest deleting some parts of the manuscript that are repetitive or that detract from the overall argument or narrative, or suggest adding new sections that would enhance the overall work.
Stylistic editing is “editing to clarify meaning, improve flow, and smooth language.” Focus here is on the tone and style of writing, making sure that the sentences and paragraphs clearly communicate the author’s meaning. Stylistic editing can include rearranging sentence order, changing words to be more precise, and eliminating wordiness, all while retaining the author’s voice and an appropriate tone.
Copy editing seeks “to ensure correctness, consistency, accuracy, and completeness.” This stage involves correcting errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, and usage, and identifying errors in logic or fact. The copy editor applies editorial style consistently—for example, when to use Roman numerals and when to spell out numbers—and either works from a previous editor’s style sheet or starts a new one. The copy editor checks and confirms details and information, such as website links and material presented in tables.
The final stage of the EAC document is proofreading, which is “examining material after layout to correct errors in textual and visual elements.” The proofreader reads the first proof word by word, and ensures that all material is there—headings, paragraphs, images—and that it is presented consistently. This can entail checking the layout against the original manuscript to ensure all content is there and accurate. The proofreader marks changes that need to be made (for example, bad end-of-line word breaks) and then ensures on subsequent proofs that those changes have been made, and that those changes don’t create further layout problems. A crucial part of proofreading is not overstepping one’s boundaries, and not performing other editorial tasks (structural, stylistic, or copy editing) unless otherwise instructed.
There is no category in the EAC guidelines called detail editing, but the difference is only one in naming: different parts of detail editing are found in the EAC‘s categories of copy editing, proofreading, and (to a slightly lesser extent) stylistic editing. Every publisher must handle details somehow, but will approach how to handle detail editing, and how to apply editorial standards, differently. The EAC guidelines themselves, which are very clear about dividing the editorial process into stages, acknowledge that “not all publications go through [all stages separately]…The exact editorial process followed for a given publication will vary, depending on factors such as the quality of the original material, the intended audience and purpose, set practices within the company or organization, production methods and tools, schedule, and budget.” Just as all publishers have different ways of handling the editorial processes detailed in the EAC guidelines, publishers have different ways of handling details, which are most closely aligned with the EAC stages of copy editing and proofreading. Harbour Publishing, a regional publisher in British Columbia, relied on freelancers to perform nearly all of the editorial duties for Birds of the Raincoast (a title quite similar to something that Lone Pine might produce). The project was controlled centrally by in-house personnel, but copy editing, for example, was done by a freelancer; proofing was also done by freelance editorial staff, although the layout was also closely and repeatedly checked by in-house staff. Folklore Publishing, a small history publisher in Alberta with an in-house staff of only two, relies almost entirely on freelance staff to edit manuscripts: one freelancer does a substantive edit and another does a proofread before the manuscript is sent to contract production staff. Proofs in the layout stage at Folklore are usually checked by administrative staff in-house. The University of Alberta Press (UAP), a scholarly publisher that also publishes trade titles (including fiction and poetry), also relies largely on freelance staff, who sometimes do more than one step of editing at a time—such as combining stylistic editing with copy editing. “As for what kind of editing is done, and when, it depends entirely on the project and on the skill level of the editor,” says Peter Midgley, Senior Editor (Acquisitions) at UAP. Final detail work (approving and checking the freelancer’s work, and then proofing after layout) is done in-house. Others, such as Lone Pine, use mainly in-house staff with one editor handling all stages of editing on a project. There is no one correct editing method: “[t]he EAC standards outline tasks that must be done, but I’ve never heard of any company that follows it literally, with different people for each layer, on every project.” Each of these publishers—and indeed, every publisher—has a slightly different way of applying editorial standards in general, including with detail editing.
EDITING AT LONE PINE
Drawing from the explanation of detail editing at Lone Pine set out in the previous chapter, this chapter examines the overall editorial process at Lone Pine in order to establish how detail editing fits into that process. Rather than a task-oriented structure of editing, in which different editors perform different duties on the same manuscript, Lone Pine prefers a project-oriented structure, in which one editor has ownership of a project and works on it from start to finish. At Lone Pine, an editor usually works on a book from the time the manuscript is delivered to the publisher to the time the layout is sent to the printer: reordering the text (structural editing), smoothing out the language and tone (stylistic editing), ensuring accuracy in cross-references and information (copy editing), and checking the composed pages (proofreading). Instead of dividing tasks among editors, Lone Pine divides projects among editors, often by category: for example, Sheila Quinlan edits most of Lone Pine’s gardening books.
There are always exceptions to how a project-oriented structure is employed in reality. At Lone Pine, a few big books are the collaborative efforts of more than one editor. The 448-page Mammals of Canada, which was undergoing editorial work during the summer of 2010, was so complicated that multiple editors (and external reviewers) were involved, working on the text, coordinating illustrations, and consulting on design. Occasionally, editors might share other manuscripts in response to workload and availability. Even manuscripts that are handled entirely by one editor get some input from another member of the editorial team: Sheila Quinlan says that the editorial director will still do “a quick read-through” near the end of the editorial process and offer some final suggestions and corrections. But largely, editing at Lone Pine is done on a complete project basis.
Lone Pine retains an in-house editorial structure, composed of an editorial director (Nancy Foulds) and three or four full-time editors. During the summer of 2010, the full-time editorial staff members were Gary Whyte, Nicholle Carrière, and Sheila Quinlan; I was filling in for Wendy Pirk, who was on maternity leave. A few part-time staff members (usually former full-time editorial employees) and freelance editors supplement the editorial team whenever necessary.
Lone Pine does not accept unsolicited submissions, but does accept book proposals on the topics of natural history, gardening, and outdoor recreation. Most book concepts, however, are developed in-house, with consultation among the editorial department, the publisher, and marketing. Books at Lone Pine are very publisher- and marketing-driven. Shane Kennedy, the publisher of Lone Pine, has a very important and active role in determining the shape and direction of Lone Pine’s books. Often he will see a book in a bookstore that is within Lone Pine’s purview and know that Lone Pine could do a better job on the topic; a wild game and fish cookbook project entered development during the summer of 2010 as a result of Kennedy’s direction. Marketing also provides valuable direction; for example, if a guide for perennial flowers in a certain region has done well, maybe Lone Pine should consider developing a book for annual flowers for the same region. After a book concept is established and developed by editorial, the publisher, and marketing, the editorial director locates an author or authors to write the book. If it is a regional title, as many of Lone Pine’s titles are, Lone Pine will seek to engage at least one author who is a subject expert from within that region. For example, of the three authors of Washington Local and Seasonal Cookbook, one (Becky Selengut) is a chef and culinary instructor who lives in Washington; the other two authors contribute to other titles in the series.
Book concepts and ideas have a long life at Lone Pine. When Nancy Foulds joined Lone Pine in 1995, a book called Wildlife and Trees in British Columbia was in development. It was a massive undertaking, billed as a bible for the forestry people of the province, and Lone Pine saw it as an important and worthwhile project. Because it covered such a wide range of species and locations, several different authors, who were experts in different fields, were working on it simultaneously. As with any large and complicated project, there were difficulties. There was no consistent authorial voice: parts written by different authors took on different tones; even some sentences within a single paragraph sounded vastly different. Contributions from one author in particular were written in an archaic, outdated style that did not fit in with the rest. Even though computer use and publishing technology had come a long way by the mid-’90s, it was still a significant editorial challenge to bring all these different contributions and voices together into one unified whole. One delay led to another, but Lone Pine never shelved the project, and advances in technology made it progressively more possible to compile and edit text electronically. Wildlife and Trees in British Columbia was finally published in 2006, after being actively in development for over a decade. Similarly, an idea introduced in an editorial concept meeting might not fit in with the current list or priorities, but could resurface years later and undergo development.
The relationships that editorial at Lone Pine has with its authors are very hands-on. The editor has a lot of leeway to craft and shape the book, and there is not much back and forth between editor and author. Typically, the author sees the manuscript twice more after submitting it: once after the editor has nearly completed editing, to resolve any queries and make any final changes, and once after the book has gone to production and pages have been composed. The author does see the edited text, but in a final version; that is, the author normally doesn‘t see the marked-up manuscript in either paper or electronic form. The author still has the chance to question and disagree with the editor’s work, but negotiation between editor and author about every change and decision does not take place. One of the points in the Professional Editorial Standards is that editors should “[u]se judgment about when to query the author…and when to resolve problems without consultation,” and at Lone Pine editors certainly have greater authority to resolve problems independently than at some other publishing houses.
Lone Pine’s editorial practices—that books are mainly publisher- or editor-driven, and that little author–editor negotiation is expected—are defined by the type of books that Lone Pine publishes. Most titles are information-based, such as guidebooks, and all are non-fiction. In non-literary non-fiction publishing, many authors are subject experts rather than professional writers; they write books based on their authority and knowledge on certain topics, rather than their skills as writers. Such non-fiction projects require different types of editing than, say, a novel by an established writer. According to what is termed a conservative estimate, 50% of Canadian trade non-fiction books are in practice, if not in name, a collaboration to some degree between the author and the editor (in the United States, the percentage may be as high as 80%). While some of Lone Pine’s authors are full-time professional writers, others are subject experts who are passionate about a particular topic. The nature of non-fiction editing lends itself quite easily to a project-based editorial approach, with a high degree of editorial authority and autonomy and the editor very invested in and responsible for all stages of a manuscript.
The Evolution of Editing at Lone Pine
Editing at Lone Pine has changed over the last few years. Five or six years ago, Lone Pine had a much larger in-house editorial team, which included about six in-house editors and four or five in-house authors. Three of these authors wrote Lone Pine’s gardening guides, and two were ghost writers: ghost writers in this case referring not to those who write or rewrite a book that is credited to another author (the usual meaning), but writers who wrote actual ghost stories for an imprint of Lone Pine called Ghost House Books. When Lone Pine had in-house authors, the relationships between editors and authors were very strong; it was easy to have good communication about deadlines and editing suggestions when the two groups saw each other every day. Today, there is a smaller editorial staff and there are no in-house authors, although some of the authors who formerly worked in-house still write books for Lone Pine.
There are a few possible reasons for the smaller in-house editorial department (both editors and authors) over the last few years. A number of existing book series have neared completion, such as the Birds of… series, which consists of around 50 titles for different cities, provinces, states, and regions. There are still ways to repurpose material and continue with bird guidebooks (for example, with books such as Compact Guide to Atlantic Canada Birds; there are currently around 15 Compact Guide bird books), but books in the series are not being turned out as quickly as they were in past years. This slowdown likely also relates to the economic situation in the United States, which has been a huge expansion market for Lone Pine. It was no longer practical to produce as many regional titles for US markets when book sales there were slowing. So a combination of a wrap-up of existing series, slower sales in the US, and a smaller editorial staff—which have likely influenced each other—has resulted in fewer books being published per year: from a high of thirty to thirty-five in the past to around twelve to twenty today.
Since some of the existing series are nearing completion, Lone Pine will be looking to develop some new series to continue their publishing model, and this could demand considerable staff time. When Lone Pine started developing its gardening series in the mid-’90s, it took a lot of time and effort to get started: they had to develop the concept and design, build up a library of photographs, and cultivate relationships with garden writers and photographers. The first two gardening titles published were Perennials of British Columbia (2000) and Perennials of Ontario (2001), and after those years of prep work were done for the first few titles, it became much easier to continue with that series (e.g., Perennials for Northern California) and to expand the concept to other series (e.g., Annuals for Ontario, Best Garden Plants for British Columbia, Tree and Shrub Gardening for Northern California). The latest addition to the gardening series is Vegetable Gardening for…, of which three titles were in development in 2010. So if Lone Pine looks to develop completely new series in the coming years, as the gardening field was new in the 1990s, there could be another increase in editorial staff.
However, even though there could be a high demand on editorial, it‘s likely that the in-house department won’t increase considerably. Lone Pine’s use of technology has made editing much more portable. Editing is done almost exclusively electronically today, rather than on paper. As noted earlier, electronic editing made it much easier to edit a multi-contributor project like Wildlife and Trees in British Columbia in 2006 than it was in 1995. Since technology has made editing more portable, it is possible for personnel to work remotely, which has both pros and cons for Lone Pine and for the editors themselves.
For example, in 2007 and 2008, two editors, Sheila Quinlan and Wendy Pirk, worked for Lone Pine as full-time employees from Barbados. They did virtually the same editorial tasks that they would have done at the office in Edmonton, but did absolutely everything electronically, emailing files and questions and checking in with the office daily via Skype. After files were laid out, the editors worked from PDFs and marked up any changes electronically, rather than shipping paper back and forth. The pros for the editors were that they had the flexibility to set their own hours and the opportunity to experience life in another country, and they were also able to travel to and work from other international destinations during their time abroad. The company benefited because it had a two-year commitment from the editors and a staff presence in Barbados, where some of the company’s international arrangements are based. But there were difficulties as well. Even though it is possible to do nearly all editorial work electronically, some tasks are best done in-house, by hand, such a quickly checking over a reprint, as detailed in chapter 1. While production would have been able to email the reprint file to the editors in Barbados, the editors wouldn‘t have had the marked-up editorial department copy of the original printing, or any copy of the book, for that matter. The tight turnaround times necessary when producing reprints would have made it impractical to ship a copy of the originally printed book to Barbados to be checked against the proofs. Also, Sheila Quinlan notes that communication to and from the office definitely suffered: “sometimes it’s nice to just be able to go over to production and talk to whoever is doing your book about what needs to be done. Email isn’t always ideal when you just have a quick question or comment.”
Even if it isn’t always efficient, technology has made remote editing more possible for Lone Pine than it has ever been before. It has also made it possible to keep the in-house editorial staff smaller: while it is still important for Lone Pine to have a core team in-house, some projects and tasks can be assigned to part-time or freelance staff working outside the office. According to Gary Whyte, one of the major ongoing changes in editing at Lone Pine is that they are trying to make more use of external resources (i.e., freelancers), while retaining central control and communication in-house. Some projects are more easily edited out-of-house than others. Projects that highly depend on illustrations and a lot of technical details are kept in-house, while other, relatively straightforward projects are more likely to be sent to a freelancer. For example, during the summer of 2010, a gardening question-and-answer guide called Just Ask Jerry was assigned to Kathy van Denderen, a regular Lone Pine freelance editor. She worked from outside the office, but would occasionally stop by the office for editorial meetings. It is telling that even though technology makes it possible for editorial work to be done from anywhere in the world, nearly all of Lone Pine’s freelance editors live in Edmonton; it makes it that much easier to pick things up at the office or consult in person.
The smaller in-house editorial staff at Lone Pine has necessitated some changes in editing process, and some sacrifices. Only a few years ago, nearly every book was worked on by at least two editors, or had a “second set of eyes read-through” by a second, separate editor. Having a fresh set of eyes on a manuscript has obvious advantages. When an editor has been closely working on a manuscript for weeks or months, it can be very helpful to have input from someone further removed from the project. The second editor will catch things the first editor did not, and will raise different concerns. The luxury of having a second editor work on a manuscript has largely had to be surrendered now that there are fewer editors. However, Lone Pine‘s commitment to having a core in-house editorial team somewhat mitigates the effect of having only one editor work on a manuscript—there are always other editors around to consult with or get feedback from on tricky points. Freelance editors often feel isolated because they don’t have the opportunity to work closely with other editors. A strong in-house editorial core benefits not only the in-house staff, but freelancers as well if there is solid communication.
Lone Pine’s smaller in-house staff has also meant that there is less time for long-term, forward-looking projects. As discussed previously, house style sheets are updated less frequently than they once were. Another editorial department project that has been long in development is the upgrading of Lone Pine’s illustrations database. For nature guidebooks, Lone Pine commissions illustrations of each featured species, both plants and animals: trees, flowers, berries, birds, bugs, butterflies, mammals, and so on. By commissioning illustrations rather than renting or using stock sources, Lone Pine owns the images and is able to reuse them in whatever manner they wish. With over 5,000 images, Lone Pine’s illustrations collection is a huge and extremely valuable resource for the company. Naturally, it is very important that editors and production staff be able to search for and locate illustrations, which are identified by an in-house numbering system related to the species’ scientific family name. The illustrations database was created around fifteen years ago using FileMaker 2; in 2010, the current version of FileMaker is 11. The illustrations database has been updated with new illustration listings, but databases have changed considerably in the past fifteen years, and the database structure itself is outdated. Maintaining the database requires considerable work-arounds. Possibly the biggest drawback of the current illustrations database is that it does not contain all forms of visual media; photographs are catalogued elsewhere in a separate system. Lone Pine prefers to own photographs outright as well so they can be reused, but in many cases that has not been possible. The current database cannot accommodate details like restrictions on image usage since it was not set up to include that. Also, the database helps only to store information; if it were set up as a relational database, with pieces of text (for example, information about bird habitat and nesting habits), it could be used to assist with production. The task of upgrading the database has long been in development, but more short-term projects take priority, especially with a smaller in-house editorial staff. The current system still works, even though it is not as efficient as it could be, and so upgrading to a new system (and then adapting editorial workflow to the implications of that system) has less urgency.
A final recent change in editing at Lone Pine is a move away from so much paper. Nearly all text is edited electronically with Microsoft Word’s Track Changes function, instead of marking up paper. Also, Lone Pine used to print out a colour copy of a book once it was laid out, and courier it to the author for approval and for any changes; now, the author is emailed a PDF version of the layout, along with instructions for how to mark any changes electronically. Production at Lone Pine typically still prints out layouts for editorial to proof and approve, but increasingly more of that work is done on-screen as well. Working electronically seems relatively straightforward and intuitive today, but the effect it has had on editorial processes and efficiencies should not be underestimated.
STANDARDS OF DETAIL EDITING IN CANADIAN TRADE BOOK PUBLISHING
Over the past five to ten years, there has been much debate over the supposedly declining state of editing in Canadian trade book publishing—and in particular, detail editing. In 2006, Rawi Hage’s debut novel, De Niro’s Game, was nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. The Giller is Canada’s most prestigious fiction prize, and can be extremely influential on sales for the finalists and particularly the winner. But critics were quick to point out that De Niro’s Game, published by House of Anansi Press, contained several noticeable typographical and grammatical errors: “[t]he possessive word ‘children’s’ is spelled with the apostrophe after the ‘s’ instead of before it. Led, the past tense of lead, is spelt l-e-a-d. The word lying is written as ‘laying.’ Letters and words are missing from sentences.” These are the types of things that are usually corrected in the copy-editing or proofreading stages, but a certain number of such errors go unnoticed in virtually any publication. However, these mistakes were not only publicly pointed out, but “some seriously raised the issue of whether [De Niro’s Game] deserved to be considered for a major literary award” as a result of those mistakes. Do grammatical or syntactic oversights on the part of the editorial team compromise a book’s merit? The 2006 Giller jury evidently was willing to overlook them, but others disagreed. Indeed, when a reader is constantly pulled out of the world of a novel by glaring typos and mistakes, it can diminish the story’s impact and emotional power.
Debates on detail editing are not limited to literary fiction or to Canada. After the release of each new Harry Potter book, newspaper articles, magazine features, and blogs popped up decrying a lack of attention to detail in the books. “It’s nice to know that despite the billions of dollars involved in JK Rowling’s creation, they still manage to botch things up like proofreading,” one blogger concluded, after pointing out a reference to a “site” in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that should have been “sight.” Fans also pointed out detail errors in content: for example, a minor character, Marcus Flint, is said to be in his sixth year of school in the first book, but appears again in school in book three, by which time he should have graduated. Editors in the U.K., the U.S., and Canada worked to tailor the books for the markets in their countries, both for language and for continuity, and so different detail editing concerns were raised with each different edition.
In 2010, Penguin Group Australia destroyed and reprinted 7,000 copies of The Pasta Bible for a single typo: a recipe that called for “salt and freshly ground black people” instead of “pepper.” It was called the “worst typo ever” and received significant media attention. An automated spellchecker was officially blamed for the error, and the publishers said they regretted the error but they realized it was extremely difficult for editors to catch absolutely everything. Later in 2010, 8,000 copies of the UK edition of Jonathan Franzen’s highly acclaimed novel Freedom had to be reprinted because an earlier version of the manuscript had inadvertently gone to press. It was “an early draft manuscript, and contains hundreds of mistakes in spelling, grammar and characterisation.” The errors in Freedom were attributed to the typesetters sending a wrong version of the file to the printer, not the editors overlooking some errors as was the case with De Niro’s Game, but it still speaks to the importance of detail editing and detail editors. Effectively, editors ultimately give approval to the quality of what is published.
It could be suggested that editors today rely too much on technology for detail editing. Spellcheckers are common in today’s word processors—and even online, with Google gently asking “did you mean…?” when a word or phrase is typed incorrectly. But spellcheckers are not infallible; whether or not an automated spellchecker actually was responsible for substituting “people” for “pepper” in The Pasta Bible, it’s plausible that it could have been. Automated spellcheckers don’t know the difference between “here” and “hear” and so can’t correct homophones to tell you that you‘ve used the wrong version of their/there/they’re. Likewise, automatic grammar checks can identify some problems, such as subject/verb disagreement: a sentence such as “Bob and Jim was in the room” can automatically be marked as incorrect. But other times a perfectly grammatical sentence will be flagged as incorrect, or an instance of incorrect grammar will go unnoticed. Automated tools have their limitations, as editors are well aware. Besides, even a perfectly grammatical sentence can be very bad writing, requiring an editor to smooth out the words manually. Spellcheckers and the like can be useful tools for editors, catching that one time in a manuscript that a word is spelled incorrectly. But they cannot be relied upon to do an editor’s job, and most of the time, they are not.
Electronic tools can also present new opportunities for editors. Using Find and Replace, an editor can easily switch all occurrences of “color” to “colour” and be confident that all instances of the word have been changed. When editing on paper, an editor would have to go through the manuscript manually to locate each usage—which could be extremely time-consuming, especially if the decision to change from American to Canadian spelling was made at the last minute, requiring a pass through the manuscript dedicated solely to checking for that one thing. Similarly, electronic editing tools make it possible to reverse a bad editing decision quickly and comprehensively: “searching a document [on paper] to undo a bad style decision takes a long time and risks missing a few instances.” Of course, there are downsides to these tools as well. Attempting to automatically change every use of the suffix “-ise” to “-ize” will also create improperly spelled words like “compromize” or “raized” or “dizease.” Once again, nothing automatic is foolproof.
Publishers also increasingly use automated conversion programs to change files from one form to another. Automated conversion from print files to EPUB, along with the editor’s role in ebook creation, is examined further in chapter 4.
Some have suggested that less attention to detail editing and higher reliance on editing technology is having a net negative effect on our society. Responding to the “ground black people” debacle, one copy editor asserted that “cutbacks on editing and increased reliance on technology will result in a decrease in quality and an increase in errors…these measures are helping to make ours a less literate culture.” To call us “a less literate culture” based on trends in detail editing is a strong statement indeed. While it is an extreme viewpoint, there are legitimate concerns about the current state—and future—of detail editing. Why has its role in publishing changed?
There has undoubtedly been a shift in editorial priorities—responding to technological changes and opportunities, certainly, but also reacting to the publishing culture at large. In the past, editors were able to look for manuscripts they felt had potential, and then were able to spend time working with the author on improving them. This process was sometimes extensive, with dedicated, unswervingly committed editors drawing out (or reshaping) the very best from their authors, such as T.S. Eliot with his editor Ezra Pound. The editorial focus was on finding promise and developing it. Today, the focus is increasingly on acquisitions. With smaller budgets for editorial departments, publishers and editors have to look for manuscripts that are cleaner: already well developed in concept and smooth in execution. Editors, then, look to acquire already-polished manuscripts. Also, marketing departments have a much larger role in what is acquired and published than they did in the past. Publishers understandably want and need to sell what they publish, and marketing departments look for books that they can sell and make a profit from. Books that require less developmental editing require less of an investment of time, money, and other resources by the publisher, therefore leading to a greater opportunity for profit. The combination of increased importance of marketing and smaller editorial budgets has causally influenced the shift from development to acquisitions. Similarly, editors have seen acquiring a good title as being potentially more profitable career-wise than editing a good title, and so there is pressure to focus on acquisitions from inside the editing profession itself.
In some types of trade publishing, agents have undoubtedly also affected this shift as they assume some of the responsibilities formerly ascribed to editors: “[t]oday’s agents nurture authors, work closely with them in development of their work, perform a great many editorial tasks, and lend strong emotional and psychological support…agents have become the islands of stability and reliability that were once the province of editors.” Editors rely on agents to send them polished work that meets the publisher’s established criteria; the agent then increasingly plays the role of filter, screening manuscripts before they are seen by the publishing house. It is easy to see how agents have taken on some of the traditional editorial tasks in such a case. But the increased emphasis on acquisitions in editorial departments is not limited to publishing houses that find their manuscripts through the slush pile (or submissions from agents). Most of Lone Pine’s titles are publisher-driven: ideas are conceived and developed in-house and then authors are located and contracted to write them. But while ideas are developed in-house—which requires editorial time and effort—the submitted manuscript does have to conform to the publisher’s expectations. Authors whose manuscripts require considerable extra editorial time to be organized and smoothed out are less likely to be rehired than authors who submit dependably solid, polished works. Even in publisher-driven books, selective acquisitions work is crucial.
Some have bemoaned the loss of editors like Maxwell Perkins, the devoted, compassionate editor of the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway in the early part of the twentieth century. Perkins is known for the thoughtfulness and care he put into working with authors to truly draw out their potential, evidenced in his well-crafted editorial letters. “‘Where are today’s Maxwell Perkinses?’ is the plaintive cry of authors who discover horrifying grammatical, syntactic, factual, and typographic errors in their freshly minted books, or, worse, have them gleefully pointed out by friends and critics.” Indeed, this same refrain arises again and again when errors are found, such as in Rawi Hage’s De Niro’s Game. The question really being asked is what has happened to the editors of yesteryear, the editors who were nurturing to authors while at the same time ruthlessly conscientious about ensuring accuracy. The reality is that editing today is very different than it was at the beginning of the twentieth century. The editing profession has taken on a myriad of tasks, including developing book concepts and outlines, meeting with sales and marketing personnel and writing marketing materials, tracking copyright information and permissions, applying for Cataloguing in Publication (CIP) listings, coordinating with production staff, corresponding with authors and agents…and somewhere in there, actually doing what is most commonly thought of as editing—working with the text itself. Constantly questioning what has happened to editors like Maxwell Perkins “oversimplifies editing both now and then, and fails to take into account that today’s editors simply don‘t perform the same tasks as their forebears did.”
Stuart Woods quotes an agent as referring to today’s editors as “glorified ‘project managers.'” Woods describes how in-house editors have been increasingly forced to focus on managing projects, with the editors and the publishing company having little or no time or inclination to actually edit the manuscript. To get that editorial attention to the text, authors have had to hire freelancers themselves, without having any certainty of eventual publication. This editing model has been affected by publishers’ desire for more polished manuscripts, and illustrates a significant change in the editorial priorities of publishing houses. The project manager designation, however, does not have to be as pejorative to editors as Woods’s comment suggests. Editors often do have to manage all stages of a project, and they assume a much wider range of responsibility than did editors of previous generations. Hinting that editors are not doing as good a job as they used to does oversimplify the evolving role of editors. It also assumes that editors’ primary responsibility is detail work, when in reality there may only be the time and budget for that to be a very small part of the job.
However, these concerns about shifting editorial priorities are nothing new. In the 1970s and ’80s, publishing houses increasingly employed freelance editors to do tasks like copy editing and proofreading, since the work could be done more inexpensively by freelancers than by in-house staff—not necessarily because in-house staff make more money than freelancers, but because freelancers can be engaged on a project-by-project basis, only when they are needed. As a result, in-house editorial departments shrunk. This shift was also in part a result of a shift in focus to acquisitions and to the editor’s increasing role as a project manager. According to most sources, the biggest things that editorial departments lost as more and more work was sent out-of-house were cohesion and continuity: there was a “loss of personal, day-to-day communication” that comes from people interacting in person on a daily basis. Since these explanations for evolving editorial priorities have been around for at least the past thirty years, what—if anything—is different in the more recent past? Why are publishers, in Canada and around the world, accused of giving lower priority to detail editing in the past five to ten years?
The answer is undoubtedly in part because publishers have given lower priority to detail editing. For all the reasons discussed earlier—lower editorial budgets, a greater priority on acquisitions, diversifying job responsibilities, and a move to freelance editors—some changes necessarily had to be made. And a lower priority on detail editing has been one of these sacrifices. Like good businesspeople, publishers have tightened their budgets and improved their bottom lines by putting less time and attention into tasks that are deemed dispensable, including detail editing. This trend has been seen in publishers large and small; according to Mary Schendlinger, some of the companies that were traditionally “yardsticks” for detail editing standards, such as Penguin, have been “slipping in the proofing department too.” A “sea change in editorial priorities” at Penguin Canada in the mid-2000s replaced most in-house editors skilled at line editing with acquisitions editors. When such a change occurs, the publishing house necessarily relies on freelance editors to work with the text itself, and to conduct many different levels of editing. Detail editing can often then suffer. This is not at all to suggest that in-house editors are better than freelancers; even though in-house editors have access to more training, knowledge, and experience, there is no guarantee that they will be better editors. Nor does it suggest that freelance editors are inferior in skill or ability than in-house editors. Most publishing houses no longer have the resources to train editors in-house, so editors learn the business through training programs, courses, and on-the-job freelance experience. These freelance editors treat editing very professionally, as the creation of the EAC’s Professional Editorial Standards demonstrates. The two editors who were awarded the EAC’s Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence in 2002, David Peebles and Susan Goldberg, were both freelance editors who had not had the opportunity to learn the editing profession from inside a publishing house. Instead, they had taken editing courses and been mentored by experienced editors from within the publishing house; Dennis Bockus refers to this approach to using freelancers as “the new model of publishing in action.” But using freelancers for detail editing (a cost-saving measure) can also result in less detail editing. For example, a freelance proofreader might mark up a laid-out text so that it can go back to production, but the corrected proof might not get back to that proofreader to double-check, because of time limitations or budget concerns. Or that proofreader could fail to notice style inconsistencies that had been discussed at length in-house; for example, in a gardening book, how should the names of varieties of plants be handled—in single quotations, or double, or none? Of course, both situations can also occur with in-house editors—the quality of both in-house and freelance editors can be uneven—but physical distance makes oversights more likely to happen.
Detail editing, then, has been given lower priority largely for economic reasons: some things have just had to be cut. The more interesting question is how publishers have been able to justify deeming detail editing as dispensable—or at least more dispensable than other tasks. After all, there are several good reasons why detail editing is important, such as reliability, professionalism, and credibility (as discussed in chapter 1). Perhaps there are fewer readers (and editors) who are as fastidious about the rules of grammar and word usage than there once were. Quill and Quire points out that “[t]he line between the relaxed grammar of conversation and formal grammar of the printed word is blurring,” and so general readers can often easily make sense of what are technically prescriptive mistakes in language use. It is not uncommon to hear that today’s generation places less importance on things like grammar, but this argument isn’t new, either: in 1986, an editor for Harper and Row stated that “there simply isn’t the old interest in grammatical precision among young people anymore.” What is new today is the cultural influence of, and the opportunities afforded by, technology. Tools like email, text messaging, and Twitter have brought relaxed grammar and language use to the mainstream, with their focus on immediacy, brevity, and communication, not necessarily grammatical correctness. Creative and playful use of language has been around for centuries; it is not the result of new technologies. However, new technologies do make relaxed language use more prevalent and widespread, and they accelerate the speed at which it gains acceptance.
What is different today is that current technologies make correcting many errors simple, and at least theoretically instant. It is common to see articles or news stories posted online along with messages like “This article has been edited to correct a previously published version.” The focus is on getting out content quickly. And it can be made available quickly partly because there is time to fix things later. When an error is discovered in a print newspaper, the newspaper can‘t prevent its readership from seeing the error; all it can do is print a correction in the next issue. Online, however, if an editor or author discovers an infelicity after a piece is posted—or if a reader notices and leaves a comment about it—it can be corrected immediately, and every future reader of the piece will see the corrected version. This ability means that more errors can be fixed, because technology makes it so straightforward, but it could also lead to some editors being less careful, knowing that instant fixes can be made afterward. A similar application of content-first, correction-second can be seen in informal communication habits. A study on the language and literacies of messaging reported that instant messaging users will often fix a spelling mistake made in one message in the next, preceding the corrected spelling with an asterisk, although the reasons behind the development of this convention are unclear. I can anecdotally confirm that although I have no idea how I learned the standard, over the years I have corrected my own typos in MSN Messenger and Gmail Chat in such a fashion. Today’s technology mediates a culture that allows for small errors because they can be instantly corrected.
But how does this culture affect book publishers? Even though ebooks and other forms of digital publishing are becoming increasingly important, print publishing is still the priority of most Canadian book publishers in 2010. Accordingly, the nature of print makes books more like the printed newspapers discussed previously: printed mistakes can’t be retracted immediately so that no one else will see them. But developments in printing technology make it considerably easier than it used to be to fix mistakes late in the publishing process. Not that long ago, in the days before desktop publishing, if necessary changes were discovered after a manuscript had gone to production, editors had to communicate the changes to typesetters, who had to create new hot lead casts for every single change. Fixing mistakes late in the process was a major ordeal—and very costly. At that stage, it was only economically feasible to correct the most serious errors, and so great attention had to be paid to catching detail errors before the manuscript reached the typesetter. Today, it can be quite expensive to make changes after a book has gone to the printer—as seen with Lone Pine’s philosophy to make only the most critical changes after a book progresses to the plotter stage—but before that, it is more straightforward. In electronic layouts, typos can be corrected, text reflowed, or images switched for only the cost of the production staff’s time and perhaps some pages printed out. Not insignificant expenses to be sure, but not nearly as costly or time-consuming as recasting hot lead. As a result, editorial staffs have become accustomed to making last-minute adjustments and changes. Hearing an editor say “We‘ll catch that after it goes to layout” is not uncommon today. In such a climate, detail editing can easily become an afterthought, not a primary focus.
Printing technology has also helped to reduce the number of errors in books. Accidental typos rarely require a publisher to do a whole reprinting; exceptions are made only in special circumstances, such as when the mistake is extremely offensive (e.g., the “ground black people” incident) or when an author commands that type of influence (e.g., the best-selling and critically acclaimed Jonathan Franzen). Most of the time, however, any mistakes discovered are merely corrected in subsequent reprints and editions. Printing technology has influenced this practice; print runs can be more conservative thanks to the use of print-on-demand (POD). There are many possible ways for publishers to use POD; one is to mitigate the impact of a shortage of books by running off POD copies, keeping the book in stock temporarily while reprinting more offset copies (which are cheaper to print, but take more time). Most publishers hope for a second printing of their books—especially if the first can be a smaller printing—and anticipate that any mistakes discovered can be fixed at that point. The much-decried mistakes in De Niro’s Game, for instance, were fixed in the next printing.
Technology has both influenced and made possible an overall tolerance for detail errors. There are undoubtedly still groups that fervently plea for correctness in the written and published word; books like Lynne Trusse’s Eats, Shoots and Leaves prove that some people care about grammar and punctuation, and care about it passionately. Overall, though, many people have become more tolerant of minor errors because electronic communications technology (such as email and text messaging) and online sources (such as news websites) have made them regular, accepted, and easy to fix. Publishers have perhaps capitalized on this overall trend by giving detail editing a lower priority, knowing that things can be changed further down the line—it is one of many ways to justify seeing detail editing as dispensable. Also, editors know that they are able to make changes throughout the publishing process, so it is no longer necessary to catch everything all at once; this can be a cost-effective measure and ensure very high-quality detail editing, but can also result in detail errors if something that the editor meant to review on the next proof is forgotten. These more recent technology-related changes combine with changes in overall editorial priorities over the past thirty to forty years—such as a shift to acquisitions and to editors as project managers—to make detail editing less central than it used to be. Quite simply, detail editing is less central in trade book publishing today because it no longer has to be.
THE FUTURE OF DETAIL EDITING AT LONE PINE
Lone Pine today faces several detail editing concerns and constraints. There is the same amount of detail work to be done by a smaller in-house editorial staff; there is an overall trend in publishing that detail editing is one of the first things to be cut back to reduce costs; there are uncertainties about how to involve editorial in the ebook/digital content creation process (and how to handle that extra workload). None of these concerns are unique to Lone Pine; they are also being faced by other trade book publishers across Canada, the U.S., the U.K., and beyond. The types of publications that Lone Pine produces, however, set it apart from many other trade publishers. Lone Pine produces guidebooks and books that are heavily information-based; minor errors in that information undercut the credibility of all of the information. It is likely that for the information-based publishing that Lone Pine does, detail editing will remain a priority, because it will distinguish the company to its readers as a professional and trustworthy publisher.
If detail editing is to stay as important as it has been, Lone Pine may have to find other ways to reduce editorial time, and/or find other areas to cut back. It is possible that detail editing will continue at the expense of some substantive work. However, for trade publishers of fiction, poetry, narrative non-fiction, and so on, substantive editing will likely continue to have a higher priority than detail work. This is not to say that substantive editing is not important to a guidebook; it is. For example, a guidebook must include the appropriate animals for a region and not leave out any notable ones. But just as a considerable amount of developmental and structural editing of novels has shifted over to agents, the substantive editing needed for Lone Pine’s information-based texts may increasingly shift over to authors and technical reviewers. The substantive work will still get done, but in a slightly different way.
In spite of the trends in the larger publishing industry and the pressures from within the company to reduce costs and eliminate expendable tasks, Lone Pine intends—and needs—to keep detail editing central. Its future depends in part on the quality and credibility of the products it produces, whatever form those products take. As digital reading and publishing become more common, book publishers have to consider other ways to use their content. Lone Pine is already well accustomed to repurposing content in different print capacities (much of the content in Vegetable Gardening for Ontario, for example, is reused in Vegetable Gardening for British Columbia; content from Lone Pine’s full-length bird books is compiled and condensed in the Compact Guide series), but developing content for different, multiple mediums brings new complexities. The concerns are not only production-related (i.e., how do we actually create an ebook?) but also editorial-related (i.e., how do we develop and curate content for ebooks?). The following case study examines some of the practical and theoretical challenges in ebook creation at Lone Pine.
A Case Study: Ebooks at Lone Pine
Ebooks are becoming increasingly important for readers and publishers. Statistics released from the Association of American Publishers (AAP) show that in the United States, ebooks generated 9.03% of trade book sales in the first three-quarters of 2010, compared to 3.31% of sales in 2009. In dollars, ebooks account for $263 million so far in 2010, compared to $89.8 million over the same period in 2009—a 193% increase. These are American figures, but the Canadian percentages are likely comparable (if a little lower, owing to several factors such as the Kindle ereader not being available in Canada at all until late 2009). But publishers in Canada (and elsewhere) have faced difficulties in making the transition to digital publishing. When the Giller Prize shortlist was announced on October 5, 2010, Twitter users were quick to point out that only two of the five shortlisted titles were available as ebooks. Adapting to ebooks has not been a fast process for publishing houses, not least because of a confusing tangle of file formats, distribution channels, and price points to navigate. Ebook production has made publishers rethink their entire production processes.
