Good relationships with Minuteman Press, Riso and Blitsdruk

In July I was invited by Minuteman Press head office to attend their Gauteng regional meeting to present Paperight and to discuss Paperight with their marketing team. The Paperight presentation was the most well received of the presentations on the day, probably because it was the only presentation that was interactive and offered something new that they haven’t seen many times before.

In my discussions with the marketing team it was decided that they wouldn’t force all of their outlets to register with Paperight but would consider putting a set price in place to standardise the pricing across their outlets. This has had the positive result of Minuteman Press outlets offering a positive Paperight experience to their customers, as only those outlets who take an interest in Paperight took the time to learn how to register and use the model.

Riso Africa was interested in forming a relationship after meeting Arthur at a conference and discussing Paperight. Riso offered a machine that could print and perfect bind books in colour at a price far below their closest competitor. Effectively this turns a Riso Comcolor machine into a much cheaper version of the Espresso Book Machine, when combining it with Paperight, at less than half the price. We put a Memorandum of Understanding in place and I attended Riso training to understand their machines better.

Blitsruk in George contacted us to contribute to our sponsor a school project. I identified a previously disadvantaged school in a township in George and determined their needs. I collated this with the budget which Blitsdruk had given me and sent through the final order to Blitsdruk who printed, bound and delivered them. We contacted a journalist from the local newspaper who accompanied the store manager to take photos and cover the handover of the materials.

Writing the Paperight 2013–2014 Marketing Plan

My first task as Marketing Manager was to draw up a 2013–2014 marketing plan. This plan was to be split into various campaigns that would coincide with the various book buying cycles throughout the year. Having never put together a long term marketing plan before, finding the correct format to house this information was the first task. Initially, I worked with a spreadsheet format that could be sorted by various column titles, such as month, year, campaign, team member, action etc. This worked for a while before the spreadsheet needed to be shared with the team. Then I chose to keep the spreadsheet for my own use and produce quarterly/campaign specific summary documents of what would need to be done (by when) and by whom. These worked far better because they avoided confusion and made great points of reference for weekly meetings.

Initially, I set out to schedule a 12 month plan, but the tricky, unpredictable nature of a start up made this almost impossible.

The Paperight official marketing plan was scheduled to run from about August 2013 to March 2014 (8 months). Initially, I set out to schedule a 12 month plan, but the tricky, unpredictable nature of a start up made this almost impossible. Imagine changing the habits of a nation of individuals who have inherited a very distinct set of habits from their parents, and imagine trying to do this with minimal resources? Well, that has been Paperight’s mountain to climb. At any point we would have to respond to changes in the market and problems that we would identify in our own strategies simply due to the untested nature of the business model.

To begin, I worked with the known book buying cycles for schools and universities in order to determine what campaigns would be appropriate for when. Then we brainstormed about alternative target markets to reach out to that would generate sales in between the regular buying cycles. The major campaigns (consisting of many action points and mini, related campaigns) became the:

Overall, the Paperight marketing plan has been an indispensable tool to help along Paperight’s growing reputation and fan base. It has allowed us to focus our efforts to ensure we make the most from newsworthy events, partnerships and awards, as well as turn our good PR into sales. With focusing our efforts, it became clearer what ideas and actions were essential to the success of the campaigns and our team work became more streamlined.

The cumulative effect of the last year’s work can be seen clearly now (March 2014) as sales are flowing in organically, even from the most unlikely places.

*For more on the Reading Clubs project, read Oscar’s post.

Facebook advertising push

We used our Facebook and Twitter feeds in a rather precise, but extremely underutilised fashion until midway through 2013. Until then, we had usually usually only made posts to accompany posts made on the blog, or to spread the word about prizes or nice media mentions that we had received. As such, we didn’t particularly place much importance on Facebook and Twitter as media in themselves, perhaps due to a belief that the bulk of the customers who we thought would be most interested in and would use Paperight weren’t super active on social media.

This, of course, was a mistake that we realised a bit too late – to survive, Paperight obviously had to appeal to social media users, too.

I had dabbled with creating conversation plans before Marie, our marketing manager, arrived at Paperight, but the ones I made either were too clunky, unimaginative, or just simply didn’t come together well because I was too busy creating designs for physical materials. There was too much for me to do otherwise, in other words. Press releases, for example, were perceived to be a much more important way for us to gain visibility, although we had no definite sales metrics to support the assumption that press releases created sustained consumer interest in Paperight.

We began to run Facebook conversation plans in July 2013, around the time of the launch of the Paperight Young Writers’ Anthology. We paired excerpts from published work with related advertisements or visual accompaniments, and tagging the contributors who were featured in the images in the posts themselves. This resulted in more shares from the contributors and their parents and friends. We also started spending modest sums of money on advertising on Facebook, targeting potential readers of the Anthology. The combination of advertising and a conversation plan, in which engaging content was scheduled every weekday, increased our Facebook Likes at a much quicker rate than we had achieved before.

