Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Long Tail

In Marketing class we also talked about "Long Tail" Marketing. You can read the original article by clicking here.

Basically, the author of the article is saying that there is more money to be made from online sales of non-hits than there is to be made from hits. His thinking is that although they are priced lower, there are so many of them you can't help but make a profit. Of course, this requires you to have plenty of bandwith and memory but that's fairly nonexpensive in comparisson to the kind of money there is to be made.

Hits make a lot of money at first but only about 20% of everything produced will be a hit. The rest will die pretty quickly and soon be out of print or otherwise unavailable. Stores like Amazon though, make pretty much everything there is available and with POD (print on demand) there is no reason for anything to ever be "out of print" again. Tools like the product recommendation program pull customers towards similar products and they become aware of less mainstream interests.

We didn't discuss this much in class although I wish we had. I'm not entirely clear with the article so I don't agree or disagree with it at this point. It seems to make sense, for music anyway. As for books, I'm not convinced at all and I don't think anyone else was either. It would be a good way to fill certain niches as the internet doesn't require people to be within a certain distance of a brick and mortar store but I think most people still prefer to buy their books from a physical store and have it immediately. They'll also tend to make more impulse buys in an actual store than online.

I think most everyone agrees going to an actual bookstore is nicer (but then go and buy online like I just did - hey! textbooks are expensive!)

There's something attractive to the idea of "everything is always available", from the buyer PoV anyway. But where does that leave quality? If you can afford to offer everything in the "off-chance it will find a buyer", then there's very little need for people such as editors and agents who separated the wheat from the chaff. I don't think it would be much good for authors either. When you're associated with crap, people assume you're crap too whether it's true or not.

So... thoughts? Comments? Explanations on how LT marketing really works?

4 Ps

The second class was Marketing Management. Well, not entirely true. We had an Excel workshop in the morning. The workshop was ok, not the most fun software to play with but a good refresher for those of us who haven't used it in years.

The most important thing we learned in the intro marketing class were the 4 "P"s. Product, Price, Place, Promotion.

What is marketing?

"Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying custormer requirements profitably." - (Chartered Institute of Marketing).

You have to find a need that you can fill adequately.

During the production driven era, you had to make do with what there was (e.g. only black cars were produced so you got a black car). During the marketing era though, things are driven by the customer's needs and wants. The focus is on the buyer and products have to fit the customer's lifestyle and provide a need and benefits. It's the beginning of diferentiation. Customer Relation Marketing is driven by loyalty and customer reltions. Meaning, try to hold on to your customers for as long as possible. Keep them coming back. An example we were given in Amazon. The "people who bought this also bought" feature can be a powerful marketing tool, when it works. Amazon recommendations don't always suit the customer.

Timing is very important in marketing. When a book hits the stores can determine whether it lives or dies. Obviously Christmas is very important but apparently, a lot of publishers have become a little rigid in that are and forget there are occasions for book selling throughout the year. If you miss the right moment, you're pretty much screwed. I better work on my scheduling skills.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

What's an editor got to do?

This week's Editorial class was mainly intro. So there isn't an aweful lot here you won't have already read about in other people's blogs or websites. Still, I thought it was good to hear it again from my professors.

The editorial process begins with an idea. The OED defines "idea" as:

I. General or ideal form as distinguished from its realization in individuals; archetype, pattern, plan, standard.

Yes, they used "ideal" in the definition, just goes to show the OED is starting to lose touch. The idea might come from the editor or an author or even someone else. Once there is an idea, it needs to be put into motion. If the idea comes from the editor, s/he will need to decide whether it's worth turning it into a book. There are a lot of great ideas but not all of them would turn a profit and that's what an industry, any industry, is about. Sometimes, you just have to sacrifice it either because you don't have the ressources or there's no market for it.
If the idea's good, then the editor will look for an author to write it. This is commissioning. Then, the author sends a manuscript to the editor and the long process of making it the best it can be starts. This process involves a lot of people in a lot of departments.
If the idea comes from the author and an editor decides to take it, then it's called acquisition. But you already knew that, right? ;)

