Tag Archives: PYWA

Paperight Young Writers’ Anthology 2013: Launch and Promotion

Before the completion of the compilation, I assisted with reading the entries, selecting pieces for publication, shortlisting for category winners (judged externally) and overall proofreading of the Paperight Young Writer’s Anthology 2013 (hereafter referred to as the PYWA). I entered the project as an intern in April 2013, but took over the marketing elements of the project in July 2013 as part of my promotion to the role of Marketing Manager.

On Youth Day, the 16th of June, the PYWA was released. This fantastic publication necessitated my first batch of press releases sent on behalf of Paperight. I sent press releases to:

  • contributing schools to congratulate them on their students’ success and let them know where they could purchase copies
  • outlets close to these schools advising them to promote the PYWA in store and prepare themselves for students looking for copies
  • media contacts, both national and regional, to tell them about the project and the PYWA’s release. We also encouraged them to get back to us to interview Oscar, the Anthology’s editor, or to request a copy for review.

998756_494574667290081_1936338491_nAlong with these press releases, I wrote a Facebook conversation plan in order to give our Paperight fans a taste of what the compilation entries were like. We selected quotes from longer entries, entire poems and illustrations to make beautiful posts (designed by Nick) for Paperight fans and PYWA contributors to share. We also posted stories of our visits to schools in the Western Cape, to hand out certificates to contributors and prizes to category winners. These stories were posted on the Paperight blog, too.

This conversation plan was Paperight’s first ever predetermined conversation plan. It ran from the 31st of July to the 9th of September 2013 (the Monday after the Open Book Festival Launch, mentioned below). It was supposed to end with a call for submissions for the 2014 edition, however, due to a shortage of resources, the project has been indefinitely postponed.

1077233_494957547251793_48523986_oWe used the weekly newsletter to remind outlets to promote the anthology in store by putting up posters and ensuring their staff are prepared to handle queries. In addition, we included links to blog posts on news items about the PYWA to inspire enthusiasm for the title.

This initial push was then followed up in September 2013 with an official book launch at the Open Book Festival in Cape Town. Arthur hosted a panel discussion between Oscar, Nick Mhlongo (author), Hedley Twidle (UCT lecturer) and Sarah Rowan (poet) to discuss the necessity of encouraging writing among South Africa’s young people. Invitations were sent to media contacts asking them to attend the event and offering copies of the Anthology to be reviewed. Copy shop owners and staff in the Western Cape were also encouraged to join the festivities. The event was well attended and led to many sales of the PYWA (perfect bound copies printed by Mega Digital) through the Book Lounge.


The Open Book Festival launch was filmed and edited into a punchy, short film by our film intern, Shaun Swingler. The film was then added to our YouTube channel where we have amassed our collection of Paperight related video content. It is definitely worth a watch!

One of the success stories to come out of the PYWA project is the fact that Eden College in Durban, the school with the most selected contributors, chose to use the PYWA as a prescribed English Literature set work for their Grade 10 students.

Automated conversion implemented on Dev

A couple of important milestones were reached in June. First of all, PDF-to-Paperight-PDF and HTML-to-Paperight-PDF conversions were implemented on dev, and we set about testing and bug reporting. Specifically, we had to tweak issues regarding page positioning, page numbering. and margins. In the case of HTML-to-Paperight-PDF conversion, this required CSS hacking. We created CSS that would work using Prince XML to create a well-designed, workable PDF output.

Other new functionality had to be tested as well. Our bug testing of the reminder emails for publisher payments led to emails being sent out in error. We had to send all relevant parties an apology and explanations. We linked to this post in the emails, explaining what had gone wrong.

I took over from Philippa as the ‘handler’ for Rondebosch Colour and Copy when she left for her Washington Internship. When I’d been away, each team member had taken on an adopted copyshop, to see whether this added level of support affected sales and competency using the service.

One of my main accomplishments this month was in compiling and submitting a full security audit for Pearson. Their evaluations lead to us scoring 8/10. They were very impressed with our watermarking functionality (we only fell short due to not having been in operation for long enough to do an annual review).

Held meetings with Jeremy Boraine (Jonathan Ball), and Francois van Schalkwyk (African Minds), and approaching of new publishers: The Answer Series, Nali’Bali Sunday Times section, Unisa Press. Pan Macmillan document prepping, and organising of PR material with Nick.  We submitted our application to receive funding for Frankfurt Book Fair  via PASA. We also did the final proofreading of PYWA, and subsequently released it on Paperight.