The added engagement on our Page opened us up to the potential of advertising on Facebook – with the caveat that, although our imagined customers weren’t all on Facebook, it didn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to engage with those of them that were. It also meant a slight change in messaging: although we had mostly pushed the accessibility angle in our press releases, we began to push the price and convenience angle, especially with regard to matric exam packs and study guides, which were much cheaper from most Paperight outlets than they were from bookstores.

This greatly informed our approach to our campaigns for the rest of the year, which focused on the comparative cheapness of Paperight materials compared to their bookstore equivalents. We pushed this aspect hard with the products we featured for the rest of the year – which were mostly exam study guides for the matric season, and cheap fiction and self-help titles to augment and diversify the product mix. Advertising around this time focused on parents of matrics and matrics themselves, with messaging focused on helping learners to get fully prepared for their exams with our exam packs and other materials. These campaigns had a good reaction, but we also found that they were fully season-dependent. After the first couple of weeks of exams had finished, engagement took a sharp turn down.

We found, overall, that without advertising, Facebook posting was very unlikely to engage with many, never mind most, of our fans. Even with advertising, I can say anecdotally that it was mostly the same group of people who liked multiple posts, giving us the illusion of engaging a lot with our fan base, but, in reality, it wasn’t really the case. Facebook is an incredibly nuanced tool; easy to dabble in, difficult to master.

Project 13: A guide for UNISA students: closing report

Aim: Create and publish a short book on how to succeed as a UNISA student

General report-back

We set out to develop and publish a guide to studying with UNISA that is much more readable and practical than the existing official UNISA guides. This was an opportunity to market to a large body of UNISA students by partnering with Together We Pass, who have a mailing list of over 25000 students. We also wanted to test and show that Paperight is valuable to UNISA students in particular, as we begin pitching Paperight-as-document-delivery to distance-learning institutions.

We produced a great little book that has been widely distributed by Toegther We Pass, but our own sales have been extremely disappointing: we didn’t sell a single copy through Paperight.

That said, there are no failed experiments: we learned a lot about managing partnerships, open-licensing anxiety/panic, and marketing.

Objectives achieved

Produce a guide that sets a higher standard for readability and concrete value than existing official student guides: student feedback to Together We Pass is positive enough that we’re happy that we achieved this.

Licensed with a CC-BY-SA licence: We did licence openly, and then in a moment of panic of UNISA Press potentially republishing the work (and us then losing the effect of proving our distribution model), we temporarily removed the open licence. With hindsight (now, having not sold any copies through Paperight outlets), we realise that we removed the open licence out of unnecessary paranoia: UNISA Press has bigger fish to fry than republishing our little book. Embarrassingly, we had fallen into exactly the same fearful-thinking trap that so many proprietary publishers do. It’s good to know we’re not immune to this, because now we can look out for it in future.

Objectives not achieved

Sell copies of the guide to at least 500 students around the country within six months of publication: we have not sold a single copy of the guide through Paperight stores.

That said, over 1000 UNISA students received the free ebook version of the book from Together We Pass, and more continue to do so. This is a good contribution to have made, and the book contains lots of good advertising for Paperight.

Measures of success

Before: “We expect to get positive feedback and to sell at least 3000 copies within a year.”

After: Feedback was positive from Together We Pass students, especially in the development phase when TWP gathered direct feedback form many students (whose own tips were then included in the book). However, we did not sell any copies through Paperight. We note, but do not count as sales, that over 1000 students requested a free ebook copy from TWP within four months of launch.

Before: “We would like to sell 5000 copies within a year, and receive positive feedback from UNISA staff who see it.”

After: Not achieved. We are planning to promote the book again in the next year, and to do a  much better job of it. Part of that process will involve getting UNISA staff feedback directly.

Before: “ We would love to see, in addition, this project providing the proof of Paperight’s value to students that convinces a large distance-learning institution (not necessarily UNISA, but perhaps a department within UNISA) to place a large number of materials on Paperight for students, and encouraging those students directly to use Paperight to get their materials.”

After: While our UNISA negotiations continue positively (UNISA Press is currently moving our contract through their legal department), the book has not had a significant effect on those discussions.