It is important to build relationships. A good relationship with the author, with other people in your company as well as outside the company (freelancers etc) are crucial. The editor has to be the champion of a book within the company after all s/he will have to fight for the book to be published so they must really believe in it. There are very big risks taken in publishing. Imagine you offer a huge advance to a celebrity for their biography then that biography doesn't earn out? That's a lot of money lost right there. Or you commission a book that should sell like hot baguettes in a Paris boulangerie but the process is delayed for whatever reason and the book is published a little too late and...doesn't earn out?

An editor needs to know to know a lot of things and juggle them deftly (hence why I'm considering joining the circus society, hardeehar). Obviously, the market is one of them. You'd be surprise how disconnected you can actually be from the market. You think you know what's selling lately but you're likely to be wrong. You have to do your research. What is the need you can fill? You either have to guess right or react very quickly.

You also have to know about trends. Sometimes it's good to publish for a trend but remember somethings become over done very quickly like tragic childhood memoirs, and , IMO, vampires (but the damned bloodsuckers are getting a revival now, we'll never be rid of them will we?). Sometimes, you'll do your research and see there's a market where there is no competition. Sometimes this means "brilliant untapped niche market!" and sometimes it means "there ain't no money here".

So if you want to be an editor, you have to be creative, imaginative, patient (publishing is slowwww), have a thick skin, good with people, dedicated and financially aware, you know, among other things.
Oh, and... you fail more often than not. Kind of like being a writer I guess. Except the writer doesn't stand to lose a couple tens of thousands.

Week 1 summary

*downs a cup of hot Blackberry & Nettle tea*

Well, that was the end of week one and I feel remarkable more evil. Well, not a lot more evil but some. I've been to the pub more times than I can count, got incredibly drunk once and did a lot of stupid things (I wish I could say I'll never drink again but it would be a lie). Basically, I'm really enjoying myself. Pub quizzes are fun, my team almost won but were definited in the last two rounds. We still got a lot of free beer and a fiver. Pretty lame but better than nothing. Another course team got the 45.

Here's one thing that is incredibly annoying. Money goes really, really fast. I spend as little as possible but somehow, the money just zooms by. Also, I can't seem to get a job. Some of my course mates managed to get a job within the week, I haven't even been called back for an interview. What jobs there are are pretty lame with low pay and either too many hours or not enough. It would still be enough to eat on but the hours are mostly all wrong for my schedule.

We've had a couple or really lovely sunny days. Yes, just after google announced it was officially autumn *grin*. UK weather is being rebellious. Still, the trees are starting to redden a bit but they are mostly green. I have a pretty nice view from my room window. Did I mention I have a private bathroom? Well, it bears repeating, except, of course, I have to keep it clean myself. Nothing is ever easy, is it?

Anyway, in more interesting news, all my classes were very interesting. It still looks very challenging but incredibly exciting as well. I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to be doing this. I figure I'll write one post per class, detailing what we learned and so on.

The classes are: Editorial Management, Marketing, Design and Production (split into two). In between, we have some extra lectures occasionally and IT workshops.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Already hard at work

Er...I just found a draft for this post. It's all the way back from week 1. I don't know how I missed it :)

So, we've already got homework to do although classes haven't really started yet. We've been put into groups (my group's name is "Rush", I kinda like "Devil Bones" better though) and we had to go visit bookstores and check out what they're doing to sell their books, how they organize the store etc. We each went to visit one store (it seems like we're the only ones who thought of splitting up). I took the Oxford University Press bookshop on High Street.

I find it fairly interesting since it sells books by just one publisher. I went there on thursday since it was the only weekday I had free and spent a good while just roaming. Funny how much you notice when you actually start looking.