Ebooks present editors with challenges as well. Many ebook file formats reflow text, which makes some traditional editorial proofing tasks, such as looking for bad end-of-line breaks, no longer entirely relevant (because the line breaks will change depending on the screen size, how zoomed-in the reader is, and what font is selected). Until recently, many publishers have treated ebooks as an add-on to their existing print publishing; print production files were converted to a format such as PDF or EPUB and instantly made available for distribution. In such a scenario, editors often don’t have the opportunity to edit the file after it has been converted and “laid out” as an ebook. Sometimes they don‘t have the opportunity to see the ebook at all, or so it seems. For example, in the preface to Brandon Sanderson’s novel The Way of Kings, the author explains that the illustrations in the book are very important to the story—but the illustrations are illegible in the ebook version. Since the illustrations are so important in this case, containing information that is not replicated in the text, the question arises: did anyone—the publisher, the editor, the author—see the ebook before it was made available for purchase? According to Rich Adin, an editor, the publishing industry “treat[s ebooks] as Cinderella stepchildren—as a way to do the work of increasing revenues without being given an opportunity to shine on their own.” The process of ebook development will become more organic with time as publishers adapt, but it is currently a complicated (and groundbreaking) time for editors and editorial departments.
In 2009 and 2010, Lone Pine participated in an ebook conversion project coordinated by the Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP). A number of Canadian publishers worked co-operatively to secure discount ebook conversion pricing from an overseas company; since there would be so many publications sent for conversion at the same time, rates would be cheaper. Lone Pine had recognized the need to participate in the ebook publishing industry but hadn’t been able to devote considerable time to it, especially with a decrease in production staff around the same time. So with the multiple-publisher conversion project and the reasonable rates, Lone Pine decided to convert a significant portion of its backlist and current books, some 350 titles, to ebooks. The conversion company said that they could convert files from any format into EPUB, and so Lone Pine sent files in a number of different formats (InDesign, Quark, PDF, etc.). Some books were so old that there were no electronic files, only film; for conversion to ebooks, film is transferred to what is called copy-dots by using a camera to take a photo of each page. Lone Pine production staff located the 350 final book files (or the file of the most recent reprint) and sent those to the conversion company.
The results of the ebook conversion were extremely disappointing. Many of Lone Pine’s books depend heavily on illustrations and photos. A bird guide, for example, is printed in full colour, with at least one large illustration, and sometimes two, per species account (every one or two pages). In some of the bird books there is also a photograph of a bird’s egg to go along with each species account. The main purpose of a guidebook is to identify species, so illustrations are as crucial as text. In Lone Pine’s print books, illustrations are roughly consistent in size throughout the book—about half to three-quarters of a page is normal. But in the ebook version of Birds of the Rocky Mountains, for example, illustrations are inconsistently sized. Sometimes they take up an entire screen on the iPad or on a computer screen using Adobe Digital Editions, which bumps the caption to the next screen, which contains no other text. When the images are oversized, they are very pixelated and unclear. In other entries, the main account illustrations are just tiny rectangles amongst the text. Some images are correctly sized: they look appropriately balanced and placed with the text, and the image quality is good and clear. But in this ebook, there appears to have been no consistent way of treating the images, and the blurred and stretched images especially give the ebook an amateur and unpolished appearance.
Also, the front of the print book Birds of the Rocky Mountains contains an illustrated reference guide, showing thumbnail images of each bird discussed in the book and what page it can be found on for easy reference. In the ebook, the reference guide images and text were resized and stretched to the point of being practically illegible, rendering the reference guide useless. The reference guide is also not clickable: you can’t click on an image or bird name and be taken directly to that account. Instead, each bird account refers to a barely legible page number that corresponds to the print version, and print page numbers have no meaning in an ebook that reflows according to screen and font size. Even if the images had been properly sized and clear, the reference guide would have been a feature of very limited relevance in an ebook unless it were redesigned.
The images are not the only area of concern in the Lone Pine ebooks: errors were also introduced in the text. Headers in particular are an area of difficulty—which is a big problem, because headers are some of the largest, most noticeable features in the book, and important to readers. In Birds of the Rocky Mountains, “Pied-billed Grebe” becomes “Pieb-billeb Grebe” in the large header at the top of the page, even though just below in the main body text it is spelled correctly. Similarly, “Semipalmated Sandpiper” becomes “Simipalmatid” and “Swainson’s Thrush” becomes “Th1ush” in the headers; in another book, Rocky Mountain Nature Guide, there are listings for “Turkey Valture,” “Rea-napea Sapsucker,” “TownsBnd’S Solitaire,” and “House Spaarow,” among others. None of these misspellings were present in the original print versions; they were somehow introduced during the conversion process. Lone Pine production staff doesn’t have a definitive explanation for how these types of errors were introduced. It could be that in the conversion process, character recognition software misidentified some letters, especially in the particular fonts that were used for headers. It is also possible that certain portions of the text were rekeyed manually for the ebooks: it is easy to imagine that happening where there are headers with missed letters (e.g., “Eurpean Starling”) or where there are periods behind the occasional header (e.g. “Broad-tailed Hummingbird.”) when no other headers are followed by a period.
There are other problems with the text. Extra paragraph breaks appear in the middle of paragraphs; some blocks of text are left-justified while others are centred; italics are not used consistently; hyphens, en-dashes, and em-dashes are often misused; certain character combinations appear incorrectly or don’t appear at all. The most serious problems are ones that can lead to inaccuracy and (in a guidebook) misidentification. For example, a number is inexplicably replaced with a question mark in at least one entry in Rocky Mountain Nature Guide, showing one berry measurement as “?-. in.”
As discussed in chapter 1, Lone Pine has a policy that everything production does must return to editorial for approval. Even reprints, which theoretically should be virtually identical to the previously published book, are proofed and approved by an editor before being printed. In this ebook project, however, the editorial department was completely uninvolved. Production gathered the titles and sent them to the conversion company, and the ebooks were returned in an unacceptable state. There was no opportunity for editorial to review and make corrections; Nancy Foulds says it was almost “like editorial had never happened.” As a result, none of the 350 titles that were converted to ebooks are available to the public; as of late 2010, Lone Pine has no ebook titles available for purchase.
This case study illustrates the evolving role and retained importance of detail editing at Lone Pine. In hindsight, Lone Pine could have converted fewer titles in the ACP project and learned lessons on a small scale from that process. Either way, however, editorial would definitely need to be involved. Editors need to be part of the ebook creation process, the same as they are with new titles and reprints and every other process of publishing. Also, in most cases, ebooks are not—or at least should not be—merely electronic replications of print books. They are their own medium and need to be thought of as their own entity with their own organization and resources; for example, the page number–based reference guide of a print book doesn’t work verbatim in an ebook. In addition, detail editing cannot be fully automated. Just as spellcheckers do not catch everything, ebook conversion software does not recognize and correctly handle everything either. Lone Pine (and other publishers) needs to maintain a commitment to detail editing as publishing transitions continue, keeping it a priority.
Looking to Lone Pine’s Future
In today’s quickly adapting publishing climate, there are many changes ahead for Lone Pine. One priority for the near future is to enter the ebook arena. While ebooks are not yet being actively created, production processes have begun to shift in anticipation: print books are designed with later conversion into ebooks in mind, and styles and formatting are applied accordingly. Undoubtedly, the editorial department will become more involved in developing and organizing content as ebooks are given their own status. Information-based texts such as nature guides lend themselves well to new renditions in ebook form, but new media is also not limited to ebooks: publishers have begun to create digital content in other forms. Travel guides are a good example of the innovation publishers are experimenting with. At a very simple level, some travel publishers provide audio tours that augment their print guides: for example, you can download a Rick Steves podcast to your iPod that will guide you through a walking tour of a neighbourhood in Paris. Digital content can also become much more complex: the travel guidebook publisher Lonely Planet offers ebooks and apps (for the iPhone/iPad, Nokia, and Android) that provide city guides with information on accommodations, restaurants, and recommended experiences, all tied to GPS coordinates that pinpoint and respond to your location. Many travel details, such as restaurant information, can change frequently, and travel guides benefit from being able to update that information frequently and instantly in a digital publication or app; also, travellers enjoy the portability—and up-to-date information—of electronic media.
Travel guides are more ephemeral than nature guides, but some of the same principles of digital content apply. It is easy to imagine that a bird guidebook could be a very functional ebook or app, incorporating not only illustrations and text but also audio and video clips of bird calls and flight patterns and interactive maps of birds seen in the area. The National Audubon Society, a nature guide publisher (and a direct competitor of Lone Pine in some markets), has partnered with a digital publishing company called Green Mountain Digital to produce the Audubon Guides—”a comprehensive series of digital field guide apps to North American nature.” There are currently over twenty titles in the Audubon Guide app series, ranging from narrowly focused (Audubon Birds of Central Park, $4.99, and Audubon Birds Texas, $6.99) to all-encompassing (the North America–wide Audubon Guides: A Field Guide to Birds, Mammals, Wildflowers and Trees, $39.99). These apps offer the standard information one would expect to find in a nature guide, plus a library of bird calls and the ability to search for a bird based on characteristics like wing shape and colour, making it even more useful than a print book for identifying different species. These apps also offer the ability to track where the reader has seen certain birds and when; reviewers have pointed out that the function would be even more useful if that information could be shared with other app users, so that birders could see exactly where a fellow enthusiast spotted a rarely seen bird. Developing apps such as the Audubon Guides requires significant investment, and Lone Pine is still a while away from seriously committing to a project of that magnitude. It is likely that Lone Pine will test the digital nature guide world with a few ebooks and proceed from there. But the possibilities that digital media present for nature guides (and other information-based books) are intriguing, and they showcase how much room there is for the guidebook genre to enhance and add to its print form.
Many different publishing alternatives lie ahead for Lone Pine, but what does all this mean for detail editing? The case study of ebooks at Lone Pine demonstrates that the role of editors will continue to adapt and evolve—and even grow—as book publishing expands into other mediums. It won’t be enough for print books to be transferred automatically into digital media: the curatorial role of editors will be magnified as digital content becomes thought of as its own legitimate and separate entity, not just a spin-off. Editors will need to rethink the experience of a book as they develop digital content, and detail editors will be the ones compiling and repurposing content and navigation devices, ensuring internal consistency and thinking through the minutiae behind reader experience. As readers continue to become accustomed to interacting with digital content, the role of the detail editor will incorporate new responsibilities—and perhaps even see an increase in perceived importance. There is an opportunity for detail editors, as those who are skilled and meticulous enough to pull content together in a unified way, to become essential in proper digital content creation and curation.
There is another forthcoming change that will affect editorial processes at Lone Pine. The company plans to implement Adobe InCopy to streamline editing—and detail editing in particular. InCopy works with InDesign to “[e]nable a parallel workflow between design and editorial staff, precisely fit copy to layout, and efficiently meet editorial deadlines.” Twenty years ago, every single editorial change noted after a document went to layout had to be made manually by a typesetter. Today, every single editorial change at Lone Pine has to be marked up manually and returned to production staff, who then make the change and return it to editorial for approval; editorial and production must occasionally go back and forth numerous times over one single little change. InCopy aims to eliminate the need for this laborious process by allowing editors to make editorial changes and corrections to the layout themselves. Lone Pine editors are hopeful that when this software is put into place, it will save them considerable time: detail editing processes should be faster, and editors should have more control. It should also allow editors the opportunity to make small, fiddly, improving but non-essential corrections that might not otherwise be made when one is working with a designer; this could ensure even more accuracy and precision in detail editing. InCopy could even improve collaboration between editors and authors: authors (and editors) would have much greater ability to edit and rewrite text after seeing it in a laid-out, final-looking form. It may be difficult to implement major changes that adjust editorial and production workflow—and that blur the boundaries between editorial and production staff. Publishers have traditionally kept these roles divided, but editorial and production staff have always worked closely together by necessity to finish a publication; with current technologies, the collaboration between the two roles could be increased and be more efficient. The process to incorporate InCopy at Lone Pine could be complex and require some redefining of staff roles, but it could also be a major turning point in editorial processes.
Many contextual and technological changes are currently underway in publishing and at Lone Pine. Given all of these changes, it seems that while editorial processes at Lone Pine will necessarily evolve and adapt, detail editing will remain central as a way to convey the brand’s professionalism and reliability to its readers. Currently many of Lone Pine’s books are edited from start to finish primarily by one editor, and with a trend toward a smaller in-house editorial staff, it doesn‘t seem likely that will change. Perhaps, since the smaller in-house staff simply cannot do everything, freelancers can be brought in more frequently to do task-oriented projects. For example, a freelancer could do an early proofread of a layout before it was returned to the project editor; manuscripts benefit from a fresh set of eyes, and some time would be freed up for the project editor. Freelance editors could become more central to detail editing at Lone Pine than they are currently.
The detail editing that is most important to Lone Pine today has less to do with spelling and grammar and more to do with accuracy of information; these characteristics are absolutely essential to its publishing model. In that way, perhaps Lone Pine is more similar to the overall trends in the evolution of detail editing than it would first appear, and it is possible that some forms of detail editing will take on a lower priority in the years and months to come. However, details like spelling and word usage remain important because they help to ensure that all-important accuracy. In the future, Lone Pine will have to continue devising detail editing practices that balance quality and reliability with the resources available. As well, for Lone Pine and all trade book publishers, new detail editing processes and opportunities will develop and adapt in response to new technologies and publishing mediums.
1 Shane Kennedy and Grant Kennedy, “About Lone Pine Publishing,” Lone Pine Publishing, http://www.lonepinepublishing.com/about (accessed September 17, 2010). RETURN
2 Leslie T. Sharpe and Irene Gunther, Editing Fact and Fiction: A Concise Guide to Book Editing (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 8–22. RETURN
3 Paul Ford, “Real Editors Ship,” Ftrain.com, July 20, 2010, http://www.ftrain.com/editors-ship-dammit.html (accessed July 22, 2010). RETURN
4 For example, see Youth Canada, “Writing a Resume,” Government of Canada, http://www.youth.gc.ca/eng/topics/jobs/resume.shtml (accessed September 25, 2010). RETURN
5 Thomas Woll, Publishing for Profit: Successful Bottom-Line Management for Book Publishers, 3rd ed. (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2006), 5. RETURN
6 Douglas Johnston, “By the Look of Things, This Land Isn‘t My Land,” The Globe and Mail, July 14, 2003. RETURN
7 Bonnie Stern, “Recipe for Success: For Cookbook Authors, Cooking is the Easy Part,” Quill and Quire, October 2003, 46. RETURN
8 Iva W. Cheung, “The Editorial Handbook: A Comprehensive Document to Guide Authors through the Editorial Process at Douglas & McIntyre Publishing Group” (Master of Publishing project report, Simon Fraser University, 2005), 29. RETURN
9 Gene Longson, interview by author, Edmonton, October 7, 2010. RETURN
10 Gary Whyte, interview by author, Edmonton, August 30, 2010. RETURN
11 All of these things to watch for while proofreading are listed in Professional Editorial Standards. Editors‘ Association of Canada, Professional Editorial Standards (Toronto: EAC, 2009), 12–13. RETURN
12 EAC, Professional Editorial Standards, 6. RETURN
17 Peter Frederick Read, “Birds of the Raincoast: Some Reflections on Production and Process Management” (Master of Publishing Project Report, Simon Fraser University, 2005), 30, 45, 53. RETURN
18 Tracey Comeau (Administrative Assistant, Folklore Publishing), email message to author, October 12, 2010. RETURN
19 Peter Midgley, email message to author, October 5, 2010. RETURN
20 Mary Schendlinger, email message to author, September 19, 2010. RETURN
21 Sheila Quinlan, email message to author, September 8, 2010. RETURN
22 Lone Pine Publishing, “Book Proposal Guidelines,” http://www.lonepinepublishing.com/about/book_proposals (accessed October 2, 2010). RETURN
23 Nancy Foulds, interview by author, Edmonton, August 25, 2010. RETURN
24 EAC, Professional Editorial Standards, 11. RETURN
25 Rick Archbold, “Who Really Wrote It? The Nature of the Author–Editor Relationship Makes It Sometimes Hard to Tell,” Quill and Quire, September 2008, 11. RETURN
26 Sheila Quinlan, email message to author, September 6, 2010. RETURN
27 Gary Whyte, interview by author, Edmonton, August 30, 2010. RETURN
28 Sheila Quinlan, email message to author, September 8, 2010. RETURN
29 Gary Whyte, interview by author, Edmonton, August 30, 2010. RETURN
30 CBC Arts, “Awards Spotlight Novel‘s Proofreading Errors,” CBC News, November 7, 2006, http://www.cbc.ca/arts/books/story/2006/11/07/hage-proofreading.html (accessed August 15, 2010). RETURN
31 Brian Bethune, “Notes from a Glass House,” Macleans.ca, January 4, 2007, http://www2.macleans.ca/2007/01/ (accessed August 15, 2010). RETURN
32 mcg[pseud.], “Harry Potter and the Search for a Proofreader,” A Pinoy Blog about Nothing, July 17, 2005, http://clickmomukhamo.com/blog/archives/2005/07/17/harry-potter-and-the-typo-error/ (accessed September 3, 2010). RETURN
33 Jennifer Vineyard, “Have You Found a ‘Flint’? ‘Harry Potter’ Editor on How Fans Shaped the Series,” MTV, September 23, 2008, http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1595414/20080922/story.jhtml (accessed October 6, 2010). RETURN
34 Huffington Post, “‘Freshly Ground Black People’: World‘s Worst Typo Leaves Publisher Reeling,” April 17, 2010, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/17/ground-black-people-cookb_n_541817.html (accessed October 14, 2010). RETURN
35 Rowenna Davis and Alison Flood, “Jonathan Franzen‘s Book Freedom Suffers UK Recall,” The Guardian, October 1, 2010, http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/oct/01/jonathan-franzen-freedom-uk-recall (accessed October 4, 2010). RETURN
36 Carol Fisher Saller, “Best Practices in Copyediting: Paper vs. Plastic,” The Subversive Copy Editor, June 3, 2010, http://www.subversivecopyeditor.com/blog/2010/06/copyeditors-who-are-allowed-to-edit-on-paper-are-dwindling-in-number-but-judging-from-my-mail-copyeditors-who-would-like-to.html (accessed October 16, 2010). RETURN
37 Peter Rozovsky, comment on “Publisher Attacks Readers Who Complain about Sloppy Editing,” Detectives Beyond Borders, comment posted April 19, 2010, http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/2010/04/publisher-makes-mistake-then-attacks.html#7894700019804803455 (accessed August 15, 2010). RETURN
38 Sharpe and Gunther, Editing Fact and Fiction, 3. RETURN
39 Richard Curtis, “Are Editors Necessary?” in Editors on Editing: What Writers Need to Know about What Editors Do, 3rd ed., edited by Gerald Gross (New York: Grove Press, 1993), 33. RETURN
46 Dennis Bockus, “Caution: Falling Standards: Why Editorial Quality is Suffering,” Quill and Quire, November 2003, 13. RETURN
47 Bryony Lewicki, “Canadian Books Communicate Real Good,” Quill and Quire QuillBlog, January 16, 2007, http://www.quillandquire.com/blog/index.php/2007/01/16/985 (accessed August 15, 2010). RETURN
48 Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, “Vanishing Breed of Editors with an Instinct for Order,” New York Times, November 3, 1986, http://www.proquest.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca (accessed October 14, 2010). RETURN
49 For example, see Greg Quill, “Money Squeeze Forces CBC to Cancel 2 Shows,” thestar.com, March 11, 2009, http://www.thestar.com/Entertainment/article/600071 (accessed October 16, 2010). RETURN
50 Gloria E. Jacobs, “Complicating Contexts: Issues of Methodology in Researching the Language and Literacies of Instant Messaging,” Reading Research Quarterly 39, no. 4 (2004): 402. RETURN
51 Association of American Publishers, “AAP Reports Publisher Book Sales for August,” October 14, 2010, http://www.publishers.org/main/PressCenter/Archicves/2010_Oct/AugustStatsPressRelease.htm (accessed October 17, 2010). RETURN
52 Ten days later, Kobo announced that all five nominees were available as ebooks through their store. RETURN
53 Rich Adin, “The Problem Is: Publishers Don‘t Read Ebooks!” An American Editor, September 15, 2010, http://americaneditor.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/the-problem-is-publishers-dont-read-ebooks/ (accessed September 18, 2010). RETURN
54 Nancy Foulds, interview by author, Edmonton, August 25, 2010. RETURN
55 Gene Longson, Production Manager, suggests that converting three or four titles to EPUB would have been a useful and manageable project. RETURN
56 Green Mountain Digital, “Audubon Guides,” http://www.greenmountaindigital.com/products/audubon/ (accessed November 7, 2010). RETURN
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ABSTRACT: This project report documents the development of a web resource for writers on author residencies available across Canada. Author residencies in Canada originated at universities and then were hosted at public libraries, but now often are run by community arts organizations, especially in Western Canada. Many of these community-based writer-in-residence programs take place in writers’ houses; for example, Berton House in Dawson City, Yukon; Roderick Haig-Brown House in Campbell River, BC; R.D. Lawrence Place in Minden Hills, Ontario; Historic Joy Kogawa House in Vancouver; Wallace Stegner House in Eastend, Saskatchewan; and now Maison Gabrielle-Roy in St-Boniface, Manitoba. These writer-in-residence programs began to emerge mainly in the mid-2000s and now serve as indirect support to the book publishing industry through direct grants to writers. A web resource profiling community-run and other writer-in-residence programs was developed between April and September 2010, and shared with writers and writers’ associations in late September 2010.
Thank you to authors Sharon Butala and Katherine Govier for sharing stories of their efforts to establish a collective of community-run author residencies hosted at writers’ houses. Thanks also to Elsa Franklin, the Haig-Brown and McMonagle families, and friends of George Ryga House, Wallace Stegner House, R.D. Lawrence Place, and Maison Gabrielle-Roy for histories of the founding of those writers’ houses and their writer-in-residence programs. Thank you to Don Oravec of the Writers’ Trust of Canada for providing a final review of this report. Special thanks to Joy Kogawa for sharing her dream of recovering her childhood home and for giving me and others the space to establish a writer-in-residence program there.
Personal thanks and deep gratitude to Andrew Metten for his constancy and for the encouragement he shares generously.
1: Writer-in-residence programs as indirect support for book publishers in Canada
The book publishing industry in Canada enjoys industrial and cultural assistance directly to individual publishers through federally funded grant programs such as the Canada Book Fund, and through structural support such as copyright or the public lending right. The publishing industry also enjoys indirect support, in the form of financial awards to writers through grants, and in particular through writer-in-residence programs at universities, at public libraries, and at community-run arts organizations. These writer-in-residence programs assist the book publishing industry in a major way. Writer-in-residence programs are important cultural partners that work within a “framework of complementary goals” to promote Canadian literature and to “bring cultural content to Canada” (Lorimer Forthcoming [September 2010 draft], p. 128). The hosts of writer-in-residence programs, like other cultural partners in the newspaper, magazines, television, and radio; in libraries, awards programs; and in certain parts of the education system, have the same interests as book publishers: to encourage Canadian writers and to make their work available to Canadian readers.
Writer-in-residence programs offer cultural support to Canadian book publishers in a number of ways. Author residency programs create a time and place for writers to produce manuscripts that book publishers later work up into commercially viable additions to their lists. Through public events and community programming, author residencies celebrate books and authorship, increasing readership and so expanding the market for a writer’s work. And through collaboration with other writers, the writer-in-
residence appointment promotes the writer to the position of expert who shares his or her skills and wisdom to enhance the ability of other writers. Appointment to the role of writer in residence expresses, as Lorimer says, ―admiration for the contribution books and authors make to Canadian society and the world‖ (p. 134). Author residencies, then, can be seen as cultural partners for the book publishing industry in Canada.
1.1 Government funding for writers supports Canadian publishing
Most author residencies are funded by federal and provincial government agencies. The main government support for writer-in-residence programs is sourced through the Author Residencies program of the Writing and Publishing section of the Canada Council for the Arts, although federal funding is also available through the Canada Council Aboriginal Emerging Writers Residencies. Additional support is sourced through provincial arts councils; for example, through the Manitoba Arts Council Artists in Community Residency Program. The Manitoba Arts Council also funds the Deep Bay Artists’ Residency in Riding Mountain National Park of Canada. Arts New Brunswick provides New Brunswick Artist in Residence funding, as well as collaborative residencies with Manitoba and Quebec. Also available are the Manitoba–New Brunswick Creative Residency, a partnership between the New Brunswick Arts Board and the Manitoba Arts Council, and the New Brunswick–Quebec Creative Residency, a partnership between the New Brunswick Arts Board and the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec (Canada 2010; Lorimer and Murzyn 1993). In the past, the British Columbia Arts Council has funded author residencies through professional arts project grants. These government grants at both provincial and federal levels are part of government infrastructure for the book publishing industry, through indirect support to writers rather than direct support to publishers.
1.2 Canada Council Author Residencies Program
The main source of funding for most author residencies, however, is the Canada Council for the Arts. The Canada Council Author Residencies program was introduced in 1965, to “promote its goals of fostering literature and promoting community development and interest in the arts,” by supporting a writer-in-residence position at the University of New Brunswick (Earle 2006, p. 31). Although it was the first government-supported program of its kind among Commonwealth nations, the University of New Brunswick appointment followed on residencies previously established at universities in the United States. There, during the 1920s, the poets Robert Frost and Percy MacKaye, each lived and worked in residence at sponsoring universities, Miami University in Ohio for MacKaye and the University of Michigan for Frost (Jason Summer 1978). The purpose of these American residencies was to foster a national literature (Earle 2006, p. 16), and the Canada Council echoed that purpose when its Author Residencies program was established in 1965.
Guidelines for the Author Residencies program have since evolved, but the articulated purpose remains to foster “public appreciation for Canadian writing” and to “involve communities not typically exposed to Canadian literature” (Canada Council for the Arts 2010). Writers selected for program-sponsored residencies must be Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada, and they must be published professionally, but not necessarily by a Canadian publisher, in genres that include fiction, short stories, poetry, drama, children’s literature, or literary non-fiction “that lends itself to a public reading.” Authors of travel guides, bibliographies, cookbooks, exhibition catalogues, instruction manuals, self-help books, scholarly books, textbooks, chapbooks, and specialized reference works are ineligible, as are authors whose publication lists include only self-published books, or works in anthologies, literary magazines, and web publications. Authors published solely in community newspapers, free or student newsletters, or newsletters of associations or other organizations are also ineligible. Writer-in-residence hosts select writers through an open call for applications (public library– and writers’ houses–based residencies) or by invitation (university-based residencies). Through this selection process more-talented writers are identified and contracted with for proposal to the Canada Council. Maximum funding per writer-in-residence program is $20,000 annually, with a minimum per-year funding of $3,000, for residencies that run a minimum of two months and a maximum of 12 months. Hosts are expected to match funding with a cash contribution (Canada Council for the Arts 2010). Applications are assessed by a Writing and Publishing Section peer assessment committee, according to the artistic and administrative criteria published in the program information sheet and application guidelines. The committee recommends support to a certain dollar value, and this decision is a result of a comparative analysis process, the number of requests submitted to the competition, and the budget available for this program (Hull 2009).
As a funding program, Canada Council’s Author Residencies program represents one aspect of what Lorimer calls “a robust infrastructure that serves Canadian authors, Canadian-owned book publishers, the people of Canada, and the Canadian nation well, largely as a contribution to national self-awareness, a sense of belonging and opportunity, and the establishment of a distinct identity” (Forthcoming [September 2010 draft], p. 86). As a culturally based support program, the Author Residencies program effectively serves the Council’s mandate “to foster and promote the study and enjoyment of, and the production of works in, the arts” (CC for the Arts Act, s. 8).
The Canada Council’s Author Residencies program awarded grants to the value of $231,400 out of a total of $24.5 million granted through the Writing and Publishing Program in 2009–2010. The total budget for the program has grown steadily over the past few years, as shown in Table 1-1.
Table 1-1. Canada Council Author Residencies Program Budget, 2003 to 2009
Source: Profiles of Canada Council Funding by Province and Territory (Canada Council for the Arts 2003 to 2009)
The Canada Council Author Residencies program represents only 9.5 percent of Writing and Publishing Section funds, and a minuscule .0015 percent of Canada Council’s total funding for 2009–2010 (Canada Council 2009–2010, pp. 1 and 4). The Author Residencies portion of the total funding pie may be small, but it is of major
significance to the individual writers who are selected as writers in residence, and to the writing communities with whom they collaborate.
1.3 Types of writer-in-residence projects
The Canada Council Author Residencies program grants funds to universities, public libraries, and community-run arts groups that those institutions must match before passing them directly to writers selected as writers in residence. Matching support from host institutions doubles the benefit to writers and to the communities they serve, and the Canada Council’s partnership with these groups represents major support for individual writers in a number of ways: the funding often represents full-time wages for self-employed writers who subsist between publishing contracts; and the appointment as writer in residence builds the writer’s credibility among other writers, including the jury of peers who sit on the selection committee at the host institution and also on the Canada Council jury. Further, the appointment as writer in residence often leads to other writer-in-residence appointments that continue advance the author’s career, but more important, they allow him or her time for creative work that then results in publishing contracts and royalties.
Writer-in-residence programs are hosted across Canada at universities and colleges, public libraries, and in writers’ houses. Writer-in-residence programs are also hosted at bookstores (Aqua Books in Winnipeg and University of Alberta Bookstore in Edmonton); at magazines and literary journals (The Tyee, Arc Poetry Magazine, Capilano Review, and others); at literary festivals (Open Book Toronto, Leacock Summer Festival, and others); and at schools (Toronto Now Hear This! Students, Writers, and Teachers [SWAT] program, Vancouver International Writers Festival Writers in Residence, and others). One writer-in-residence program is conducted electronically, allowing writers from across the country to consult with a senior writer via email (Writer in Electronic Residence Foundation).
1.3.1 University-based author residencies
University programs are among the longest-running writer-in-residence programs in Canada. In partnership with the Canada Council for the Arts, universities have funded Canadian writers through residency appointments since 1965. The Canada Council founded a University Capital Grants Fund in 1957, as part of its culture mandate. As continuation of the Council’s support to universities, the first residency grant was made to the University of New Brunswick in 1965. Earle describes this residency as a “non-teaching position which carried light duties of mentoring and giving public talks” (2006, p. 26). The first appointment was Norman Levine, a short-story writer and novelist born in Ottawa but who had lived in England since 1949, after serving in the RCAF during the Second World War. In 1956, Levine had returned to Canada for a cross-country journey to gather material for the harshly critical Canada Made Me (1958), which did not appear in a Canadian edition until 1979 (Boyd 2010). The Canada Council appointment to the University of New Brunswick allowed this expatriate writer to return to Canada and find connection to the university community and Canadian readers (Earle 2006, p. 26).
Universities continue to serve Canadian writers as major funders of their work. The Department of English or Department of Literary Studies host writer-in-residence programs at universities from coast to coast. Six university-based programs were funded by the Canada Council in 2003, increasing to 12 university-based writer-in-residency programs funding in 2009. University-based writer-in-residence programs are different from other residency programs in that they require an academic contribution that some writers may not be comfortable providing. Selection of the residency candidate is often by committee, with faculty members meeting to appoint an established writer whose work is studied as part of the university curricula. While in residence, writers are usually given an office on campus and have access to university libraries and archives, where a great deal of research and writing can be completed (Robertson 2010). The writer in residence contributes mainly to the academic community, meeting with classes, participating in graduate seminars, and reading to large groups of students.
1.3.2 Library-based author residencies
Public libraries across Canada host writer-in-residence programs that provide established writers with an honorarium and a place to work, while also creating the opportunity for aspiring local writers to consult with established writers. The longest-running public library–hosted residency program was established in 1978 at the Regina Public Library. Other public library–based residencies have emerged over the past decade, with the number of Canada Council–funded residencies increasing from none funded in 2003 to six funded in 2009. Like other residencies, the writer’s creative work is supported and the writer in residence works collaboratively with others. Public library residencies are said to put heavy demands on the writer’s time in the public (Adderson 2008).
1.3.3 Writers’ houses–based author residencies
Community-run programs are a relatively new phenomenon, having begun with the Berton House Writers’ Retreat in 1996. Since that time other community-run organizations have been inspired to host writer-in-residence programs in the former homes of celebrated Canadian writers. Not all the writers’ houses–based residencies are funded by the Canada Council, but three were funded in 2008 whereas none were funded in 2003.
1.4 Comparing three types of residencies
Table 1-2 shows all Canada Council Author Residencies Grant Awards from 2003 to 2009. These data highlight those author residency hosts who are ongoing in their support for writers, and allow comparison with those organizations that host a residency once and then do not continue, or at least do not continue to receive funding through the Canada Council Author Residencies program. As a case in point, the Northwest Territories Writers’ Association sponsored Nova Scotia author Susan Haley’s three-month residency in 2004 but has not hosted a paid residency since. Instead the Yellowknife Public Library now hosts a volunteer writer in residence to work with emerging writers, and local writers have focussed their energy on the annual NorthWords Writers Festival (Malcolm 2010). Other writer-in-residence hosts appear only occasionally in Table 1-2 because they find funding elsewhere (Camp littéraire Felix, to whom Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec funding is more easily available) or choose to operate outside the Canada Council application guidelines (Wallace Stegner House, which runs a one-month residency rather than the two-month residency required by Canada Council application guidelines).
Table 1-2. Canada Council Author Residencies Grant Awards, 2003 to 2009
As these data illustrate, the majority of funding from the Canada Council Author Residencies program goes to universities and public libraries, with community-run residencies at writers’ houses receiving proportionally less funding. This difference in funding is reflected in the honoraria paid to writers in residence at various types of residency hosts. University-based writer-in-residence appointments are well paid (the author appointed to McMaster University receives a stipend of $20,000 for a four-month term). Public library–based writer-in-residence appointments are also well paid (the author appointed to the Vancouver Public Library in 2008 received a stipend of $16,000 for a four-month term). Writers in residence at community-run residencies at writers’ houses are somewhat less well paid (the 2010 writer in residence at Historic Joy Kogawa House received an honorarium of $7,500 for a three-month appointment, plus furnished accommodation valued at $1,500 per month, for a total of $12,000 over three months). The reduced honorarium paid to writers in residence programs hosted at writers’ houses may relate to the fact that small community-run residencies run on less substantial budgets than larger institutions such as universities and public libraries. As a result, community-run residencies either reduce the length of period of their residencies (three months at Historic Joy Kogawa House rather than 12 months at the University of Manitoba Carol Shields Residency), or they reduce the size of the honorarium paid, unless wider sources of funding are available.
1.4.1 Comparative levels of funding
Community-run writer-in-residence programs rely on community-based sources of funding because, like all residencies, they must match government grants but generally receive less funding than institution-based programs at universities and libraries. A comparison of total funding received demonstrates the differences among programs. According to data presented in Table 1-2, most university-based residencies are awarded the maximum $20,000 grant from year to year. Public library–based residencies rank a little lower, with grants ranging from $6,000 to $15,000. Writers’ houses–based residencies receive the least funding, ranging from $3,700 to $10,000. The difference in funding relates to the duration of the residency, with most university-based residencies running over a six-month period; public library–based residencies running between two and four months; and writers’ houses–based residencies running two to three months.
Universities, and increasingly over the past five years, public libraries are the most successful applicants to the Canada Council Author Residencies program. Since 2006, however, smaller grassroots organizations have applied for and accessed these funds to support writers and their work. If the Canada Council Writing and Publishing Program’s Author Residencies program is intended to fund organizations that provide authors with a place to live and work while they complete a manuscript for publication, then those community-run residency programs, which accommodate their writers in the former homes of writers, should be bold enough to apply for a great portion of funding and so allow the legacy of the namesake writer to inspire new work.
2: Writers’ houses in Canada
Writer-in-residence programs hosted in writers’ houses are some of the most significant in Canada. The first writers’ houses–based residency, Berton House Writers’ Retreat, was founded in 1996 by popular historian and TV host Pierre Berton in his boyhood home in Dawson City, Yukon. Other writers’ houses–based residencies have followed, establishing author residencies in the former homes of well-known Canadian authors. In 2004 Roderick Haig-Brown House in Campbell River, BC, began hosting writers in the home of the respected writer and conservationist. In 2009 Historic Joy Kogawa House in Vancouver hosted its first writer in residence in the childhood home of the novelist and poet Joy Kogawa. In January 2011, Maison Gabrielle-Roy in St-Boniface, Manitoba, will host its first residency. Other writers’ houses may support writers and their writing through literary programming but do not host writing-in-residence programs. Some function as museums. A history of the establishment of writers’ houses–based residencies highlights the community work involved.
2.1 Writers’ houses–based residencies
An overview of writer-in-residence programs hosted in writers’ houses is set out in Table 2-1.
Table 2-1. Writers’ Houses as Residency Hosts in Canada
Detailed information about each writers’ houses–based residency program follows.
2.1.1 Berton House
In Dawson City, the Writers’ Trust of Canada operates the Berton House Writer’s Retreat. In 2001 the Canada Council reported a grant of $100,000 over a three-year period to the Berton House Writer’s Retreat Society to enable four Canadian or international writers to be in residence in the house for three months each, with a monthly fellowship of $2,000 and travel cost assistance (Canada Council for the Arts 2001). In 2008 the Writers’ Trust of Canada took over ownership of the house and operation of the writer-in-residence program. Until then, founding administrator Elsa Franklin had worked with the board of the Dawson City Public Library to administer and select writers in residence: three writers each year between 1996 and 2008. Since the Writers‘ Trust of Canada takeover, four writers have been hosted each year for three months at a time. Since 1996 more than 50 writers have been hosted at Berton House.
Berton House was the childhood home of author Pierre Berton, and stands across the street from the cabin that was home to poet Robert Service, and just up the street from the cabin that housed writer Jack London during his time in the town. The town itself inspires memory, as it is dedicated to re-enacting the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush. Berton first attempted to establish a writers‘ colony near the town of Vaughan, Ontario, where he lived with his wife and children, but development permits were not granted (Franklin 2010). Berton then turned his sights on Dawson City, where he believed the remote location would allow professional Canadian writers the opportunity to concentrate on their work in a part of the country they might not otherwise experience.
The writers‘ retreat has long relied on funding from an annual dinner, held in November in Toronto since 2003. These appeals to individual donations not only provide financial support; they build community around the writer-in-residence program that ensures its continuation from year to year (Berton House Writers‘ Retreat 2010).
2.1.2 Roderick Haig-Brown House
Roderick Haig-Brown was a prolific Canadian writer and conservationist who lived in an idyllic setting on the banks of the Campbell River on Northern Vancouver Island, BC. In the early 1970s he and his wife, Ann, wrote to the provincial government to ask if having their property declared green belt would give them relief from their taxes. According to their daughter Mary Haig-Brown, the premier wrote back to say it would not, but the government was interested in buying the house and land. Haig-Brown and his wife would have lifetime tenancy and, on their deaths, the 1923 farmhouse and contents, including a valuable 3,000-volume library, would go to the government. Roderick and Mary Haig-Brown’s expressed wish was that the house would be used for conservationists and authors. Roderick died suddenly in 1976, about a year after this agreement was signed with the provincial government. When Ann Haig-Brown died 14 years later, the house came under the care of the BC Heritage Properties Branch. They rented out the house for two months; then restored it over the next 10 years. During this time the house ran as a bed and breakfast in the summer and was the setting for educational programs in the winter. In 2002 the government divested itself of its Heritage Properties and the City of Campbell River took over responsibility for Haig-Brown House.
In the summer of 2003 a group of family members and writers met on the porch of Edith Iglauer Daly’s house in Garden Bay, Pender Harbour. It was decided that a program similar to the one at Berton House in the Yukon would be a natural fit. The position was advertised and, along with poet Don McKay, who at that time was living in Victoria, the family and community-based Haig-Brown Institute applied to the Canada Council for support. McKay served as writer in residence during the winter of 2004–2005 and was very well received by the people of Campbell River. The program has continued since then. “One year we did not get a Canada Council grant,” says Mary Haig-Brown, “but the people of Campbell River raised the money and the program continued.”
For the first two years of the writer-in-residence program, the house was leased to the Haig-Brown Institute. In 2006 it was decided that the Museum at Campbell River would be in a better position to look after the house. They now maintain the house, continuing to run the summer bed and breakfast, and administering the winter writer-in-residence program. A member of the family and the founder of the annual Campbell River literary festival continue to select the writer-in-residence candidate on behalf of the Museum at Campbell River.
2.1.3 Historic Joy Kogawa House
It had long been a dream of poet and novelist Joy Kogawa that she could return to her childhood home. She dreamed mostly for the sake of her mother, who longed for the happier life she led in Vancouver, before being removed from it, along with 22,000 other Japanese Canadians who lost their homes and businesses following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Joy writes in her novel Obasan (1981) about writing to the owner of the house and asking “if they would ever consider selling the house but they never replied” (Kogawa  2006, p. 50).
On August 27, 2003, Joy Kogawa discovered that her old family home was for sale. Her friends, poets Roy Miki and Daphne Marlatt, requested the help of a willing real estate agent, Lucy Meyer, to open the house for a public reading. A month later, on September 27, 2003, more than 100 people crowded into the house to hear Joy read. Many signed a petition to Mayor and Council of the City of Vancouver to preserve the house as a literary landmark, and writers and community members went to Vancouver City Hall to gather information about how to purchase the house. That fall the Vancouver Heritage Commission formed a subcommittee to establish ways to preserve the property, but the house sold before the Kogawa Homestead Committee could gather funds. The committee renewed work to rescue the house at the end of September 2005 when a City of Vancouver heritage planner told them that the new owner had inquired about a demolition permit for the house. With that information, a renewed committee launched a nationwide campaign among writers’ associations, academics, and historians to raise awareness of the impending loss of the house. The Land Conservancy of British Columbia, a province-wide group with a track record of assisting community groups in the preservation of historically important sites, assisted with fundraising and publicity, but by April 30, 2006, the deadline for the purchase agreement, only a portion of the necessary funds had been raised. When it looked like the campaign would fail, an anonymous benefactor, later revealed as Senator Nancy Ruth Jackman of Toronto, donated to The Land Conservancy of BC the remaining funds needed to purchase the house.
In Spring 2009, the Historic Joy Kogawa House Society hosted its first writer in residence, and it then hosted a second three-month residency in Spring 2010. A six-month residency is planned for Fall and Winter 2011–2012. In addition to its residency program, the community-run organization works with school groups and others in the community to establish the site as a place of memory. Historic Joy Kogawa House is seen as a place of reconciliation with past wrongs “because it is a space that converges the real world and the fictitious realm of Kogawa’s novel; because it re-animates a narrative of Canadian history already established in the public consciousness; … and because it allows for the powerful notion of ‘homecoming’ and for the symbolic return of lost property” (Gibson 2009, p. 6). That role in itself inspires significant writing among authors in residence at the house.
2.1.4 R.D. Lawrence Place
Although far from a household name in Canada, field biologist, naturalist, and storyteller Ronald Douglas Lawrence captivated readers around the world with books about Canadian wildlife and the environment. His 30 published books have been published in 16 countries and 14 languages, including German, Italian, Norwegian, Chinese, and Japanese. According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, his most popular work, Cry Wild, one of five books he has written about wolves, sold 1.5 million copies in the first three months after its release in the United States in 1991 (Jenish 1996). Lawrence and his wife, Sharon, were instrumental in the establishment of the Wolf Centre at Haliburton Forest, in Ontario, in 1993. The Centre continues to operate today, and reportedly receives more than 30,000 visitors annually to learn about wolves and their environment (FYI Haliburton 2007).
Following Ron Lawrence’s death in 2003, Sharon Lawrence donated his literary collection to the Minden Hills Cultural Centre. In 2008, the R.D. Lawrence Place opened as a museum and literary centre with a mandate to foster a love of reading, promote the art of writing, and deepen respect for our natural heritage. When attempts to move a log cabin from the Lawrence’s property to the Minden Hills Cultural Centre failed because the structure proved to be unstable, a new straw-bale, environmentally sustainable structure was built at the cultural centre. R.D. Lawrence Place now hosts an annual writer-in-residence program funded in part by the Haliburton Highlands Writers’ and Editors’ Network and by the Township of Minden Hills, which owns and operates the Minden Hills Cultural Centre, which includes R.D. Lawrence Place, Agnes Jamieson Gallery, and Minden Hills Museum. The residency is supported by the Haliburton County Public Library (Minden Cultural Centre 2010).
2.1.5 Maison Gabrielle-Roy
The childhood home of the iconic French Canadian author Gabrielle Roy stands at 375 Deschambault Street, St-Boniface, Manitoba. Designated a Historical House by the City of Winnipeg in 1982, and as a provincial historical site by the Manitoba government in 2002, the house has mainly operated as a museum since its purchase in 1997 by the Corporation de La Maison Gabrielle-Roy (La Corporation de La Maison Gabrielle-Roy 2010). The house had offered guided tours and school programs while gathering funds from Heritage Canada, the Arts Council of Manitoba, and soon from the Canada Council Author Residencies program. In November 2011 they announced the one-year appointment of French author Bertrand Nayet as writer in residence at La Maison. Nayet will begin in January 2011 to mentor emerging and other writers through in-person visits and through the use of email, which will enable him to reach writers throughout Manitoba and beyond the St-Boniface region. Established first as a museum because of its heritage status and the interests of the community organizations involved in its preservation, Maison Gabrielle-Roy is primarily a museum; however, the new writer-in-residence program will allow what writers’ house advocate Katherine Govier calls the “ghosts of the writer” to infuse and inspire new writing. “One of Nayet’s first questions was whether he would be able to work in the house,” said Lucienne Wieler, administrator of the Corporation. Unfortunately, it is not a place where the writer can live, although he or she will have access to the museum and workshops will be offered at Maison Gabrielle-Roy (Wieler 2010).
The non-profit corporation La Maison Gabrielle Roy Inc., which operates the Gabrielle Roy House as a museum and now as writer-in-residence program, receives funds from corporate, foundation, and individual donors, in addition to project funds from the federal, provincial, and municipal governments. Like many community-run arts organizations, the corporation accepts donations through its website. As of Fall 2005, 105 women and 37 men had donated $1,000 each to the House (Wagner 2005).
2.1.6 Wallace Stegner House
The author residency at Wallace Stegner House is set in the childhood home of the American author Wallace Stegner and began in 1995. Situated in Eastend, Saskatchewan, the house is available to writers and other artists for rent on a weekly basis year-round at a subsidized rate of $250 per month, including utilities (except long-distance phone charges). Writers reserve use of the house for stays of one week or more, and their applications are adjudicated by the Eastend Arts Council. On behalf of Wallace Stegner House, the Eastend Arts Council fundraises to provide an annual $500 grant and one month’s rent-free use in the month of October.
Author Sharon Butala worked with the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild to establish the house as a writer-in-residence program and as a writers’ retreat. Butala wrote to Wallace Stegner, spoke to the town council and the chamber of commerce, and phoned the provincial Heritage Branch for advice. She also wrote to Joe Clark, still a minister in those days, who is a great Stegner fan, and to several other prominent people who were or are Stegner fans and had some power in government to get behind a grant application and “just to let them know what we were doing.” A federal innovations grant resulted, and later they received more money from the provincial Heritage Foundation, more than from any other source. They also received a major one-time only grant from the provincial government which paid the bulk of the bills to restore and modernize the house. However, Butala says, “We didn’t find the community on the whole to be supportive and almost no local donations were made to the project. Eventually, though, the town council was persuaded to waive taxes on the house and that was a major help … Even Wallace Stegner didn’t believe it until it was done, and we received $10,000 from his wife right after he died. He once sent a cheque for $20, which I still have, as my husband said I mustn’t actually cash it because it was worth more as an artefact.”
Wallace Stegner House is now an important part of the Eastend community and a big part of the tourism board’s plan. During her period of involvement, Butala and the arts council instituted an annual Wallace Stegner House dinner that still takes place every year. “Its purpose was to raise the profile of the project in the community,” says Butala, “to demonstrate that the residency was really happening and would continue to happen, to bring the literary arts into the community (they invited writers from around the province to read at the dinner, and then musicians to entertain as well), and to raise funds. All of these aims have been fulfilled to varying degrees each year, and the dinner is now a well-attended and enjoyable event which helps pay the bills. In this way local people demonstrate their support.”
The residency is also supported by donations from Stegner’s widow, Mary Page Stegner; the Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation; the Writers’ Trust of Canada; and the Saskatchewan Folklore and History Society; as well as grants from provincial and federal governments and donations from many others, including assistance from the Town of Eastend and Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild.
2.2 Other planned writer-in-residence programs
2.2.1 Al Purdy A-Frame
The A-frame cottage of Canadian poet Al Purdy, situated on Roblin Lake near Ameliasburg, Ontario, was the author’s personal workspace as well as a gathering place for Canadian writers, from Michael Ondaatje to Margaret Atwood. After Purdy’s death in 2000, his widow, Eurithe Purdy, began looking into selling the property, with the hope that it could be turned into a writers’ retreat.
In the fall of 2010 Quill and Quire announced that ownership of the cottage would transfer to the Hastings Prince Edward Land Trust, a volunteer organization dedicated to preserving the region’s cultural heritage. According to Jean Baird, head of the A-frame Trust, part of the deal with the Hastings Prince Edward Land Trust is that the cottage will become home to a writer-in-residence program starting in Fall 2011. “We are hoping to do what this house has always done, which is to generate words and discussion about writing,” says Baird. A committee of four poets “selected to include a broad poetic sensibility, geographical reach, breadth of experience with residency programs” will adjudicate applications for the writer-in-residence program (Al Purdy website; Quill and Quire, October 12, 2010).
2.2.2 George Ryga House
Friends of George Ryga House are beginning to re-establish the artist-in-residence program that has run in the former home of playwright George Ryga, set in Summerland, British Columbia. The house was the home for Ryga and his family through much of the 1970s and ’80s, and after his death in 1987, it was maintained by the Ryga family and friend Ken Smedley. Their vision of preserving the house as an artists’ and writers’ centre was realized in 1995, when it was converted to the George Ryga Centre.
Since the Centre’s founding, Smedley has collaborated with the poet John Lent of Okanagan College’s Vernon campus, as well as other writers and writing educators in the Okanagan Valley. They first hosted a writer in residence in 2000; then a George Ryga Award for Social Justice in Literature was established in 2004 in keeping with Alberta-born George Ryga’s status as a “marginalized Ukrainian Canadian who was deeply concerned with justice” (Bachinsky 2010). The award has been administered in an annual celebration at the house, and programs at the Centre have included mariachi and guitar fingering workshops; poetry and play readings; and the Good Will Shakespeare Festival, with student actors rehearsing and performing in the garden at the Centre each summer.
In the summer of 2010, discussion began around dismantling the house and trucking it to the Vernon campus, for reconstruction on the local Okanagan College campus as part of a larger George Ryga Centre. Friends of the George Ryga Centre who lived in the Summerland area galvanized around this prospect, and worked to gain community support for keeping the house at its original setting, on the bench land above the village of Summerland. Friends, including Dorthea Atwater and Peter Hay, who first published Ryga’s plays at Talonbooks in Vancouver, stepped forward. They are blessed with federal charitable tax status and are making connections with other writer-in-residence programs in writers’ houses to inform the re-establishment of the artist-in-residence program in 2012, the centenary of Ryga’s birth. The author residency program would be complemented by college extension courses as further collaboration with Okanagan College (Hay 2010).
2.3 Future writers’ houses
The legacy of some of Canada’s most popular writers is yet to be preserved in a writer’s house. The environmentalism of Margaret Atwood could inspire contemporary writers through a residency program set in Atwood’s garden in Toronto or her bird-watching retreat on Point Pelee, Ontario. The place-based writing and language of W.O. Mitchell would be well celebrated in a writer-in-residence program set on the Alberta prairie. Yet both of the writer’s homes, one in Calgary and the other in High River, have been sold, so it’s unlikely they will be reclaimed. Mitchell’s family, his son, Orm, and his wife, Barb, have paid tribute to this beloved Canadian author in a two-volume biography rather than in attempts to preserve the place of his inspiration (Chevrefils 2010). And what of novelist and artist Douglas Coupland’s mid-century modern post and beam house in West Vancouver? Designed by the architect Ron Thom, the white house is filled with Coupland’s colourful sculptures and artwork (2009). It embodies themes from his 2004 art installation “Canada House,” which Coupland filled with Canadian memorabilia and documented in two best-selling non-fiction titles, the photo essays Souvenir of Canada (2002) and Souvenir of Canada 2 (2004). Fans of these writers, and of other Canadian writers yet to come, will surely seek out these spaces in a search to find their favourite characters or remnants of the technique with which they were described, indeed, as Trubek says, “to engage in literary voyeurism [or] worship” and to try to bridge “the heartbreaking gap between writers and readers … to fuse the material with the immaterial, the writer with the reader” (Trubek 2011, pp. 3, 5)
2.4 The attraction of writers’ houses
For Trubek, fascination with writers’ houses relates to fascination with the private lives of authors. Houses, however, are both public and private: they are the place “we fight in our pajamas with our spouses, but also clean up and entertain guests” (Trubek 2011, p. 5). As such they draw literary voyeurism and have done so since the fourteenth century, when the town of Arezzo, Italy, preserved Petrarch’s birthplace. Writers’ houses such as Thomas Hardy’s cottage in Devon or John Keats’s apartment at the foot of the Spanish Steps in Rome fit into many a literary tourist’s itinerary. Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam may be the “most famous and heavily visited writer’s house devoted to a twentieth-century writer” (p. 3).
As Trubek points out, the list of American writers’ houses does not necessarily correlate with a list of great American writers; the same could be said about the greatest Canadian writers and writers’ houses in Canada. Although not everyone agrees about which names should appear on the list of top Canadian writers, at the turn of the millennium, two lists were assembled to chronicle Canadian literature of the past century. The University of Toronto Book Store’s Review published its top 100 Canadian books of all time in 1999 (Pashley 1999). The Literary Review of Canada took a little longer, publishing its list of Canada’s 100 most important books in 2007 (The LRC 100: Canada’s Most Important Books 2007). Many great Canadian writers on these lists are not represented by writers’ houses (Susanna Moodie, Marshall McLuhan, Hugh MacLennan, Sinclair Ross). The great writers on the list with houses are much fewer (Margaret Laurence House in Neepawa, Manitoba; L.M. Montgomery’s Green Gables House in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island; the Stephen Leacock Canadian Humorist Museum in Orillia, Ontario; Berton House in Dawson City, Yukon; Historic Joy Kogawa House in Vancouver; Maison Gabrielle-Roy in St-Boniface, Manitoba; the soon-to-be established Al Purdy A-frame near Ameliasburg, Ontario). Other great writers are honoured by university-based residencies (the Carol Shields residency at the University of Manitoba; the Mordecai Richler writer-in-residence program announced in Fall 2010 at McGill University in Montreal). Preservation of the homes of these great writers depends on the future vision of some passionate community.
2.5 Writers’ houses as museums
The vision of operating a writer-in-residence program in the former homes of distinguished Canadian writers is a new phenomenon. Earlier projects to protect such literary landmarks took the tack of establishing a museum rather than a place where writers could continue to live and work. Examples of Canadian writers’ houses as museums are set out in Table 2-2.
Table 2-2. Writers’ Houses as Museums in Canada
More recent preservation successes generally incorporate some literary programming along with museum aspects that celebrate the writer’s legacy (Maison Gabrielle-Roy).
Some are administered by municipal museum associations (Stephen Leacock House); others by community-based committees (Margaret Laurence House). Yet others are owned and administered as Parks Canada National Heritage Sites (Robert Service Cabin in Dawson City, Yukon), where the homes of the writers who established Canada’s literary and cultural heritage stand alongside the homes of former prime ministers and founders of Canada. All are places seen as worth preserving as historical landmarks, and all have been established as museums, from the early part of the last century right up to the mid-1970s. Even up to 1982, when the home of novelist Louis Hémon (Maria Chapdelaine ) was designated, such literary landmarks were seen as a place where the author’s work and memorabilia could be preserved and shown; open to the public for tours; and where school children could come to learn about the author and his or her work.
These sensibilities began to change in the mid-1990s, perhaps in response to the vision of non-fiction writer and broadcaster Pierre Berton. A founding member of The Writers’ Union of Canada and of the Writers’ Trust of Canada, Berton purchased his family home for $50,000 and donated it in 1996 to the Yukon Arts Council, the Klondike Visitors Association, and the Dawson City Libraries Association (Berton House Writers’ Retreat 2006). “He knew better than most that writing is a precarious craft and writers need to be nurtured and supported in various ways,” writes Bill Freeman on the Berton House website. His vision to turn his childhood home into a place where writers could live and work created a sea change in the way other writers’ homes were viewed. Since 1996, when the Berton House Retreat was established, other writers’ homes have been seen as work spaces, dedicated for use mainly by the writing community and in part by the public. With the exception of Margaret Laurence House in Neepawa, Manitoba, all subsequent efforts to create literary landmarks in Canada have been created with a vision more in line with Pierre Berton than with Parks Canada.
During the campaign to preserve Joy Kogawa’s childhood home, writers and their associations came together to envision a wider use of the house than as a museum. They wrote letters of support calling for “a writers-in-residence centre in which Canadian writers and writers from abroad could write firsthand about our complex and evolving multi- and inter-cultural society and how different values and traditions can peacefully interact” (Brett 2005). They campaigned for “employing the house as a new cultural centre that would highlight the contributions of Vancouver artists from all backgrounds—not as a shrine but rather as a working place and as a place for work to be seen” (Busby 2005). Yet when TLC The Land Conservancy of BC hired a heritage consultant, architect Don Luxton, to develop a heritage conservation plan for the house, his first draft returned again to the old vision of establishing the site as a museum. Certainly displays of artefacts and memorabilia are one component of the multiple uses for the site, but the main use is as a writer-in-residence program that provides space and funding for writers to develop their creative work. An overture had been received from Parks Canada to establish a National Historic Site on the basis that the house and the Nakayama family’s removal from it in 1943 represented “a nationally important example or illustration of Canadian human history” and because designations in the Western Region overlooked women of historic and ethnic significance. The Save Kogawa House Committee did not entertain this option, though, single-mindedly working toward honouring those writers who had spoken out in support of their effort with a vision to create a writer-in-residence program at the house.
The organizing committees behind other writers’ houses had similar experiences. At the Stephen Leacock Museum, curator Fred Addis proudly proclaims that “not one apple peeler can be found on the property.” Instead a literary program of festival events and writing workshops involves emerging and established Canadian writers. “Contemporary programming is what will keep the writer’s legacy alive,” Addis says (Addis 2010).
3: The value of community-run author residencies in Canada
3.1 Overview of support to publishers through writers’ houses–based author residencies
Each writers’ houses–based residency program sets its own level of achievement in its call for expressions of interest from writers. Some residency programs require applicant writers to have one published work (Berton House). Another requires two published books or one published book and one professionally performed screenplay (Historic Joy Kogawa House). All seek the most talented applicant who will use time in residence to create new work that is well received by the community of readers.
But creative output does not always have to be the result of an author residency. One writer in residence at the Berton House Writers’ Retreat in Summer 2009 used the time to think. “I came to Dawson City expecting to do a lot of typing; what I wasn’t prepared for was how relentlessly fascinating a place it is. Here you’re confronted with history at every corner, and the past looms large in a way you don’t find most places in Canada. I had a great summer, and would recommend the Berton House residency to any writer interested in getting work done—and some thinking, too” (Berton House Writers’ Retreat 2010). “Sometimes sitting there, not having to write, and enjoying the pleasure of just thinking, is what a writer needs,” says Elsa Franklin, founding administrator of the Berton House Writers’ Retreat (Franklin 2010). Thinking was all Pierre Berton intended when creating the writers’ retreat in his Dawson City home. “Berton, who worked umpteen jobs himself, felt how wonderful it would be for a writer to have a place to stay, a certain amount of money for food, and certainty of a place for three months to live.” Thinking can lead to ideas for new work rather than the work itself. While in residence at Haig-Brown House, another writer said, “I also began another project with the working title Rock Garden. The genus for that book came while living at Haig-Brown House.”
3.1.1 Work published and awards granted
Applications for the Canada Council Author Residencies program are adjudicated on the basis of a 25-page writing sample that the author provides. This excerpt ideally is taken from the work-in-progress that the author will be continuing while in residence. The quality of the work and the reputation of the writer’s previously published work influence the adjudication decision of the selection committee, usually made up of peers and community members. As a result it can be assumed that the most talented writers are selected from among the many applications received (80 applications were received for the four residencies at Berton House in 2009, for example). That writer’s work is further adjudicated during the grant application review process, again by a peer jury; given the decreasing pool of money, grants are awarded only for the best author residency applications (likely to include the best writers). The result is high-calibre authors in residence who are likely to produce best-selling and award-winning writing out of their residency. The high quality of work generated is demonstrated in Table 3-1.
Table 3-1. Work Produced While in Residence at Three Community-Run Writer-in-Residence Programs
3.1.2 What sales levels were achieved?
The awards granted to work written while in residence demonstrate the quality of work generated when a writer is given the space and time to work. Another way to determine the contribution author residency programs make to the book publishing industry in Canada is to look at sales data for the books that result from manuscripts produced while in residence. Did the publicity around an author’s residency increase awareness of and anticipation for the new work and so result in higher sales numbers? Sales per title figures are tracked by BookNet Canada, the government-funded non-profit organization that provides, as Lorimer says, “powerful structural support” to the book publishing industry through “the provision of machine-readable book metadata (product information such as title, author, price, genre, length, format) that can be used … to track titles anywhere in the supply chain, from publisher through bookseller to final sale” (Forthcoming [September 2010 draft], p. 116). All data are available to all participating members of industry, but that information is closely held because of the competitiveness of the industry. Sales data are not available for publication.
3.1.3 Did the residency influence the decision to publish?
Perhaps a better way to determine the contribution that writer-in-residence programs make to the Canadian book publishing industry is to look to the point of acquisition. Does participation in an author residency program influence the decision to publish? It can be expected that work produced during a residency funded by the Canada Council Author Residencies program will be of excellent quality, because the program funds only professionally published Canadian writers who have a track record within the publishing industry and a likelihood to produce publishable work. Most programs require applicants to have at least one professionally published work; others look for two or more in order to attract high-calibre applicants. The writer in residence thus is proven in the marketplace and a strong candidate for a Canadian book publisher’s program.
Ongoing publicity for the author residency further assists the decision to publish. Community events bring ongoing exposure to any number of book buyers each month, depending on the size of community the author residency serves. Publicity for the author residency program increases name recognition for the author inside and sometimes outside the country if the residency is well known and prestigious. Publicity drives more traffic to the websites of both featured authors and their publishers, and links from the author residency website and from media coverage that results from residency publicity increase search engine ranking. Additional exposure on Facebook, Twitter, and video sites further increases awareness among book buyers.
Despite the high likelihood that the dual jury process will lead to high-quality work generated while in residence, author agents don’t use the residency status as a point of influence in pitching a manuscript to a publishing house. “I’ve never used it in a submission,” said one literary agent. “Maybe I should, but I’ve never thought of it. I agree that it [a residency] adds weight to a writerly CV, but I’m not sure that it influences a buying decision. It gives a writer a bit of breathing room to get stuck into their work. That’s the real value of an author residency. It’s more of a service to writers than to publishers, I’d say” (Harding 2010).
A fiction editor said: “If an author approaches me and indicates in their cover letter or CV that they are, or have been, a writer in residence somewhere, then it tells me that I should pay a bit more attention to their manuscript than I might to somebody who has no publishing credentials at all. It usually tells me that the writer is somewhat established, is a dedicated professional, and has some profile in the market. Some residencies would hold more weight than others, but the impact would be about the same. The only thing that determines whether or not I will make an offer for that author’s book is the quality of the writing itself, and whether it fits our vision or not. I think these residencies are terrific for writers in that they indeed build community profile, and because they are given the opportunity to devote significant attention to their writing” (Labonté 2010).
Another fiction editor said: “A past residency would certainly help instil confidence if we were talking about an unknown writer. I have a lot of respect for author residencies and I know how competitive they are, so if it was a highly respected residency like the Kogawa House, Green College, or Markin-Flanagan, for example, I would certainly know that this is a writer I should take notice of, and consider the manuscript carefully. And, yes, if I know that there has been advance publicity around a book because of a residency, that would be another strong point in the book’s favour. It’s a great boon to a publisher if a book is already anticipated by audiences. And if we were talking about a book still in development, then knowing that a writer had a residency lined up would convince me that s/he had the commitment to the project and the opportunity to finish it that I’m looking for. In conclusion, I’d have to say that I’d consider writer residencies highly beneficial, even vital, to our industry” (Little 2010).
An editor of non-fiction commented that a writer who was in residence at one of the writer’s houses had been commissioned several years ago to do a book. “I don’t know whether [he] worked on [it] during his residency or not. I do know that [another of our writers] has been working on a book that is under contract for us while he has been a writer in residence [elsewhere] (or at least he was supposed to). My experience is that these programs are very useful for allowing writers to work on projects that have already been signed—at least that is the case for us. And in that sense they are definitely a benefit” (Flight 2010).
Participation in a writer-in-residence program may indeed influence the acquisition editor’s decision to publish. If the acquiring editor or literary agent knows that an author has received publicity around a work written while in residence, that information does influence the publishing decision. Editors and agents do view residencies as a benefit to the industry.
3.2 Residencies as a benefit to writers
Writers selected to work in residence say that they benefit immeasurably. One writer in residence said, “I did a lot of work there. It was like this: I could either turn on the television or I could write” (Asfour 2010). The setting worked exceptionally well for this writer, who is highly involved in his home city―teaching, coaching other writers, editing and translating, sponsoring a refugee family, maintaining a wide network of friends. To be away from these connections for three months while working in residence meant that he had plenty of solitary time to consider his writing and fewer distractions from applying himself to it.
Not only is the creative time valuable but the inspiration of new place and new people is important. One writer in residence found broader value in her residency in a writer’s house. “The residency was invaluable to me as a working writer,” she says. “I was artistically regenerated and intellectually invigorated by the change in my physical, natural and cultural environment… I was relieved of financial obligations, and that allowed me to focus on my work. The whole package―change of scene, financial security, move to a new coastal environment―arrived just as I needed replenishment. I was productive.” This writer travelled 7,500 kilometres from her home in St. John’s, Newfoundland, to participate in the writer-in-residence program on the coast of British Columbia. Once there, as she read her work to a new audience in a new milieu, she “was aware, in a good way, of every inch of that distance, this country.” As she met local writers, Doyle recognized “a similar rootedness” and learned peoples and culture of the area “through the imperatives that drive their writing” (Doyle 2009).
The experience of writers while in residence programs demonstrates their value as important cultural supports for writers and therefore for the publishing industry in Canada.
3.3 Other benefits: Developing a community of readers
The author may benefit from participation in a writer-in-residence program, but the community benefits as well. Built in to most residency guidelines is the requirement that a percentage of the writer’s time in residence be devoted to community programming. This percentage can range from 25 to 40 percent of overall time, but Canada Council Author Residencies program application guidelines specify the higher 40 percent allotment to community programming—to allow maximum benefit to the community the writer serves “and to the writer as well,” says Mona Kiame, program officer for the Canada Council Author Residencies program. “The writer benefits from new perspectives gained from mixing with a new community of writers. The benefits are mutual” (Kiame 2010).
Benefits to the community vary from residency to residency, according to the writer’s interests and ability. Some writers in residence approach the community programming aspect of their residency as an opportunity to consult with other writers and to help develop their work. One-on-one consultations become the main focus of their community programming. Other writers seek wider involvement in the community through public readings and events such as writing workshops, readings by and discussions with guest authors, perhaps a mapping project or walking tour of the neighbouring community. The author’s ideas for public programming during the residency are important, as often the selection jury’s decision—as well as that of the Canada Council peer jury—is based on the strength of the author’s public program, in addition to their writing stature and ability.
The community program of the writer-in-residence program at R.D. Lawrence Place at the Minden Hills Cultural Centre in Ontario offers an example of the wide variety of community involvement possible, as follows.
Do a public reading from your own published or in progress works.
Michael Fay, past writer in residence, worked with the Conjurors to have his play A River Needs to Run performed outdoors at the Cultural Centre.
Host a writing- or reading-related event at R.D. Lawrence Place or at the Cultural Centre. Michael hosted a program of local author readings in the spring and a series of three staged readings of locally written plays in the fall.
In 2009, R.D. Lawrence Place partnered with the Beaver Theatre in a literary festival where the writer in residence participated. The writer in residence at this year’s festival hosted a writer’s open stage for readings.
Lead or organize workshops about writing for adults/young writers. In previous years, guest authors have been brought in to hold workshops that the writer in residence could organize.
Attend the R.D. Lawrence Place Writers’ Circle and offer encouragement, support and critical feedback for writers looking to express and find their literary voice.
Laura Redman, past writer in residence, helped to organize a writing contest, did an internet blog, and ran a children’s program in conjunction with the public library.
Pauline Johnson, past writer in residence, collected entries and edited them for an anthology. A writer in residence could find means to provide writers with an opportunity to have their work published online.
Help to develop our resource centre for writers (Loucks 2010).
At Haig-Brown House in Campbell River, BC, 2009–2010 writer in residence Harry Thurston initiated a monthly book club to discuss his own work and that of other writers. The club met Saturday morning at Haig-Brown House, and readers loved it so much that they continue to meet long after Thurston’s residency has ended.
The Haig-Brown author residency, like many other community-run programs, enriches its host community far beyond the reach of the university-based residency programs that inspired them. Whereas the university residency serves a community of well-connected academics within the campus setting, the community-run residency―Haig-Brown House, for example―is set within a community of 30,000 people, far from mainstream literary connections. The residency program enriches their lives immeasurably. As Ruth McMonagle of Still Water Books, the local independent bookstore, says, “Our writer in residence is not just a program but a thing in people’s hearts. It’s a living and powerful thing.” Applications were just arriving for the 2011 residency and McMonagle said that people were coming into her bookstore asking “Who is it? Who did they choose?” Anticipation was high because the criteria for the Haig-Brown program follows the criteria set out in the Canada Council guidelines requiring that the writer in residence work in collaboration with the community. The one-on-one consultation with local writers has been the catalyst for new work. Visits to writing communities on nearby Quadra and Cortes Islands encourage new writing there. And McMonagle pointed to one start-up writer in Campbell River, Janet K. Smith, who has now been published in Caitlin Press–Harbour Publishing’s Walk Myself Home: An Anthology to End Violence Against Women (2010). McMonagle also pointed out that the author residency program has also fed the local writers’ festival, which takes place each March during the residency period. There are now five bookstores in town, and the writer is important to community. It creates an atmosphere of energy and is a real case in point of the additional benefits of a community-run author residency.
Berton House in Dawson City, Yukon, has inspired a summer arts festival that began in the spring of 1998, two years after the founding of the residency, and is now in its thirteenth year. “One has fed the other,” said Elsa Franklin, Pierre Berton’s literary agent and former administrator of the author residency program. The arts festival now hosts its own artists’ residencies, following the pattern set by the Berton residency. The Klondike Visitors’ Association highlights the residency program as an attraction, bringing tourists that expand the economy of the area.
Even a city-based residency such as Historic Joy Kogawa House has brought new life to a working-class neighbourhood that seemed to have forgotten writing and literature. Several children’s writers, who had always lived in the neighbourhood because rent is affordable, have participated in events at the house, drawing attention from one Vancouver publisher, who now calls Marpole “the new Bloomsbury” (Nugent 2009). Such community building extends networks that help to create new writing, and the community-run author residency is a big part of that.
4: Author residency web resource project
Writer-in-residence programs may serve writers directly and book publishers indirectly, but it is difficult for writers to find out about them. A web resource project would bring together information in a single place and make it easily accessible to writers.
4.1 Determining a need
Writers see huge opportunity to advance their careers and find time to write through author residencies. They need easy access to information about them, but that currently does not exist. One author hired an intern in Summer 2010 to help her identify writer-in-residence opportunities that might be available to her. She commented, “Residencies are an opportunity to go places and meet people, but they’re hard to search online. A Google search digs up a couple leads but it’s like hunting around in the abyss” (Farrell 2010). This author says she finds out about residencies through writer friends who have done them, but it’s hard to ask because “we hate it when our friends become successful and we don’t.” She describes herself as pathologically disorganized and welcomes the idea of any resource that posts author residency information online.
The editor of a literary magazine, which until early in the fall of 2010 hosted a list of international residencies on their website, said she knows of no one resource for information about writer-in-residence programs in Canada. “Authors seem to find out about residencies in a variety of ways,” she said. “I’m sure if a web resource existed it would be well used” (Conley 2010).
4.1.1 Existing residency resources
Several print sources of information about writer-in-residence programs are available, as are online lists of author residencies, both Canadian and international. The Writers’ Union of Canada lists international author residencies on its website, along with contact information for several Canadian residencies, including the Banff Centre and Berton House, among others (G. Zoe Garnett 2002; updated 2005, 2008, 2009). Although this list is fairly static, it is updated occasionally when staff time becomes available (Laws 2010). In addition, the Writers’ Union maintains a Residencies and Colonies bulletin board where notices about writer-in-residence programs are posted when information is sent to the Union’s head office. Postings can also be made to the Employment Opportunities and Calls for Submissions bulletin boards (Laws 2010).
Also on the web, Arc Poetry Magazine at one time maintained a list of residencies assembled by a dedicated volunteer, but that web page was removed in Fall 2010. “The links became redundant and outdated quickly,” said managing editor Pauline Conley, “and there were many of them” (Conley 2010). Too many links made the Arc residency resource difficult to manage.
The Places for Writers website gets around the links problem by posting notices in an online newsletter format rather than maintaining static web pages. Since 1997 this Canadian writers’ resource site reaches a wide group of Canadian and international writers and posts notices about writing contests and calls for submission, occasional literary news, publishing information, and links to great Canadian writers and organizations. Some writer-in-residence programs, including the University of Calgary and Vancouver Public Library, have posted their calls for applications on the site. In 2006 Places for Writers was chosen as one of Writer’s Digest 101 best websites for writers.
Print resources for writers include the annual Canadian Writer’s Market (McClelland & Stewart, 2010), now in its 18th edition. Canadian Writer’s Market lists workshops and writing retreats but does not list opportunities for writers at writer-in-residence programs. Similarly, the more American-sourced Writer’s Market, updated annually by Robert Lee Brewer (Writer’s Digest Books, 2011) lists grants, fellowships, and prizes but does not list residency programs. A better source of information, Artists and Writers Colonies: Retreats, Residencies, and Respites for the Creative Mind, compiled by Gail Hellund Bowler (Hillsboro, Oregon: Blue Heron Publishing, 1995) includes author residencies among the listings for retreats and fellowships for artists and writers. This useful print resource was compiled in 1995 and updated in 2000, but has not been updated since that time. Bowler has since retired and the publisher has moved on to other projects (Bowler 2010).
These various print and online resources are pretty much the only formal information available to provide writers with details about author residency programs in Canada. Much more information is available about residencies for visual artists. The website of the International Association of Residential Artists―Res Artis (www.resartis.org)―links visual artists with opportunities ranging from Cameroon to Catalonia. Res Artis began in 1993 in the Netherlands as a volunteer organization to support residency programs around the world. By the early part of the new millennium, it had begun to convene conferences among administrators of artist-in-residence programs, and it now serves as an excellent source of online information for visual artists seeking financial support and a place to work. This membership-funded organization maintains a web portal that connects artists and writers with contact information for residency programs in more than 40 countries. The list does include writer-in-residence programs in addition to their mainly visual art–based listings. Most of the residencies listed in Canada, however, are fee-for-space artists’ studios or rent-by-the-week rooms for writers at country inns. Historic Joy Kogawa House has recently become a member and over time will determine the effectiveness of the collective information, and in particular the mentorship program, that the international association offers (Res Artis 2010).
4.1.2 Variable web search results
In the absence of reliable resources, the writer is left to search for writer-in-residence programs using keywords. Google searches for “author residencies in Canada” yield no results on www.google.com, but a more open search without the quotation marks yields 928,000 results. They begin with the Canada Council Author Residencies program and various university- or public-library based residency programs, but veer off quickly into the medical definition of “residency” and immigration-related sites based on that definition of “residency.” The search terms “author residency” and “Canada” render a narrower yield, with 640 results specific to author residency programs in Canada. Searches for “writer-in-residence programs” and “Canada” yield 3,740 results.
This wide range of search results could be narrowed with a web resource that serves as a portal to writer-in-residence programs in Canada. Such a portal would eliminate duplicate postings. It would also organize information by type of residency host and geographic location, and it would curate information by selecting the most respected programs. The result would be easy-to-access information that serves writers well.
4.2 Planning a web resource for writers
Designing and developing a web resource for writers followed a clear project methodology that assessed the kind of information that writers need, planned the best way to serve that need, and then gathered information from administrators of writer-in-residence programs. These administrators were identified as integral to the success of the web resource. That success would be determined by an increase in the number of links to the web resource from other websites and from print resources for writers. Increased web traffic would also be a measure of success.
4.2.1 Project methodology
The methodology used to collect the information reported is set out in Figure 4-1. The project methodology is divided into six phases.
Figure 4-1. Overview of Project Methodology for Author Residencies Web Resource
In the planning and initiation phrase, creating the project team would include working with the webmaster at www.kogawahouse.com to allow access to page creation. It would also include contacting all administrators at writer-in-residence programs across Canada to inform them of the project, and to not only gather information, but also get them to confirm the information presented on the website. Staging the web project’s launch would include emailing a press release to all writers‘ associations and then following up with them to offer more information and to find out how they planned to publicize the residency resource. With this project methodology in place, key stakeholders could be identified and contacted.
4.2.2 Including stakeholders
The web resource for author residencies serves three levels of stakeholders, as follows:
primary stakeholders include writers who seek information about the author residency opportunities available to them; these primary stakeholders benefit from the web resource because it serves as a central portal to information that is currently scattered across a number of websites and print sources;
key stakeholders include the administrators of author residency programs situated in writers’ houses in Canada, who benefit from a collaborative network that connects them with others doing the same administrative work and ultimately writing the same grant applications; and
secondary key stakeholders include administrators of author residency programs at universities and public libraries who, through comparison of application procedures and requirements, may seek greater uniformity among programs in Canada.
These stakeholders were involved in the project through information gathering and through quality control to confirm accuracy of information posted in the web resource.
4.3 Initiating the project
Timing was right for the launch of a web resource that would inform writers, not only about the author residency at Historic Joy Kogawa House, but also about other residencies available in Canada. The writer-in-residence program at Historic Joy Kogawa House had been under way for two years, and in the fall of 2010 the society was about to embark on a publicity campaign and call for expressions of interest from writers for the next residency. The web resource would be announced at the same time as the call for expressions of interest. Providing a web resource for writers could be seen as payback for ongoing support from writers’ associations. During the 2006 campaign to rescue the house from demolition, the Save Kogawa House Committee had sought the support of writers associations from across Canada, and many of them envisioned a use for the house as a writer-in-residence program. Their wholehearted support needed to be returned in kind, so a web resource was initiated to serve their needs in this larger way.
There was also a desire to connect with other writer-in-residence programs. Efforts to establish a network of residency administrators had been undertaken in the mid-2000s by authors Katherine Govier and Sharon Butala. Govier wrote in the Ottawa Citizen in August 2006 about starting “a registry of historic Canadian writers’ houses, a website, a map.” Her desire was to make writers’ houses more accessible to visitors because “more writers should breathe a little of this haunted air” (Govier 2006). Later that summer Govier wrote: “We see benefit in working together because, at present, many WH’s [writers’ houses] are, to quote [Fred] Addis [of Stephen Leacock House in Orillia, Ontario], ‘working in a vacuum.’ Experience gained at one House can be shared with Houses being developed” (Govier 2006). The author residency web resource hosted on the www.kogawahouse.com website would be the beginning of this sharing of information with writers and with administrators of other author residency programs, particularly with administrators at writers’ houses.
Information would be solicited from various organizations that run author residencies in Canada. Those groups would write project descriptions for each of their residencies and they would then be posted as subdirectories to a new page on the www.kogawahouse.com website. Administrators would then be asked to review and update their content each year. The unwieldy nature of updating pages was a huge concern, however, and a much less-demanding format was conceived. It was then thought that the web resource could take the form of a Drupal community portal that enabled individual log-ins to the www.kogawahouse.com website so that each organization could update information at their own discretion. This plan, too, was cumbersome. In the end, it was decided that because the writer-in-residence programs are well described on the individual websites for each residency program—and because they are kept up to date there—that brief descriptions of the programs on the www.kogawahouse.com website and links to the host website would be the best way to proceed. A conversation with Pauline Conley, managing editor at Arc Poetry Magazine, mid-way through the project, reminded me that the big challenge would be maintaining the links, not the information. “It’s the links that go out of date,” she said. “Checking them can be very time consuming.” With this advice, a monthly check through the website will be necessary to ensure all links remain active.
4.4 Analyzing content
4.4.1 Information the web resource provides
To decide which information the web resource would provide, we framed essential questions:
What does the writer need to know about author residencies?
How can information keep flowing in both directions between author residency programs and writers?
What is the role of the writer in residence?
How does the writer in residence serve the local community?
4.4.2 Author residency or writer’s retreat?
A writer-in-residence program can be interpreted in a number of ways, but the two most common interpretations are as an author residency and as a writer’s retreat. During an author residency, a writer devotes the majority of his or her time to writing and another portion to assisting writers in the community with writing projects. Sometimes the public part of the residency involves events and literary readings rather than one-on-one consultations with other writers, as with the Spring 2010 author residency at Historic Joy Kogawa House. Writer-in-residence programs such as these are funded through the Canada Council Author Residencies program.
The alternative interpretation of author residencies is the writer’s retreat, during which the author devotes all his or her time to writing, while physical needs for food and accommodation are provided to assist the writing process. The Banff Centre provides this kind of retreat, as do other author residencies. The Canada Council assists participation in writers’ retreats of this kind by accepting applications for travel subsidies.
It was decided that only writer-in-residence programs funded through the Author Residencies program would be the focus of the web resource but that other supports to writers, including writers’ retreats and writing workshops, would also be listed.
4.4.3 Populating the web resource
The scattered nature of the information, sometimes posted clearly on host websites, but oftentimes hidden away at the bottom of press releases or blog postings, made research and information gathering a challenge. The more difficult the information gathering, though, the greater grew the sense that writers need a web resource such as this. With each dead end in the research, a portal to all author residency opportunities available in Canada was increasingly determined to be necessary.
The research process began with the Who Received a Grant listing on the Canada Council website. These grant listings are searchable by year, going back to 2003, and in a practical way demonstrate not only which residency programs have successfully garnered grant funds each year, but also which programs consistently host writers in residence from year to year. A pattern of success in applications for grant monies determined which residency programs to list as hosts in the Other Author Residencies subdirectory on the www.kogawahouse.com website.
Consistent hosts were defined as those who received grant monies each year or every other year. Several of the hosts awarded Canada Council funds had perhaps hosted only a single residency and then either found alternative funding or cancelled the residency program. Hosts such as these were not listed in the Other Author Residencies subdirectory.
On the other hand, those hosts to be listed could be set out in clearly defined categories: writer-in-residence programs that take place in writers’ houses, at public libraries, and at universities. Within these broad categories, smaller subcategories were established, particularly among the listings of public libraries and universities that host writer-in-residence programs. These two host categories were organized with geographic subcategories arranged by province, beginning with British Columbia in the west, continuing through to the Prairie Provinces, then to Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes. Such subcategories were not needed for the writers’ houses category because they are few in number. In contrast, the necessary geographic subcategories for the multiple residency programs offered at public libraries and universities allowed clear navigation within the range of information available and created workable, nicely chunked subdirectories.
4.5 Implementation: Gathering information and ensuring accuracy
With the architecture of the Other Author Residencies programs thus established, information to populate individual pages for each writer-in-residence program was gathered from the websites of the various programs, from Google searches, and from conversations with writer-in-residence administrators. Longer-running author residencies clearly set out information on their websites, often with contact information for the staff member who administers the program. This contact was determined to be a key source for further information about each residency host, and as a result, all web content pulled from the host websites and then used to populate the subdirectory pages needed to be confirmed and corrected by this administrator. An email message with a subject line that clearly referred to the writer-in-residence program, and that included a link to the information on the www.kogawahouse.com website, was sent to each contact. The body of the email message asked our essential questions:
Where does the writer apply? (the web address)
When does the writer apply? (the application deadline)
Where can the writer find out more information?
These messages were sent over several weeks in early to mid-September to the contact person provided on websites and press releases about writer-in-residence programs. When a contact person was not easily discernible, this email confirmation was sent to the head of the community outreach department for public libraries and to the head of the English department or other host department for universities.
Replies were enthusiastic in some cases but slow to arrive in most. Follow-up was definitely necessary, and of course a phone call was best because a human voice at the other end of the phone line is less easy to ignore than a message in the email inbox. A phone call could establish a greater sense of purpose and allow for further discussion of the program and for information gathering about other author residency programs that the contact happened to know about. The phone calls following up were especially necessary for university hosts, because many of those messages arrived in campus inboxes during the third week of term, a busy time of year, albeit one when routine is beginning to settle in and allow an answer to a cold email messages from an unknown sender. A tracking system was established to ensure that all writer-in-residence programs received a follow-up phone call and that, in the end, all information set out on the website was vetted and accurate.
Information gathered from the follow-up email messages and phone calls was then used to edit the listings. At this point the Other Author Residencies website was considered to be fully populated, and notice could be sent round to writers’ guilds and associations to publicize the web resource.
4.6 Staging: Getting the word out
The launch of the web resource was timed to coincide with copy deadlines for various print and online magazines for writers across Canada. These publications include the following national organizations:
The Writers’ Union of Canada Write magazine and online notices
Canadian Authors Association National Newsline
League of Canadian Poets electronic newsletter
PEN Canada Newsroom
Playwrights Guild of Canada CanScene e-newsletter
Editors’ Association of Canada Active Voice
Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators, and Performers e-newsletter
Literary Translators’ Association of Canada e-newsletter
The following provincial organization publications were also contacted:
Federation of BC Writers’ WordWorks
Writers Guild of Alberta Write Click e-newsletter
Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild Ebriefs e-newsletter
Manitoba Writers’ Guild e-newsletter
Quebec Writers’ Federation QWrite newsletter
Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick news blog
Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia EastWord newsletter
Writers’ Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador weekly e-newsletter
A press release was prepared and sent to the editors of these publications to let writers know about two pieces of news, that (1) the web resource for writers about author residency programs in Canada was up and running and that (2) the Historic Joy Kogawa House was now accepting applications for its Fall 2011 residency. The dual purpose of this message allowed the excitement of opportunity for writers interested in applying for the residency (and their eventual disappointment at lack of success) to be mitigated by the chance of an opportunity elsewhere. The press release also called for feedback, which would continue to build essential connections between the Historic Joy Kogawa House writer-in-residence program and the writing community. Feedback also improved the accuracy of our already-vetted web content, and contributed information about additional writer-in-residence programs that were previously overlooked.
4.6.1 Tracking press release usage
The press release and email message to editors and writing associations would result in considerable traffic on the www.kogawahouse.com website. Both the increased traffic and the quantity of email responses to the call for additional information about other writer-in-residence programs available in Canada were measures of the success of the project. For comparison between before-and-after statistics, however, Google Analytics would provide a more accurate measure of whether or not writers needed this web resource. If the number of visits to the site increased after writers were told it existed, then the website must have met their need for information. To track the number of visits, Google Analytics needed to create a baseline against which new web traffic to the site could be measured.
Response to the press release also needed to be assessed through follow-up phone calls and email messages to writing associations and editors of the magazines and newsletters to which the press release was sent. Publication dates were needed to identify the reasons for spikes in web traffic tracked using Google Analytics. Peak activity was determined by Google around the publication dates set out in Table 4-1.
Table 4-1 Publication dates to track in Google Analytics
4.7 Post Implementation: Google Analytics pattern of use
4.7.1 Running Google Analytics reports
When Google Analytics was installed, the Other Author Residencies section of the www.kogawahouse.com website was filtered so that Google Analytics would track separately that unique area within the website. Additional filters on web traffic excluded visits from my IP address. This filter allowed the number of Page Visits to more accurately report usage by excluding the frequent visits the web administrator made to the site to update information and add new pages.
Goals were set according to the URL Destination so that reports specific to each page would indicate how many visitors were checking which pages within the Other Author Residencies section of the website.
4.7.2 What Google Analytics revealed
Google Analytics reports were then run to show traffic sources, whether from an email account, a search engine, or a link on another website. The reports showed whether visitors found the resource through a Google search or by opening a link in an email message. Although half of all visitors (55.2 percent of 1,324 absolute unique visitors) found the web resource through search engines, one in four visitors arrived directly on the site (28.3 percent). More important, one out of every six visitors (16.5 percent) had been referred through an email message or through a web link. An All Traffic Sources report from launch of the web resource on Monday, September 27, to the end of November identified referrals from multiple sources, including the Canadian Authors Association, Ottawa Branch; UBC Creative Writing Program; Res Artis; Arc Poetry; Quebec English Language Arts Network (ELAN); and others. Visits generated by shared links from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other networking sites were also identified.
Other Google Analytics reports were also quite positive. Dashboard reports for comparing patterns of use and number of page visits between the first two weeks of October and the first two weeks of November show an increasing number of visitors to the www.kogawahouse.com website (429 visits in early November compared to 355 visits in early October, a 20 percent increase). Dashboard reports show that visits to the Other Author Residencies more than doubled (a 243 percent increase) from early November compared with early October. In-Page Analytic reports show that, of the few hundred visitors to the Author Residency page each month, nearly 25 percent also visited the Other Author Residencies page. This one-in-four figure demonstrates a definite interest in information about author residency programs in Canada.
4.7.3 Improved Google search results
Google search results measure the number of links to a website. The more links, the greater the rank within individual searches. Following the publicity campaign to encourage the websites of writers’ associations to link to our web resource, Google search rankings increased remarkably. By mid-November the www.kogawahouse.com website ranked in first place on the top page for searches with the terms “Joy Kogawa House” and within the top page for “Joy Kogawa.” In searches on Google.ca, the site appeared in third place on the top page for “author residencies.” Unfortunately no baseline had been taken against which the new Google search rankings could be measured. However, the excellent results now achieved can become a baseline measure against which to compare future search results and help the site maintain top search rankings for all content, not simply the Other Author Residencies web resource. In addition, content will be updated through regular contact with other writer-in-residence programs, further promoting the writer-in-residence program at Historic Joy Kogawa House and further enhancing information sharing among program administrators.
5: Conclusions and Recommendations
5.1 Writers’ houses as hosts for writer-in-residence programs
Canadian universities have long histories of success as hosts of writers in residence. As Earle points out, “as employers of writers, publishers of literature and criticism, organizers of literary events, and educators of audiences, Canadian universities were already indisputably influential patrons, promoters, and disseminators of literature.” Earle also says they have an “established involvement in arts and culture,” and a writer-in-residence program only strengthens “an already strong and multithreaded connection” between community and writer (2006, p. 45). The university as well-funded and well-structured institution overshadows the credibility of smaller community-run arts organizations that also want to run writer-in-residence programs. Comparison of the two types of administrations raises several questions:
How can the decision of a selection committee composed of PhDs compare with the selection decision of ad hoc committee made up of community members seen to be dabbling in the arts?
How does decision-making at the community-run arts organization remain above reproach?
Will the community-run arts organization have a succession plan in place that allows the writer-in-residence program to continue over time?
Will the community-run arts organization continue to attract ongoing sources of funding to maintain the program in the long term?
Establishing an endowment gets around this last question. Campaign leader Jean Baird is convinced an endowment is the only way to ensure Al Purdy’s legacy runs long into the future. Attempts to establish a new writer-in-residence program near Ameliasburg, Ontario, in the A-frame cottage built by poet Al Purdy and his wife, Eurithe Purdy, have focused on establishing an endowment to allow a poet-in-residence use of the property in perpetuity. Baird, formerly creative director of Canada Book Week for the Writers’ Trust of Canada, brings strong connections to literary communities in the East and the West. During the campaign that began in 2008, she has worked tirelessly to establish an endowment by raising public awareness through community events, establishing National Al Purdy Day on April 21, inspiring multiple articles in the Globe and Mail, Walrus, and other magazines and newspapers, and leading to the publication of a collection of his poems, The Al Purdy A-Frame Anthology, with Harbour Publishing. Baird’s success and experience as an arts organizer shine in comparison to those of other community-run arts organizations that host writer-in-residence programs. Perhaps, though, her approach leads on from their work; perhaps she learned from the experience of other community-run organizations and improved upon it.
5.2 Who administers community-run author residencies?
The administration of community-based writer-in-residence programs varies from writer’s house to writer’s house. One is owned by a land and heritage conservancy but a community-run society administers the writer-in-residence program (Historic Joy Kogawa House). Another is owned and administered by a museum but applicants are juried by a member of the family and of the local literary community (Roderick Haig-Brown House). Yet another is owned and administered solely by a community-run organization (Wallace Stegner House). The most venerable of the residencies was owned and administered by a community-run organization but is now owned and administered by the Writers’ Trust of Canada (Berton House Writers’ Retreat).
Those involved in community-run writer-in-residence programs represent a wide range of interests. Some speak for the interests of writers, others for heritage and history, but mainly it is readers who bring their love of literature and Canadian culture to the boards of these community-run arts organizations. These board members generally become involved in order to express their interest in good writing and books, beyond their day jobs which may be in other areas of work. Members of the boards of two community-run arts organizations illustrate a diversity of interests and motivations.
As of 2010, board members of the Historic Joy Kogawa House Society (incorporated 2007) include Joy Kogawa―author, poet, and peace activist―as an honorary board member. Vancouver members include a retired consultant on health and child welfare matters for the Department of Indian Affairs; a freelance editor and writer and neighbour of the house; an arts activist; a book collector and retired professor of library sciences; a retired school teacher and member of the Yokota family in Kelowna; a retired school counsellor who experienced internment during the Second World War, and member of Kimoto family in Ucluelet; an arts administrator; a lawyer and creative writing student; and the granddaughter of Conservative MP Howard Green, who was one of the strongest voices calling for internment of Japanese Canadians. Toronto members include a filmmaker, cultural historian, and university professor.
Similarly, founding members of the board of the Haig-Brown Institute included environmentalists, authors, and members of the Haig-Brown family. Serving in an advisory role for the Haig-Brown Institute were a journalist, an international river advocate, and an environmental educator. The shift in administration of Roderick Haig-Brown House from the Haig-Brown Institute to the Museum of Campbell River in 2007 brought the house under the supervision of the museum board. The result is a greater focus on the heritage preservation aspect of the house, although the writer-in-residence program is still strong and well under way.
The question remains, though: Will these and other board members of community-run writer-in-residence programs have the foresight to ensure succession within the organization from generation to generation? A long-term view is essential to allow these organizations to maintain ongoing support to writers, who depend on the continuation of writer-in-residence programs to allow them time and space to write.
5.3 Will community-run programs endure? Same amount of money, more programs
A significant factor arising from the research is that most community-run residencies are situated in Western Canada. On the roster of writers’ houses–based residencies, three are located in British Columbia (Haig-Brown House; Historic Joy Kogawa House; George Ryga House). One is situated in Saskatchewan (Wallace Stegner House). Another is found in Manitoba (Maison Gabrielle-Roy). Only one established writers’ houses–based residency program, plus one planned writer’s house, are located in Ontario (R.D. Lawrence Place; Al Purdy A-Frame). The centralization within Western Canada of author residency programs that take place in writers’ homes may have some consequence for their ongoing funding sourced through the Canada Council Author Residencies program. “While funding is not allocated on a provincial or regional basis, there is generally a correlation between the percentage of applications from a given province, region or community (including the arts organizations located there) and the percentage of funding awarded” (Canada Council 2009–2010, p. 1). Concern among the administrators of author residency programs that they compete with each other for funds may reduce their collegiality and their desire to support one another’s efforts. Yet collaboration and collegiality are essential to ongoing information sharing and hence the ongoing success of community-run residency programs.
5.4 Another project is needed: A writers’ houses collective
The sharing of information and policies can streamline efforts and help community-run residencies function more efficiently. A goal would be to share information that would allow community-run residencies to meet requirements of the Canada Council Author Residencies program application guidelines. Those guidelines state that hosts of author residencies “must demonstrate that they have the organizational and financial capacities to host a professionally published Canadian writer in an effective and professional manner” (Canada Council for the Arts 2010). A writers’ houses collective would help writer-in-residence program administrators in a major way.
Writers’ house advocates Katherine Govier and Sharon Butala had, as previously described, begun to plan a collective for community-run writer-in-residence programs, in particular, for those hosted at writers’ houses. “We see benefit in working together … Experience gained … can be shared … Funding approaches can be general—as well as particular—and we can make some effort to involve government agencies not at present involved” (Govier 2006). A collective for writers’ houses–based residency programs could produce materials such as websites, pamphlets, or maps that advertise writers’ houses to writers and to readers alike. “We can expand and equalize opportunities for writers using these facilities,” Govier wrote. “We wish to maintain vital links to the writing community amongst operating Writers’ Houses” (2006). To begin the founding of such a collective, funding inquiries were made to the Canada Council, Ontario Arts Council, and Saskatchewan Arts Board. “All we wanted was about $3,000 so about five of us could meet, and get someone to write up and distribute the ideas to start an organization,” says Govier. “After a number of turndowns we both decided we were too senior to be doing this, and hoped that some others in the writing community would come up and start the network.” Phone calls and email connections made during the research phase of this report are only the beginning of a nation-wide connection that will serve writers and, by extension, readers and book publishers. Further efforts are needed to connect administrators of writers‘ houses–based residency programs with a website and online network.
Such an organization would never be in the business of getting funds together to buy writers’ houses. “That is a bottomless pit,” says Govier. But the current state of writers’ houses “working in a vacuum” means that conditions existing for various houses are very different. Govier asks why Berton House gets Canada Council money for its writer-in-residence program when Wallace Stegner House does not. Is the requirement of a two-month minimum stay necessary, or should shorter stays also qualify for Canada Council support? A collective of writer-in-residence programs would offer feedback to administrators of funding programs to allow them to better serve the needs of writers.
5.5 Community-run residency programs and book publishers
One further recommendation relates to the fact that all writer-in-residence programs publicize the author’s new work while it is under way in residence. The writer-in-residence program also develops community around the author and the work through the author’s public programming and other connections with the community. This built-in audience can be used to good effect in the publicity campaign for the book produced.
The marketing director at one of Canada’s largest publishing houses says, “I like to know when a manuscript has been developed at one of the prestigious literary houses such as Historic Joy Kogawa House or Berton House. I’d use this information as a secondary anecdote. The information would not be included in catalogue copy or press release but I’d definitely use it when pitching a book or talking to anyone about it. It’s that ‘little extra,’ deeper insight that gives people a deeper connection to the work and author. The built-in community definitely helps” (Morita 2010).
Clearly, community-run residency programs and book publishers can work in partnership.
5.6 Working together
Writers, writers’ houses–based residency programs, book publishers, and readers—all are partners in the ongoing production of Canada’s literary heritage. The Canada Council’s Author Residencies program is a further partner producer in this literary heritage, as are provincial and municipal agencies, corporations, and private donors. Working together we can house writers in places of historical importance, places that originally inspired creative work in the hands of the namesake writer, and that through preservation, reparation, and new life will become the site of exciting contemporary writing.
1 Grant applications to the Canada Council are evaluated by peer assessment review committees, made up of specialists in a particular field who “reflect a broad range of artistic practices. For example, dancers are assessed by other dancers, choreographers and artistic directors; musicians will evaluate the submissions of musicians; and so on. In addition to being peers of the applicants, the committee members are chosen to ensure fair representation of both official languages, gender, Aboriginal peoples, regional and cultural diversity, and genres of expression within the artistic discipline” (Canada Council 2009–2010, p. 1).
As a result, peer assessment committees are expected to be familiar with grant applicants from the regions they represent, and in effect, serve as advocates for them at the decision table. Peer assessment committee members are otherwise outside the realm of influence for grant applicants. Lobbying is impossible, as the names of peer assessment committee members are not made known to grant applicants until after the awards are granted. The grant applicant may rely solely on awareness of their project within the general population of peers from which members of the peer assessment committee might be drawn.
Selection by a jury of peers is meaningful to authors. “There is no doubt in the minds of Canada Council individual grant recipients that both they themselves and recipients of Canada Council grants in other programs are excellent artists. This is because artists respect that the Canada Council has a history of funding excellence through a nation-wide peer review system, that many artists unknown to them apply for the same grants and are judged by the same peers, and that the jury members are chosen from among the best artists across the country” (Wilner 2000, p. 26).RETURN
2 Writers say that selection as writer in residence by any of the sponsor organizations “provides recognition and validation of the artist’s worth of the artist and his or her work” (Wilner 2000, p. 20). Writer-in-residence appointments allow a writer to “‘buy time,’ while visual and media artists purchase a variety of often-expensive materials that become parts of the works themselves upon completion… In the words of one well-established literary artist, these grants provide artists with ‘uninterrupted, incremental, cumulative momentum, and this is very powerful'” (Wilner 2000, p. 2). RETURN
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ABSTRACT: This report will discuss the genesis of BNC SalesData and the role of BookNet Canada in bringing about data sharing within the Canadian book publishing industry. Although there are clear benefits to an aggregated sales database, a neutral third party like BNC with a policy to “do no harm” is needed to facilitate collaborative commerce for the greater good of the industry as a whole. To assess the impact of data sharing through BNC SalesData, this report will outline the history of the service, describe how it currently functions, show BNC’s process and tactics in transforming data from private to shared, and discuss the limits of this system in an increasingly digital supply chain.
This project report would not have been possible if not for the unwavering support of many people, including:
John Maxwell, Rowland Lorimer, and Jo-Anne Ray; thank you for your guidance and mentorship,
the whole team of supply chain crusaders at BookNet Canada, especially Noah Genner and Carol Gordon; thank you for letting me learn from you for a little while,
and Mum, Dad, and Lil’ Sis; thank you for smiling and nodding while I talk about data.
AASP: Average actual selling price
ACP: Association of Canadian Publishers
BISG: Book Industry Study Group
BNC: BookNet Canada
CBA: Canadian Booksellers Association
CBM: The Canadian Book Market
CPC: Canadian Publishers Council
CTA: Canadian Telebook Agency
DCH: Department of Canadian Heritage
EDI: Electronic Data Interchange
FIRA: Foreign Investment Review Agency
GDS: General Distribution Services
ISBN: International Standard Book Number
ONIX: Online Information eXchange
SCI: Supply Chain Initiative
SDA: BNC SalesData
To some, it may come as a surprise that BookNet Canada (BNC) is comprised of less than twelve people. This is because the not-for-profit supply chain agency is responsible for so much in the Canadian publishing infrastructure: an extremely robust electronic data interchange (EDI) system, bibliographic data certification and aggregation, an upcoming e-catalogue system, and SalesData (SDA), the national point-of-sale data tracking service. BNC and its host of projects were born out of a combined industry and government initiative in 2001 that realized the Canadian book industry supply chain needed a neutral, dedicated third-party to seek and implement technological solutions for industry issues. Led by a board of directors representing a variety of industry stakeholders, from “independent, educational and chain retailers, [to] industry associations, wholesalers and distributors,” BNC has a unique position in the publishing industry as a government funded, industry led non-profit whose projects aim to foster the efficiency and health of the book trade as a whole.
In the seven years since BNC was formed, the organization’s signature achievement has been SalesData. Upon SDA’s launch in December 2005, the Canadian publishing industry was the last in the Western, English-language world to implement a national sales and inventory tracking system. This meant that decades after the US and UK markets were able to see where, when, and how many of their books sold, Canadian publishers were still taking chances on print runs and reprint schedules, leaving booksellers to deal with the “feast or famine” of over-buying (only to return the books en masse) and stockouts (when publisher inventory does not match market demand, resulting in few stores receiving their orders when they needed them). The time spent without accurate sales data may have exacerbated these and other supply chain issues that plagued what already is a tough industry to make profits in. While practices such as mass returns still occur and cause disruption today, the data landscape SDA provides makes it much easier to identify, track, and avoid supply chain issues. SDA is a wealth of information; its database builds bestseller lists for the country’s top publications, provides a foundation for research studies on various sales trends, and allows subscribers to follow their market position week-over-week.
Despite the clear benefits of this aggregated data pool, which allows the Canadian book industry to conveniently access comprehensive and reliable data about its own size and market position, Canadian publishers and retailers are still wary about sharing their sales data in such a small and competitive business environment, and of having one government-funded entity in control of such a significant data set. BNC acknowledges and addresses such trepidation by keeping neutrality at the forefront of all of its decisions and actions. The SDA Media Policy on the BNC website highlights this by stating that the priority for the data is to “do no harm,” a necessary standpoint for encouraging potential data contributors to share their data for the greater good of the industry as a whole. Data—and what it can reveal—is sensitive and BNC has faced a long and hard road in the process of creating a more open data system for the book publishing industry; today, SDA does not track about twenty-five percent of Canadian trade book sales because many retailers have held back from contributing data. For these retailers, the question of whether to share data or not is decided by balancing the perceived value of what they expect to get out of the system (such as market research) with the perceived risk associated with giving away their proprietary sales information.
This report will discuss the role of BNC and SDA in enabling data sharing within the Canadian book publishing industry by consulting industry stakeholders and the professionals involved in the system’s creation. My interest in this topic began during the four months I interned at BNC, where I gained an intimate knowledge of SDA through sales analysis projects (such as compiling research studies and creating bestseller lists) and by user-testing the system. It became clear that SDA has had a significant impact in a short amount of time, but that the system is still growing. The three objectives of the report are to chronicle BNC’s past and present role in facilitating a platform for data sharing, to define how BNC and SDA “do no harm” and have led to a more efficient supply chain, and to outline the potential implications of a leveling or drop in data sharing as the industry increasingly digitizes. Overall, five years of SalesData have served both the greater good (through accurate understandings of the book market as a whole) and “bottom lines” of industry stakeholders, yet retailer reluctance towards sharing data is still common; BNC counteracts this stance with value-adds and a policy to “do no harm.”
1. The Genesis of the Supply Chain Initiative and BookNet Canada
The supply chain agency BookNet Canada is a direct result of the Canadian government’s support for the cultural industries that began in the second half of the twentieth century. As a colonial nation, Canada’s domestic publishing industry started as an offshoot of the British industry, eventually competing for the Canadian market against much larger and more culturally established American firms. When the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences (also known as the Massey-Lévesque commission) was appointed in 1949 to assess the state of Canadian culture, its findings—released in 1951—revealed the book industry’s meager state: an “almost universal dependence on the American product […meant that] in 1948 English-language publishers had issued a mere fourteen books of fiction and thirty-five works of poetry or drama.”
While the Massey-Lévesque report underscored the importance of Canadian literature and led to the creation of the Canada Council for the Arts, publishing operations would not have a comprehensive financial support system in place until after the Ontario Royal Commission on Book Publishing, established in 1970. Although the Commission was a provincial initiative only, it inspired the Secretary of State Gérard Pelletier to announce the first federal measures for book publishing in March 1972. The government “would substantially increase the Canada Council’s modest support for publishing, making $1.2 million available for block grants, translation grants, and book purchases. […] Pelletier said his new measures were only the first steps to address ‘a situation the urgency and gravity of which are now apparent to the government’.” While these so-called “welfare grants”—a term that refers to the fact that many recipients would not be able to survive without them—gave publishers a level of financial security, real solutions to foster a healthy Canadian publishing industry came in 1974 from the major structural measures (defined by Roy MacSkimming as “purchasing policies and regulations that would create a bigger presence for Canadian books in the distribution system” ) of foreign importation and ownership restrictions. New policies tasked the Federal Investment and Review Agency (FIRA) with regulating foreign investments in the book industry and restricting them unless they provided a “net benefit” to Canada. These measures succeeded in halting an encroaching Americanization (in content as well as ownership) of Canadian publishing, allowing domestic publishers to truly flourish. Finally, 1979 saw the creation of the Canadian Book Publishing Development Program (later known as the Book Publishing Industry Development Program [BPIDP], now called the Canada Book Fund [CBF]), which is the foundation for most of today’s federal industrial support and the wellspring from which the Supply Chain Initiative (SCI) and BookNet Canada came to be.
1.1.1 The pre-Initiative supply chain
BookNet Canada was formed as a response to two key issues: the need to implement technologically focused, universally adopted supply chain standards and solutions (including a centralized sales reporting database), and a home grown industry debacle in 2000 involving the near collapse of Chapters, Canada’s major book retailer. To begin with the first issue, at the turn of the twenty-first century Canada’s trade book industry tracked sales and measured its growth the same way it had for decades: by periodically combining information from disparate firms and stores, reading occasional government studies, and gathering educated guesses from industry professionals. The closest thing to a national database was the Canadian Telebook Agency’s (CTA) bibliographic data microfiche of titles in print and their sourcing information. The CTA’s data collection and distribution practices laid the foundation for BNC, but at the time aggregated sales data was still unavailable. As Peter Waldock, an industry leader in many capacities (from presiding over Penguin Books Canada to the Canadian Association of Book Wholesalers and the BNC Board of Directors), recalls:
It’s funny to think now how little info we had before BookNet. None of us really knew what was selling out there, except anecdotally. You had reps calling every week with a list of titles to ask how many we’d sold in the last week. That was the “market research,” so not very sophisticated or accurate. A lot of companies just used the “Oh, well it’s selling well out there!” model. Okay, but how do you define “well”? We had no idea what stock levels were, what returns levels were likely to be, or what reprints would be needed until it had reached a panicked state and reprints of books for Christmas were delivered in January, which was no use to anybody. It was very unprofessional, with a lot of “by guess and by golly.”
In the early 2000s, the only publishing industry in the Western, English-language world without a national sales data system was Canada’s. While this may lead some to dismiss Canada as “late to the game,” Doug Minett (the Supply Chain EDI Chair at BISG, original CTA and BNC board member, and owner of The Bookshelf in Guelph) stresses that since the CTA had been trying to implement technological standards in publishing since the early 1980s, this assumption is misguided. Still, the idea that BNC was revolutionizing the supply chain was useful for the SCI’s purposes:
CTA became BookNet Canada. In order to sell it politically, that’s what they had to do: give it a new name, wind the old one down, and wind up the new one. CTA was involved in all of the stuff that BNC got to be involved in, except there was no will to make it happen.
The “will” harnessed by BookNet Canada in its effort to improve the Canadian book industry supply chain was apparent in the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage’s recommendations to the industry in 2000. The Committee met in December 1999 to “monitor the link between the Government of Canada’s support to the book industry and the provision of increased choice of Canadian-authored materials to Canadian readers,” and to discuss other issues related to Canadian Heritage legislation. The Committee sought information from a variety of sources, including book industry representatives, in order to gather background knowledge and develop an understanding of the issues affecting Canadian publishing. The Committee’s recommendations were presented in the report The Challenge of Change: A Consideration of the Canadian Book Industry in which it “identified a number of crucial areas for policy development and action for various actors across Canada’s book publishing chain.” Many of the recommendations were based on a need for technological standards and reliable data. For example, Recommendation 6.1 states:
The Committee recommends that the Department of Canadian Heritage establish a five-year technological transition program to strengthen all segments of the Canadian book industry. This must include authors, publishers, distributors, wholesalers, marketers, retailers, and libraries. At least some of the elements of the program need to include the industry as a whole, regardless of ownership, size or language. For example, developing a workable system for the electronic exchange of information (EDI) will require agreement on a common standard that can be supported by publishers regardless of ownership and bookstores regardless of size.
The importance of providing a unified sales reporting service is communicated in Recommendation 6.3:
The Committee recommends that the Department of Heritage offer to co-fund with the industry a study for the French and English language book markets that examines the mechanics of setting up an efficient, timely collection of sales information for the book selling industry, including sales through non-traditional book retailers (e.g., discount stores) and the Internet.
1.1.2 The Chapters/Indigo merger and General Distribution collapse
In a manner that some would say is characteristic of government initiatives, the need for supply chain intervention and change was clearly identified, but action was not taken until the industry’s shared risk became apparent enough that proactive steps were the only possible option left with which to avoid systemic breakdown. This realization occurred after increased consolidation in the retail sphere resulted in the formation of Chapters Inc., a chain that included both Coles and Smithbooks. Chapters became known for aggressive business practices that put its own interests first and last in its dealings with competitors and suppliers. For example, the chain sent publishers an abnormally high percentage of book returns, which threatened the cash flow of many firms. Yet due to its immense market share, Chapters had the power to dictate its own discount and return terms with publishers who worried that if they did not agree, their titles may be removed from all of Chapters’ stores. Not content with being solely a bookseller, in 1999 Chapters opened a wholesaling division called Pegasus. Roy MacSkimming recalls, “With the advent of Pegasus, publishers’ worst suspicions [about Chapters’ business practices] were confirmed. Pegasus demanded from them a wholesaler discount of fifty-percent plus, in place of the forty-five to forty-eight percent they had been giving Chapters.” Pegasus then continued to create a very high number of returns (fifty to sixty percent compared to the industry average of twenty to thirty percent ) to generate credit in lieu of paying its bills.
One company was particularly vulnerable to Chapters’ financial practices: General Distribution Services (GDS), the distribution arm of General Publishing. GDS counted nearly 200 publishers among its clients, including many of Canada’s English-language literary presses. As MacSkimming recalls, GDS “relied on the chain for 70 percent of its sales of new releases. When Chapters started playing dangerous games with credit notes and returns, GDS was directly in the line of fire.” Since GDS was already struggling financially after its American lender, the Finova Group, declared bankruptcy in the fall of 2001 , this was an extremely bad time for GDS’s largest client to interrupt its tenuous cash flow. Between delayed payments and extraordinary returns levels, GDS started running out of cash and was unable to pay its own publishers, eventually filing for bankruptcy in April, 2002.
To make matters worse, a huge amount of publisher inventory was left in limbo in the GDS warehouses and “an Ontario judge brought down a ruling that crushed the client publishers. They’d argued that their accounts receivable were their property […] but the court’s interpretation of their distribution agreements was that GDS owned the receivables.” Not only did many small publishers lose substantial inventory assets, but they also lost the supply chain infrastructure that GDS had provided for them. While Chapters cannot be blamed for doing what was necessary to keep itself afloat, since its own closure would spell disaster for many others, its “growth at any cost” business strategy was certainly one of the causes for the events outlined above. It was an important turning point for the both the industry and government’s conception of the publishing supply chain as symbiotic in nature; as expressed by Doug Minett, “There was a strong realization that something had to give or the industry was in real trouble,” since the shared risk of retailers, distributors, and publishers meant that the troubles of one company could affect all points in the chain.
One final factor opened the door for BNC to enter and re-work the supply chain: the creation of a national chain that put technological standards as a priority. “Indigo appeared with just three or four stores, and Heather Reisman clearly wanted to be the player in Canada,” recalls Doug Minett, “which she did by purchasing Chapters. The big difference between the early days—where three chains [Coles, Classics, and Smithbooks] and Chapters were technologically incompetent—and the Reisman era was that she realized that she had to have a healthy supply chain or it wasn’t going to work.”20 The positive, galvanizing effects of consolidation need to be acknowledged here, as expressed by BNC President and CEO Noah Genner:
Consolidation into one dominant player made people look a lot more at standards and technology development. Indigo is a fairly forward-thinking company, and when it merged with Chapters it started to look for cost savings by doing things in standard ways. The other side of that coin is that the independents had to standardize in order to keep up. So if changes were going to be pushed for Indigo, they would have to be viable for the whole market.
1.1.3 The creation of the Supply Chain Initiative and BookNet Canada
Based on the recommendations of the Standing Committee, it was clear that there needed to be a BPIDP component dedicated to supply chain technology and efficiency. In the summer of 2001, a Steering Committee of industry representatives was formed to “act as the initiative’s champion […and] secure total industry participation in practices to improve the supply chain for books.” In June 2002, the Steering Committee presented to the industry its plans for the Supply Chain Initiative with DCH funding. The mandate of the SCI was “to identify inefficiencies in the Canadian book publishing supply chain (the movement of books from one point in the chain to another; from the author to the publisher to the warehouse to the library and bookseller and often times, back), to recommend strategies for improvement, and to implement change in the industry.” This would be no small feat, so the SCI would need dedicated representatives to work full-time to bring its mandate from conception to reality. Therefore, the Steering Committee recommended the creation of a not-for-profit agency:
[The agency] should not be an aggregator [of data], but a facilitator for the transmission of accurate and timely bibliographic data to a preferred aggregator. The new agency would also serve as the industry facilitator for the exchange of electronic documents between trading partners. And lastly, the agency would encourage sales tracking.
The first steps in the creation of BookNet Canada (a process documented extensively in Section 12 of Heather MacLean’s project report) began as such: it was agreed that the CTA would be converted into—and its projects taken up by—the new agency, and a Board of Directors was formed with representatives from the Canadian Booksellers Association (CBA), Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP), Canadian Publishers Council (CPC), and the Association of Canadian Book Wholesalers. Peter Waldock was the Canadian Book Wholesalers representative. When asked how people responded to the new agency in those early days, he states:
The decision to build BookNet Canada and to run it like a business was unlike that of a lot of other initiatives in our industry, where we worked with dedicated amateurs and results were commensurate with the inability to spend money on professionals to work on the projects. I was previously involved with CTA, but we had very little money. With BNC we determined that we wanted to go full-bore and spend a lot of bucks of professionals like Michael Tamblyn, and the rest is history. We had a terrific team of people, and that’s what drove it forward and got us widespread industry support because those kids knew what they were doing and did good work. Instead of some dumb committee from one of the associations that gathers once every three months, this was a full-time occupation for a whole bunch of people.
As mentioned by Waldock, Michael Tamblyn (a former bookseller and technological proponent involved in Canada’s first forays in online bookselling at Bookshelf.ca and Indigo.ca) was hired as BNC’s founding CEO. The agency launched in December 2002 and quickly got to work fulfilling its goals to ensure the industry had access to a cost effective and efficient electronic communications platform, improve the quality and accessibility of commercial databases, provide point-of-sale aggregation services, and explore a scheme for group buying of supply chain enhancing products and services.
1.1.4 Introducing BookNet Canada
BNC was the product of a rather unprecedented approach to industry solutions. The distinction of being “unique” would come characterize the agency, from its role in the industry to its business model and level of success in bringing about positive change. BNC is an industry-led, “not-for-profit agency dedicated to innovation in the Canadian book supply chain;” it represents the industry as a whole, and is overseen by a Board of Directors who speak for the industry and bring its needs to the table. When asked about BNC’s relationship to the publishing community, Noah Genner stresses the central role of the Board: “The Board is a cross section of the industry, or at least of everyone in our constituency. We rarely do things without going to talk to them first; they are our bellwether.”
Government funding through DCH is essential for BNC’s operations and their mandate to “level the playing field and make sure everyone has access to the same knowledge base and tools.” As Waldock states, “You wouldn’t have BookNet without the government [funding]; the market isn’t big enough. They could do it in the UK and US without government support, but here it was absolutely vital.” BNC charges publishers and distributors SDA subscription fees in order to maintain and upgrade the system; if BNC did not also receive financial support from the government, subscription prices would have to be much higher and SDA would be financially out of reach for many of the smaller firms. In essence, government support allows BNC to invest in the health of the market as a whole, rather than making it necessary to focus on the players who will lead to large billings. In Genner’s words:
That funding allows us to be the ‘Switzerland’; it levels the playing field for us. If it didn’t, it would be hard to devote the attention we do to the smaller people (in volume, not cultural importance) because we would have to be generating money from somewhere, as in from the big players. DCH funding offsets that potential imbalance and allows us to spread resources down the long tail. Other countries don’t have that.
In the US, for example, the for-profit organizations Bowker and Nielsen must actively focus their resources on those who have paying interests. In contrast, BNC operates as a nonprofit on behalf of the entire industry, so any revenue beyond costs that BNC makes from subscriptions is funneled back into upgrading SDA and developing other projects. BNC also prices SDA subscriptions on a sliding scale relative to a client’s size in the industry, and provides free training and online tools so that small companies are able to bolster their technological skillset without having to spend a lot of money. “Ultimately,” Genner notes, echoing the philosophy beneath decades of federal support for publishing, “it’s about improving or maintaining cultural diversity in Canadian publishing. We’re trying to make sure that everyone can take advantage of the same technology.” The inter-connectedness of the Canadian book-industry supply chain means that solutions for improving it need to be viable, and affordable, for all stakeholders.
BNC’s first order of business as a fully-formed organization was to develop a vigorous electronic data interchange (EDI) network on Bowker’s PubNet. The support of the government, the major national retailer, and a dedicated and ambitious team were key factors that led to the EDI project’s rapid rate of success, making it the ideal opening act through which to introduce BNC as a driving force within the Canadian publishing industry. While EDI was previously promoted by CTA and was already part of Canada’s supply chain infrastructure, it had not yet been implemented as an industry standard. When asked about setting up EDI in the CTA era versus that of BNC, Doug Minett states:
CTA had never gone into the world of specifications and certifying that people would reliably do it. For instance, I could order electronically from twenty publishers, but they wouldn’t give me anything back. It was a one-way thing; publishers got something, but retailers got nothing. None of the publishers had bothered to do the implementation because no retailer had demanded it.
The major difference between the early days of EDI and the work begun by BNC in 2003 is that Indigo, the supply chain’s most influential technological proponent, wanted to trade reliable EDI documents with its business partners. An auction amongst EDI networks for the entire Canadian market was held, and Bowker’s PubNet won the bid. The quickest and most effective way to make EDI a viable standard across an industry not known for its willingness to embrace new technologies was through mandatory certification—to guarantee that the trade of documents would work—and a little strong-arming. Minett recalls, “A lot of big American publishers said, ‘Why do we have to use this?’ and I could say ‘I’m speaking for Indigo here.’ I used Indigo’s muscle, [and] BookNet’s organization and technological inclusiveness.” Indigo’s involvement secured the large companies, and BNC’s “technological inclusiveness” targeted and secured the smaller players. The result is an EDI network that “is head and shoulders above the rest of the world” as far as the number of reliable documents traded, even though it uses the exact same network (PubNet) as the US, which has not carried out the same sort of mandatory EDI testing that Canada has.
2. BNC SalesData: An Overview
After a successful debut with the EDI implementation project, BNC began to work toward what would be its signature contribution to the Canadian book publishing supply chain: BNC SalesData. Since Nielsen BookScan was already being used in the US and UK, many assumed that Canada would follow suit and use Nielsen, but BNC wanted to build its own application. This was a risky move since it was such a big project, but the payoff would be huge: Canada could own its own sales data. The BNC Board supported the plan, knowing that the BNC team was skilled enough for the undertaking. As Doug Minett stresses:
Michael and Noah had been involved with building the Bookshelf website, which was a big piece of technology in 1995. They were used to going through big technological projects and making them happen. Still, for the Board and DCH to support doing our own thing required a lot of courage on their part. It was inherently risky since most technological projects are unsuccessful, and we had to deliver quickly.
Deliver they did; by December 2005, SalesData was up and running. While the service would have been ready faster if BNC had signed on with Nielsen, the long-term benefit to building a system from scratch is that Canada, not Nielsen, owns the data. This gives BNC much more freedom to tailor the service for the needs of all members of the Canadian industry.
At its core, SDA enables data sharing within the Canadian book publishing community. A detailed overview of the SDA platform and its functions will be provided shortly, but for now a basic outline is as follows: paying subscribers (publishers and distributors) can see varying levels of book data updated once a week from point-of-sale data provided by contributing retailers (who become automatic subscribers once they start sharing their data). Bibliographic data pulled from Bowker provides information about each title. There is an aggregated, market-wide view available to all users, and each user sees sale and inventory data specifically for the titles they publish or sell. This view can be further augmented by which groups a user belongs to, such as a “peer group” of independent retailers, or a group that stems from peer-to-peer business relationships. Therefore, data that at one time in fairly recent history were considered proprietary or a trade secret can be shared and opened up to the industry at large in an aggregated fashion.
It is important to distinguish SalesData, a data-sharing network, from open data systems in general. While SDA does enable data sharing within the publishing community, it is not open data. According to the Open Knowledge Foundation, “any kind of content or data […] is open if you are free to use, reuse, and redistribute it—subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and share-alike.” Open data is “open” in a philosophical sense, as well as a mechanical one. The data in SDA, although more open and shareable than they were five years ago, are still not “open data.” The public is not able to browse SDA and those who do have access to the data are not allowed to redistribute them (unless it is data is specifically related to their titles, as per the above explanation).
1.2.1 The early days of SDA, and industry feedback
Once SDA was built, the next step—prior to launching it—was to recruit retailers to contribute data and to sign up publishers as subscribers to generate revenue and test the system. Peter Waldock recalls the key steps necessary to move that process forward:
It wasn’t going to fly without Indigo, and it wasn’t going to fly without Random House, and a few others in between. It was a fairly tough slog and it took a while as we expected, but we could turn to the UK and say, “Look, it works.” I brought over David Young from Hachette UK to address all of the publishing heads. He sold them; if they needed that last shove he gave it to them. He was a very business-oriented and smart publisher, and he gave them the “A to Z” of why they should sign up.
Although there was a clear need for a national book sales tracking system (as identified by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage), BNC understandably encountered some reluctance on the part of those who would be releasing their data since there was no precedent in the book industry for sales data sharing (other than peer relationships where, for example, Indigo sent Random House sales data back to Random House). By leveling the playing field as BNC pledged to do, the agency in turn took away “some players’ competitive advantage.” Still, once publishers began testing the data the initial fears dropped away. Jackie Fry, Project Manager at BNC, recalls:
Publishers thought that [SDA] was going to expose something about them, a weakness or a strength, and that having competitors seeing each others’ sales numbers would breach some kind of secret. What became obvious as the beta testers (we had several large and small firms beta test the site for us) got in and looked at the data is that they loved seeing their own numbers—a huge win for them—and they couldn’t believe how much they loved seeing their competitors’ numbers.
BNC now focuses on proving that the bottom-line improvements and overall industry benefits that result from sales data aggregation provide far greater business advantages than keeping sales information in a silo does. When asked how BNC approaches discussions with retailers who are reluctant about data sharing, Project Manager Tim Middleton states, “The main argument is the bottom line. For example, we [tell retailers that we] will take your grunt work of having to report your sales to each publisher.” No matter what the reason for reluctance is, Noah Genner poses this question: “Isn’t there more value in being able to see what’s going on to help the industry remain healthy as a whole?”
While names of the original contributing retailers are confidential (except for Indigo, since it is common knowledge that the service would be useless without the national chain’s data), Jackie Fry states, “[BNC] had been recruiting for two years, basically since Michael [Tamblyn] was hired. When the [user] requirements were written and they got ready to launch, they had most of the major retailers that are in today.” Ria Bleumer, former manager of Duthie Books in Vancouver, current owner of Sitka Books and Art, and contributor to SDA since 2008 remembers the independent bookselling community’s early reactions to the service:
We didn’t want publishers to be able to go into our systems and get sales data and know exactly what we were up to, and not up to, for the fear of losing some kind of control and power in the future. We were concerned that down the road distributors would develop programs to tell us what we need. That was one of the underlying fears, but it’s not happening.
Although a certain element of power is lost when suppliers can see the exact details of how their product is selling in your store without having to request the data from you first, Ria’s final point emphasizes that the fear of a loss of control over stock was unfounded. In response to any worries about a singular entity such as BNC amassing data which could be tapped into and misused, Noah Genner ensures, “That’s why we take anonymity and access very seriously, and we maintain a level of ‘third-party-ness’.”
Interestingly, all three of the booksellers interviewed for this report—Doug Minett, Ria Bleumer, and one manager of a specialty independent who asked to remain anonymous—answered the question “How can retailers use SDA?” the same way: that it is much more useful for publishers. Bleumer elaborates, “But we are all part of one industry; it comes back at the bookseller,” “it” being the benefits gained from having SDA in the market, a topic to be reviewed at length shortly.
1.2.2 The basics of SDA
Currently, the seventy-five percent of trade book sales tracked by BNC SalesData comes from data provided by about 1000 unique store locations. Within the system, these stores are organized into various groupings: about 100 aggregates of regional and store-level breakdowns (such as an “All Stores” aggregate for a chain retailer), and two Peer Groups made up of similar independent retailers who have requested to see each other’s sale and inventory data. Retailers do not see each other’s data, and are able to choose which publishers are able to see their company’s data as separate from the industry-wide “All Market” aggregate; currently, the largest number of retailers a publisher can see is twenty-two. Data for the previous week (Monday to Sunday) are loaded on Wednesday nights, and are available to subscribers on Thursday mornings; to avoid confusion, please note that this data set is referred from here on out as the “current week” of data, as in the most recent data available. If a retailer’s data come in earlier than Wednesday, they are available to users as “early preview data” and can be built into reports, but are not folded in to the aggregated data summaries discussed below.
When a user signs in to SDA, they reach a homepage that showcases the most recent data in a few different tables: the Sales Summary, Bestseller Lists, and Industry Snapshot. These tables are updated on Thursday mornings, when the aggregated data is released. The Sales Summary compares the user’s sales data in value and volume for the Week Ending ____ (the current week), Previous Week, This Week Last Year, Year to Date, and Last 52 Weeks to that of the whole market and any peer views that the user is permitted to see (see Image 1.1). For publishers, “peers” are retailers who have approved peer-to-peer access (the ability to see one store’s numbers as separate from the All Market aggregate); very few retailers can see peer data, aside from those in the two designated Peer Groups.
Image 1.1: Sales Summary
The three Bestseller tables (Fiction, Non-Fiction and Juvenile) provide a snapshot of the top five bestselling titles from the most recent week in each category by binding (hardcover, paperback, mass market, trade paper, other); alternatively, the user can click to see the top 100 titles. These tables are populated by both bibliographic (title, author, binding, subject) and sales data (volume sold, value sold by average actual selling price [AASP], value sold by list price); retailers only see the All Market view, while publishers can choose to see bestsellers from their titles only and/or the All Market. Finally, the Industry Snapshot shows the sales and inventory data of the All Market in the current week and prior periods (see Image 1.2).
Image 1.2: Industry Snapshot
The Snapshot shows Total Volume Sold, Total Value List, Total Value AASP, Total OH (units onhand) and Total OO (units on-order); publishers have the option to view data from their firm only, while retailers do not see OH or OO in the Industry Snapshot and only have the All Market view.
SDA enables users to create a variety of reports from the data. First is the Title/ISBN Report, which opens whenever a linked title or ISBN is clicked. This report provides all of the bibliographic information associated with that title (including bestseller lists and media mentions), a Sales Summary of year-to-date or lifetime sales, and a table that lists the title’s weekly sales in the All Market, starting with the current week (see Image 1.3). Those with peer-to-peer access can also see how a title has performed in a specific location.
Image 1.3: Title-ISBN Report Table
Next, the Bestseller Report shows up to 30,000 top-selling titles based on criteria selected by the user, such as subject, date range, publisher, and/or author. Aside from basic bibliographic data, the report gives each title’s Rank (the default sorting mechanism of the report), Previous Rank, Units Sold, Units Sold Previous, Percent Change (from time period being reported on compared to most recent time period of same length), Value Sold (List and AASP), OH, OH Last Week, OO, Weeks on List, Number of Stores, and Lifetime Units and Sales; retailers do not see inventory columns or Number of Stores. In addition, the Market Share Report shows publishers and retailers the actual number in units and the percent of the total market represented by certain publishers across subjects, binding, or time (see Image 1.4).
Image 1.4: Market Share Report Options
The last two SDA reports combine data from the other reports in illuminating ways. The Title Trend Report displays the performance of multiple titles across thirteen weeks, quarters or years in value and units sold for any market that the user has peer access to. The Title by Market Report, on the other hand, compares the value and units sold of multiple titles in a single time frame, but across multiple markets.
1.2.3 Practical uses of SDA in the book trade
As the booksellers pointed out, most of the practical uses for SDA benefit publishers and distributors rather than retailers. Referring to her time spent at H.B Fenn, Carol Gordon (Publisher Liaison at BNC) notes, “I was using it in all kinds of ways, for co-op, tracking promotions, looking for the sales performance of the product line that I managed.” These sales and marketing benefits are accompanied by the ability to perform more accurate category development, as discussed by Jackie Fry:
I’ve found out anecdotally that publishers have changed the way they develop a category; if they’re interested in publishing in an area that maybe they’re not so experienced in, they’ll definitely use SDA to see what kind of sales they can expect from that type of category, and whether its worth investing time and money and staff in developing an area.
Another practical effect of SDA on sales and marketing is accurate bestseller lists. “Instead of educated guesses by booksellers or wishful thinking by journalists—a fair description of newspaper and magazine bestseller lists in the past—it was finally possible to know accurately which books were selling the most copies each month,” notes Roy MacSkimming. A spot on a national bestseller list will increase a book’s sales even more, so accurate lists are essential in order to truly level the playing field.
On the inventory management side, publishers can reap many practical benefits from SDA. First, they can improve print run estimation based on the sales data for comparable titles or an author’s previous work. Educated guesses about the demand for a title in the marketplace may help to reduce returns. While no concrete data have been released about how SDA has affected return rates, many of the BNC staff interviewed mentioned that they have heard about reduced returns anecdotally from clients. In any event, there has been a reduction in stockouts (as Peter Waldock noted); since publishers can actually see how much and how fast a title is selling, they can plan for reprints accordingly.
While it may be easier for publishers to find practical uses for BNC SalesData, there are of course ways for retailers to use the data as well. Ria Bleumer notes:
Having access to BNC data means I can go on the site and see how a title is doing “on the grass,” across the country. It could be a top-seller that does equally well across the country versus a regional book that spikes in Toronto or Ontario, where the sales are very low here. It gives you a really good indication, if you don’t already know, about what you potentially need to beef up on.
Additionally, retailers can use the data to source books by seeing who distributes a book in Canada. If they are part of a Peer Group (a value-adding option for retailers to be discussed further in Part 2), booksellers will be able to see what their peers are selling, and how many they have on hand and on order. Tom Woll endorses this concept in his advice to the retail sector in Publishing for Profit: “By knowing what’s selling, when it’s selling, and where it’s selling, accounts can control their buying better.” Yet many retailers are not as optimistic as Woll about data sharing; the next section of this report will review the sensitivities surrounding sales data, and the mediative role BookNet Canada plays in these data politics.
1. BookNet’s Pledge to “Do No Harm”
While an outside observer may assume that book industry sales data are fairly benign, one of BookNet Canada’s main priorities is to keep this information confidential. Essentially, data are granular information from which conclusions are drawn. As the cliché, “Information is power,” reminds us, numbers command a significant amount of power and respect in our society; producing data is often the definitive method to win an argument or prove a theory. This is why sales data are traditionally kept in-house except for when they have positive connotations (for example, a publisher’s year-end press release may state how they sold fifty percent more units than the previous year). Sales information can reveal a lot about the trade secrets of a business, such as where certain books sell better than others. As a conduit for the sharing of the majority of the Canadian book trade’s sales data, BNC prioritizes keeping this information safely within the controlled network. They do not tolerate misuse of SalesData numbers since that may lead to the contributors losing confidence in data sharing. The BNC Media Policy, housed on the BNC website, makes clear that this protective stance is not only central to the agency’s own operations, but encouraged in anyone using BNC products:
BookNet Canada is happy to provide percent changes, relative rankings and commentary on industry trends, but cannot provide unit sales or comment on the performance of individual titles – and we ask our subscribers to follow the same guidelines. Our first responsibility is to protect the data that the retailers have entrusted us with. We don’t want to make retailers uncomfortable. Their data makes the system go, so if this data is used to embarrass a retailer or make them look bad, they could decide to stop sharing data with us. […] BNC SalesData is about helping book industry professionals make more informed decisions. It isn’t about using data to criticize other publishers, retailers or authors. 
To this end, BNC aims to embody neutrality in all of its actions and public representations, even those that are out of the agency’s control. Elaborating on this policy, Noah Genner says,
We don’t speak about individual retailers or books, to the media or just generally, because we don’t want to a) embarrass anyone or b) threaten anyone’s competitive advantage. That goes for independents, Indigo, Costco, everyone. We really do have to maintain this third-party view, this Switzerland view. That’s why I get really worked up when someone speaks as they did with the Penguin/Stieg Larsson thing, [see below] since one of our primary tenets as a business is to maintain anonymity and “do no evil.”
The “anonymity” Genner speaks of is that of the SalesData contributors. There are only a few sanctioned instances of a retailer’s store-specific data being viewed by a third party: through SDA maintenance by BookNet employees, and approved peer views. BNC takes unsanctioned views of retailer-specific data—whether accidental or pre-meditated—very seriously. This includes exposure to the media and the public, which was the case in the Stieg Larsson incident mentioned by Genner. On May 20th, 2010, the publishing trade magazine Quill and Quire released an article about how Indigo, which usually receives stock earlier than the independent stores, had started selling Larsson’s highly anticipated The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest eleven days in advance of its official on-sale date of May 25. Not content with mere eyewitness accounts of the books on sale in Indigo, Quill printed the following:
One bookseller, who asked not to be named, confirmed that, according to BookNet Canada sales data, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest sold 1,238 copies on the weekend, a period during which Indigo was presumably the book’s de facto exclusive vendor. The title ranked #41 on BookNet’s overall bestsellers list for the week ending May 16.
Here, BNC’s neutrality was undermined by a third-party who released confidential data to use as damaging evidence of the actions of a specific organization (Indigo). Interestingly, Indigo had done nothing legally wrong (Penguin did not have an embargo on the title, so the on-sale date attached to the book was not legally binding), yet the unnamed bookseller who released the information did. All SDA subscribers are required to sign a contract that prohibits the sharing of any SDA data that are not proprietary to one’s own company. Since there was no way to find out who had leaked the number, BNC responded by reminding all subscribers about the terms of the contract and the termination that would result from breaking them.
Aside from contracts, another way that BNC protects the industry’s sales data is through frequent testing of the SDA site and its functions. If a subscriber contacts BNC about an anomaly in the data, the issue is examined to see if it is a one-off glitch or a wider problem affecting other subscribers. This is done by signing in to test accounts or to those that have agreed to be used for testing, and then running reports and checking access limitations to make sure that everything is working as it is supposed to. Once every quarter or so, a BNC intern or team member will carry out more thorough testing according to a test-case workbook for all of SDA’s functions and accessibility options by both publisher and retailer account types. The workbook lists the expected result for each possible action in SDA, and after testing the tester marks down whether it was a “Pass” or “Fail”. This way, no corner of the system escapes routine testing. Yet, as Jackie Fry explains, even though BNC has proactive measures to protect its clients’ data, there is only so much the agency can do:
Usually most people are very good about knowing what they do and don’t have access to, but there are always going to be people with intent who want to get access, and people who are willing to share their password. For that kind of access, there’s not a lot we can do. We do allow the free flowing of data; it can be emailed out of the service, [… but] we do monitor where data is accessed from, and as soon as we hear about any kind of breach we take steps toward legal action with cease-and-desist letters. Fortunately it hasn’t come to that too often; most of the time it’s a misunderstanding.
2.1.1 Tools for collaborative commerce
While the above strategies allow BNC to “do no harm” by preventing unauthorized data sharing within SDA, the agency also “does good” by enabling the opposite: industry collaboration through BNC services, specifically with the tools that fall under the category of “collaborative commerce.” Collaborative commerce is defined as “Online collaboration and interactions among the employees, business partners, and customers of diverse firms belonging to a trading community or business segment.” BNC’s tools for collaborative commerce in the book publishing industry are SDA, BiblioShare, CataList, and Prospector.
BiblioShare is a bibliographic metadata service that collects, quality-tests, and distributes a publisher’s ONIX files to multiple trading partners. Participation is free, but the rewards are significant: “BiblioShare helps publishers and wholesalers have a more informed and collaborative relationship, making it easier to stock, supply and promote Canadian titles” by providing clean ONIX files to those who need title information. BiblioShare data will also feed into CataList, an upcoming e-catalogue project for Canadian publishers. Since e-catalogues are gaining popularity as a more efficient way for publishers to promote their latest titles and backlists, BNC has realized that the development costs involved will exclude many small presses, and it will be a nightmare for booksellers and sales reps to have to navigate a variety of e-catalogue programs. Therefore, CataList allows publishers to collaborate by all using the same standard catalogue system, which seems anathema to the isolated way paper catalogues worked, but can potentially make it easier for booksellers to research and buy books. Finally, Prospector—a spin-off of sorts from SDA—allows independent bookstores to see the inventory and sales data of a group of peers (to be discussed in more detail shortly).
SDA enables collaborative commerce since it allows diverse groups from the publishing industry to share their data online and create an accurate representation of the book trade’s sales. A variety of different collaborations take place within SDA, starting with the “group buy” option, where publishers “can actually band together, form a group, and pay the quarterly subscription as a group.” Next, the customizable peer-view option lets retailers define which publishers have access to their specific sales and inventory data. Finally there are the designated Peer Groups pulled from Prospector, a SalesData module developed specifically for independent booksellers who want the option to compare their stock to that of similar stores, rather than to the market as a whole. As stated on the BNC website,
Independents can help each other. Join an anonymous group and compare your stock against sales collected from similar stores. […] At the same time, compare stock turn to see where you might be under-performing and why.
Prospector evolved in response to the experiences of retailers who found that the one million weekly ISBNs in SDA created an information overload. Noah Genner recalls:
What could we do to allow retailers easier and quicker access to the information they need from SDA, and what can we do to strengthen their sales? One option was to give them a different view of the data, which is the gap analysis or comparative reporting, and the other was the ability to share data amongst one another. If you were a general trade independent bookseller and wanted to get only that view of SDA, being able to see what the other twelve retailers like you are doing takes so much of the noise out, and makes it so much more helpful.
While Prospector has helped certain retailers improve their stock turns (the testimonial from Christopher Smith, Manager of Collected Works in Ottawa, reveals that “Sales went up 30% for the [graphica] category in 8 weeks” ), others are still reluctant to embrace the lessened anonymity that comes with the peer group structure. Ria Bleumer explains, “We don’t want that; we can have conversations [with other retailers], but we don’t want another store to be able to go in and basically find out what we’re doing.” It should be said that it is not BNC’s role or intention to define which business strategies are “right” or “wrong” for the industry. Collaboration through data sharing may not work for every company. Yet BNC does serve the industry as a whole, and there are proven benefits to increased collaboration and greater awareness about industry trends while the potential downsides have yet to materialize. For Noah Genner, increased collaboration within the industry is a clear goal:
A lot of retailers are surprisingly altruistic about sharing their data; they think that a healthy industry is better and that if a publisher knows what’s going on in the industry then they can make better decisions. The retailers we have sharing data collaboratively with one another love the ability to do that. That’s the kind of stuff that I personally love; I love that we do this kind of collaboration, and are wrapping context around the numbers.
Prospector is a way for independent booksellers to personalize the SDA data and to put the numbers in a more useful context, such as seeing if stores like one’s own have similar sales trends, successes, and failures. In the words of media theorist Douglas Rushkoff, “Our digital abstractions work best when they are used to give us insight into something quite real and particular;” an independent bookseller may find that the All Market data is too abstract, so Prospector makes business-relevant insight from SDA much more attainable.
2. Adding Value by Putting the Data to Work
As the case of BNC Prospector shows, BookNet Canada is not just content to create and administer tools for the supply chain; instead, the agency prioritizes adding value and helping clients to get the most out of the services they use. In the words of Noah Genner, “We want to give them more value for taking part.” The data may be available, but industry stakeholders do not always have the time to take proper advantage of them. That is why BNC produces a suite of “value-adds” based on the data it collects, from the annual publication The Canadian Book Market to bestseller lists, BNC Research Studies, and quarterly press releases on the state of the industry.
Once a year, BNC produces a comprehensive volume about the previous year’s book sales called The Canadian Book Market(CBM). This practice began in 2007 with CBM 2006, and has evolved every year into a product available in a variety of formats (printed-on-demand, electronic, and intranet) for both SDA subscribers and non-subscribers. This makes the research available to the media, organizations, and individuals who do have access to SDA. Subscribers receive a substantial discount on CBM since they already pay to access the data (for example, a hard copy of CBM 2009 costs $139.99 for a non-subscriber, while it costs $79.99 for a subscriber). The book drills down into fifty categories , using multiple charts and tables:
The Canadian Book Market shows you the top selling titles of the year as well as side-by-side comparative statistics from years previous, including: Peak season, peak week and average weekly sales, publisher and distributor market share, comparative performance analysis by publication date, format and price, [and] unit sales by week, median and average pricing and summary statistics.
The difference between the non-subscriber version—which could be used by the media or universities—and the subscriber version of CBM is that only the latter shows unit sales for specific titles, publishers, and distributors; non-subscribers just see the top five titles in a list, and the percentage of publisher/distributor market share. The CBM is an invaluable tool for anyone who needs detailed, reliable data about the performance of a particular category or the trade book market as a whole, and only BNC has the time and resources to mine the data in this way and show its full potential.
A more publicly accessible (and, arguably, more influential) value-add is that SDA provides weekly bestseller lists for some of Canada’s largest national media. When the current week of data becomes available on Thursday morning, lists of various sizes in categories such as Fiction, Non-Fiction, Juvenile, Mystery, and Business are sent to The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Quill and Quire, and the CBC, based on the type of lists needed for their individual publications. For example, The Globe and Mail requests Fiction, Non-Fiction, Juvenile, Mass Market, and Mystery, as well as two rotating subjects chosen by BNC (such as Parenting and Vegetarian Cooking). When these lists are published, BookNet Canada is credited as the source for the data. These are the only bestseller lists based on point-of-sale data from SDA, and are considered the most accurate lists in the Canadian book trade. Since having a title on a bestseller list puts it in the public eye and further increases sales, accurate bestseller data is very crucial in an industry that often relies on the “buzz” from word-of-mouth promotion. It is only fair that the books that are actually gaining ground across the country are represented in bestseller lists, rather than those selling rapidly in a few particular stores (a method of bestseller-list creation still used by many publications).
The demystification of sales trends that begins with BNC’s data-derived bestseller lists is extended with another value-add, BNC Research Studies. The studies are researched and compiled by a BNC intern, released every two months or so as a downloadable PDF in the document repository on the BNC website, and are free for SalesData subscribers to download. Depending on the appropriateness of the topic, BNC will also create a non-subscriber version of the study that replaces exact sales figures with a less revealing data point (such as a percentage). Non-subscriber versions of the studies are also completely free, and can be accessed with login information found inside the weekly BNC newsletter, eNews. The topics are either based on something timely and newsworthy (What is Barack Obama’s effect on book sales? Who sells more books, J.K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyer?), seasonal research (Which categories sell well at Christmas? What should a publisher expect if one of its titles is nominated for a national book award like the Giller Prize?), or direct responses to suggestions from those in the publishing community who want to make use of specific research.
An example of the latter is a request BNC received in early 2010 that asked for a study on the effect of movie adaptations on book sales. In 2007 BNC Research had in fact produced a study on the effect of movie tie-in covers (“Great Film -But the Book was Better”), but the study was narrowly focused on covers alone, and did not examine the effect of film marketing or the demand pattern for titles prior to and following a movie adaptation’s release. In response to the request, BNC released “From Page to Screen,” a study that “digs into the sales figures for books on which movies are based as well as related backlist titles to see what kinds of trends and patterns can be found.” BNC’s initiative in responding directly to industry research requests (both SDA and eNews subscribers are invited to submit their ideas on the BNC Research homepage) is part of what makes its research an essential value-add.
2.2.1 Tracking industry trends with BNC data
Another way that BNC Research adds value for SDA subscribers and the book trade in general is by mining the nearly five years of cumulative point-of-sale data to uncover overarching and long-term trends. For example, a natural research topic for a company that tracks national data is to determine which titles in a variety of categories are the perennial bestsellers of the Canadian market (a “perennial bestseller” is a title that sells well in relatively steady numbers every year). While this topic was on the “back-burner” of BNC Research for a few years, it only became feasible in the summer of 2010 once there were four full years of data to consult. The “Perennial Bestsellers” study was compiled by searching across a total of fourteen categories (including Fiction, Juvenile, Business, Self-Help, and Sports) for titles that ranked highly every year from 2006 to 2009; the lists were then ranked by sales in 2009 to ensure that the title rankings reflected current relevance. The top twenty were included in the study, and for each category seven books of potential interest (three “Classics and Newsmakers” and four “Titles You May Have Missed”) were accompanied by a short description, the average annual rank, and the average deviation. Average deviation calculates the average difference between the actual sales numbers for a book in each year and the mean of the four-year sales total, revealing whether a title sold steadily year-over-year or had a large jump or decline in sales. The study was released in both SDA subscriber and non-subscriber versions; the non-subscriber version replaced units sold with the average annual rank and average deviation for each title.
While “Perennial Bestsellers” hoped to prove right or wrong the assumptions of anyone in the industry who was curious about continually bestselling titles, booksellers were the target audience for the study. After all, it is in a publisher’s best interest to only focus on which of its titles are perennial bestsellers, rather than those of other firms as well. The goal was for booksellers to use the study’s findings to populate various sections of their store with titles that are proven to sell well in their categories every year. In a sign that this goal was reached, soon after the study was released a representative of Words Worth Books in Ottawa contacted BNC with positive feedback about the study and a statement of intent to use the information to develop some of the store’s sections.
As an organization that benefits from government funding, it may be said that BookNet Canada has a responsibility to “give back” to the general public. A final value-add, quarterly and year-end press releases on industry growth based on sales figures pulled from SDA, addresses the right of society at large to have objective, accurate information about the state of the book trade. “The number of requests we get for our information,” says Genner, “is incredibly high.” Therefore, after the end of each quarter and calendar year, BNC releases data that compares the value and volume sold of the total market and the Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Juvenile categories to the same quarter of the previous year. Occasionally BNC adds some context for the figures, such as from a February 16, 2010 press release that states, “Fiction and Juvenile increased significantly in the last year, perhaps due to the remarkable performance of authors like Dan Brown and Stephenie Meyer.” When asked how and when this practice began, Genner recalls:
We started about three years ago [in 2007], when we started getting a lot of requests from media about how the market was doing. No one had access to that data; it has been released in other markets for a lot longer. We felt it was important for not just the media, but for people to know what was going on.
The media can use the data in these press releases to give context when discussing the book trade. For example, an article in the Financial Post about Indigo’s plan to provide photography services in its stores concluded with the following statement: “The shift at Indigo comes after a solid 2009 in Canadian book retail; book sales rose 4% higher in dollars and 1% higher in units in 2009 over the prior year, BookNet Canada says.” These figures situate the news about Indigo’s restructuring in the context of the book trade’s overall performance. Since the book industry is currently in the media spotlight due to increasing hype about e-books and e-reading devices, it is important for the media and the Canadian public they serve to have factual data about industry growth to balance against the sensationalism that often comes hand-in-hand with news of closing bookstores and the digital revolution.
1. Holes in the Data Set
While SDA is certainly the most wide-reaching, authoritative, and accurate source of point-of-sale data for the Canadian book trade, one drawback is that it is not a complete representation of the Canadian book market. BNC estimates that SDA captures about seventy-five percent of Canadian trade book sales (most online and all e-book sales are missing as well, an issue to be dealt with shortly), and this is made very clear in any press releases, research studies, or website content referring to numbers pulled from SDA. As Noah Genner reminds us:
This is a representation of what’s selling in the market, not everything that’s selling. Sometimes people forget that. I had a letter from an author last week who was angry that we were under-representing the sales of his books; someone gave him the numbers of sales of his books from our system but didn’t put them in context […]. He compared that against his royalty statements and got upset. Under-representation is a concern for us. We’d love to have 100%, but no one has 100%.
There are two main reasons for the gap in SDA’s market penetration. First, it is a fairly new service and BNC is still recruiting retailers; as of December 2010, SDA will only be five years old. While other systems may “model-up” their numbers to make up for sales-reporting gaps (by multiplying the sales of a book by the percentage of the market that is missing), BNC does not see this as a viable solution. Genner recalls, “The industry committees that we worked with at the beginning decided that that’s not what they wanted to do; they wanted hard numbers, and they would know what the difference is.” Since “one of the major goals for SDA has always been to capture as full and complete a picture of the market as possible,” BNC is always signing up new retailers and continuing to narrow the gap.
The other, more problematic, reason for the gap in SDA’s market representation is that many specialty and independent retailers have purposefully refrained from signing on. This is problematic because there is only so much BNC can do to negate reluctance caused by a culture of staunch independence in combination with a fear of large-scale data sharing. Tim Middleton estimates that SDA is missing 700 out of 1700 book retailers79, not including specialty stores (those that sell only Christian books, for example); in his words, “In some ways its easier to get the big guys than the little independents, since the little stores have so many reasons to not get involved,” such as fear of having their sales exposed and the perceived inability to find value in SDA involvement. Even when it comes to value-adds such as Prospector and BNC Research, Middleton notes:
You can give them as many tools as you want, but the truth is that they don’t have time to use them. With bookselling at that level, you’re embedded in your community, you think you know what they want to buy, and some will say, “I don’t need a technological solution.” Some people don’t even have computerized inventory. On the [independent] retail side there hasn’t been the realization that these tools are really useful. […] It’s a tough pitch.
The fear that contributing to SDA may expose one’s sales to competitors “is a ridiculous reason not to share it, because publishers want to sell their books. They’re going to tell other retailers what is selling somewhere, they’re not going to keep it a secret.”
While Middleton makes a good case for contributing to SDA, what is the perspective of the stores that have held out so far? The owner of an independent retailer who does not share data—and is known for significant sales in a specific genre—was asked for their perspective on SDA. The bookseller requested to remain anonymous and unquoted, except for one statement: “We don’t find [SDA] valuable.” This retailer, and many others most likely, know their market niche so well that they cannot see any value in also knowing what is happening in the rest of the market.
Another reason that some independent bookstores may not see value in contributing data to SDA is that they use BookManager, a point-of-sale data management service that provides sales and inventory reports as well as a host of other features. Created in 1986 by an independent bookseller in Kelowna, BC, BookManager has become the standard software for many Canadian independent booksellers, particularly those in Western Canada. BookManager markets itself as a service for staunchly independent companies alone (its website states, “For many independents, BookManager is more than just software—it’s a group of progressive booksellers who are working hard to remain strong and independent” ), and many independents have worked with it for a long time. In addition, the software offers a variety of essential business services in one package, from “ordering, inventory, suppliers, point-of-sale, returns, customers, accounts payable, receiving, reports, accounting, invoicing, [to] accounts receivable and a host of other book industry related tasks.”BookManager is a data analysis option for stores that want to be able to make convenient reports similar to what SDA offers, but do not want to see the rest of the market or share their data. While there is nothing preventing BookManager users from also subscribing to SDA (BookManager even has a special software module that, if enabled, reports point-of-sale data directly to SDA), it so happens that BookManager’s independent bookseller clients are the demographic who are most likely to be wary of SDA. Since it offers similar services, BookManager can be considered a competitor for SDA’s mindshare in the independent bookselling community; in the bookseller’s mind, why would they need to use both? The combination of many years of market presence with the integration of multiple services makes BookManager a “legacy system,” a product in which so much has been invested over time that switching to another can be very detrimental. Even though SDA is free for retailers and BookManager costs $3900, for some retailers the value of keeping their data isolated in an integrated system that serves their business’ needs is greater than that of seeing the market as a whole.