Original budget: R40000

Actual spend: R30850

Returned to pool: R9150

Item Budget Actual Return to Pool Comments
Together we Pass Book 40000 30850 9150 An overwriter was not necessary
TOTAL 40000 30850 9150


Outputs and deliverables

Now What? A guide for UNISA students:


We learned a lot about managing partnerships, open-licensing anxiety, and marketing:

  • On managing partnerships: working with Together We Pass was fruitful in product development phase, but we did not work together well on marketing. The root cause was that Paperight and TWP had different aims: Paperight wanted to use TWP’s mailing list to get UNISA students to buy the book from an outlet, while TWP wanted to offer those same students a free ebook to boost their own reputation among those students. TWP sent out marketing messaging (email, website, Twitter etc.) before we had a chance to vet and discuss it with them. So they got what they wanted, and we didn’t. TWP also put out a press release that described us incorrectly as a publisher, and did not provide the messaging we’ve crafted to tell people about our model. We didn’t see this coming, and should have been more proactive right from the start in clarifying and agreeing on the overall partnership marketing strategy. (This learning has directly influenced our MOU with Riso Africa on a copiers-in-school marketing project, where we explicitly provide for each party to see the others’ marketing releases before they are public.) This wasn’t helped by the fact that the personal relationship between our team members and Tabitha Bailey became brittle during the late production process, which in turn meant the relationship didn’t have the positive energy it needed for us to solve the problem together.
  • Open-licensing anxiety/panic: as explained above, we wasted energy worrying over the open licence when we briefly thought UNISA Press liked our book so much they might republish it. At the time, we still expected to distribute lots of copies through Paperight, thereby proving our network’s value to UNISA students. UNISA Press republishing would make that hard to do. However, we hadn’t yet realised that TWP’s free ebook version, and weaknesses in our own marketing, meant that we wouldn’t get to make enough sales to prove our network’s value anyway. In fact, the marketing benefit of having UNISA Press republish our book would have been much greater. Essentially, we panicked: something we must avoid in future.
  • Marketing: this project (along with a few others) was an example of how we have been lazy and/or wishful about marketing. In climbing the marketing learning curve, this project has shown us that we cannot do things in half measures. We’ve since got much more deliberate about planning and executing marketing strategies properly, putting in real effort and full-time team resources. (Our subsequent PR around the Paperight Young Writers’ Anthology is an example of how it’s done properly, and that in turn has informed our bigger marketing plan for 2012–2014.)


We’re planning to relaunch the book as part of our marketing plan for 2013–2014. We’ll control the messaging ourselves (marketing won’t be in partnership with TWP), and develop a more solid marketing plan. We still believe the book will sell in future, but we will need to be smarter about promoting it.


As a team, we’re very disappointed and a little embarrassed byt eh way this project turned out. However, we learned a lot of very valuable lessons that we’ve already putting into practice, and the book still has lots of potential to be valuable in future.

Next steps

Plan relaunch in marketing strategy, and continue to use the book as a touchpoint in our ongoing discussions with UNISA and UNISA Press.


Project 7: Paperight in Live Magazine: closing report

Paperight placed a full-page advert in Live magazine, including a cartoon (as advertorial) developed by the Live team. The issue included mentions of books available on Paperight, pointing readers to Paperight outlets.

The deal also included advertising/content on Live’s mobi website. This was done later as a call for entries to the Paperight Young Writers’ Anthology.

General report-back

Collaboration and execution went smoothly. The full-page ad featured a story-like cartoon, developed by the Live team, of a boy who goes out to buy paperight exam packs at the last minute to study with. Under the cartoon were small ads for two books: Let’s Talk About Varsity and Project H (a graphic novel).

However, we did not notice any discernable impact on Paperight sales as a result of the advert. We suspect this was largely because Paperight’s messaging simply wasn’t effective enough. The advert wasn’t clear enough about what was being offered and how, and we had not made it easy enough to find an outlet for those who did figure out what the ad was offering. It’s also possible the tone and approach of the advert simply wasn’t interesting enough to readers — especially being a studying-related message in the middle of a magazine consumed largely for leisure. In addition, we may simply not have advertised the right products.

We do count it at a very important learning experience. it is possible we will advertise in magazines, and potentially Live mag, again in future. But our messaging will be much clearer.

Objectives achieved/not achieved

Live Magazine wanted to:

  • generate revenue for the magazine
  • give the young production team experience of working to a commercial brief.

Objectives not achieved

Paperight aimed to drive young people to Paperight outlets to get books and documents like exam packs and increase general awareness of the Paperight model and brand. We were not able to find or show evidence that this occurred as a direct result of the advertising.

Measures of success


Measure Report
Benchmark copy shop/outlet activity in the areas where Live is distributed before the August issue is distributed, and track the increase in traffic from August to October 2012. No discernable increase in sales from August to October. Number of completed sales over the 12-week period per week: 39, 40, 19, 20, 14, 40, 18, 13, 6, 6, 30, 29, 32.
We’ll filter by demand for the specific books advertised and reviewed in the magazine. We made consistent sales of matric exam packs over the period, but no discernable increase. We did not sell any copies of Let’s Talk About Varsity and Project H.



  • Any clearly noticeable increase in the rate of outlet sign-ups in the areas where Live is actively distributed (e.g. from 1 per week to 10 per week): not achieved
  • Any clearly noticeable increase in the rate of document purchases (documents advertised in Live tracked separately to others) in the areas where Live is actively distributed: we were not able to distinguish distribution sites and nearby outlets, but did not notice any discernable increase in purchases across our outlets
  • A piece of advertorial produced that feels like a suitable and engaging piece of content for the magazine: We believe the ad fulfilled these objectives.




Paperight: A five-fold increase in the above rates: not achieved




  • reader responses and positive feedback: We are not aware of reader responses to the ad.
  • Paperight satisfied that the piece was well executed: At the time we were happy, though with hindsight having learned a lot since, we’d do it differently now, with a much clearer, starker message, and clearer, join-the-dots instructions on finding an outlet, possibly addresses of one good outlet in each urban centre.



Paperight: A twenty-fold increase in the above rates: Not acheived.




  • Paperight as a repeat customer: Paperight would love to work with Live again, but more likely on a content-based project (mag or video) than an advert.



Original budget: R37500

Actual spend: R37500

Returned to pool: R0

Item Budget Actual Return to pool Comments
Advertising and mobile pages 37500 37500 0
TOTAL 37500 37500 0


Outputs and deliverables

Full page advert in Live designed and published.


As described above, we believe the content of the advert was not clear and stark enough: we’ve learned through this and other experiences that the Paperight model must be explained in starker terms, with a direct connection to a specific product and specific outlets, and preferably a clear price for the product.


This was a once-off project/experiment.


We probably rushed this project, but also were still on a steep learning curve on how to get the Paperight message across clearly. We may try magazine advertising again, but will more likely work on content/advertorial, or advertise in conjunction with a specific outlet chain (e.g. Jetline or PostNet) so that we can point customers to specific places and price points.

Next steps

At Paperight we’re constantly refining our marketing methods and plans, and this learning has contributed a lot to that. We are also talking to Live magazine about collaborating in other ways in future, e.g. in producing video.

Marie-Louise gets promoted

At this stage, I was promoted to the position of Marketing Manager – both a great opportunity and a fabulous pay increase!

My areas of functional authority became:

  • Create and implement PR and marketing plans
  • Support outlets in implementing their Paperight sales and marketing

In practice, this meant working on the following:

  • a 2013/2014 Marketing plan
  • implementing marketing campaigns and monitoring marketing expenses
  • a newsletter conversation plan
  • a variety of Facebook campaign conversation plans
  • scheduling press releases (drafting, finalising, sending, follow ups etc)
  • liaising with Nick on necessary Paperight marketing materials (e.g.- for in store advertising, for paid advertisements, Facebook posts, product catalogues etc)
  • assisting outlets with in store marketing and sales connections
  • continued outlet support with Yazeed
  • maintaining good relationships with outlet managers
  • keeping notes on outlets to assist with future communications


This enormous step up was incredibly daunting, but the Team’s support made it so much easier. The fact that Arthur offered the position to me in the first place and believed I would be equal to the task, forced me to believe that too. The ensuing months have been a whirlwind of crazy fast thinking and very detailed planning, but altogether, I have enjoyed the challenge immensely.


O’Reilly titles go live, and we revise the publisher agreement

July’s big win was getting the O’Reilly books on Paperight. These textbooks were not prescribed at universities, but are an important and oft sought out  supplementary  resource for first year computer science students.  Once these were uploaded I contacted lecturers about the books, asking if they would promote these to students. We had some positive results (particularly from Stellenbosch University), but ultimately saw minimal sales conversions.

Following my return from the London Book fair, I met with Elsevier South Africa about getting their titles on Paperight. Other ongoing meetings and follow-ups included Random House Struik,  Modjaji Books, Jacana, SelfMadeHero, Cassava Republic, Jonathan Ball and Pluto Press. We facilitated the transfer of CUP titles and Accent Press titles, uploaded the first 14 HPMG journals (we put the rest on the backburner pending sales), and sourced missing metadata and covers from Do Sustainability.

I spent time working on CSS (Prince), and Arthur and I revised our rightsholder agreement using feedback from our negotiations with Pearson and O’Reilly Media. I also spent the day at Colour and Copy in Rondebosch, worked with Nick to organise POS advertising and flyers for them. I also completed a survey of the staff as per Yazeed’s request.

Publisher registrations

  • Livity Africa (9/7/2013)
  • Better Life Books (9/7/2013)
  • Accent Press (12/7/2013)
  • Bisel Classics (12/7/2013)
  • Fatai Oladapo (16/7/2013)
  • Ispirato (23/7/2013)
  • Filipe Santos (26/7/2013)