They have their dictionary series right at the entrance of the store along with with ELT books. Everyone knows the Oxford English Dictionary after all. The shorter version (because the full one is many volumes long) was set on a pedestal, heheh. Then you have textbooks and sexy subjects like physics and other sciences. It was a little harder to find the English and Linguistic sections in a more crampes, low-ceilinged lower floor for some reason.

Most of their sales are to tourists, professors and Oxford University students and they have books on every subject imaginable it seems so no wonder they do alright for themselves. They don't really have an online store though which I found strange.

I have a loooong list of things I noticed at the shop. I wonder what sort of things I've missed and will come out in class on wednesday.

This past wednesday and friday we had computer workshops. Excel was boring but informative. I know how to use it basically but it was good to have a refresher course on it. The more interesting one was the workshop on InDesign. We made a very simple brochure for some books which took us through the basic functions and then we converted it into a pdf.

Friday evening we had a pub golf tour with the Oxford SYP (Society of Young Publishers). It was a lot of fun but I think next time I will drink less. I was acting very silly towards the end but my team won! Woooo! We were 2 Americans, 1 Canadian and little French ol' me so winning a booze contest was a matter of honor.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

And we're off!


Today was Induction/Enrolment day. I was a little worried that something would go wrong at the last minute (as it usually does) but everything went super smoothly. I met up with people I had met at a pub outing and then again on monday when we had a Chinese buffet dinner (we owned that restaurant that night!).

I have to say, I'm very happy with my classmates! I've never been very comfortable talking to people but today, I was a perfect socialite. I talked to everyone! I was really comfortable with all these people. It felt perfectly natural to start chatting with someone I had never seen as if we were old friends.

The day started in the Buckley Building which houses the publishing center. It's a very modern building, all glass and white painted metal on Headington Road. I got there very early so I helped Ros Ockwell, the Senior Tutor, set up the cookies and booklets. Good cookies.

The room was fairly packed with all the Publishing programs students as well as art students (not that many of them really). They dissappeared after a while to go do their own things. Claire (with an "i") talked a while. She's really quite funny and...she quoted some silly things I'd said on the facebook group, which goes to show you really do have to be careful what you say online. It was the best thread ever, I was in tears reading it.

We laughed a lot during the prof's presentations. One of the more important things we learned today was that there is Claire and then there is Clare. Or the i-less Clare, if you will. This is crucial to our success at Brookes.

I won't bore you with a detailed retelling of what we're going to do because it wouldn't mean much to you in one dose. It'll come up anyway. We already have a little project to complete for next week but tomorrow it's IT workshops and such. We've recieved our schedule for the semester and it looks like it's going to be fairly intense. We have one day free (monday) so that'll be work experience day. Somehow, I'll have to find time and space for a part-time job AND homework in all of that. I might even have to actually work to get this degree (*le gasp*).

We finished the day with pictures and a social. We had wine and chips (and the cookies). We mingled, talked, laughed a lot. I got to talk to all the people I hadn't talked to before as well as the professors all of whom were great and not intimidating at all. Well, maybe Leander is a little scary...

I'm the kind who sticks close to the wall during social events and leaves as quickly as is polite. Today was the first time in my life when I didn't want to leave but I was starting to feel the effects of the wine and, regardless of what Leander says, I didn't want to make a fool of myself (not yet, anyway). I mean, these were all relative strangers!

If things keep going this way, I think I'm going to have one of the best years of my life. No exageration. Well, I might be a little giddy from the booze but I don't think so. I can tell classes are going to be hard but I'm feeling so motivated and eager to start. A very strange feeling indeed.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Induction week starts tomorrow

This is going to be my last night at the hostel. I admit I've rather liked the hostel experience but I'm definitely feeling the need to not share my room with 11 people. On the other hand, I won't have Sky TV in halls so no more TV series for me. My computer doesn't play sounds anymore (but I defy you to find a laptop that's lived to be 5 years old with the care I give mine) so no DVDs either. Unless I buy a DVD player, we'll see if I manage to get a job.

Apparently, the cost of internet isn't included in the rent for the halls. I hadn't realized that until today when I was rereading the info on the website. That seriously sucks. I basically live on the internet and I don't want to pay extra. Cheney's already the most expensive of the halls.

But that's all boring stuff anyway. Let's talk about more fun things. Like me getting lost, repeatedly. Without an umbrella.

Pretty much the first thing I did on getting here was to get myself a library card. It's awesome, they don't ask for proof of address or anything! I've been going to the library fairly regularly and managed to get my hands on Inside Book Publishing by Giles Clark and Angus Phillips (one of my profs, btw *brags for lame reasons*). It's pretty much a must read for anyone interested in working in the industry and writers. I admit I haven't read anything non-fictional in a while so my brain is a little slow to keep up. I just need to get it warmed up and running again. It's very interesting. I think I'll read some more and maybe write a little essay about it for the blog.

Anyway, after these outings, I like to take a different way back to the hostel. It gets claustrophobic in here quickly so I need to take at least one long walk everyday. And it keeps me in shape *cough*. On the latest of these, I thought "hey! Why don't I just follow the Thames? That should leave me right at the little bridge next to the hostel!"

Now, Oxford is fairly small. So small in fact, that you can probably cross it on foot without getting tired. At least, I could. But 2 hours later, I was still walking. It was a pretty walk and there was even a little sun but I had no clue where I was and I had forgotten my umbrella. It's a given that it will rain every day at least a little and I could see those clouds coming and nothing but green fields and woods around me. Of course, I was too proud to just turn around and follow the way back to where I had started. After a while, I managed to find my way into a nice residential neighborhood through common sense (this is why men should never go exploring without a woman - we can find our way even if there is no one around to ask). I just followed the distant sound of cars.

And I ended up...back at the library. I just got back to the hostel the boring way after that.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Sun! Rain! Sun! No definitely rain...

I have now spent a couple of days in Oxford. I had meant to go house hunting a bit but I don't really know how to go about it, I have very little money and I don't know how to use English buses yet so I have not moved beyond the city center.

Also, I know I have a room in Cheney so it's not like it's a life or homelessness situation for me. I'm going to walk all the way to Headington on Monday and go talk to people, make sure there won't be any nasty surprises on D-day though.

I've also sort of started looking for a job and, it sounds incredibly stupid but, I don't really know how to do it. Give me a break! I've never had a job before! I have some old CVs I have to fix or make a new one that's more exciting or something since the few times I sent out CVs it came to nothing.

I have been visiting some. The city center is nice, very lively with lots of people and activity every day. There are some gorgeous old buildings, pretty much all belonging to Oxford U. which apparently is called "the one down there" while Brookes is "the one up there" (Cambridge is "the other one"). There's also a nice long walk along the Oxford canal that is lovely, especially when it's sunny (just about once this week really). I've been spending most of my afternoons out and enjoying myself at a very tight budget of close to nothing.

The hostel has been a good experience up to now. I see people come and go and although this is my first hostel experience, I am now the senior inhabitant of my room. I chat with everyone, often in their own languages (helps to be trilingual). I've made friends with a girl from Germany who's a lot of fun. We took a tour of the center and colleges together which was nice and stopped at Aziz to have some excellent curry. And I know curry, I lived in India for 4 years. It was affordable splurging too. She leaves tomorrow though so I'll have to find someone else to hang out with.

Yeah, in spite of all the raining, I'm really enjoying this city and it's hard to remind myself that I LIVE HERE. Yes, this is my hometown now.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Are we there yet? YES, we are! (Now stop hitting your sister)

Guess what? I'm in Oxford. That's right, the city of dreaming spires. I'm writing from the computer room at Central Backpackers where I'll be staying for the next 10 days or so (the hostel, not the computer room).

I left my aunt's husband's house yesterday, inhumanly early in the morning I might add. Aunt refuses to drive into Paris because it's easy to get lost, hard to park and the traffic is very bad. I don't know how true it might be at the time we decided to set out.

Instead, we took the train which conveniently left us right at the international station, Paris Gare du Nord. Just imagine, an older woman and chubby little me pulling on The Monster (a.k.a. My Suitcase) while being crushed by a computer bag and a "handbag" that weighed a ton each. We manage to make a few guys pity us so at least someone else handled the stairs for us. I had put on my nicest top which brings out my bosom rather well. Alas, it also brings out my love handles but I was counting on the bosom part getting and keeping the attention anyway. Not to say it wasn't hard work anyway.

Still, we got to Gare du Nord at least an hour early. It was lucky we did, you need all the extra time you can get in order to check in with Eurostar. There were a lot of people inside the station and it's not like at the airport where checking in takes forever but you do need to be in the line at least an hour early instead of the 30mins they say. I had just the time to go to the rest room, which were really clean btw, I was surprised, and have a coffee before I had to queue for the check in.

I had to get my bags all the way to the train on my own. This was the hard part because everyone was busy finding their wagons and relatives who aren't travelling can't accompany you to the train. I accidentally climbed into the wrong wagon. There was a nice Dutch man who helped me lift the suitcase in then out again. He was also in the wrong wagon. I hurried to the right one and for some reason he didn't offer to help me again. So, I pulled it up half way before another guy figured I had blocked the entrance long enough. I was all red and sweaty and so not sexy anymore. Also, stinky.

The woman next to me was a professor of history of dance in the U.S. She wasn't very friendly actually. She made it pretty clear that she was very annoyed at not having both seats to herself.

The trip itself went smoothly. It's an incredibly fast train and the view is fairly decent the whole way but then, the French countryside is always gorgeous. There was no warning when we got to the tunnel so for five minutes I thought "Is this it? Or are we just going under some city incoveniently on our way?". After a while I figured we had to be in the tunnel because it was taking forever. I know, I'm a little slow on the uptake. It was dark for a very long time. Not as exciting as expected but then, it never is, is it?

And just like that I was in England.

I got down in London and oh disapointment! the door I took to go get a taxi didn't lead the front way where the pretty Harry Potter facade is. I couldn't take any pictures of it. Still, the taxi ride to Victoria Coach Station was exciting in itself. I couldn't look fast enough! I'll go back and visit as soon as I can.

Things were just as easy at the coach station. Got my ticket at student price, boarded 5 mins after and rode in a very comfy bus all the way to Gloucester Green station right here in Oxford. It was a bit of a hassle pulling The Monster to the hostel. The afternoon was fairly hot as I was walking and I had my jean jacket so more huffing and puffing and then... it hailed! I kid you not! One moment I'm sweating and the next I have mini-ice cubes falling on my head.
A second later, it was done.
English weather is really fucked up.

Monday, September 1, 2008

T- 24h

Yes! Finally! I'm leaving for Oxford tomorrow morning!

I'm more than a little nervous to be honest. I'll take the 11h13 Eurostar train at Paris Gare du Nord and arrive at London St. Pancras at 12h28. Very fast trip! It's very geeky of me but I can't wait to take pictures of the Harry Potter train station. I think I've said it before but it bears repeating.

From there, I'll take a taxi to Victoria Coach Station because I'm not going into the underground with all I have to carry. I'm leaving one suitcase at my aunt's which I'll come back to pick up at some indeterminate time in the future.

You know when they tell you to pack light to go study abroad? They are not kidding. Listen to them the way I seem incapable to do. Remember that you will be travelling a long way, on your own and will most likely arrive in London. Travelling by plane with a suitcase is fairly easy. It's a little harder to do when you have to carry it around.

I'm emptying my camera today so I can go photo crazy. I'll put them up tomorrow evening if I can. I'm staying at Central Backpackers and I think they have wifi access.