2. The Digital Divide
While missing a portion of retail book sales impacts SDA’s representation of the book market, the changing nature of the book industry supply chain itself is also negatively affecting SDA’s market penetration. Specifically, SDA does not capture most online print book sales, or any e-book sales. Bookselling not only increasingly takes place online, but e-books are growing in popularity; this means that the definition of “book sale” has changed from that of a physical interaction in a bricks-and-mortar location between customer and cashier to something more akin to an online file transfer.
In 2000, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage showed concern about the lack of sales figures for books being sold from websites; Appendix J of their report laments, “There is little up to date information about the sale of books over the Internet in Canada.” Regrettably, that is still the case ten years later. Online book sales in Canada started with Bookshelf.ca, were then pursued aggressively by Chapters.Indigo.ca around the time of the 2002 launch of Amazon.ca, and are now available on the websites of a variety of retailers and publishers. While some retailers do report online sales to SDA, they are folded in to their overall store numbers and cannot be accessed separately; more disappointing is the lack of one retailer’s significant online sales in the system at all. No data exist for the approximate percentage of Canadian book sales that take place online, yet it is big enough for Jackie Fry to identify as “a huge gap; more than any other, people feel that one. They really want to get those numbers, and we’d love to have them.” For SDA to more accurately represent the trade book market in Canada, online sales numbers are essential. If these were was provided to BNC, the title rankings on the bestseller lists could change since certain audiences are more likely to buy certain titles online than in a physical store. From a research standpoint, having access to online sales data would allow BNC to study trends and release reports that may help the industry to be more efficient and make more sustainable choices when developing their digital channels.
The same issue of missing data—which leads to under-representation of certain titles and the inability to understand growing areas of the market—also applies to e-book sales. Unlike online sales, which are included here-and-there in SDA, e-book sales are not represented in the system at all. In Canada, the e-book market is currently made up of Kobo (formerly Shortcovers, formed in partnership with Indigo), Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, and individual sales from publisher websites. When asked about what the industry is missing out on by not having e-book sales data, Noah Genner states that since the sales are small but growing,
It would be really good for publishers to see in an aggregated nature what is happening in the e-book market. When Kobo presents, it’s useful because they’re actually giving out some numbers and saying, “This category is doing well,” and which price points are doing well. There’s a lot of value there.
While many in the publishing industry, such as Peter Waldock, feel that e-books are “‘much ado about nothing’, and a whole lot of noise is being made for less than five percent of the market,” the truth is that there will not be any clear answers or conclusions about the growth (or lack thereof) of e-books in Canada unless the data are collected and tracked in SDA. Publishers are investing time and resources in digitization anyway, and it would be helpful to know what is happening in the market in terms of categorical trends and which titles would appear on a digital bestseller list. Nevertheless, it will be impossible for BNC to recruit e-book data contributors until there are enough retailers and sales to create an aggregate large enough to discourage deductive exposure (where only two retailers have significant sales, and one can deduce the relative sales of the other by subtracting their own numbers from the combined total). Current initiatives in the US and UK to track and chart e-book sales are coming up against the same problems, despite the market being so much larger. Jonathan Nowell, President of Nielsen Book, told The Bookseller:
An e-book chart will be launched in “a matter of months rather than years.” […] “We will clearly, as we are in the print book world, be transparent about who is on the panel down the line,” he said. “But, for the moment, we have to protect the exposure of the individual panellists.” Nowell said the chart would not be launched “unless it is as comprehensive and robust as we can make it”, and stressed the relatively small nature of the e-book market as it is currently.
The tipping point for e-book retailer market growth may come along with the launch of Google Editions, which will give bookstores the option to sell e-books from their websites. As stated in The Globe and Mail in May 2010:
Google Editions will allow people to purchase books they find through the search engine’s database. Booksellers will also be able to run Editions on their own websites, sharing revenue with Google. […] Canadian booksellers who were upset recently when Amazon was allowed to open a physical distribution centre in Canada – something they said would further harm the Canadian book industry – are striking a decidedly more optimistic tone when it comes to Google Editions. “I think it could be a good thing,” said Mark Lefebvre, vice-president of the Canadian Booksellers Association.
If Google Editions accelerates the growth of the e-book retail space, the tipping point for an ebook sales tracking module in SDA may arrive in the very near future.
As was the case in the early days of SDA, BNC is ready and willing to aggregate e-book sales data (and has heard multiple requests for that information) but the impetus to begin sharing data needs to come from the retailers themselves. Since the business models for trade e-book retailing and digital publishing are relatively new, however, companies like Kobo are likely to keep their data in-house (or release it selectively in controlled environments, as Kobo has been known to do in its presentations) until there are enough players in the market to make an aggregate valuable. As Carol Gordon states, “With e-books there is a strategic advantage to not having information in SalesData, since you already know what your numbers are, but I don’t think that will last. There gets to be a point where you think your numbers are good, but you need to start doing some comparative analysis.” Without an aggregate for e-book sales in Canada, the industry remains in the dark about the metrics for this growing sector; for example, there is no ebook bestseller list, year-over-year growth analysis, or data with which to determine if e-book sales are “cannibalizing” print book sales. These are a few of the benefits that would come from having an e-book aggregate in SDA, yet no one wants to the first contributor in the pool. In addition, the online nature of e-book sales simplifies and automates sales data collection, making it easy for companies to collect and keep for themselves (a likely reason why some retailers have yet to report their online sales of physical books to SDA). It may be said that the digital publishing arena is like the Wild West: there is less concern for “the greater good” of the collective industry since, as on the frontier, the dominant ideology is “every man for himself.”
3. Summary and Analysis
Overall, the main reason that SDA does not yet fully represent independent and digital sales is the potential contributors’ lack of confidence that they can “predict trends, manage inventories and reduce costly mistakes” in SDA without revealing trade secrets to their major competitors. This is true for both the independent retail and e-book sectors, both of which operate in markets dominated by one or two other companies (Indigo in the physical bookselling world, and the Amazon-Apple-Kobo triad in the e-book space). Unlike retailers in the much larger US and UK industries, those in Canada’s relatively small book business may be understandably reluctant to give their formidable competition an advantage by contributing to their understanding of the market as a whole. In contrast to publishers, who were quick to embrace SDA since their businesses thrive when they have a clear understanding of the market (for example, by knowing what titles are popular and competing for market share with one’s own, which categories are growing, and who they need to surpass to get on the bestseller list), some book retailers feel that exposing their sales data—even on an aggregated level—is a risk not worth taking if it could jeopardize the small slice of the market that they already do have control over.
The contributors’ confidence in their market position has so far been integral to SDA’s growth. The main reason SDA exists today is because Indigo was confident enough to stand behind the project and be one of the first to contribute data. Other chains then saw that their largest competitor had signed up to receive efficient and cost-effective data analysis through BNC, so they were convinced to join SDA as well. Yet for some staunchly independent stores, much of their identity hinges on being a distinct alternative to Indigo and cultivating an intimate knowledge of their specific community. This knowledge, often built up over many years by a handful of people, is seen as so precious and integral to their business success (something the anonymous retailer from earlier mentioned) that they cannot see any benefit to giving that power up. While Indigo’s support for SDA attracts some retailers, it may also repel those who feel that their bookselling community is in a business environment altogether different to the one dominated by the chain.
One cost of this lack of confidence in collaborative commerce is an industry where little is known about certain categories or regional trends, leaving authors and genres underrepresented and perpetuating an unchanging parade of “blockbuster” books and authors across the top of the ever-influential bestseller lists. Most significantly, however, the reluctance toward collaborative commerce stifles comraderie by focusing on competition as a dominant ideology. While competition is a healthy and integral part of business, it should not eclipse collaboration in an industry that is starting to feel the disruptive effects of a digitized supply chain. For example, the advantage that many local, independent bookstores have over mass market and chain stores is that they have developed an intimate knowledge of their community’s literary tastes and needs, yet this knowledge is vulnerable to ownership changes, staff rotations, and increased competition from the ever-sophisticated recommendation algorithms of online retailers. An early familiarity with SDA as a tool to research the marketplace and track sales would help to offset the disruption that may occur as a new generation of booksellers move in and buying habits evolve.
Since new retailers sign on to SDA every year and very few new stores are opening, it is likely that the percentage of the market’s sales data tracked by BNC will climb higher than seventy-five percent. The launch of BNC CataList as a standard alternative to the coming wave of e-catalogues also has the potential to increase SDA’s market share. The singular, national ecatalogue system will appeal to booksellers who only want to learn how to use one system, and may cause more stores to subscribe to SDA so that they will be able view comparable title data while deciding which tiles to order.
Returning to the e-book sector, confidence in data sharing is likely to grow once more mid-sized players enter the game. Currently, the value of an e-book module in SDA is not very significant to publishers or e-book retailers since the market is fairly monopolistic, with sales shared amongst Kobo, Amazon, and Apple. A “tipping point” of online and e-book sales, where a significant amount of the above triad’s market share is threatened by more heterogeneous competition, will have to occur first in order to make the value of contributing this information equal to the value of the aggregated information received.
Whether this reluctance to share data is a temporary issue or a permanent one depends on the book business’ trajectory in the coming years. If “by the end of 2012, 25% of sales for a new book are digital” as esteemed publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin predicts, mass store closures will occur and bookstores will need to be smarter with their decision-making in order to survive. One strategy will be to collaborate for their mutual benefit, as exemplified by the peer group concept in SDA: rather than fear the possibility of another bookseller discovering the special titles that sell well in one’s own store, peer groups encourage the sharing of these discoveries amongst other retailers with similar types of stores. Within SDA is what Rushkoff calls “a design for our collective future;” all that remains is for the industry to put it into practice.
Much of this report has focused on the BNC mandate to “do no harm,” embodied in SDA’s purpose of serving the greater good of the industry. While this mandate is essential because it reinforces BNC’s third-party stance and reassures new and potential participants that BNC has their best interests at heart, it creates drawbacks of its own by limiting the ways SDA can be used. One such example comes from Peter Waldock, who says, “I’ve always dreamt of the day we’d be able to pick up The Globe and Mail on Saturday and see how many copies each of the bestsellers had sold. We don’t allow that.” It is understandable that Canadian sales data should be less public than that in the UK, since our annual sales are only about a third of the size (BNC tracked 57,209,862 book sales in Canada in 2009 [about seventy-five percent of the market] compared to 235,700,000 in the UK as reported by Nielsen BookScan ). The Canadian book trade’s relatively small size adds to the perception that there are potential personal and business consequences to opening up the data. “Publishers,” Waldock elaborates, “seem to be really hung up on numbers. Often what it is, is that when we actually show sales of Canadian titles, let’s say in the winter, then the numbers are embarrassingly low.” Although SDA was created to provide solid, metrics-based answers about what happens in the Canadian book market, some of these answers have proved to be potentially more harmful than helpful. For example, the “embarrassingly low” sales of certain titles, even in spite of the media attention they receive in the form of reviews on the CBC or in The Globe and Mail, is a reason BNC Research has held back on studying “Can-Con” (Canadian content).
It is possible that if a larger portion of the specialty, independent stores currently missing from SDA contributed their data, the sales numbers may start to tell a different story; still, the only guarantee about the future of SDA is that it will continue to evolve. In the late summer of 2010, for example, BNC began the process of releasing daily data for the peer view clients of one large retailer, a significant change for the system that so far has only produced weekly data updates. Many changes in SDA functionality are inspired by requests from SDA users about what they would like to use the system for. Jackie Fry says, “People wish it would do more; some people really want to see returns numbers in SalesData, like another column saying the number returned per title.” Additionally, Carol Gordon mentions a request from one multinational publisher who “views their local program differently than their entire line, so we’re looking at ways that they can break that data out, for comparison to other local programs. That’s for the associations to work out maybe, whether that’s something other companies are willing to share.”
Collaboration on the permissible extent of data sharing in SDA is essential for the health of the industry going forward; Shatzkin agrees, as his first commandment for the book industry is “Thou shalt regard thy former competitor as thy future collaborator.” Ria Bleumer experienced this first hand in the building of her new bookstore, when Sharman King from the Vancouver-based chain Book Warehouse (which sells a mixture of publisher remainders and discounted bestsellers) offered to transfer the lease of his Kitsilano location to her. This allowed Bleumer to set up Sitka Books and Art at low cost with speed and efficiency, since the space was already designed as a bookstore. In Ria’s words, “That was a perfect example of working together; we need little independent bookstores, and we need places like Book Warehouse. It couldn’t get any better.” It is a good sign for the industry if former competitors (before it closed in 2009, Ria’s former store Duthie Books was only a few blocks away from the Book Warehouse location Sitka inhabits now) can work together on a level as intimate as physical store space. “We have good relationships,” Ria notes, “and they are improving very rapidly. We are finally realizing, and taking action accordingly, that we are all part of the same business and we are colleagues rather than competitors.”
If Bleumer and her colleagues decided to collaborate further with a technological solution such as peer group data sharing, their ideal resource would be BNC. Once again, it is not BNC’s intention to decide which collaboration is best or how much data should be shared, but rather to listen to the industry and address its collective needs and wants by providing the necessary tools.
Now that SDA has created an infrastructure for data sharing and set a precedent for collaborative commerce, there is room to expand this sharing. Doug Minett says:
Many of us would have preferred for date sharing to go much further than it has; onorder and on-hand numbers are not shared. That, to me, is a negative because it keeps people from being able to know what really is going on in the supply chain. The only people who know that data are in peer groups. On-order and on-hand positions tell you right away the thinking of people up front and as things are unfolding, while sales information is like looking at history.
The past five years of SDA have had an immense impact on the way that the trade book industry conceives of its own structure. Referring to sales data, Tom Woll goes so far as to say, “Without this information, publishers can’t do their jobs properly;” Carol Gordon humbly states, “There’s an art and a science to publishing; BookNet gives you the science.” SDA was created out of the perfect combination of urgency (the need to keep track of industry growth and reduce returns in response to the supply chain failure that led to the General Distribution collapse) and ambition (on the part of the “extraordinary group of people” recruited to BNC), and has become an invaluable tool for collaborative commerce in Canadian trade publishing. As the incident involving Chapters and General Distribution proved in 2001, “if the book business is waged as a winner-takes-all military campaign, it fails for everybody.” That may be an extreme example, but it is an important one. Canada’s small but culturally essential domestic publishing landscape is like a symbiotic ecosystem; “For any single publisher or part of this system to be healthy,” notes Roy MacSkimming, “it’s crucial that the rest of the system be healthy also.”
8 Peter Waldock, telephone interview by author, Toronto, ON, August 13, 2010. RETURN
9 Doug Minett, telephone interview by author, Vancouver, BC, August 29, 2010. RETURN
10 Canada, Parliament, Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, The Challenge of Change: A Consideration of the Canadian Book Industry, 2d sess., 36th Parliament, 2000. Committee Report 2. http://www2.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=1031737&Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=36&Ses=2&File=6. RETURN
21 Noah Genner, personal interview with author, Toronto, ON, August 10, 2010. RETURN
22 Heather MacLean, “The Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative: The Inception and Implementation of a New Funding Initiative for the Department of Canadian Heritage” (Master’s project report, Simon Fraser University, 2009), 38. RETURN
23 For a detailed chronology and breakdown of SCI funding structures, see MacLean pages 45-47. RETURN
72 Genner, interview by author, August 10, 2010. RETURN
73 BookNet Canada, “Year over year, book sales up in 2009 both in value and volume.” Press release, February 16, 2010. http://booknetcanada.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=605:20100216-book-sales-inreview&catid=179:2010-press-release-archive&Itemid=555. RETURN
74 Genner, interview by author, August 10, 2010. RETURN
75 Hollie Shaw, “Indigo to try in-store photo departments,” Financial Post, July 6, 2010, http://www.financialpost.com/news/Indigo+store+photo+departments/3243135/story.html. RETURN
76 Genner, interview by author, August 10, 2010. RETURN
78 Fry, interview by author, August 16, 2010. RETURN
79 Since SDA currently tracks about 1000 retailers, we can estimate that the total is 1700. “Book retailer” does not refer only to dedicated bookstores, but to a retail location that sells books as well as other items. RETURN
80 Middleton, interview by author, August 12, 2010. RETURN
87 Fry, interview by author, August 16, 2010. RETURN
88 Genner, interview by author, August 10, 2010. RETURN
89 Waldock, interview by author, August 13, 2010. RETURN
90 Catherine Neilan, “‘Months not years’ for e-book chart, says Nielsen,” The Bookseller, July 26, 2010, http://www.thebookseller.com/news/124123-months-not-years-for-e-book-chart-says-nielsen.html. RETURN
91 Omar El Akkad, “Google bookstore plan could be boon to Canadian industry,” The Globe and Mail, May 04, 2010, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/technology/google-bookstore-plan-could-be-boon-to-canadianindustry/article1556458/. RETURN
92 Gordon, interview by author, August 16, 2010. RETURN
——. “Studies for SalesData Subscribers.” BookNet Canada. http://www.booknetcanada.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=366&Itemid=396.
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ABSTRACT: This paper seeks to illustrate how publishers can take their existing knowledge, expertise and content, and use online tools that are readily available to monetize their content online.
By looking at two case studies – Boxcar Marketing and its online marketing training program and Capulet Communications and its ebook, both which are projects that monetize the companies’ content – the paper explores tactics and best practices for building an online business strategy around content monetization. More specifically, the paper describes the details of feasible online business strategies.
This paper is meant as a how-to, to show how publishers can take advantage of the web to create sustainable online business models based on monetizing content online. The paper provides a workable business case that sorts out the details of online publishing strategies for others to use and build upon.
I would like to thank John Maxwell and Rowland Lorimer for their guidance and encouragement throughout the writing of this project report. I would also like to thank Jo-Anne Ray for her assistance and Darren Barefoot for taking the time to answer my questions about Capulet Communications. I would especially like to thank Monique Trottier for sharing her knowledge and giving me a terrific internship and employment opportunity with Boxcar Marketing. Her help and enthusiasm made this report possible.
I would like to thank my family, friends and fellow classmates for all of their support. And finally, a special thank you to Bob for always being there.
Throughout the first decade of the new millennium the internet has been embraced by institutions, businesses and members of the public and this has eased public access to information – far beyond what was conceivable before the internet. The immediate accessibility of any content uploaded to the web as well as the democratization of online publishing tools, has turned internet users from recipients of information into recipients and participants in the formation of content. In other words, we have all become publishers. As Clay Shirky points out,
We’re not just readers anymore, or listeners or viewers. We’re not customers and we’re certainly not consumers. We’re users. We don’t consume content, we use it, and mostly we use it to support our conversations with one another, because we’re media outlets now too.
As media outlets, internet users are flooding the web with personal blogs, twitter updates, product reviews, and other forms of user-generated content. With these changes to the public’s relationship to content, culture has become overloaded by the vast amount of information available.
This revolutionary change from relative inaccessibility and unavailability to information abundance is a major challenge to book publishers – one that cannot be solved by simply adding a social media position on staff. Rather, it requires publishers to restructure the way they do business.
The web is an opportunity for publishers. With cheap distribution on a much larger scale, the ability to reach highly targeted markets, and the ability to get precise metrics on markets’ behaviours online, publishers should be rushing to the web. But so far they have been hesitant to overthrow the existing business models that they have been comfortable working within for years. While publishers do not need to completely throw out their old way of doing business, they do need to build on and restructure their old models in order to succeed within the new media order.
Publishers are, essentially, experts at making content and information available to the public. They have knowledge, expertise and existing archives of content that are still valuable today and they need to find ways to bring their knowledge, expertise and content over onto the web. One way is to repackage this existing content to sell online and thereby monetize their content on the web.
Online everyone can now publish content and information, including teachers with offline content that can be sold on the web, business professionals with expertise that can be sold online, and traditional nonfiction book publishers with content from print books that can be repackaged for the web. In addition, traditional book publishers have expertise in editing, content packaging, and marketing, all which are valuable online. This paper seeks to illustrate how publishers can take their existing knowledge, expertise and content, and use online tools that are readily available to monetize their content online.
This paper shows how publishers – and anyone with nonfiction content – can monetize their content by building on existing online models. At my internship with Boxcar Marketing, a small online marketing company, I worked to develop an online marketing training program, called Boxcar Marketing Pro, to monetize the company’s content. By looking at how Boxcar Marketing Pro developed as well as at how Capulet Communications, also a small online marketing company, monetized their content by publishing an ebook, I explore tactics and best practices for building an online business strategy around content monetization. More specifically, I describe the details of feasible online business strategies.
This paper is meant as a how-to, to show how publishers can take advantage of the web to create sustainable online business models based on monetizing content online. The paper provides a workable business case that sorts out the details of online publishing strategies for others to use and build upon.
Part Two looks at the current business environment and the problems and opportunities that exist within it. Part Three explores the steps publishers can take to monetize content online. Part Four looks at Capulet Communications’ project and the results that it achieved. Part Five explores Boxcar Marketing’s project, Boxcar Marketing Pro, and outline the steps Boxcar took to monetize the company’s content. The paper concludes by examining what publishers can learn from these projects and how they can use Boxcar Marketing’s case study going forward.
2: THE NEW BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT
2.1 The New Market
Back in 2004, Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired magazine, coined the term for the web’s new market, the Long Tail. The theory of the Long Tail is based on the idea that, with the web, the cost of reaching consumers has fallen dramatically, giving rise to more choice in the market which significantly changes consumption patterns. With more choice, Anderson says,
Our culture and economy are increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of hits (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve, and moving toward a huge number of niches in the tail.
According to Anderson, in Long Tail markets, there is much more potential to make money from previously unprofitable niche products and services, and these niche products can “collectively…comprise a market rivalling the hits.”
In the online marketplace, the cost of reaching consumers has dropped because of three factors: the democratization of tools of production, democratized distribution and the ability to connect supply with demand. Personal computers, the internet and relatively cheap technology and software have democratized the tools of production. Anyone with a computer can set up a blog and become published online. Software like GarageBand and iMovie (which are preinstalled on any Mac computer) give users the ability to record and produce music and films. Production costs are no longer a major barrier to entry. The internet has also democratized distribution, making everyone a distributor with no geographical limits and no costs of physical shelf space and warehousing. The third factor – connecting supply and demand – is the most important because, as Anderson states, it “helps people find what they want in this new superabundance of variety [and is where]…the potential of the Long Tail marketplace is truly unleashed.”
Before the web, consumers found out about goods through mass media (TV, radio, newspapers and magazines) and then passed along this information to family and friends via phone or face-to-face conversations. The information from mass media was usually from advertisers or columnists serving their own interests and most truly valuable information was from friends and family who had bought the product or experienced it themselves and could give their opinion about it. In these circumstances, hyper-targeted products and information are scarce and search costs – things that get in the way of finding what consumers want, like wasted time, hassle, and mistaken purchases – are high.
These dynamics completely change with the web. In this interconnected and hyperlinked environment, consumers now find products with Google’s organic search and peer recommendations and rankings. When consumers are looking for products or information they “Google it” and, almost immediately, have a list of search results regarding the product or information they were looking for from all over the world. From here, they can delve further, clicking on their search results to read peer reviews and get unmediated opinions from peers who have bought the product. Anderson calls these filters. With quality filters consumers move from consuming mass marketed goods to niche goods that are tailored to personal tastes and areas of interest. As Seth Godin states, “the internet was supposed to homogenize us but what it has done is create silos of interest.”
Long Tail markets “…are not pre-filtered by the requirements of distribution bottlenecks…” so consumers need to do the filtering themselves. And once there are quality filters in place the “odds of finding something just right for you are actually greater in the Tail.” Anderson argues that when search costs are low, not only is there less hassle, but also consumers have a better chance of finding what they like. And in an era without the constraints of physical shelf space and other bottlenecks of distribution, “narrowly targeted goods and services can be as economically attractive as mainstream fare.”
The Long Tail is a huge opportunity for publishers. Rather than being costly, online publishing is actually a viable, smarter solution than traditional print publishing. Online content has lower storage and distribution costs as well as lower marketing costs. Products online, if optimized for search, are more likely to be found by those looking for that type of content. When negotiating the online space, taking advantage of Long Tail market dynamics and publishing niche products is where publishers will succeed.
2.2 Pricing Models
In a world where information is no longer scarce and consumers have moved from passive readers and listeners to users and creators of content, how do publishers charge for content? Markets rely on supply and demand and the abundance of supply, in this case content, drives the cost of goods down, even to zero.
Many digital goods cost nothing. News, music and software can all be found for free, or almost free, on the web. Google offers most of its services, like Google Search and Gmail, for free. Copies of digital files – like music, movies and books – are freely available as well.
As a publisher trying to build a business model online, how does one compete with free? Kevin Kelly, editor of Wired magazine, argues that because the internet is “a copy machine…you need to sell things which cannot be copied.” These are qualities that are better than free – for example, trust, immediacy, accessibility, personalization, and findability. Chris Anderson has a similar argument, noting, “…as commodities become cheaper, value moves elsewhere.” And “the way to compete with Free is to move past the abundance to find the adjacent scarcity.” While content is abundant online, quality and expertise is scarce. This is where publishers have the upper hand. They are experts in their subject fields and, in the case of traditional publishers, are also experts at editing, packaging and selling content that is far superior than most of the free content online.
Anderson argues that there are now two economies, the attention economy and the reputation economy. The web is about getting attention – website traffic – and then building a reputation from that traffic – page rank and links.
But how do publishers turn this attention and reputation into revenue?
Google offers Google Search and Gmail for free because these types services are also available elsewhere and having people use its services builds its reputation. But Google charges for its ad program, AdWords, because it has value that no one else can offer. AdWords is built on a brokerage model, replacing the ad agency’s role as the middleman between advertisers and consumers. By positioning itself this way, Google has built a reputation around its brand and has become the world’s most popular search engine. This means that it can earn revenue from its ad programs that have a reach that no one else can match. And something must be working – in 2009 Google earned $23.7 billion in revenue. As Seth Godin states,
People will pay for content if it is so unique they can’t get it anywhere else, so fast they benefit from getting it before anyone else, or so related to their tribe that paying for it brings them closer to other people.
What do these new online pricing models look like? The following is a list of different ecommerce models that are in place on the web, from familiar models such as direct sales and subscription, to Freemium, a model based around Chris Anderson’s ideas about free.
2.2.1 Direct Sales
Direct sales is the most obvious and traditional ecommerce model. This includes companies like Amazon, Ikea and Walmart who sell their products online directly to buyers, similar to the conventional catalogue model. Direct sales can also include content and data sales where companies and organizations, such as Healthcare Canada, sell research data and reports to consumers.
Affiliate pricing models are based on partnerships in which people that like a business or product elect to be an affiliate for it. This model is based on a referral system where the affiliate markets the business on their website and to their community, often with a widget or button that links to a shopping cart, to help “benefit…the community, and to be compensated for that promotion.” For example, because I like books, I could elect to be an Amazon Affiliate through Amazon’s Associates program. I would then put the Amazon Affiliate widget on my blog that advertises books that I like. If any of my blog readers click on the widget and buy the book, I get compensated. This helps Amazon because I am promoting and recommending books to people that trust me (my blog fans), this helps the community because they are finding out about good books, and it benefits me because I earn revenue for this promotion.
Subscription models are based on charging a flat fee for access to a large volume of exclusive content. For this model to work, companies need to offer content that no one else has, that isn’t available for free somewhere else or that is more convenient to access with the subscription. For example, The Chicago Manual of Style is actually easier to use online, rather than in print, because there is a search feature that makes it quicker and easier to look something up. The content also needs to be dynamic so that users have a need to return and appreciate the duration of the subscription. Many subscription websites offer free content so that new visitors can sample what is offered on the website. These sites then market their ‘premium’ content as only available to subscribers or members. Examples of subscription models include Netflix, MarketingProfs, Mequoda, scholarly journals, and O’Reilly’s Safari Books Online program. These sites require registration and payment for full access and offer valuable content that users will pay for because the benefits outweigh the costs.
Freemium models are about leveraging free content in order to charge for more valuable content where “…a few paying customers subsidize many unpaying ones.” Basically, marketers use the free content to get attention – “Free is a relatively cheap way to get attention” – and then offer a premium version that a small group of users will pay for, covering the costs of the free content for everyone else. Examples of Freemium models include Flickr, LinkedIn and MarketingProfs. Flickr and LinkedIn both offer basic free accounts to members but they also have paid ‘pro’ accounts that allow members to do more things – upload more photos at a time, for example. MarketingProfs offers some of its basic marketing information and content for free, but charges for its more advanced content and offers a ‘pro’ membership to those who want access to its extensive content archives. Anderson argues,
…[This model works because] It can accommodate the varying psychologies of a range of consumers, from those who have more time than money to those who have more money than time…Free plus Paid can span the full psychology of consumerism.
Freemium models make publishers nervous, but it is one that they should explore because it an interesting business model that, when done well, works both to market the company and to earn revenue for the business.
2.3 The New Users
These new pricing models need to work within the needs of the new consumers – the users. These new users affect how businesses market and sell to their customers.
The generation born between 1982 and 2000 is referred to as the Digital Millennials. They are the most digitally connected generation in history and are, as Kelly Mooney and Nita Rollins state, “…redefining…the rules of engagement for brands.” Growing up online has empowered this generation, influencing their behaviours and values and it is largely with the Digital Millennials’ influence that the new consumers have emerged.
The new users are characterized by hyper-connectedness, empowerment and self-expression – they want to share and expect others to as well. As the Cluetrain Manifesto says, markets have become conversations, which means that users are talking amongst themselves and expect marketers to talk to them in the same way. All of this is enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange. Social media tools like Facebook, WordPress, wikis and product review forms have made it much easier for users to express themselves and connect with one another. As a result, users are more informed and more organized. If a brand is attempting to sell a faulty product, the market will publicize this – on their blogs, on their Twitter feeds and with other tools.
These new users value authenticity and transparency and rely on friends’ word-of-mouth reviews and recommendations to tell them what to consume. As Monique Trottier says,
We trust our friends. Not commercials. Commercials tell us what is available to buy. Our friends tell us whether we want to buy it or not.
One of the most important aspects of these new users is the growing level at which they are participating in communities online. In December 2009, global consumers spent more than five and a half hours on social networking sites that month, an 82% increase from the same time the year before. Clay Shirky believes that the rise in participation in online communities is because communities and groups are inherent to the internet. The impact that these online communities are having on society’s ability to communicate cannot be overstated. As Shirky argues, “we’re living through the largest increase in human expressive capability in history.” For example, as of February 2010, Twitter reported that people were tweeting 50 million tweets a day – an average of 600 tweets per second.
People have always been able to form groups. The difference with the web is that it gives people new tools that extend this ability, allowing individuals to create larger, more effective groups with less effort. The amount of relief money raised for Haiti earlier this year was a direct result of the ability for groups to quickly get together online and work to spread the word, asking for donations. According to Mashable.com, a social media news blog, and the American Red Cross, two days after the earthquake in Haiti the American Red Cross had raised $5 million through their online text message campaign. The amount of money raised was unprecedented and would never have reached the amount that it did without the web and its inherent ability to bring people together.
2.4 Marketing To the New Users
Seth Godin refers to these new groups that users are forming as Tribes. According to Godin, tribes are groups of people that form around strong common interests. They are based on shared ideas and values and, due to the global reach of the internet, even those on the fringes can now find and connect with a tribe. Godin claims that marketing to new users is about helping tribes connect and find each other. In addition, Godin points out that the tribes users form need guidance, so marketing is also about positioning oneself as a leader within these tribes.
The idea of leading tribes makes perfect sense for book publishers because, as Richard Nash pointed out at BookNet Canada’s Technology Forum this year, books are cultural objects that serve to build community. Using Oprah as an example, Nash argues that, contrary to the popular notion that she saved books, Oprah actually needed books to build her audience. Readers read in order to feel connected to the writer and to other readers and Oprah provided a space for readers to connect. So, essentially, publishers are in the “writer-reader connection business” and need to leverage this by building connections with their books. Nash argues that “content isn’t king; culture is,” and culture is the reason that people read, not content. In other words, communities and connecting are inherent to books.
Namaste Publishing, a small Vancouver spirituality publisher, is an excellent example of a publisher leading its tribe. Namaste publishes innovative books on self-help, spirituality and alternative health. These books contain teachings that resonate with readers and, because of this, Namaste has a strong group of loyal fans. These fans want to connect with other readers as well as with Namaste’s writers, so Namaste wanted to provide a space for engagement amongst the group. To do so, Namaste hired Boxcar Marketing to transform the company from a traditional publisher to a leader of a spiritual community.
To become a leader, both Namaste’s online presence and traditional business model needed a major redevelopment. Through a website redesign headed by Boxcar Marketing, Namaste integrated various social web tools and transformed the website from a disconnected collection of sites and blogs into a social platform for the community. Now, visitors to the site can sign up for an account, post spiritual statuses (similar to Facebook status’ but with a focus on one’s spiritual state) and connect with others through forums and other spiritual spaces. In addition, Boxcar Marketing worked to establish a digital publishing business model for the company. The model is based loosely on Mequoda’s Media Pyramid strategy where a business leverages free content to attract email and blog subscribers to build permission, and repurposes content to create many different products in order “to pull customers up the pyramid to maximize profit.” Namastehas a number of blogs that bring in readers, including the Namaste Publishing blog written by the publisher Constance Kellough; Bizah’s blog written by a fictional “student of truth”; and author blogs. The company then builds on these blogs to create paid online courses, such as The Journey to Higher Consciousness, and events, such as Namaste Radio. This audience wanted to form a tribe and Namaste took the opportunity to lead and facilitate these connections and create a business model around it.
To become a leader, one must get the tribes’ attention, earn their trust, and secure their permission.
2.4.1 Get Attention
To start, publishers need to get attention by identifying the compelling or remarkable aspects of their product and tell a story that people will want to share. They need to create something worth talking about, tell the people who want to hear it, and those people will spread the word for them. While finding the core element of one’s product has always been important, marketers now need to position this in terms of new users’ behaviours. That is, marketers need get attention by encouraging user empowerment and self-expression.
Monique Trottier points out that what publishers are ultimately trying to do with the compelling aspects of their product is encourage word of mouth because “online word of mouth is persistent.” Online, everything is logged and archived by search engines so that nothing ever goes away, which means that online marketing efforts have a lasting effect. Trottier continues on to say that, for marketers, the key is to encourage word of mouth by “…giving people the tools to pass it on. To share. To do the word of mouth marketing for you.”
A good example of a product that tells a remarkable story is TOMS Shoes, an online shoe retailer based in California. When consumers buy shoes from TOMS, they are not only buying a pair of shoes for themselves, they are also buying a pair shoes for someone in the developing world: “With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. One for One.” This is an incredibly compelling story that is easy to tell – it is not complicated – and that consumers want to tell about their purchase – their shoes represent a kind act on their part.
In addition, TOMS Shoes enables the story to spread by giving consumers a way to share. On the TOMS shoes website, visitors are encouraged to tell the TOMS story (with links to email, Facebook, Twitter and other social networks), share the TOMS documentary (where visitors can request a copy of the film and get instructions of how to screen it to a group) and upload their TOMS pictures (where visitors can add photos of themselves wearing the shoes and become a visible part of the community). By positioning the brand as a movement that consumers can get involved in, TOMS is succeeding in attracting attention to its product and the brand overall.
In terms of finding the story or compelling aspects within products based on content and ideas, the key is to pinpoint what users are buying. For example, high fashion magazines are not selling clothing; they are selling a lifestyle based on that clothing. So the story that fashion magazines are telling is a particular lifestyle – which is specific to each high fashion magazine. And this lifestyle story is what empowers users and encourages them to spread the word.
2.4.2 Earn Trust
When everyone is linked, trust is important, as Mitch Joel states,
In a world where we’re all connected, one opinion quickly turns into everyone’s opinion. How you build trust in your brand, your business, and yourself is going to be an important part of how your business is going to adapt and evolve.
If publishers want people to spread their story to their family and friends, embed their video on their site, or paste their widget on their blog, they need to be trusted. Andrew Girdwood, head of strategy at bigmouthmedia, states, “Trust has now become the biggest challenge for marketers, and one which many are eager to address.”
Trust requires publishers to be authentic in conversations with their communities. This means publishers need to be personable online and treat the social media space as a “cocktail party” – instead of just talking about themselves, they should encourage conservations by introducing others to each other, asking questions, and be genuinely interested in what others have to say. Above all, when earning trust, transparency is key. Mooney and Rollins sum this up nicely,
The vast majority of online consumers simply want to make informed decisions and to do so, ironically, they go online to seek largely subjective perspectives from complete strangers. This seems like a contradiction: isn’t objectivity consumers’ Holy Grail? No, transparency is.
Transparency requires that publishers don’t filter out negative comments about their brand. Smart companies embrace the conflicts that make communities thrive, and most companies’ concerns are unnecessary. Mitch Joel states that
According to Brett Hurt, founder and CEO of Bazaarvoice, Bazaarvoice has served over 10 billion peer reviews to date, and the majority of them are 4.5 out of five stars. Even more surprising, a negative review converts more effectively into a sale than a positive review.
Consumers who read a negative review trust that site because it is honest and consumers are more likely to make a purchase on a site that they trust.
Mitch Joel argues, “Attention does not equal trust and Traffic doesn’t mean you’re building community.” Although a brand may be getting attention, it could be for the wrong reasons. The online attention that BP has received about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is a perfect example of attention and traffic not equalling trust. BP has received a ton of attention for the falsity of its online PR. Instead of spending time and effort to regain the public’s trust after the oil spill, BP bought sponsored links so that it would be in Google’s top results for the search term “oil spill”. This manufactured effort to control what information searchers come across only provided fuel for the firestorm that has been brewing online – for example, as of July 2010 there is a fake BP Twitter account that mocks BP’s PR efforts, and a “Boycott BP” Facebook page with over half a million users behind it. Once online communities discover falsity the critical response can be detrimental for the brand.
2.4.3 Secure Permission
Earning trust leads to securing permission – permission to tell users about the next story, to send them an event invitation on Facebook, or to send them a monthly newsletter. Seth Godin argues,
The future of marketing is based on permission. It’s based on sending messages to people who want to get them, who choose to get them, who would miss you if you didn’t send them.
The key is that once a publisher has someone’s permission, that person is much more valuable than a whole group of people who have not given their consent. For example, response emails – emails sent to people in response to requests for information or to orders being placed – “…will frequently generate more than 50% open rates.” This means that at least half of the people that receive these emails open them – a huge percentage compared to regular email newsletters where 25% open rates are average. This is because users are more receptive to marketing when they recognize a name and expect to hear from the marketer. This works in publishers’ favour, too, because they know that they are sending information to an interested audience.
Publishers can earn permission by becoming a resource. People appreciate useful tips and information and will pay attention to those giving it out. Publishers can also earn permission by supporting users’ online behaviours. Mooney and Rollins say that the three online behaviours that marketers should be encouraging are creating, sharing, and influencing. Essentially, publishers want to create a space to encourage dialogue and conversations around their story. Namaste Publishing, for example, has earned permission through its various spirituality blogs by positioning the blogs as both a place for self-help and alternative health advice as well as a place to discuss, and have conservations around, spirituality.
All of the above marketing tactics – get attention, earn trust and secure permission – is a result of having to work within a new purchase funnel. Old consumers would move within the purchase funnel from awareness to interest to purchase. They would see a commercial on TV, something in the commercial would make them want what was being advertised, and then they would go to a store and buy it. But, as Mooney and Rollins argue, new users take the “scenic route,” moving from awareness and interest – which usually happens online through their friends and tribes’ recommendations – to having conversations, making connections, joining groups, and comparing reviews, until, eventually, they arrive at the purchasing stage. And new users do not stop here. Next, they move to the post-purchasing stage where they submit their opinions and reviews online for the next round of buyers to use to make their buying decisions. Mooney and Rollins argue that marketers must “…allocate more resources for strengthening the peer connections and conversations along the way [to purchase]” because these interactions are how users make buying decisions. Marketing is now about supporting, and leading, this longer, more engaged route.
Any online business strategy needs to work within the new market realities and how users are engaging online – both with brands and with each other. This means that publishers should focus their efforts at the niche level and appeal to users by supporting and leading tribes through the new purchase funnel. Publishers need to find the compelling aspects of their product that users will want to share, earn trust by being authentic in conversations with communities, and secure permission to continue engaging with these communities in the future. Markets have changed significantly and marketers’ tactics need to change with them if they want to succeed online.
This section outlined the new online market realities and how publishers need to work within them. The effects of the Long Tail and the over-abundance of content have demanded new online business models, while the new users and how they interact online require new marketing tactics. Building on and leveraging this new market landscape, the next section outlines the steps that small publishers can take to monetize content online.
3: DIGITAL PUBLISHING
A digital publishing project requires a different workflow process than traditional publishers are accustomed to. Fortunately for smaller companies, changes to workflow are often much easier in smaller organizations than in larger companies.
3.1 Big Publishers Versus Small Publishers
In this era of media fragmentation and change, small organizations may have the upper hand – and this is no less true for publishers. Anyone familiar with the traditional publishing industry knows that there are vast differences between the way big publishing houses are run – with disparate, specialized roles for each employee – and the way small publishing houses are run – with employees doing everything from acquisitions to sales. This difference in organization affects how publishers are able to respond to change. In a big publishing house, any change to workflow processes is very complicated and moving over into digital publishing requires figuring out how to manage production, authors, contracts and staff and any decision about formats, digital rights management or distribution is extremely complicated – so much so that it actually impedes big publishers from implementing change.
Small publishers have the upper hand when it comes to adapting. They can experiment with new business models, monitor their progress and quickly try something else if the new model does not succeed. In “The Collapse of Complex Business Models,” Shirky argues that we need to move away from complexity and towards simplicity. He builds his argument by looking at the success of YouTube. In the past, large TV networks relied on complex productions and had a monopoly because they were the only ones who could afford such complexity. But Youtube has created “a world where complexity is neither an absolute requirement nor an automatic advantage.”  As Shirky states,
…When the ecosystem stops rewarding complexity, it is the people who figure out how to work simply in the present, rather than the people who mastered the complexities of the past, who get to say what happens in the future.
Because small organizations have more adaptable workflow processes than larger companies, small publishers have an opportunity to start experimenting with simple business models, using simple tools and simple work flow processes before the big publishing houses have turned themselves around.
3.2 Steps Small Publishers Can Take To Monetize Content Online
While publishers are often told that they need to start publishing digitally, it involves specific steps that are very different from traditional publishing and, for many, the process is unclear. The subsequent section outlines the steps that publishers can follow to monetize their existing content on the web.
3.2.1 Define Business and Marketing Objectives
Publishers need to start by identifying their business objectives. These are the overall business goals for the project. While a mission or purpose outlines what a publisher wants to do, business objectives are measurable and help to prioritize business tasks and strategies. Common business goals are: sell product, create demand (for a product, service or event), create awareness (about a product, story, issue or brand) and get permission (to market to someone in the future).
Next, publishers need to build on their business objectives and the company’s overall identity, and define the marketing goals. Common goals include: promote engagement or awareness (about a story, issue, product or brand), promote a certain community or lifestyle, be a friend, or be an expert. The marketing objectives are how the company will position itself in order to reach the business goals. In other words, while business goals help to define tasks, marketing objectives define how a company will approach these tasks.
At this stage, publishers should further develop their strategy with a 7-Sentence Marketing Plan. The 7-Sentence Marketing Plan was developed by the authors of Guerrilla Marketing, Jay Conrad Levinsoon and Michael W. McLaughlin, and is only seven sentences because it forces one to focus. A 7-Sentence Marketing Plan answers the following questions:
Sentence 1: What is the purpose of your marketing?
Sentence 2: Who is your target market?
Sentence 3: What is your niche?
Sentence 4: What are the benefits and competitive advantage?
Sentence 5: What is your business identity?
Sentence 6: What tactics, strategies and weapons will you use to carry out your marketing?
Sentence 7: How much money will you allocate to marketing?
Once this is completed, publishers will have a concise, yet thorough, strategy document to use as a platform to build the project on. While the 7-Sentence Marketing plan is not the only method for defining a strategy, it is the approach preferred at Boxcar Marketing because it is quick and effective.
When monetizing content on the web, publishers need to start by outlining their business and marketing goals and writing a 7-Sentence Marketing plan in order to narrow the scope of the project. Once these initial steps are completed, publishers should define their audience.
3.2.2 Define Audience
The next step in monetizing content on the web is defining the target audience and developing audience personas in order to focus the project. The development of personas includes defining basic audience demographics – age, sex, location, and profession – and then building on these to define the audiences’ psychographics – values, attitudes and interests. When defining their audience, publishers should also have a basic understanding of how audiences behave online. The figure below is called the “Engagement Ladder” from industry analyst firm Forrester and it depicts typical web behaviours. As the ladder shows, most users on the web are “Spectators” – they read blogs, watch videos, sign up for email newsletters and join Facebook pages, but they never actively comment or engage with brands online.
Figure 1: Engagement Ladder
For publishers, it is important to consider where on the ladder their target audience fits because this determines their engagement strategy. How a publisher engages with Spectators is much different than how a publisher engages with Creators, for example.
From here, publishers can take their audience definition – both demographics and psychographics – and narrow the audience down further by developing personas. Personas are character sketches of individual audience members that define who the content is for. They are an important part of the process because, as Monique Trottier says, “Online communications are about one-to-one communications,” and personas allow one to start thinking of the audience in a more personal, tangible way. As an advocate of using personas for online design, Christina Wodtke says
Instead of a vague design target of ‘users’ (who are capable of anything), you have a specific, targeted person with things that he needs and wants, as well as things that he doesn’t need and can’t use. Suddenly, prioritizing features becomes an easier job.
By developing personas one moves away from thinking about the project team wants and towards what the persona wants. While Wodtke advocates using personas in website design, they are equally applicable to business strategy development.
To create personas, publishers need to start with a discovery document that helps to define who the broader audience is. A discovery document involves researching who will buy the publishers’ content, and should include:
Primary and secondary audiences
Technical know-how of target users
Age range, gender distribution and other demographics
Psychographics like morals, values and cultural background
Social patterns including how they relate to family and friends in the context of the product
Competitor’s products of interest to users
Non-competing products of interest to users
Needs and common complaints
Building on the discovery document with its broad audience outline, the next step is narrowing the specifics of the audience down by developing the personas. Ideally, a project will have both primary personas – common user types that are important to the business success of the project – and secondary personas – user types that are very different from primary users but whose needs still need to be addressed for the success of the project. This helps to ensure that all user needs are outlined. A persona should include: user’s name; demographics and psychographics; professional and personal background; internet or technical profile (i.e. where in the engagement ladder do they sit? How comfortable are they online and what activities do they perform on the web? This is important for determining how the audience will interact with the brand online); favourite websites; and goals with I need / I want statements. Developing detailed personas will all of these elements help publishers to visualize their audience members, understand their needs and prepares publishers to address these needs as the project progresses.
Defining the audience, writing a discovery document and creating personas are crucial steps when monetizing content on the web, because they help publishers understand who their project is for, what their needs are and how publishers should position their project. Once this is completed, publishers can start formatting their content.
3.2.3 Format Content
The next step in monetizing content online is deciding on a format for the content. While the content already exists, it needs to be specifically packaged for the audience that was defined in the persona stage – an audience that was not necessarily in mind when the content and information was originally created. When deciding on a format, the following are things that publishers should consider (note: think about the personas when going through this exercise):
How will the material be consumed? Will it be read on-line or downloaded for off-line use?
How much interaction will users want to have with the content? Is just text ok, or will users benefit from images and diagrams?
To what extent is search necessary to the use of the material?
To what extent is highlighting, annotating, note taking and excerpting critical to the use of the content?
To what extent is metadata necessary to find and use the content?
What countries does the company have the rights to sell the files in?
Once this exercise is completed, publishers need to determine how the content will be packaged – will it be most effective as a video, podcast, whitepaper, chapter or webinar? The format should suit the content as well as the personas’ needs and goals. Publishers also have to consider their budget and the up-front costs of the format they choose. Whereas a whitepaper is fairly affordable – approximately five hours to create – a video can be expensive due to the editing time that is required, starting at approximately $2000 per video.
An important step in the digital publishing process it determining the format for content and how it will be packaged – there are many more options online than with traditional text and audiences have different expectations. Once the format and packaging has been determined, the next step when monetizing content online is developing a search engine optimization strategy.
3.2.4 Develop Search Engine Optimization Strategy
The next step in a content monetization project is developing a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy so that the project and its content can be found. Consumers find what they want online by searching for it, so publishers need to strategize how they will appear in search results. As Monique Trottier says, “Search optimization is the number one thing you need to focus on. Traffic to your website means business.” To start, publishers should determine their keywords and search phrases that they want to appear in search results for. These are words that their audience will use when searching. There are a number of ways to do this. If publishers already have a website with similar content to what they want to sell, they can look at their site’s analytics and see what keyword phrases visitors are using to find various pages of the site. If publishers do not have a website related to the content they want to sell, they can develop an initial keyword list by searching for similar content online and noting what keywords other brands are using. By tracking the keywords that keep coming up while also considering what keywords the personas would use to find the content, publishers can establish initial keywords that they can edit and refine as the project develops.
Next, publishers should take these keywords and plug them into Google Insights for Search and Google’s External Keyword Tool (both free) so that they can see how often these keywords are used in searches and also get ideas for keywords they may have missed. Google Insights for Search is a tool that looks at the trends in search terms. Publishers can enter a term and see the changes in its use over time. Publishers can also plug in multiple terms to see how their popularity compares. Google’s External Keyword Tool is a tool that shows how often that term is being searched for by geographic area and it also gives keyword suggestions for similar terms that publishers may not have thought of. With the data, publishers can create a keyword list to refer to when they are creating any type of content for the project. It is important to use these keywords in key messages; blog post titles, tags and content; and in content on social networks, because search engines use this content when ranking websites and determining search results. In YouTube, for example, in order for a video to appear in search results, it is important that the video title, description and tags all include the keywords.
An SEO strategy with a thorough keyword list that is used when creating content is necessary for publishers and their materials to be found online. Once publishers have developed a SEO strategy, the next step in monetizing their content online is creating a marketing and outreach plan.
3.2.5 Create Marketing and Outreach Plan
At this stage in the development of a digital publishing strategy, publishers need to develop a marketing and outreach plan by choosing their marketing tactics. For each tactic, they should determine the strategy and goal behind it and what tracking tools will track the tactics’ success. This ensures that all marketing activities are accountable to specific goals and can be modified according their success. The following outlines tactics to consider for marketing digital content.
Blogger outreach is an important online marketing tactic because it is basically online public relations. Blogger outreach helps to get a project’s story noticed and build links back the site – which is important for SEO. There are two aspects to blogger outreach. This first is approaching bloggers who are leaders in their community who would be interested in the project’s story. Publishers should find these people and pitch the project in way that entices them to talk about it. The second aspect of blogger outreach is listening for opportunities to integrate oneself into the conversation. To do this, publishers should set up Google Alerts and saved Twitter searches for the company’s brand name, competitors’ names, and keywords and then, when a related story or conversation arises, join the conversation and find an appropriate time to introduce the project. Blogger outreach can be monitored by an increase in a site’s referral traffic and incoming links.
Social media is an excellent tactic for community building. Sites like Twitter and Facebook are platforms for conversation and a chance to engage an audience on a personal level. The goal of social media is to be interesting and engaging and gain followers and fans. Monitoring tools include Facebook Insights and Twitter platforms like Hootsuite, that show statistics like number of clicks and retweets.
Email newsletters are an effective marketing tactic because subscribers have given publishers permission to market to them. Publishers should be clear in the signup process how often the newsletter will get sent out and follow this schedule. They can use the newsletter to talk about the program, give useful advice and promote special offers. The goal is to further interest readers in the content and brand. Publishers can monitor newsletter open rates and click-throughs with email newsletter services like Campaign Monitor, Mail Chimp, or Constant Contact.
Blogs are good tactics for content generation and for positioning publishers as leaders or resources. Blog posts can be repurposed for blogger outreach, social media and email newsletter fodder. Blogs are also good for SEO because every post is a new page on a website, it creates fresh content for site, and is a chance to integrate keywords – all of which Google looks for when ranking websites. Blogs’ success relies on their level of engagement, which can be monitored through Google Analytics and by looking at the number of comments that blogs receive.
Lastly, contests are another tactic to consider. They are fun, a chance to be creative and, when well executed, can work to promote engagement and buzz about a campaign or brand. Contests can be monitored by looking at the number of entries and by looking at Google Analytics – particularly site traffic, referral traffic and incoming links.
Once tactics have been determined, publishers should create a marketing calendar that outlines weekly or monthly content themes that are carried over across all of the marketing platforms. For example, with the Boxcar Marketing Pro project, if Boxcar were planning to release the How to Use LinkedIn for Business whitepaper at the end of the month, Boxcar would spend that month prior to the release tweeting and blogging about LinkedIn, and position these messages as teaser for the actual report. A marketing calendar helps publishers stay focused in their marketing and ties themes together for the audience. Preferably, a marketing calendar is in the form of a weekly activity timeline so that publishers can be consistent and thorough in their marketing. Ideally, the plan would look like this:
Spend time listening and building platforms.
Join in, start conversations and develop relationships.
Push content out through a blog, email newsletter, Twitter, Facebook and blogger outreach. Establish the company as a leader.
Tie online promotions to offline activities.
Pay for some advertising (online or offline).
Monitor and optimize activities.
A detailed marketing and outreach plan is crucial to a digital publishing strategy because this determines how publishers’ will attract attention to their content. More important than the marketing plan, however, is how publishers will measure the success of their content monetization project and adapt as the project moves forward.
3.3 Measurement Strategy
A measurement strategy should be at the core of any digital publishing strategy. The ability to measure the success of marketing online is far more accurate than measurements offline. With any online marketing efforts, publishers need to always ensure that the tactics link back to the strategy, objectives, and goals. Tracking, analysing and responding to the numbers is key to successful online marketing. This includes not only looking at the web stats but analyzing them and using them, as Jason Burby and Shane Atchison authors of Actionable Web Analytics argue, “…to make changes to your site and business decisions based on the data.” In other words, a measurement strategy is about action.
To begin with, publishers need to define the key performance indicators (KPIs) for their campaign. With the business and marketing goals in mind, what is measurable? Publishers trying to sell digital content will want to create awareness about their product, attract customers and loyal fans, and, ultimately, sell the product. Publishers need to think of the actions or goal-paths that lead to these goals. What, of these actions, is measurable? For example, if the goal is to sell the product, the action that leads to a sale is visiting all of the webpages in the checkout process. How many visitors land on the final thank-you page after checkout is measurable and it indicates that they have completed the sale. The development process for KPIs can be visualized as a funnel:
Goal > Action > Measurement (KPI)
With the goals related to selling digital content – creating awareness, attracting customers and promotion engagement, and selling the product – below are some KPIs that publishers should consider. While there are general guidelines for web traffic numbers, what may be ‘normal’ for one site is completely abnormal for another and it is more meaningful to establish a baseline for a particular site and then measure how that fluctuates over time.
126.96.36.199 KPIs Linked to Product and Brand Awareness
KPIs linked to product and brand awareness should focus on the number of people that visit a website and how they found it. Basically, are people aware of and visiting the site? If they are, how did they get there and what was their level of awareness before they visited? Did they already know about the brand and type in the URL? Did they find the site on another website because others are recommending it? The following is a list of web statistics that can help gage the level of awareness about a product and brand.
Unique Visitors. This shows how many people are visiting a website.
Direct Traffic. This shows how many people are coming directly to a site by typing in the URL in their address bar. These visitors are coming to the site having already heard about the product or brand.
Referral Traffic. This shows where visitors are coming from. This is important because referrals are like recommendations. Websites will want to build a relationship with the sites that are directing traffic to them.
Search traffic. This does not show current awareness but how people are finding the site, which is important for keywords and site content. If familiar keywords are seen month over month, then it indicates a strong interest in a topic or category, which one may want to profile on the home page. Trending keywords should also be used in the site content, for example, as blog posts and page titles, in order to capitalize on new traffic sources.
188.8.131.52 KPIs Linked to Customer Acquisition and Engagement
KPIs linked to customer acquisition and engagement focus on how people interact with a website as well as how they interact with the brand on social networks. Are people spending time on the site? What are they doing? Are they engaging with the brand by listening, sharing or commenting? These are web statistics that show the amount of customers a brand is acquiring and their level of engagement with a site:
Visits (or visitor sessions). Visits displays the total number of times people come to a site. For example, a user comes to the site today and comes to the site tomorrow. This is one unique visitor and 2 visits. Visits is a good indicator of the engagement level of a site because it shows if people are returning.
Page Views. Pages Views are the total number of pages requested and served by a web server. This is also a good engagement indicator.
Send to a Friend or Share clicks. This shows how many people think that the site’s content is something worth sharing with their friends. They are doing word of mouth marketing for the company.
Average Time on Site. The length of users’ site visits shows how long visitors are spending on the site, which is another good engagement indicator.
Bounce Rate. This shows whether visitors are spending time on the site or are landing on a webpage and immediately leaving. If the bounce rate is well over 50%, investigate why. Are people not finding what they need?
Content Consumption. What are the top-level pages? How long are visitors spending on these pages? Is this the most important content or are visitors not finding what they need?
Exit Pages. What the site’s top exit pages? Why are people leaving here? Is it because they are finished exploring the site or because they cannot find what they are looking for or cannot complete what they are trying to do?
Number of Facebook Fans, Twitter Followers, Blog RSS Subscribers, Blog Comments. Are people engaging with the site? How do these numbers change month over month? If there is an increase or decrease one month, what activities caused this?
184.108.40.206 KPIs Linked to Ecommerce and Sales
KPIs related to ecommerce and sales focus on how many people are buying, at what levels and their behaviours during the purchase process. The following are web statistics related to sales:
Overall Purchase Conversion. This is the number of orders divided by the number of total visits to a site. How many visitors are purchasing content?
Browse to Buy Ratio. How many visitors are not buying content? How far down the purchase funnel do they get? Where in the cart are people dropping off? Why?
Average Order Size and Items Per Order. How much do customers buy per order? What does this show about their purchasing habits? How much is each customer worth? Divide total site visitors by total sales.
Conversion of Nonsubscribers to Subscribers and Number of Repeat Visits. This is for subscription sites. How often are visitors converted to new subscribers? Are people returning to the site once they have a subscription? Why or why not?
220.127.116.11 Identify Improvements
Once KPIs start getting tracked, publishers can locate where the problems are with their websites and where improvements can be made. A common issue is what is referred to as “pogo-sticking.” This is when there are a lot of pageviews but a low average time spent on the site. This indicates that visitors are searching around the site and not finding what they are looking for. Another common issue is exit pages. If there are pages that are consistently top exit pages, and they are not thank-you or contact pages – in other words, they should not be exit pages – publishers need to explore why. For example, are these top exit pages confusing? Do they have complicated forms that visitors do not want to fill out? Are pages missing clear calls to action, so visitors do not know what to do or where to go? Once the problem has been identified, publishers can make improvements.
18.104.22.168 Tracking the Numbers
It is important for publishers to spend time every month analyzing the numbers. With the KPIs, they should create a KPI scorecard that is filled in monthly and go back over previous months to determine a benchmark or baseline. What were the numbers like the last couple of months? What were they like a year ago? Looking at the numbers month over month, are they generally the same? Where do they fluctuate? What does this mean in relation to the goals and objectives?
To help track the numbers, publishers can use the Goals feature within Google Analytics to create goals for the website and put a value on different traffic sources. This way it is easier to see how the KPIs are performing. It is also useful to use the Annotations feature. This records marketing activities in a timeline and positions them in relation to the web traffic. For example, if I ran a contest throughout the month of June I can enter the start and end date and see how this affected the number of visitors to my site. Where did those visitors come from? I can look back and use this information as a benchmark for what to expect for the next contest.
With a baseline, publishers can evaluate the numbers to see the results of their marketing activities. The numbers will show what should be repeated, modified, or discarded for something new. By spending time to create a measurement system and scorecard publishers can monitor their marketing activities and, most importantly, adapt their strategy according to the numbers.
22.214.171.124 Return on Investment
A common complaint is that, while it is easy to get numbers online, it is difficult to relate them to Return on Investment (ROI) for the company. In “The Basics of Social Media ROI” Oliver Blanchard outlines how to measure ROI with a company’s social media and online activities by demonstrating how to create an ROI funnel that keeps the business goals and the value of actions in check. He says to start by establishing a baseline for the numbers, so that a company can determine the numbers before online marketing and after. Then he says to create an activity timeline that outlines all of the company’s marketing activities, which should already be outlined in Google Analytics’ Annotations. Next, he says to outline the KPI numbers – sales revenue, number of transactions, new customers, etc. With all of the information laid out, a company can compare their marketing activities with numbers, and look for patterns in data and prove relationships – how certain marketing activities correlate with the KPIs.
From here, companies can place a value on users’ behaviour. Which behaviours lead to sales? Which behaviours lead to indirect sales, like speaker requests? How much are these behaviours worth? For example, publishers can calculate lead value by:
(leads closed x average revenue per sale) / total leads = average lead value.
This helps to put a value on the time spent on online marketing activities, like social media and blogger outreach.
ROI can be measured online. It is just a matter of recording everything – online activities, campaigns, website traffic patterns, transactions, etc. – and analyzing the data in relation to valuable behaviours and revenue.
A measurement strategy should be at the core of a publisher’s overall business plan. This means developing it during the business plan’s initial stages, refining as the business plan develops and measuring and tracking throughout the business’ lifetime. Without a metric strategy in place, it is almost impossible to accurately understanding how a business is performing and, in turn, impossible to know where to make improvements.
This section outlined the steps that publishers can follow to monetize their existing content on the web. To gain further understanding of the content monetization process and what to expect, the next sections are case studies of content monetization projects, including Capulet Communications and their book Friends with Benefits and Boxcar Marketing and its online marketing training program, Boxcar Marketing Pro.
4: CASE STUDY: CAPULET COMMUNICATIONS
Before Monique Trottier and I started Boxcar Marketing Pro, our online marketing training program, Boxcar Marketing studied a similar project carried out by Capulet Communications, a firm with which Boxcar Marketing has a close working relationship. Capulet’s project is related to the plans for Boxcar Marketing Pro in that they took content that they already had in various formats – presentation notes, online marketing guidelines that they had developed for clients over the years, etc. – repackaged it, and sold it online. Their content not only brought in extra income for the company, but it brought in project requests as well. Because the project is so similar and was in many ways what incited Boxcar Marketing Pro, it is useful to examine their project first.
4.1 Introduction to Capulet Communications
Capulet Communications Inc. (“Capulet”) is an online marketing company that helps businesses reach their customers in creative and remarkable ways. Owned and run by Darren Barefoot and Julie Szabo, Capulet specializes in reaching out to online influencers with blogger and social media outreach, running online marketing campaigns, and writing web content.
In 2007, Barefoot and Szabo decided to explore another revenue model for the company. Taking what they knew about online marketing and the common questions that most people have, as well as content from talks that Barefoot had been giving, Barefoot and Szabo wrote and self-published an ebook titled, Getting to First Base: A Social Media Marketing Playbook. The book was aimed at marketers from companies, agencies and small businesses with the purpose of giving them the tools to start taking advantage of the marketing opportunities on the web.
The ebook was successful in building an audience for Capulet and it increased the requests they received for projects and speaking gigs. In addition, Barefoot and Szabo used the ideas in the book to build a full-day Social Media Marketing Bootcamp (which I have attended), giving a copy away for free as part of the cost of the ticket.
In 2009, Capulet published a print version of the ebook, Friends with Benefits, published by No Starch Press and distributed by O’Reilly Media. Barefoot and Szabo continue to repurpose the content from both the ebook and the print book for speaking engagements and marketing opportunities for the company.
Capulet marketed their ebook aggressively for a couple of months – deciding to focus their marketing efforts directly before and directly after the ebook’s release – and did not do any marketing after that because they got too busy with other projects. They used a wide variety of promotional tactics, including advertising the book in the bimonthly Capulet newsletter, setting up a Facebook Group (but they admit that they did not do much with it), and promoting and advertising on Barefoot’s blog. In addition, they sent letters to eight “top-level bloggers” in their target audience. The letters were in the form of a love letter (to go with the theme of the book) and included a link to a personalized landing page with a personalized video for each blogger. The eight videos were simple and shot with a hand-held camera and featured Szabo and Barefoot addressing each blogger on why they should care about the book. Capulet also sent twenty to thirty review copies to “secondary-level bloggers”, as well as review copies to any legitimate blogger that asked, sending out 120 review copies in total. They also received email addresses from everyone who bought the book and, in 2009 when they released the print edition, they used the 500 email addresses that they collected to promote their print book. Now, since the print book has been published, Capulet sees the ebook as an asset and gives it away as a ‘value-add’ at events.
The key to Capulet’s marketing is that they created a campaign that was engaging, relevant to their target audience, and reinforced their brand. Capulet understood that they were selling a story, found the best way to tell the story and made it matter to people.
In terms of marketing conversion rates, the list below represents the majority of the sites that sent Capulet referral traffic over fourteen months, and the conversion rate for each site. These statistics were measured by tracking conversion data in Google Analytics. Barefoot says that these numbers reflect what they see on their client sites, except that YouTube is unusually high. As Barefoot notes, they think that this may be because YouTube was referred to from other sites so visitors were already interested and then the video convinced them to buy. Barefoot also notes that the content relating to their book on the referral site affected the conversion rate. Sites with more content and information about their book converted higher than those with just a link.
Capulet Communication Website: 7.9%
Direct (reflecting offline marketing): 4%
Common Craft: 2.9%
DarrenBarefoot.com (ran an ad on all 4500 of his archived pages): 1%
Seth Godin: 0.8%
Twitter: 0.7% (note: this could be so low because they stopped promoting the book in March/April 2008)
This numbers are useful benchmarks for us to use for our marketing and give us a good indication of what to expect from our own efforts.
4.3 Costing Model
Capulet decided to sell their ebook for $29 and, after costs, made $27 on every book sold. They had one or two people complain about the price point but, other than that, found that people were comfortable with the price. They did not, however, conduct research to see if they would have sold more books at a lower price point. Barefoot says that they did not spend a lot of time thinking about the price, they just did some quick market research on similar books’ price points and choose one that was a little bit higher than the minimum they were willing to charge. This allowed them to offer some books at a discount at $24. On request, they also added a site license model where they charged $300 for a conference to give out unlimited copies to their attendees. Barefoot figures that each site license is worth about ten to twelve copies in sales.
The ebook took one hundred hours to write and Barefoot and Szabo spent sixty hours marketing the book. They sold 500 copies and feel that if they had spent sixty more hours marketing the book, that they could have doubled their sales. 500 copies at $27 equals $13,500; divided by 160 hours spent writing and marketing book means that Capulet earned $84 an hour from the book.
Although $84 an hour is less than Capulet’s hourly business rate, the book really helped to market the company. Almost three years after publication and with zero promotion, they still sell one or two books a week. And since the ebook was published, Capulet receives double the amount of job requests than they did before. But Capulet also admits that, since the ebook, the quality of the job requests they receive has gone down. Although Capulet Communications did not set up an affiliate program, Barefoot admits that, while he estimates that it would have been about ten hours of work to set up, they would have sold noticeably more ebooks with an affiliate program in place.
As Monique Trottier and I develop the Boxcar Marketing Pro project, we have been using Capulet’s project as a guideline – particularly their marketing efforts, conversion rates, and the level of success they saw for their overall project.
5: CASE STUDY: BOXCAR MARKETING PRO
5.1 Introduction to Boxcar Marketing
Boxcar Marketing (“Boxcar”) is an online marketing company. Started by James Sherrett and Monique Trottier, the company specializes in helping businesses succeed online through internet marketing, including social media, search engine optimization and email campaigns; website design and online strategy. Boxcar Marketing positions itself as a upfront team that gets the job done and aims to make customers smarter and the client’s job easier.
In the summer of 2009, while I was an intern at Boxcar, Trottier and I started developing Boxcar Marketing Pro, an online marketing training program. This is a project to monetize the company’s existing content that Boxcar has created – content such as notes, resources, and presentation materials that has been created in the process of consulting. Trottier had been exploring this idea for the past year or so and saw an opportunity to sell high-level marketing materials along with resources that help marketers get their work done. While there is a lot of content available on online marketing strategy, social media marketing, and other marketing ‘how-to’ topics, this content is not packaged as tactical templates and checklists that can help execute online marketing strategies, nor is the content portrayed as high-level learning or training packages. Some universities offer online marketing courses for business professionals, Queen’s University for example, but many marketers either cannot afford these courses or do not have time to take them. So Trottier saw an opportunity for Boxcar Marketing to fill this gap. The company already has a lot of useful content – content that is used for speaking engagements, strategy sessions and marketing plans. The project’s purpose is to find a way to repackage this content and sell it online earning extra income for the company. This would be a chance to supplement Boxcar’s existing revenue stream without changing the company’s overall business plan.
Boxcar Marketing is in a good position to take advantage of this opportunity because of its strong following. Trottier began building up an audience for herself in 2005 through her personal blog SoMisguided, which she started while she was working at Raincoast Books. When she started Boxcar Marketing in 2006, she continued to build a following through online channels. The Boxcar Marketing blog, Boxcar’s monthly newsletter Underwire, and Twitter are all platforms where Trottier has built a following by offering free marketing advice. Despite her online efforts, the majority of Trottier and Boxcar’s audience is built through word-of-mouth. Trottier is active in the marketing and technology community, often doing speaking gigs and consulting sessions, and people that have met her or heard her speak often recommend Boxcar Marketing to their colleagues. As of July 2010, Trottier has over 1,100 people following her tweets on her SoMisguided Twitter account. Trottier’s existing audience consists of over 1,100 people throughout Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and San Francisco. Through free online content and paid consultation, Trottier has positioned herself and the company as an authority in the online marketing space and Boxcar Marketing Pro can build this authority further.
This project is meant to generate additional income for Boxcar Marketing that can be used for further developments for the company, like Google and Facebook pay-per-click campaigns and a website redesign. Second, the project is meant as a marketing tool. Boxcar Marketing Pro materials can be used to create an audience for the Boxcar brand and bring in project requests. Boxcar will encourage buyers of the Boxcar Pro materials to take advantage of the company’s other offerings, including its full consulting services.
While the project has not launched yet, this case study explores the processes involved in monetizing content on the web. It highlights Boxcar’s progression, the decisions that were made as the project developed and how the project has unfolded so far. These methods and tactics can be used as a jumping off point for publishers to monetize their own content.
The research for the project began with an examination of different training models and online marketing courses and explored who was doing what, what individuals and companies are willing to pay for, the best way to learn this type of information and how they costed their product.
Boxcar did some broad research online, both inside the marketing industry and outside the industry, to see how other companies are offering and selling content. Boxcar decided to focus on smaller companies who were doing a variety of interesting things with their content and narrowed the majority of the research to six companies. Common Craft is an online video company that produces educational videos for both individuals and organizations. Dell’s Social Media for Small Business offers social media guides and screen casts for small and medium-sized businesses via its Facebook page. My Yoga Online is an online yoga instruction video service. Mequoda is a consultancy company that helps publishers make money online and offers marketing materials in a subscription model. MarketingProfs is a website that offers free and paid marketing resources. Queen’s University’s Executive Development Marketing Program is a university-level marketing course for business professionals.
All of the companies offered something for free – previews, excerpts, or free tips and advice – that helped to give a sense of what they were selling. For example, My Yoga Online provides a free two-minute preview of a video before purchase and Mequoda offers free daily tips and weekly whitepapers. The free content helped to establish these companies’ authority in the space – which is particularly effective if the company is new – and helped to market the paid content. For example, once users sign up to receive Mequoda’s free daily tips and download its free whitepapers, if they want further information on related topics, they can buy their handbooks, case studies, and webinars based on the perceived quality of its content.
In addition, companies that offered site licenses or subscriptions to their content had a fair amount of content available to subscribers. This vast amount of content helps to make the subscription more valuable. Users are more willing to pay a monthly fee for a subscription if they know there is a lot of content that they can use and take advantage of and so the benefits outweigh the cost. For example, MarketingProfs has a ton of valuable content available to its Pro Members, which encourages people to subscribe, including how-to articles, exclusive case studies, online seminars and special reports.
While Boxcar was researching the market, the company was also collecting content ideas. Boxcar researched what others were selling as educational materials, looking at Mequoda, MarketingProfs and Queen’s University’s Executive Development Marketing Program. The research found that presenting content as ‘best practices’ and ‘how-to’ advice was very popular. For example, Mequoda’s “10 Email Newsletter Design Best Practices” and MarketingProfs’ “How to Creating a Content Strategy for B2B Nurturing Campaigns” are both whitepapers that are packaged as tactical, helpful advice. Case studies were also popular. Both Mequoda and MarketingProfs had a number of case studies that explored the marketing strategies within specific companies. Boxcar also found that while Queen’s University’s program was high-level and business-focused, the course seemed to be missing a practical, hands-on component.
Lastly, Boxcar found that creative licensing and costing is important in order to suit the range of audience needs. For example, Common Craft offers its videos in a variety of licenses. First, its videos are available for free for non-commercial sites, like blogs. Next, there are also several licensing models. There is a license for individual use that is higher quality than the free version, a site license for organizations to use internally, and a commercial license for public company websites. There are also options for bundling videos and ebook versions of their videos available for download at the Kindle Store. Capulet also offered more than one pricing option. It had the $29 ebook, as well as the $300 conference license to the book. With a variety of choices, buyers can find an option that suits them.
5.3 The Business Plan
Once the market research was completed, Trottier and I outlined the project’s purpose and goals. The business goals for the project are as follows:
Sell product. Boxcar wants to sell the kits to earn extra income for the company.
Create demand. Boxcar wants to create demand for the kits and the company’s online marketing consulting services.
Building on these business goals, the marketing goals are:
Promote awareness about Boxcar Marketing Pro and the Boxcar Marketing brand.
Position Boxcar as experts in online marketing.
Once Boxcar Marketing Pro’s goals were determined, Boxcar wrote a discovery document that outlined the project’s primary and secondary target audiences, competing and non-competing products that would be of interest to the audience, and the audience’s needs and goals when buying the product.
Based on Boxcar Marketing’s past and current clientele and Trottier’s experience with their varied needs, Boxcar determined that the project’s primary audience is marketers who need more information about online marketing – either marketing directors who want to brush up on new online marketing information and trends, new marketers who are responsible for implementing marketing strategies and need some guidance, or small business people who have to do the marketing for their company and need to quickly learn and implement tactics. Boxcar Marketing works with marketing directors, marketing managers and small business owners from a variety of industries so Boxcar knows that the program will be valuable to this audience group.
Boxcar also determined that the secondary audience is non-profit groups, environmental groups and volunteers. These are people who are doing outreach and community building with their organization’s website, write their organization’s newsletter or manage the organization’s site. Another secondary audience is trade associations. These are people who want to collect materials for their members for professional development. They may be looking for speakers or research materials that can be passed along and will also see benefit in learning about online marketing. Boxcar works with groups such as the Pacific Salmon Foundation and the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association and can see how they would benefit from these materials.
In terms of technical knowledge, in Boxcar’s experience all of these audience groups are fairly proficient online. They use the web, including email and social media, on a daily basis, but want to learn more about how they can use it for marketing purposes. Understanding the audience’s technical abilities is important to know, because it determines both the level of the training materials and how Boxcar can market these to them.
As for competitor’s products of interest to this audience, the following are some of Boxcar Marketing Pro’s competitors: Mequoda, MarketingProfs, MoreVisibility’s training webinars, and conferences such as the Vocus User’s Conference, and Internet Marketing Conference. It is important to keep competitors at top of mind when creating content and marketing materials so that Boxcar can position itself competitively. There are also higher-level training programs that are non-competing products of interest to the audience; these include Queen’s University’s Executive Marketing Program and Simon Fraser University’s Executive Programs, such as the Executive MBA. While they are not direct competitors – because Boxcar is targeting people who either cannot afford these programs or do not have the time to take them – they are still useful to look at for content, content delivery, structure and costs.
Next, Boxcar determined what need the program is trying to fill by outlining the audience’s common complaints and goals. In Trottier’s experience with clients, their common complaints are that they are not seeing ROI in their online marketing, they cannot keep up with all of the changes in online marketing, they need to learn more if they want to get ahead but do not have either the time or money to go back to school, and they want structure to their learning – reading blog posts that they stumble across online is not consistent enough to properly learn from.
From what Trottier sees in her training and consultation sessions, the audiences’ goals are to learn how to fully take advantage of the web for marketing, to have measurable ROIs, to save time and money with both their learning and their marketing, to move forward with either their company or their career, to find an online learning program with structure and value and to understand how the web and web culture works.
From the discovery document, audience personas were developed. This helped to further visualize and understand the audience. From the primary and secondary audience targets, I created Julie, a marketing coordinator at a mid-sized publisher; Ruth the publisher of a mid-sized press; Kate the marketing director for a large company; Heather, a small business owner; Dave, a university department marketer; and Duncan, a trade association director. While this exercise did not change the discovery document information, it helped to make audience members and their goals more concrete and gave Boxcar a reference point when making decisions.