Publisher registrations

  • Lule Publishers (5/6/2013)
  • Lost Plot Press (9/6/2013)
  • Tawqeer’s Tutoring Service (11/6/2013)
  • African Minds (14/6/2013)
  • Jurassic London (20/6/2013)
  • Ediciones Microtemas (29/6/2013)

The anthology done, promising bulk sales, and a raft of coverage

We’ve been busy! On 31 May 2013 we finally completed the Paperight Young Writers Anthology, a collection of poetry, short stories, essays and illustrations from SA high school students in English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa and Sesotho. (Blog post from early June here. Strategically, this is a marketing effort and a door-opener for selling books to schools.

We’ve also been churning out a range of marketing materials for copy shops, a new help/how-to video, and improved software features on paperight.com (e.g. A5 books).

We also made our first completed bulk-sale to a school, the first of an important revenue generating approach.


In mid April, Tarryn and Oscar attended the London Book Fair and pitched to win the Fair’s Digital Minds Innovation Award, which boosted our credibility at the fair and resulted in lots of great local PR. The attention from this win also helped conclude our deal with O’Reilly.

In late April I headed to Joburg for meetings with potential partner organisations, and in late May I was off to Boston to gather with the rest of the Shuttleworth Foundation crew.

Spreading the word

Spreading with word about Paperight and the things that are important to us is a key part of my work.

On 30 May 2013 I wrote a post on open business, arguing that openness starts in a company’s DNA, and focusing on transparency, which allows and encourages sharing and shared learning, and leads to greater effectiveness.

On 21 May 2013 I was interviewed on Publishing Perspectives, and explained why a paper-based solution is still critical for access to books and sales for publishers in developing markets.

On 17 April 2013 I did an interview on innovation and the future and Paperight, and on 7 March 2013 I did an interview with CNBC Africa about Paperight.

On 18 March 2013 I wrote a post on ‘Good writing is a pinnacle skill’, arguing that the many skills that go into good writing are an excellent indicator that a person will be a great hire. This has been a key part of my recruitment strategy at Paperight, and has helped us build a great team.

On 8 March 2013 I wrote about Pratham Books data on open licensing and book sales.

Others on board

All this talk is helping get people behind our cause. Here are three particularly nice pieces:

We’ve seen loads of great PR about our winning at O’Reilly Tools of Change in New York in Feb and London Book Fair Innovation Award in April, our Young Writers Anthology, and general Paperight coverage:

  • 1 March 2013: Daily News, “Vision to spread books around SA”.
  • 2 March 2013, CNBC Africa, Eye on Western Cape, “Paperight wins publishing innovation competition“
  • 2 March 2013, Burger (Kaap Platterland) Saturday, “Kaapse drukdiens oorsee bekroon”.
  • 6 to 7 March 2013, coverage of our Anthology in community newspapers: Athlone News, Plainsman, Southern Mail, Table Talk, “High school writers’ competition”, Tygertalk (Goodwood & Parow), Tygertalk (Bellville & Durbanville), Vukani, Southern Suburbs Tatler, Atlantic Sun, The Capetowner, Constantiaberg Bulletin, False Bay Echo, Sentinel News. A follow up the next week, 14 March 2013 in Vukani, “Shuttleworth to launch Young Writers Anthology”.
  • 19 March 2013, bizcommunity, “Free guide to studying at Unisa“ and Helderberg Gazette (“Free book helps students to pass”) cover our UNISA students’ guide ‘Now What’.
  • 22 March 2013, more community papers cover the forthcoming anthology: Coastal Weekly, De Aar Echo, Northcliff & Melville Times, Stanger Weekly.
  • 27 March 2013, Bandwidth Blog, “Local startup wins innovation award in NYC“.

In terms of key publishers joining our thinking by working with us:

Our roadmap for the next 3 months

We’re going to:

  • Continue our direct sales approach (bulk sales and CSR sponsorships) to stay on track with revenue targets.
  • Release and promote (mainly through PR) the Paperight Young Writers Anthology, building on the relationships this is creating with schools to grow sales of study guides and past exam-paper packs.
  • Complete a comprehensive marketing plan with the pro-bono help of Zoom Advertising and a group of MBA students working on Paperight’s marketing plan as a course project.
  • Implement concerted promotional campaign for our past matric exam packs.
  • Finalise and promote pending partnerships with chains Minuteman Press and PostNet.

