#authorsforaccess Campaign

2013-10-08_1381246610The aim of this campaign was to initiate an ongoing, online conversation for book authors to join, debating the need for open content and increased access to book content of all kinds. This campaign was spearheaded by Tarryn as a mechanism for gathering support to assist in negotiations with publishers for book content.

I drew up a Twitter conversation plan comprised of engaging quotes and statistics, as well as a list of useful, outspoken contacts to approach for input, such as Neil Gaiman, Margaret Attwood, Lauren Beukes, Cory Doctorow and Chuck Wendig – as suggested by Tarryn.

Unfortunately, this campaign was shelved due to a change in tack at Paperight HQ to focus solely on the varsity campaign, which became known as the #textbookrevolution campaign, during the crucial buying cycle at the beginning of 2014 (roughly end of January to the beginning of March).

This plan may be resurrected in the months to come.

Launching the anthology, mapping outlets, and a big win

We’re super proud of three new videos:

22 Oct 2013: This 8-min documentary on how and why Pelican Park High bought study materials through us is so affirming for us. It helps answer the doubts that can haunt you when you’re wondering whether you’re moving forward at all.

1 Nov 2013: Similarly, this 8-min documentary on how and why Minuteman Press sponsored books for Silverstream Secondary.

18 Nov 2013: We created a short 1-minute promo from the Pelikan park video on why schools should buy study materials through us.

But the real hjighlight event of the last few months has to be the launch event of the Paperight Young Writers Anthology on 7 September 2013. (See the blog post here and photos on Facebook.)

20140429_frankenstein-mapBack at the ranch, at the end of October we finally integrated our outlets map onto our product pages, to offer the ability to find outlets and compare prices of books at them per product.

This new product-page map explains the concept behind Paperight much better, too, which frees up other messaging space.

At the same time, we also created a range of new screencast videos for our help site (released 21 Oct 2013), produced on 4 Nov 2013 a new printable product catalogue, including improved CSV-based workflow to make future updates quick and easy, and made (on 13 Nov) some useful guides for schools and sponsors on how to work with us.

Marie and Nick have also been producing loads of Facebook posts about our books and outlets.

Out and about

  • On 10 Oct 2013 I pitched at the Accenture Innovation Awards in Joburg, and won! More on that below.
  • 9 to 13 October 2013: Tarryn, our COO, visited the Frankfurt Book Fair, and also won an award. More below.
  • 24 Oct 2013: I spoke at the launch of market research company Yellowwood’s white paper on transformative innovation. Here’s text and video.

  • 6 Nov 2013: “Tough Truths about Selling to Publishers”. I spoke at the inaugural Footnote Summit, a South African digital-publishing conference. I was worried I might offend some people, but my worries were unfounded: people really appreciated my honest, and my talk led directly to one important publisher signing up, and another giving us much better books.
  • 11 Oct 2013: Nice PR opportunities off back of Accenture win, including this breakfast TV show (skip to 3:10 for me).

New supporters

20130903_122743_window-dressedWe noticed on 4 Sep 2013 that local copy shop Top Copy had devoted their entire front facade to Paperight books. It’s great to see one of our champion copy shops devoting their prime ad space to our books.

We identified 46 separate media pieces about us, including these highlights:

Big wins

Five great wins in the last three months:

Our roadmap for the next 3 months

October and November sales were very low, so for the next three months we’re shifting focus to our Feb/Mar 2014 universities promotional campaign, headlined #textbookrevolution, and emphasising the need for universities and publishers to move away from their traditional, bloated supply chain (where 70% of the retail price of a textbook goes to the supply chain alone), and towards Paperight.

Book reviews are back in fashion!

Before I arrived at Paperight, there had been an attempt to make book reviews a regular thing to post on the blog. When I stepped into the ring, I fully intended to bring them back from obscurity.

Having worked in a bookstore, I know that book recommendations are incredibly valuable when it comes to making the decision to buy a book. Customers rely on experienced ‘readers’ giving them advice on what they already believe should be good reads, and that opinion is already made on what they have heard from friends and read in newspapers or magazines. There are so many titles out there that most readers rely heavily on instruction.

digital-photography-1-10_getsmarter_cover_20121113I started with a review of the GetSmarter Digital Photography course manual due to my personal interest in photography. At the time I happened to be taking a part time, manual photography course and I needed some further instruction when it came to capturing the perfect image. The fact that the title tied into a personal interest made the review so much easier.

macbeth-robert-deas_cover_20131001My second review was for the Manga Shakespeare series from Self Made Hero. Inbetween campaign prep tasks for the #textbookrevolution, I made my way through Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. With beautiful drawings and a distilled version of the story, they were enjoyable to read and I made sure to emphasise that in my review.

Both reviews have been published on the Paperight blog. However, I envisioned that one day, these reviews would be seen on the Paperight.com home site, along with the opportunity for customers to review titles they have bought, too.

Apart from this, I also attempted to review a GetSmarter Marketing course manual, but I couldn’t strike the right tone in the piece so it was never released. This review highlighted the biggest problems with the reviewing process:

  1. There often isn’t enough time to focus on reading a new book and reviewing it too.
  2. It is much easier to review a title that you enjoy.

I would definitely advise having more than one person reviewing titles because one person’s chore is another person’s choice read. This also spreads the task around and makes it less difficult to produce many reviews over the same amount of time. If I had a perfect system, I would make sure that Paperight publishes at least 4 reviews a month, totalling 48 reviews a year. This may be a small number, but with a small team, this number is achievable and will grow exponentially as the team grows and the catologue of books grows. Just a thought! As much as Paperight has tried to distance themselves from ordinary bookselling practices, I think that this practice is absolutely essential to building regular customers.

Footnote Summit and investment discussions

On the tail-end of our frustration at the long lead time in getting publishers signed up, Arthur was asked to speak at the Footnote Summit. He spoke at the summit about the tough truths we’d learned about selling to publishers. His talk was very well received, and while we were concerned that the points we covered might be taken badly, it seemed that they resonated with those championing the cause in their larger publishing companies (it even prompted a long-awaited registration or two).

One of the outcomes of the Frankfurt Book Fair in October was that I met two potential funders for Paperight. In November, Arthur and I had conversations with both of these leads. While, ultimately these discussions did not lead anywhere, it was incredibly useful to find out what potential investors are interested in, and what kinds of questions they are likely to ask.

I continued to work on our translation project applications, meeting with partners who may be able to offer advice on moving forward. We were turned down by JK Rowling’s agents, who were reluctant to move ahead with a new distribution model, but who invited us to reapply when we could work around those concerns (or relieve them). We facilitated the transfer of Future Managers’ titles, uploaded Xhosa Fundis titles, signed on with Worldreader to distribute the Paperight Young Writers’ Anthology on their platform, started planning an #authorsforaccess campaign with Marie (this later went onto the backburner), and tested document conversions using automated PDF-PDF.

Publisher Registrations

  • Passion (2/11/2013)
  • Lorisha Educational Publishing (4/11/2013)
  • Bunya Publishing (13/11/2013)
  • Wordsmack Publishing (14/11/2013)
  • Lorca Damon (15/11/2013)
  • Siber Ink Publishers (20/11/2013)

 

SAPA National Conference 2013

The South African Principals’ Association (SAPA) hosted their National Conference at Emperor’s Palace in Gauteng between the 7th and 9th of October 2013. The overall goal of the conference was to bring together figures in the education sector to tackle the year’s theme of Education on Track. I attended the conference to represent Paperight, make contact with fellow exhibitors and sell the Paperight service to school principals. We partnered with Realm Digital/Snapplify to take a stand.

My initial feeling after the conference was positive that sales and useful contacts would come from my attendance. However, in hindsight, I don’t believe that this event had the rewards that I anticipated. We have not tracked any sales to come directly from the conference and no schools have signed up in the period following the event. Despite handing out many flyers, as well as my business card, no attendees acted on these takeaway reminders of what Paperight offers.

I believe the reasons for this failure are a combination of the following:

  • an over-complicated brand introduction*
  • an unwillingness on the part of the principals to consider using a paper option for the students in light of all of the pro-digital sentiment that has been bandied about, particularly at the conference
  • despite their best intentions, a lot of the principals are not technologically clued up enough (or simply doubt their own ability) to use the Paperight site
  • a snobbishness on the part of some of the principals who seemed to be very interested in getting free stuff in order to secure their attention
  • my failure to push for principals to leave their contact details
  • the delegates may have been overwhelmed by the enormous volume of new information over the course of the event
  • Paperight does not offer enough material for primary school children

*By an over-complicated brand introduction, I mean to say that when consumers see the Paperight brand for the first time, there are so many options to use the service that some may be driven to inaction. For example, schools can sign up themselves OR head to their local copy shop OR lease a RISO machine that comes with a Paperight.com account.

Knowing what I know now, I would not advise visiting the SAPA conference again unless we have the resources to bring in memorable gimmicks or free samples to help us sell the idea of Paperight and leave a better lasting impression. Unfortunately, this is not an accommodating environment for small, cash strapped start ups.

External Marketing Advice: Zoom and the Stellenbosch MBA Students

On the 27th of June 2013, Yazeed, Nick, Arthur and I headed to Woodstock for an insightful marketing and communications workshop with members of the Zoom Advertising team. I should point out that I hadn’t been promoted at this point. That was still to come, after a week long holiday to the extraordinary Grahamstown Festival.

After seeing a Paperight-related tweet, Zoom had contacted Arthur to offer a free 3–4 hour session to discuss Paperight’s brand image, target markets, past marketing endeavours and to suggest future marketing strategies. This all based purely on their interest and delight in the Paperight project. The discussion was spearheaded by Rebecca Warne and attended by other senior staff, including Managing Director, Steve Massey.

As the biscuits were eaten and the tea/coffee making facilities kept well oiled, we shared our ideas about how to make the best of Paperight’s established reputation.

A lot of what was suggested was way beyond our meagre means for the foreseeable future, however they were useful points to bring up as long term aims. If we want to be able to reach a certain level of sophistication and complexity in marketing strategies, we have to preemptively build up provisions while also testing various strategies on micro levels.

After the workshop, we came back to Paperight HQ with lots of great ideas buzzing around and enormous enthusiasm. Rebecca then sent us a Powerpoint presentation with the distilled discussion points for us to refer to. This certainly informed my decisions when writing up the official Paperight 2013–2014 marketing plan. A lot of what became known as the #textbookrevolution was inspired by this great session.

Around the same time, Rachelle van der Merwe of the 2014 MBA program at Stellenbosch University contacted Arthur requesting to use Paperight as the sample company for the students’ end of year project. The team of students would have to produce a marketing plan for Paperight, based on interviews with Paperight team members, document analysis, sales analysis and independent market research.

Over the course of two to three months, we met with Rachelle numerous times and corresponded with the rest of the team by email to accommodate their requests for advice and further information about current systems in place. We were happy to oblige and for the most part did not feel that their investigation got in our way. We obviously had control over what we would share with them, but as a company with an open policy, they had access to everything they needed – all they had to do was ask for it.

The finished product, given to us in mid October 2013, ended up being far different to what I had been working on as the official marketing plan.

My plan was based on what actions, formed into sustained campaigns, would form the base of our efforts. These actions were swayed by marketing actions attempted before I joined the team, established target markets and available finances.

Their marketing plan … offered a very nuanced and brutally honest view of Paperight … the current textbook distribution channels and major players, as well as a razor sharp analysis of the Paperight business model

Their marketing plan had no such thing, but instead offered a very nuanced and brutally honest view of Paperight as it stands. A detailed analysis of the current textbook distribution channels and major players, as well as a razor sharp analysis of the Paperight business model, led into a projection of where our future sales need to come from in order to achieve sustainability. Their project brought together all that we thought we knew into one document and certainly bolstered our conviction that Paperight is the best solution to tackle educational resource shortages. At least, the best so far.

Both these influences were particularly well timed (thank you, universe) and helped us all to align our strategies around marketing. The base concern at this point became about turning exposure into sales. The Shuttleworth Foundation will not be funding the project forever, after all.

This shift continues to inform all of our decisions.

The Paperight Help Video: version 2.0

When Shaun Swingler joined the team as a video intern, he was tasked to update the help video to include elements that we missed when the first video was made and to improve the overall quality of the end product.

1461816_10151841276613785_103333600_nA script was drawn up to reflect the changes necessary and Dezre was chosen to be the sultry Paperight help voice. With the old video in mind, the team deliberated on what was necessary to make an improved version. These edits included finding music to carry through the entire piece, ensuring there are no gaps in dialogue, slotting in title and end slides featuring the Paperight logo, and particular focus on the overall tone of the video – it needed to be far more jolly to better reflect Paperight’s brand image.

We decided that it would be best to split the help video into four shorter videos to make the information more easily accessible and user friendly.

The videos were released through the newsletter, and uploaded to the Paperight blog and help site. The completed videos were:

 Copy shop registration

Topping up

Printing a book

Account settings

Frankfurt Book Fair and CONTEC Startup Showcase win

October saw us participating in the CONTEC Startup Showcase in Frankfurt. The showcase formed part of the CONTEC Conference which was attended by industry leaders in digital publishing, and focused on the connection between content and technology. Paperight was expected to offer a 3-minute pitch, against five other innovative start-ups in digital publishing. We were selected as the winner of the showcase by a panel of judges.

As was the case after our London Book Fair win, the discussions had after the award announcement, and in the tea breaks just before, were very productive, with a lot of excitement about our project and aims. In particular, the Brazilian publishers in attendance (Brazil was to be the market-focus for the book fair that year) were very enthusiastic about the possibilities for Paperight in the Brazilian and wider South American market.

My focus for the fair was on publishers who could provide content that was in line with our current marketing focus. Namely, early childhood development materials (for children) and research (for teachers/caregivers), core textbooks and study materials for grades 10, 11 and 12 learners, core reading material for first and second year university level students, and trade fiction for young adults.

I had many productive conversations, and furthered negotiations with several big publishers (including Elsevier, Harlequin, and Bloomsbury). While I was optimistic about the possibility for Bloomsbury signing on with us, and while they were very receptive in our meetings, they later decides to hold off until after their South African distributors, Jonathan Ball, had had a chance to pilot the system.

We continually found that it was imperative to follow up on marketing material like this, be it with outlets, or schools, as often things would fall through the cracks otherwise.

While I was away, Philippa held the fort, and continued the process of uploading documents in the backlog queue, and Marie completed content tagging. Following my return from the fair, I completed the usual feedback reports, and followed up on the posters we’d distributed to schools (to make sure these had been put up and the flyers handed-out). We continually found that it was imperative to follow up on marketing material like this, be it with outlets, or schools, as often things would fall through the cracks otherwise. Dez and I also completed the Gifted Citizen Award Application on Arthur’s behalf.

Given the difficulties in getting content timeously, specifically as a result of the long lead time when signing publishers, we revisited the discussions (recurring over the last year) of creating our own content. It was around this time that we had been talking to Pearson about making their backlist (some of which included important African literature titles) on Paperight, only to find that this would not be possible due to the fact that font-licensing issues meant that these would have to be re-typeset, and the cost of this was just not a viable option. In our in house discussions about increasing the pool of books published/available in African languages, we began to envision a translation project for popular international YA titles into isiZulu and isiXhosa. This lead to my applying for rights to translate Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games (a project that is still on going). Another of our projects for content creation revolved around matric exams, and the fact that the changes in curriculum meant that past exam papers would no longer be as relevant for students. We contacted Siyavula about a collaborative project to develop a bank of open CAPS-aligned maths questions for grades 11 and 12, but while supportive of the endeavour, their current commitments precluded any involvement on their part. Instead, we looked into hiring an intern to assist us in the creation of a question bank.

We’d increasingly been concerned that we were not close enough to reaching sustainability, and we’d ultimately need to shrink the team in order to extend the funding runway.

October was also the month in which we decided to plan for and prioritise a university marketing campaign as a “Blaze of Glory”, last ditch effort to see if we could gain enough traction in the university market to avoid having to make a serious pivot within the next six months. We’d increasingly been concerned that we were not close enough to reaching sustainability, and we’d ultimately need to shrink the team in order to extend the funding runway. As a team we started brainstorming the #textbookrevolution. Part of this planning lead to us focussing our attention on university prescriptions. I set up a database of prescriptions, and worked with Oscar to flesh this out.

Publisher Registrations

  • Short Story Day Africa (25/10/2013)
  • Jacana Media (30/10/2013)
  • A Poet’s Tree (30/10/2013)

Erotica Campaign

In August 2013, we received a batch of saucy titles to upload from publisher Accent Press in the United Kingdom. To coincide with this new import, we brainstormed ideas to promote the titles and attempted to define which customers would want to purchase them. This campaign was to be a way of reaching out to repeat customers who could carry us through the slow seasons, in between main book buying cycles.

a-pinch-of-spice_alcamia-payne_cover_20130901The idea was to hand out 80 free Paperight copies of Accent Press books on UCT campus and ask students to review them for us as part of a PR stunt. As part of this, I put together a questionnaire to streamline the responses we would be getting, asking students, for example, to rate the book as an Erotic or Romantic title, rate the book on a saucy scale of 1 to 5, flag any offensive material within and more. This information would then be used to categorise the books on the website to assist other customers navigating the long list of available titles. We also wanted to ask students to write a short recommendation if they liked the book. After all, recommendations in book stores are proven to drive sales, as I learned in my 4 years working at the Bay Bookshop.

Nick designed a poster to advertise the handout on campus and the handout was scheduled for the 18th of September 2013 on Jammie Plaza.

To ensure that these books would get to students who would be interested in taking part, I contacted Jessica Tiffin of the English Literature department at UCT who runs an annual course for 3rd Years on Erotic Literature called ‘Sex: From Sappho to Cyber”. Jessica was very interested in sending details to students about how they could take part.

this campaign was shelved due to concerns about damaging our growing reputation as a distributor of educational material.

However, this campaign was shelved due to concerns about damaging our growing reputation as a distributor of educational material. At this early stage in Paperight’s lifespan, it was crucial not to alienate any potential supporters for the sake of a quick, provocative campaign. We needed to focus on building our number of repeat customers and South Africa’s predominantly conservative reading public might have taken issue with this content.

Project 12: Sales course for Outlet Development Manager: closing report

A ten-week course on selling for our Outlet Development Manager Yazeed Peters, intended primarily to boost sales from outlets to bulk-printing customers, resulting in revenue for Paperight in rights and service fees.

General report-back

The course has helped Yazeed define his role in Paperight more clearly. Yazeed was averse to being branded as a salesperson due to the stigma attached to salespeople. Through the course he has improved his goal-setting and confidence in fulfilling a sales role.

Objectives achieved/not achieved

Planned: “We hope that the course will enable Yazeed to find and close valuable deals between outlets and their customers that will boost Paperight’s revenue and create the success stories we need in order to encourage other outlets to register and do similar deals … revenue will increase, and outlets will be able to see the impact that Paperight can have on a business that embraces and promotes print-on-demand.”

We believe this has been achieved. The clearest evidence is that Yazeed’s sales work has kept us on track with our revenue targets.

Measures of success

Planned: “Yazeed must complete the course and all knowledge review and feedback sheets. This will help determine whether he feels he is internalising the training material.”

Yazeed: “The course materials are aligned with my own values and therefore easy to internalise.”

Planned: “Yazeed will report back to the team, and write up his reports, on what he’s learning and how it’s impacting his work with outlets and their customers.”

This is being done on an ongoing basis as Yazeed briefs and trains colleagues on aspects of pitching and sales, and briefs us on the status of pending deals.

Before: “We expect:  To see more deals like the Pelikan Park deal being created and closed.”

After: Achieved: We have been successfully involved in four similar deals since then.

Before: “To see a deal a month as early as one month into his course. ”

After: On average we have seen a deal per month with us reaching our overall targets successfully, considering that targets increase by 50% per month.

Before: “We’ve love to see more than that.”

After: We have not yet seen more, but this work has led to us formalising our efforts to seek sponsorships as a core part of our business, and to trying to recruit a dedicated sales manager to grow this side of the business.

Budget

Original budget: R19380.00

Actual spend: R13369.62

Returned to pool: R6010.38

Outputs and deliverables

Planned: “Direct tangible outputs will include the goal-setting and other plans that Yazeed creates for his position. Indirect outputs, we hope, will include sales that come as a result of his doing the course.”

Actual outputs: Yazeed’s goals have become more sales-orientated, and the course has helped him to focus on reaching sales targets and improved his ability to set priorities effectively.

Learnings

The course was a valuable investment for Paperight as it allowed us to boost our abilities in sales. The important nature of sales for our start-up makes the amount spent on the course worthwhile. In future we would continue to weigh up the potential benefits versus the cost of such training courses. It is important that we do not send staff for training courses which do not add direct benefit to Paperight.

Exit/Sustainability/Viability

This course was a one-off investment in team capabilities that will contribute to our ability to become self-sustaining.

Conclusion

We’re very happy that we sent Yazeed on the course, the benefits are clear and the organisation is certainly better off as a result.

Next steps

We will consider sending team members on similar courses in future, though none are planned at this stage.

The inside story of our experiment in distributed print-on-demand