5.3.2 Marketing Plan
From all of this information, Boxcar wrote a 7-Sentence Marketing Plan:
The purpose of my marketing is to sell 100% of applicable content in a simple, cost-effective manner to create an income stream for Boxcar Marketing. Secondarily it is to generate leads for the company’s full consulting services by showing those in need of online marketing help that Boxcar Marketing can provide quality, results-driven content at a reasonable price. The goal is to encourage the audience to take advantage of all levels of Boxcar’s content, leading up to a consulting contract.
I will accomplish my purpose by creating a model that leverages free content to build trust and brand authority, which then promotes the more valuable paid content to users. The marketing will reinforce the credentials of the Boxcar Marketing team, the easy access to information, the low-risk option of accessing content, and the timeliness of the material.
My target audience is North American marketing people who want to brush up on new online marketing ideas and small business owners who do everything themselves and need be able to quickly learn and implement marketing tools.
Marketing weapons that I plan to employ are Boxcar Marketing’s reputation, Boxcar Marketing’s partners/colleagues, content sharing/exchanging, social media tools like Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn and Google AdWords. Other tools include: persuasive copy, existing platforms, community and word of mouth, free, customer service, social networks, advertising and direct mail, affiliate program and a marketing calendar.
Boxcar’s niche in the marketplace is that the company is platform agnostic and independent of an agency. Boxcar will position itself as friendly, ask-us-anything, fair, reasonable advice providers who focus on hands-on and high-level strategy tips that, once followed, will show results.
The Boxcar Marketing business identity is a blend of professional, speedy, friendly, personable, fairly priced, flexible shop that offers customized advice for those who want to go beyond the paid content. Boxcar makes its clients look smart and makes customers’ interactions online easy. Boxcar speaks human and geek, and if Boxcar can’t answer a question the company can point customers in the right direction.
I plan to devote 10% of projected gross sales to marketing.
5.4 Content Generation and Packaging
Before Boxcar started gathering and creating content, Boxcar needed to develop keywords for the content and marketing materials for SEO purposes, so that Boxcar Marketing Pro would be found online. Keywords came from search terms that visitors use to get to the Boxcar Marketing website, along with common keywords that came up in initial research. Using Google’s External Keyword Tool and Google Insights, Boxcar created a keyword list with keywords categorized by theme. Categorizing keywords by theme makes it easier to determine what keywords to use when writing copy and also makes it easier to create PPC ad campaigns.
Although Boxcar had an idea of what types of content the audience groups are interested in, from my market research and Trottier’s experience and conversations with clients, Boxcar still wanted to ask people directly what they wanted. So Boxcar sent out a survey at the beginning of September through the Underwire monthly newsletter to ask readers what types of content they were interested in. Unfortunately, the survey only got a 1% response rate. While this is not enough data to represent the market, the survey did show that all of the survey respondents were interested in content about online business strategy and the majority were interested in content around social media marketing, content development, and Google analytics.
With all of the research, I gathered the content that Boxcar already had – from Trottier’s presentations and strategy documents – and entered the titles of the materials into a spreadsheet. From here, the titles were categorized so that Boxcar could see common themes within the content. Next, based on the research, Trottier and I added content that the company needs to create to complete these themes. For example, Boxcar often gets asked to develop LinkedIn and Facebook strategies for clients so it was decided that Boxcar needed to create whitepapers on those topics.
Because Boxcar recognized that the audience was looking for higher-level materials with structure to their learning, Boxcar decided to package the content as “kits” based on the common themes that could be seen within the list of content. Each kit will consist of four to six whitepapers, templates and how-to documents that cover the basics within each category and give the audience groups the knowledge and tools they need to be an expert in each subject. Boxcar outlined a Promotions kit, a Web Design kit, an Executive Kit, a Search Marketing kit, an ROI kit, a Publishers kit, and an Operations kit. Each kit includes a combination of whitepapers, tips, how-to, strategies and checklists. Boxcar will also offer the individual content within the kits as a la carte downloads, for those who do not want to buy a full kit. Boxcar has not decided how the kits will be packaged yet, but is considering .zip files with either PDF or .epub files inside.
It was noted during the research stage that almost all of Boxcar’s competitors have content that they give away for free in order to advertise their paid content. This is a valuable marketing tactic, so Boxcar decided to do the same. In order to decide which content should be free and which should be paid, Boxcar categorized the knowledge level of each piece of content, either beginner or advanced, and decided that all of the beginner materials would be available for free. Each kit will have some material that is available for free which will help to market the paid content. While the free material is basic information, the paid portions expand on the free material – similar to how Mequoda’s paid content is an extension of the information that is available for free through its daily tips and whitepapers. In addition, Boxcar already offers free social media, web analytics and email marketing tips in the monthly newsletter and on the Boxcar blog and Boxcar is considering having free previews of the paid content.
In the end, this is what the content grid looked like:
Figure 2: Boxcar Marketing Pro Content
5.5 Delivery Platform
Next, Boxcar explored ecommerce services that offer online shopping carts in order to find the best way to sell the kits. These are companies and services that can manage the downloading of the kits and handle online credit card transactions. Boxcar looked at Digital Chalk, a service that lets users create online courses with their course software; CubeCart, which is ecommerce shopping cart software; and E-junkie, a shopping cart platform that provides buy-now buttons to let users sell downloads on their website through PayPal and Google Checkout. Boxcar chose E-junkie because it seemed the most straightforward. E-junkie’s shopping cart allows Boxcar to set up an ecommerce page on the Boxcar website, add E-junkie’s buy-now buttons, load all of the files to one place, and track sales with a similar code to Google Analytics. E-junkie is also inexpensive. The platform starts $5 month and increases depending on the number of products a company is selling.
5.6 Marketing and Outreach Plan
With all of this in place, Boxcar developed the marketing and outreach plan. The plan is as follows.
5.6.1 Leveraging Existing Platforms: Boxcar Blog and Underwire
Because much the program is building on Boxcar’s existing reputation, marketing for Boxcar Marketing Pro will start on the Boxcar blog and in Underwire, Boxcar Marketing’s monthly newsletter. Boxcar already has an existing audience in these areas that are interested in online marketing so this is a natural place to start. Boxcar will include content excerpts or how-to advice related to the paid content so that readers can be directed to one of the kits for further information. When promoting, Boxcar will make sure to have direct links related to Boxcar Marketing Pro landing pages and to always encourage an upgrade – even if that is just encouraging blog readers to subscribe to the newsletter. Boxcar can monitor conversion rates with analytics to see the number of visitors that are clicking through to Boxcar Marketing Pro landing pages and, out of these visitors, who are buying kits. Boxcar can also monitor interest by looking at the number of blog comments and newsletter subscribers as well as posting surveys and monitoring the response.
5.6.2 Social Media
Boxcar Marketing Pro will be promoted on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Since the program is business focused, efforts will be concentrated on LinkedIn and Twitter, which are more popular platforms for business conversations. Boxcar will position itself as a resource in these spaces – answering questions on LinkedIn and directing people to useful content on Twitter, for example – while also promoting the Boxcar Marketing Pro content. A recent study showed that marketers most active on Twitter, promoting both their own content as well as the work of others, see better ROI and are more likely to attribute direct sales revenue to Twitter, so Boxcar will make sure to allocate substantial time to these platforms. Boxcar will encourage sharing on these networks with share and tweet buttons and will also encourage retweeting of Boxcar content. Boxcar can monitor its success with Hootsuite, which will show what types of tweets followers click on, Facebook Insights, and analytics which can show what sites are referring traffic to the Boxcar website and which of these sites are referring traffic that convert to sales.
5.6.3 Blogger Outreach
Boxcar has a strong community of fans who are active online so the company will involve them in marketing activities and encourage word of mouth. Boxcar will also perform blogger outreach to the wider community of bloggers and use Google Alerts and Twitter search to find the leaders in the Boxcar’s niche. Boxcar will make it easy for bloggers and others to share promotional content by having benefits lists, excerpts and photos related to the program available on the Boxcar website for bloggers to use. Boxcar can monitor success with this through Google Alerts by recording the number of online mentions received. The company can also monitor the number of incoming links to the site and general traffic increases.
5.6.4 Leveraging Partnerships
As noted earlier, Trottier has put a lot of energy into developing the Boxcar Marketing brand and Boxcar will use the name that she has built up to establish credibility for the program. Connected to Boxcar Marketing’s reputation is leveraging the company’s partnerships. Being active in the technology community has meant that Trottier has developed various partnerships in the community. Leveraging partnerships will expand Boxcar’s marketing reach and give access to the company’s partners’ resources, such as their online platforms and customer base. The key to successful partnerships is figuring out how the two parties can both benefit each other. For example, most blogs struggle for content so Trottier can guest blog on a partner’s blog, which will give them content and while also promoting Boxcar Marketing Pro. Boxcar can monitor the success of these partnerships with an increase in incoming links, online mentions and traffic to the site.
Barefoot believes that an affiliate program would have significantly increased Capulet’s sales, so Boxcar will spend some time exploring affiliate options and use Barefoot’s estimate of ten hours as a baseline for developing the program.
5.6.5 Advertising and Direct Mail
Boxcar will also promote Boxcar Marketing Pro through advertising and direct mail. Boxcar will do a pay-per-click advertising campaign because it is an effective way to track and monitor both leads and keywords. Boxcar will explore print advertising in Business in Vancouver or Report on Business because some of the target audience fits their readership demographics. Boxcar is also considering a direct mail postcard campaign. Because people get less and less mail now, direct mail is a way to stand out. Similar to how Capulet sent love letters to the top bloggers in their audience group, Boxcar can send out a direct mail campaign related to Boxcar Marketing Pro to top bloggers in the audience groups. In addition, since Boxcar is a partner with AdHack, an advertising community built on crowdsourcing, Boxcar may commission some of AdHack’s creators to produce an online video that can be posted to Boxcar’s online channels. Boxcar can monitor the success of the print and direct mail advertising with unique URLs, and the online advertising can be tracked with analytics.
5.7 Financials and Sales Plan
5.7.1 Costing Structure
With all of this planned out, it was time to look at Boxcar Marketing Pro’s costing structure. At this year’s BookNet Canada’s Technology Forum, as well as in an interview on O’Reilly’s Tools of Changing for Publishing, Richard Nash talks about the demand curve. He says that publishers “…capture such a limited amount of the demand under the demand curve,” having only ever captured the demand that lies within the $10 to $30 range. He says, “Below that, we capture no value. Above that, we are giving up most of the value,” arguing that even though some people will pay, say, $10,000 for dinner with Margaret Atwood and others will only ever pay $1 for a digital download, publishers have not figured out how to get that $10,000 from those who are willing to pay it and they refuse to accept anything less than $10 for their product. There is a range of demand for all products and the difficulty of finding a costing model is reaching all of that demand. I started by researching other costing models to see how Boxcar’s competitors were pricing their content:
Figure 3: Competitor’s Pricing
The majority of the pricing that Boxcar came across was in the $50 to $300 range. To see where Boxcar should be at, the costs were calculated:
Figure 4: Boxcar Marketing Pro Costs
Each kit has approximately six documents – three on hand and three that need to be written. So Boxcar estimates, based on other writing projects, that it will take twenty-one hours to write and format each kit.
In terms of Boxcar Marketing Pro’s advertising budget, Boxcar will want to spend $500 a month on a pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaign. This is generally the minimum amount to spend in order to see results and Boxcar will test out both Google AdWords and Facebook Ads to see where Boxcar gets the best conversions. Once Boxcar determines which platform has a better conversion rate, how to allocate the PPC advertising budget can be decided. I also budgeted $500 a month for other advertising costs. For example, a Business in Vancouver 1/8 page, black and white ad is $800, so with this money Boxcar could do an ad quarterly, or do three ads a year and one direct mail campaign a year.
Looking at the company’s competitors, Boxcar determined that it could reasonably charge $30 to $100 for a whitepaper or template download. A higher price point, at $50 a download, was decided on because at this price, it makes sense for someone to go through the hassle of a credit card transaction. With that, it was decided to price the kits at $199, hopefully making it more appealing for users to buy the entire package. There’s five paid a la carte downloads in each kit so there is a $50 savings when they buy the whole kit for $199. Boxcar decided against a subscription model because there is not enough content to offer right now, but this model may be explored once Boxcar has built up its content offerings. Including Boxcar’s basic consultation services, which start at $1500, with this pricing model Boxcar have captured four levels of demand for its product and services:
Free > $50 a la carte > $199 kit > $1500 consultation
To break even on the start-up costs of $1,930 Boxcar needs to sell ten kits. In terms of profit, Boxcar is going to aim to make $18,000 a year, by year two. Trottier and I think this is reasonable as a starting point and is a substantial contribution to Boxcar’s additional business development fund. To break even on the yearly costs of $7,380, Boxcar needs to sell thirty-seven kits, or three kits a month. This means that to earn a profit of $18,000 a year Boxcar has to sell just over ten kits a month.
Figure 5: Sales Target
In terms of a conversion rate, Boxcar will aim for 1% to 3% conversion initially, which is the generally accepted average conversion rate online. Capulet’s marketing conversion rates ranged from 7.9% to 0.7%, with an average of 3%, so aiming for 1% to 3% conversion is reasonable. Once Boxcar has reached 3%, Boxcar will aim for 5%, then 10%. As more content is developed Boxcar will be able to invest more time in marketing as opposed to content development so it can aim for higher conversion rates.
In terms of website visitors, this is what a 1% conversion rate looks like:
Figure 6: Conversion Rates
Even with just 1% conversion at one thousand unique visits a month, Boxcar would sell ten kits a month, so the goals are realistic.
Boxcar also realizes that the marketing efforts will increase visits to the site. Because Boxcar is often very busy with clients, the company is not consistent in its own marketing. Trottier performed an experiment in April 2010, where she blogged twice a week, tweeted for the company on a regular basis and performed some outreach. From this, Boxcar saw a noticeable increase in traffic to the site. Boxcar had over 60% increase in unique visitors from March to April and, importantly, this traffic continued into May, where Boxcar still saw a 30% increase from March. This gives Boxcar an idea of what can be expected from marketing efforts for the program.
The hours that Capulet spent marketing their book is a good baseline for Boxcar. They spent sixty hours marketing the book over a couple of months, so Boxcar should estimate twenty to thirty hours a month for the Boxcar Marketing Pro program since Boxcar wants to spread marketing efforts out. Unlike Capulet, Boxcar will need to continuously promote the program, since Boxcar will be releasing new kits periodically. It is interesting that Capulet believes that spending sixty more hours marketing the book could have doubled their sales, and Boxcar should track the relationship between marketing hours and sales.
Other than extras like pay-per-click advertising, banner ads and direct mail pieces, Boxcar’s marketing hours and costs will be allocated to Boxcar Marketing’s overall marketing costs. This is because most of the planned marketing tactics – blogging, tweeting, and blogger outreach – are already a part of Boxcar’s business costs and, since the project is meant to market the company as a whole, these costs can be absorbed into the company’s regular business expenses.
5.7.3 Recouping Costs
If Boxcar sells ten kits a month with yearly costs at $7,380, it will break even by month four. The kit development costs will take longer to recoup, however because their costs are so high. It will cost just over $16,000 for all seven kits to be developed, so Boxcar will have to launch the program with just three kits, starting with the ones that either have the most demand or the most materials already developed. I believe that three kits will give the program enough weight while balancing what is financially possible. It will cost us $2,310 to develop each kit, which means that after the start-up costs are paid off; each kit will pay for themselves after twelve sales, or, with Boxcar’s target of selling ten kits a month, in the second month.
Trottier and I recognize that the costs are fairly high so another option is to explore where costs can be reduced. All of the estimated hours are based on Boxcar’s experience with other projects so I do not think Boxcar can cut back on those. But the company could try to reduce the hourly rate for those hours. Boxcar could consider hiring an intern to develop the whitepaper templates, ecommerce section on the website and the landing pages. This would cut back on costs but Boxcar would have to factor in training and project management time. The company could also explore hiring an intern for content development – which is where most of the costs are right now. Boxcar would have to be careful, however, because the program is about selling valuable content so quality control is important.
It is interesting that Capulet significantly increased their business requests after they published their ebook. When outlining when Boxcar will recoup the project’s costs Boxcar should keep this in mind and be willing to make less profit if it leads to more business – in Capulet’s case it doubled their business requests.
After six months Boxcar will decide how to move forward with the remaining kits. Also, if Boxcar is not meeting its targets, the company will examine the promotional and financial strategies and see where improvements can be made.
5.8 Measuring Success
If, going back to the business plan, Boxcar’s goals are:
And Boxcar’s marketing goals are:
Promote awareness about Boxcar Marketing Pro and the Boxcar Marketing brand.
Position Boxcar as experts in online marketing.
What can be measured? Overall, the project’s ROI funnel looks like this:
Figure 7: ROI Funnel
Boxcar’s direct business goal is to sell kits to add to Boxcar Marketing’s revenue stream. The KPI related to this goal is sales. To measure sales Boxcar would set up a goal funnel in Google Analytics that track visitors’ purchase path. For example, if Boxcar set up a goal that tracks each page that a visitor goes through in the purchase process, ending with the “thank-you for purchasing” page as the goal, Boxcar can measure the number of visitors that land on the thank-you page in relation to the total number of website visitors. Boxcar can also track visitors as they go through the purchase process and see if there are pages in the purchase path where visitors are abandoning the process. If there are common exit pages, then Boxcar will explore how to best optimize those pages, for example with more persuasive copy, a shorter form, or easier ways to complete the task.
The indirect business goal is to increase demand for Boxcar’s consulting services. This can be measure offline, by comparing the number of consultancy contracts before the program and after. Boxcar can also measure online interest in consultancy by adding a button or link to the website for visitors to click on to find out more information about Boxcar’s consulting services.
In terms of marketing goals, Boxcar can measure whether it succeeds at generating awareness of the company and the brand. KPIs related to this include:
Number of Facebook fans which can be measured with Facebook Insights
Number of Twitter followers, Twitter mentions and retweets, which can be measured using Hootsuite or another Twitter analytics provider
Underwire newsletter subscribers which can be measured with Boxcar’s email newsletter software, Campaign Monitor
Unique traffic to the website which can be measured with Google Analytics
Online mentions which can be measured with Google alerts.
Engagement with the Boxcar website by monitoring Google Analytics and tracking:
Average time on site
Top visited content
Some of these KPIs are also related to measuring Boxcar’s success at establishing itself as an expert in online marketing, namely number of Twitter followers and subscribers to the newsletter. The number of visits to the blog, which can be tracked with Google Analytics, is another indicator of Boxcar’s authority in the online marketing space. LinkedIn also has an “expert” feature where people that answer questions can be graded as “experts” so efforts can be monitored there, too.
As the project moves forward, Boxcar will create a baseline and monitor progress by comparing the KPIs and analytics numbers with online and offline activities. This way Boxcar can monitor can see which activities have the most effect on the project’s goals and the strategy can be adjusted accordingly.
6: CONCLUSION: HOW PUBLISHERS SHOULD MOVE FORWARD
As both Boxcar Marketing’s and Capulet Communications’ case studies show, there are opportunities for publishers to monetize their existing content online. When approached strategically, this content will market the brand for its wider business goals and aims, creating broader opportunities for the company.
That is not to say that there are not problems within each of these business models. Capulet became overloaded with other work, had to stop their marketing and promotion efforts and missed out on further sales. In terms of Boxcar Marketing, high costs and time commitments related to content development have hindered the implementation of the project. But publishers can learn from these problems. They should stretch out their marketing efforts so that they do not get overloaded and stop promoting their project. They should be prepared to incur costs and find ways to cut down on expenses – by using interns, for example. Publishers should never underestimate the opportunities and the opportunity costs for a digital publishing project.
The best way to take advantage of these opportunities is by appealing to new market realities and how new users engage with content and brands. This means that publishers should focus their efforts on a niche level and appeal to users by supporting and leading tribes within the new purchase funnel – finding the compelling aspects of the product that users will want to share, earning trust by being authentic in conversations with communities, and securing permission to continue engaging with communities in the future.
The Boxcar Marketing case study serves as a platform for publishers to build their own content monetization programs and outlines the steps that publishers need to take.
To start, publishers need to find opportunity with their content. Is there a need in the marketplace that the company can fill? Does the company have existing content that can be repurposed online to fill this need? Once the content has been determined, publishers need to create a business plan by clearly defining the program’s purpose and goals and outlining the target audience. Preferably, publishers will already have an existing audience base to build on. With the audience in mind, publishers should experiment with how to best deliver the content to the audience in a way that either helps them learn valuable information or gives them ways to interact with and connect with others. This also includes figuring out what can be free that will market the paid content and positioning the free content so that taking advantage of the paid upgrade is encouraged.
Next, publishers should create a thorough marketing plan that covers multiple channels, with clearly defined strategy and goals behind each tool. Each tool should also have measuring tactics in place. Publishers should not use all of the tools, but choose the tools that will help better execute the strategy and reuse content wherever possible. Both of these tactics will help save time and effort. Once the marketing tools have been decided, marketers need to create an activity timeline that helps them company be consistent and thorough in their marketing.
When costing the materials, publishers need to cover the demand curve by experimenting and responding to the market. They should also set reasonable sales targets. If the financials do not work out, publishers need to change their plans so that they do. Boxcar Marketing, for example, had to limit the amount of kits that it started with, so publishers may have to narrow down the size of their programs, too.
With the business and marketing goals, publishers should determine what can be measured. With clearly defined KPIs, they need to create a culture of analysis where all activities are tracked and measured and related back to ROI. Publishers need to schedule time every month to look at the numbers and make strategic changes to the program and the marketing plan in relation to the data.
The Boxcar Marketing Pro case study demonstrates that an online content monetization program does not have to be on a large scale. The initial goal for the project is to sell ten kits a month. By selling just ten kits a month, Boxcar will break even on the start-up costs after the first month and will start to earn $18,000 a year by year two (less kit development costs) – an ample amount of revenue considering that Boxcar is reusing content that is already on hand. This is not a large-scale, unwieldy project but a manageable one that, with the right content, clearly defined audience and well-thought out business plan, many can implement.
Although the Boxcar Marketing Pro strategy is not perfect, it is a workable business plan for digital publishing – an area where there has been lots of discussion but no detailed strategy. The business plan is meant to be a platform to build upon and, now that the model has been developed, it can be refined and adjusted going forward. For example, if as Boxcar Marketing Pro develops it turns out that the $199 price point for the kits is too high, Boxcar can reduce the price point and then adjust the related numbers, like the breakeven point or conversion targets. Because the details have been worked out, it is now just a matter of tweaking and fine-tuning.
Digital publishing itself is an abstract idea, but the business model outlined in this paper gives publishers a concrete strategy to work from. Like the profit and loss statements that publishers create before publishing a book, this strategy works out the numbers for publishing online. Now that the business model has been developed, publishers can benefit from their existing content and earn additional revenue for their companies by taking advantage of the opportunities that exist on the web.
Appendix A: Personas
Boxcar Marketing’s Primary Personas
JULIE > PUBLISHING MARKETER
Basics (Demographics & Psychographics)
30-something, female, marketing coordinator of a mid-size publisher. Julie handles marketing and promotions, must report to superiors on the effectiveness of campaigns and needs to lobby for online and marketing budget increases.
She has a wide range of interests both professionally and personally. She is involved with music, art, photography, slow food, design, books, and magazines. She likes recommendations from friends and believes that she is an early adopter.
I don’t have time to come up with new ideas all the time. I really want to, which means I can’t spend time on the details of the process. I need checklists, I need to show ROI, I need to quickly take an idea and get buy-in and budget. I need to get from idea to execution quickly.
Fairly savvy but might not think so. She uses a lot of technology and can easily pick up how to do something. She’s ok experimenting if it looks easy and useful.
Julie uses/enjoys these websites:
Goals (I want/I need)
I want to focus on the ideas and execution rather than reporting.
I want to easily pull together a report after the fact.
I need to know what things I can measure.
I need checklists so it’s easier to pass things on to interns or other staff.
I want a place to find ideas that I can modify for our purposes.
I want to know what’s going to work (because I don’t want to take risks, because I can’t tailor each campaign, because I need to show case studies to my boss)
It has to be easy to search and find relevant results
I need to quickly see if it is relevant or how it applies to my situation
Useful Content for Julie
Links to resources: blogs, inspiration, big thought leaders, things to read, new stories, industry how to/ebooks
Checklists: landing pages, campaign templates
Ideas + budget
Quick mix and match, decision matrix
Case studies (local)
Author survey: working with blogging authors or authors not online
Keyword generation and SEO 101
Press release how to
How to find audience online
ROI: what can you measure
Free: what can you give to get
Lone evangelist (getting buy-in)
RUTH > PUBLISHER
Basics (Demographics & Psychographics)
50-something female publisher of a mid-size press. Ruth is a publisher with a huge amount of industry experience. She handles all of the long-term planning for her company, controls the purse strings and has various departments reporting to her.
Ruth says she understands the online world but needs to be convinced of new ideas. She says she wants to see the numbers when asked to part with her money, but it’s really about needing to see credible sources and something she that can relate to before she can learn something new.
Ruth has a wide range of interests both professionally and personally. She is interested in books, magazines, art, design, interior decorating, traveling and staying fit. She likes to lead the pack and make recommendations to friends and family. While she used to be an early adopter, she is now part of the early majority.
I want to spend my money on proven methods that I understand and I can’t afford to jump at every new opportunity. I’ve been working in the industry for over thirty years and while I understand that things are changing, to me, a book is still a book.
She thinks she understands the web but only uses it at a basic level. She has email, visits news and book websites, and is aware of social media tools like Twitter and Facebook but has never used them.
Ruth uses/enjoys the websites:
Goals (I want/I need)
I need to choose tactics well
I need to know who to read given limited time
I need a filter so I save time
I need credible sources that I can relate to
I need to quickly see if it is relevant or how it applies to my situation
I need to know how online fits in to the bigger publishing picture
I want to see case studies from companies I know
I want to see value in where I spend my money
I want to see reporting/numbers on where I spend my money
I want validation and an increased profile for my company
I want to network at “C” level
I want it to be easy to search and find relevant results
Useful Content for Julie
Big Picture: case studies (submit yours) publicity opportunities
Short/sweet, executive summaries
Inspiration, big idea stuff
Who’s doing what and how do I compare
Resources: compete.com, ROI calculators
Service Directory: who does what on short notice
Cost and budget checklists
Visuals, graphs, things to put into presentations
How to choose a path
Reading List: who to follow FB, Twitter, Business reading
KATE > MARKETING DIRECTOR
Basics (Demographics & Psychographics)
Kate is in her late 40s/early 50s and is a female marketing manager for a large company. She has worked for the company for 10 years, has five people reporting to her and reports to the CEO.
Kate develops and executes company-wide marketing and business planning but also tries to stay on top of the smaller marketing campaigns. She’s a big-picture thinker and generally has more ideas than she can execute.
Kate understands and likes the internet but doesn’t know if she’s using it to her full advantage in her marketing. She knows that by now her online marketing shouldn’t be in addition to her offline marketing, but she doesn’t know how to fully integrate the two.
Kate works hard and only has a few interests outside of work. She is interested in mystery novels, interior design and trying to stay active. She likes to lead the pack and make recommendations to friends and family. While she used to be an early adopter, she is now part of the early majority.
I know that professional development is important and I want to stay on top of marketing trends but I can’t fit the high costs of training and conferences in to my budget.
Kate uses the internet daily for email, news, blogs, and community sites. While she doesn’t know how to build websites, she can tell a good one from a bad one.
I need to continue to stay relevant in my field with pro-d
I need to learn how to integrate online with offline work
I need to learn how online marketing can deliver ROI
I need to train my staff on a budget
I need to justify where I spend my budget
I need to report to stakeholders
I want to learn both at a hands-on level and at a strategy level
I want to have tools for metrics
I want to be able to direct those under me to training resources
I want to be respected as an expert by stakeholders
I want my ideas to be respected and heard
I want to fully understand the new marketing rules
HEATHER > SMALL BUSINESS OWNER
Basics (Demographics & Psychographics)
Heather is 30-something, female, and small business owner. She is the only employee so she does everything herself, wears many hats and needs to be able to quickly learn and implement.
Heather fully understands the web but doesn’t have time to stay on top of every new trend. Her company relies on its’ ‘hip factor’ but she still needs to run a solid business. Heather needs new tools and tips that are reliable, worth her time, and will help stabilize/grow her company.
Heather works hard at her startup yet manages to have lots of different hobbies and interests. She is an avid reader of both fiction and nonfiction, enjoys shopping, design, going to the gym, and meeting up with friends. She likes to lead the pack and make recommendations to friends and family. She is an early adopter.
I want the marketing know-how to be successful with my marketing, show ROI, yet not spend tons of time and resources on it.
Heather is tech-savvy. Her business is online and she does most of the design and development of her company’s website herself. She has a blog and a strong online presence.
Heather uses/enjoys these websites:
Goals (I want/I need)
I need to grow my company by building its online presence
I need to learn easy-to-implement reliable marketing techniques
I need to show ROI from my marketing
I need to learn how to do it all myself
I need to quickly learn
I need information to come to me – I won’t remember to find it
I need the value to be apparent right away
I need to justify time spent on marketing
I want to know how to save time and money
I want to have a strategy and goals in place for all my marketing
I want to learn both at a hands-on level and at a strategy level
Boxcar Marketing’s Secondary Personas
DAVE > UNIVERSITY/COLLEGE DEPARTMENT MARKETER
Basics (Demographics & Psychographics)
30-something male, Dave works in the marketing and communications department at a university. Dave reports to the department head and he (along with one other person) does all of the marketing for the entire department. Dave is responsible for developing the communication department’s brand identity. Dave is also responsible for attracting new students and keeping current students involved in the department. His work indirectly affects the budget allocated to communications.
The department is growing and wants to increase it’s visibility in the school by appealing to students, potential students, parents and employers. They know that to do so they need to get more online but they don’t know where to start. They’ve asked Dave to take the lead on this.
Dave is happily married and he and his wife are trying to have a baby. In his spare time he enjoys going on hikes, having dinners with close friends, blogging, and reading fiction
Dave is proficient with the web and enjoys learning new things. He blogs regularly and uses Facebook. He doesn’t know how to use the web for higher-level tasks like SEO, analytics, reporting, but he’s willing to learn.
Dave uses/enjoys these websites:
Communication Department Website
Goals (I want/I need)
I need to attract new students to the history department
I need to engage current students
I need to make the department attractive to parents and employers
I need to increase the department’s visibility within the school
I need to move most (if not all) of the department’s marketing efforts online
I need to know how to develop an online marketing plan
I need to know how to report on my marketing efforts
I need to know how to integrate social media into a marketing plan
I need to know the basics of SEO, email newsletters, PPC, landing pages
I want checklists and templates – I don’t want to start everything from scratch
DUNCAN > TRADE ASSOCIATION DIRECTOR
Basics (Demographics & Psychographics)
Duncan is a mid-fifties director for an Energy Association and he wants to collect materials for his member’s professional development. He is looking for material that he can pass along as training material but also sees benefit in knowing this stuff himself. He has a budget for pro-d and would like to find something that he could subscribe his members to, rather than just one-off material.
Goals (I want/I need)
I need to keep the trade association up on trends
I need training material that I can pass along to my members
I need to give them valuable information
I want to easily find valuable information
I want to be able to subscribe my members rather than just one-off material
I want information that will help members improve their marketing, planning and show ROI
14 Chris Anderson, Free: The Future of a Radical Price (Toronto: HarperCollins,2009), 181. RETURN
15 Google Investor Relations, 2010 Financial Tables, http://investor.google.com/financial/tables.html. RETURN
16Seth Godin, “Malcom is Wrong,” Seth’s Blog, posted June 30, 2009, http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2009/06/malcolm-is-wrong.html. RETURN
17Chris Brogan, “My Worry Reduction Buttons- Affiliate Marketing,” The Chris Brogan Blog, posted May 10, 2010, http://www.chrisbrogan.com/my-worry-reduction-buttons-affiliate-marketing/. RETURN
18 Chris Anderson, Free:The Future of a Radical Price (Toronto: HarperCollins,2009), 165. RETURN
19Seth Godin, “Malcom is Wrong,” Seth’s Blog, posted June 30, 2009, http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2009/06/malcolm-is-wrong.html. RETURN
20Chris Anderson, Free:The Future of a Radical Price (Toronto: HarperCollins,2009), 69-70. RETURN
21 Kelly Mooney and Nita Rollins, The Open Brand (California: New Riders, 2008), 74. RETURN
22 The Cluetrain Manifesto, “95 Theses,”http://www.cluetrain.com/#manifesto. RETURN
23Monique Trottier, “ACP Children’s Committee Presentation,” (presented at the Associate of Canadian Publishers Children’s Committee, Toronto, September 18, 2008). RETURN
24 “Led by Facebook, Twitter, Global Time Spent on Social Media Sites up 82% Year over Year,” Nielsen Wire, posted January 22, 2010, http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/global/led-by-facebook-twitter-global-time-spent-on-social-media-sites-up-82-year-over-year/. RETURN
25 Clay Shirky, “Clay Shirky On New Book Here Comes Everybody,” Video on YouTube, posted March 5, 2008, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_0FgRKsqqU. RETURN
26 Twitter Blog, “Measuring Tweets,” February 22, 2010, http://blog.twitter.com/2010/02/measuring-tweets.html. RETURN
28 Seth Godin, “Seth Godin on the Tribes We Lead,” Video on TED.com, February 2009, http://www.ted.com/talks/seth_godin_on_the_tribes_we_lead.html. RETURN
29 Richard Nash, “Publishing 3.0: Moving from Gatekeeping to Partnership,” BookNet Canada Technology Forum, March 25, 2010, http://www.booknetcanada.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=567&Itemid=534. RETURN
36 Mitch Joel, Six Pixels of Separation (New York: Business Plus, 2009), 21. RETURN
37Search and Social Media Report (UK: IAB and Microsoft Advertising, March 2010), 13, http://advertising.microsoft.com/uk/search-social-media-report. RETURN
38Monique Trottier popularized this phrase. RETURN
39 Kelly Mooney and Nita Rollins, The Open Brand (California: New Riders, 2008), 83. RETURN
40 Susan Fournier and Lara Lee, “Getting Brand Communities Right”. Harvard Business Review (April 2009). RETURN
41 Mitch Joel, “Selling 2.0 – Let The Customer Do The Communicating,” Six Pixels of Separation, posted September 24, 2008, http://www.twistimage.com/blog/archives/selling-20—let-the-customer-do-the-communicating/. RETURN
42 Mitch Joel, Six Pixels of Separation (New York: Business Plus, 2009), 167. RETURN
43 Samuel Axon, “BP Buys Top Google Result For ‘Oil Spill’,” Mashable, posted June 8, 2010, http://mashable.com/2010/06/08/bp-oil-spill-google/. RETURN
44 Seth Godin, “Cannibalism and Spam,” Seth’s Blog, posted April 14, 2010, http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2010/04/cannibailsm-and-spam.html. RETURN
45 Neil M. Rosen, “What is the most effective use of e-mail to drive revenue and loyalty?” B2B Online, posted June 17, 2010. http://www.btobonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100617/FREE/100619919/1008/EMAIL#seenit. RETURN
46 “Email Marketing Benchmarks for Small Business,” MailChimp, http://www.mailchimp.com/articles/email_marketing_benchmarks_for_small_business/. RETURN
47 Kelly Mooney and Nita Rollins, The Open Brand (California: New Riders, 2008), 187. RETURN
49 Kelly Mooney and Nita Rollins, The Open Brand (California: New Riders, 2008), 84. RETURN
50 Arthur Attwell, “Seven Digital-Publishing Tips for Small Publishers,” The Arthur Attwell Blog, posted April 1, 2010, http://arthurattwell.com/technology/83-seven-digital-publishing-tips-for-small-publishers. RETURN
51 Clay Shirky, “The Collapse of Complex Business Models,” The Clay Shirky Blog, posted April 1 2010, http://www.shirky.com/weblog/2010/04/the-collapse-of-complex-business-models/. RETURN
52 Clay Shirky, “The Collapse of Complex Business Models,” The Clay Shirky Blog, posted April 1 2010, http://www.shirky.com/weblog/2010/04/the-collapse-of-complex-business-models/. RETURN
54 Charlene Li,“Forrester’s New Social Technographics Report,” Groundswell: How People With Social Technologies Are Changing Everything, posted April 23, 2007, http://forrester.typepad.com/groundswell/2007/04/forresters_new_.html. RETURN
55 Monique, Trottier, “LPG Presentation at Sales Conference,” (presentation at Literary Press Group, Toronto, December 7, 2007). RETURN
56 Christina Wodtke and Austin Govella, Information Architecture: Blueprints for the WebSecond Edition, (California: New Riders Press, 2009), 130. RETURN
57 The following is built on ideas from Christina Wodtke and Austin Govella, Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web Second Edition, (California: New Riders Press, 2009). RETURN
58 Monique, Trottier, “Websites: Investment or Expense?” (presentation at Book Expo Canada, Toronto, June 13, 2008). RETURN
59Jason Burby and Shane Atchison, Actionable Web Analytics: Using Data to Make Smart Business Decisions, (Indiana: Wiley Publishing, Inc, 2007), 9. RETURN
60 Many of the ideas for this section are taken from from a webinar: Bryan Eisenberg, Chris Goward and Raquel Hirsch “Activate the 10 Steps to a Higher Conversion Rate,” Webinar, presented June 2, 2010. RETURN
61 Bryan Eisenberg, Chris Goward and Raquel Hirsch “Active the 10 Steps to a Higher Conversion Rate,” Webinar, presented June 2, 2010. RETURN
65 Darren Barefoot, in phone discussion with the author, September 14, 2009. RETURN
66Darren Barefoot, “Our Pitch to Some Top Bloggers,” Friends with Benefits, posted December 18, 2007, http://www.friendswithbenefitsbook.com/2007/12/18/our-pitch-to-some-top-bloggers/ and Darren Barefoot, in phone discussion with the author, September 14, 2009. RETURN
67 Darren Barefoot, “eBook Conversion Rates, YouTube and the Cobbler’s Children,” Friends with Benefits, February 11, 2009 http://www.friendswithbenefitsbook.com/2009/02/11/ebook-conversion-rates-youtube-and-the-cobblers-children/. RETURN
68 Darren Barefoot, in phone discussion with the author, September 14, 2009. RETURN
72 Many of Boxcar Marketing’s blog readers, Underwire subscribers, Twitter followers and members of the technology community are also following Trottier on SoMisGuided’s Twitter stream. 1,100 audience members is a low estimate but ensures that I am not including duplicate people. RETURN
91Paul Gillin, “B-to-b marketers still looking for return on tweets, ” B2B Online, posted June 14, 2010, http://www.btobonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100614/FREE/306149964/1108/FREE#seenit. RETURN