Tarryn goes to London, and we discover “The Hits”

While Tarryn and Oscar were away at the London Book Fair I took over most of Tarryn’s duties, such as receiving new publisher registrations from the team email account and creating wiki posts for them, gathering the information from HeidiSQL, creating dropbox folders for them, and sending out welcome emails. I also assisted publishers who had queries and facilitated transfer of files. She was a fantastic mentor to me and it was a bit nerve-wracking having her leave for three weeks, but I learned a lot in her absence. Tarryn is a good teacher and I am grateful for her patient, straight-forward, clear manner.

post_20131008It was around this time that the Paperight Young Writers’ Anthology judging process was underway. This was a team effort, lead by Oscar, with all of the Paperight team members dedicating days of concentration to pouring over each and every entry and rating them on a system Oscar had designed. We were bowled over by how many entries we received. It was clear that South African teenagers are keen on writing. The quality varied greatly (to be honest much of it was terrible), but it was incredibly heartening to get such a volume of entries. And while much of the writing was not amazing, some of the themes were truly revealing. South African teenagers are going through a lot. Many giggles, groans, and a few tears emanated from our little office on the 3rd floor. I really enjoyed this experience as we were able to feel a real connection with South African teenagers who, at the time, were our main target market. It was one of those special moments that only a start-up can really provide, where the entire team is so intimately involved in one project.

I think one of my most memorable moments will be the first time I heard “The Hits”, one of our poetry entries, read out loud. It was such a striking and strange poem, that we didn’t know whether it was genius or madness. Here it is, read aloud by Hedley Twidle at the launch of the anthology.

Roadmap, Dec 2012 to Feb 2013

We’re going to be focusing on:

  • Marketing and PR: Promote the Young Writers Anthology into the new school year, secure ongoing media coverage from active PR (several leads already in place with major magazines), and run a few narrowly targeted promotion campaigns in partnership with copy shops and publishers
  • Software: Complete phase-2 development of paperight.com, including important improvements to UI based on user feedback and refined messaging, and more document automation to speed up the addition of new content
  • Revenue: A risky but important move coming in Jan: we’re going to start charging outlets a small service fee for most our content that used to be free. This will be to test potential self-sustainability revenue models and measure outlet expectations.
  • Outlet feedback loops: A key focus we’ve neglected is active outlet surveys, triaging and acting on the feedback. These surveys and action in response will be a major focus for the next three months.
  • Partner projects: We’ll publish a beta version of our Guide for UNISA students in partnership with Together We Pass; make the most of a promotional partnership with national reading campaign Nal’ibali.

New experiments shipped

From September to November we’ve put together a number of new experiments in product mix and marketing.

It’ll be interesting and hopefully valuable to see what works.

We also got out of the office a bit:

We learned a lot of hard lessons about how and now not to describe Paperight to consumers. This and other feedback and experience in October led us to completely overhaul our messaging … and our marketing focus, shifting from pushing ‘Paperight’ to pushing our outlets and backgrounding Paperight.

  • 24 Sep 2012: Well-received panel discussion titled “The Future of the Book” at the excellent Open Book Festival in Cape Town
  • 11 Oct 2012: Our comms manager Nick was on national TV show ‘Hectic Nine 9’, and wrote it up on our blog. Here’s the video. It didn’t go as planned. We learned a lot of hard lessons about how and now not to describe Paperight to consumers. This and other feedback and experience in October led us to completely overhaul our messaging (from standard pitches to site UI) and our marketing focus, shifting from pushing ‘Paperight’ to pushing our outlets and backgrounding Paperight. (More on that in a separate post.)
  • 15 Oct 2012: Content manager Tarryn attended the Frankfurt Book Fair. Here’s her blog post about it.
  • 7 Nov 2012: We announced our Paperight Young Writers Anthology: a collection of writing and illustration by high-school learners to be published on Paperight in 2013
  • 20 Nov 2012: I spoke at the Owl Club, a most venerable institution. Here’s the text of my talk.

A number of people have been talking about us. Some highlights: