Case Study: Publisher Caffeine Nights on using social media

Darren Laws, CEO of Caffeine Nights talks us through their use of social media and the challenges they face promoting their debut author Greg Dawe:

As a small and relatively new publisher Caffeine Nights Publishing is using a variety of social media to help gain exposure of its titles and authors.  Social Media must be informative but never salesy. Messages which read ‘Buy my book’ just turn off people using social media.  The key point is to offer something which makes them interested and hopefully engaged enough to react to a call to action; even if that call to action is only to view a video.  We firmly believe in social media as a great communications channel and the key word here is ‘communication’.  The best type of social media offers an opportunity for dialogue.  Our goal is to gain a better understanding of people who like our books and to listen to them and what they have to say.  The Internet today is going to look a lot different in five years time.  Attitudes and adjustments to free content will change and technology will dictate they a huge proportion of our sales revenue will come directly from digital products and marketing. Our strategy is to help define the change by understanding the evolution or is it a revolution?

Publisher strategy

We have a Caffeine Nights blog (http://caffeinenights.wordpress.com) where we talk about all things relevant in publishing.  We stick to mostly topical subjects and purposely keep promotion of titles on a low radar for the blog. I think it’s important to express opinion about the industry.  Our website (http://www.cnpublishing.co.uk) is more orientated to promotion of titles and authors, it concentrates on activities we are arranging such as book signings and author events.  We advise authors to invest in personal websites as this invariably helps their SEO and promotes their work.  We also advise all authors to have an author page on Amazon and use social media wisely.

Caffeine Nights has a Facebook page and we use it to communicate with anyone who is interested in what is going on at Caffeine Nights or with our authors.  We post filmed author interviews, link our Twitter feeds and generally respond to and begin conversations.

Monitoring and using the different social networks

Social Media takes time and deserves respect.  It is vital to also be aware of what people are saying about your company/brand/products/authors.  The same approach cannot be taken with every form of social media.  Facebook and Twitter are different animals and need a defined approach which talks to the audience not at it. It is also wrong to ignore sites such as MySpace, which may seem a little dated but retains a good following, Sprouter and specialist social media sites such as Crimespace. 

Responding and engaging

‘Word of Mouth’ is one of the greatest forms of recommendation there is and creating a buzz about a book or an author certainly raises their profile and that of any books connected with them.  Working in networks and responding to questions or posting blogs people find interesting engages them.  We also work very heavily with traditional public relations to ensure our message is heard through traditional media channels.

Bloggers, reviews and influence

We send books out to bloggers when we can ascertain that they have reach and influence.  A good review from a blogger is easily as useful as a good review in traditional press as long as we know the blogger has a voice and opinion which is respected.  When we get a good review from a blogger we always use it somewhere, as we would with any decent review.  The good thing about a good blog review is that has longevity.

Challenges  

There are lots of challenges promoting a debut author and as many, if not more, as a new publishing company. 

The industry at times appears to be in some form of self-induced coma reacting to digital changes at a snail’s pace.   In this country we are left with one major book chain that has just posted a poor set of results but is trying to respond to the public appetite for a more localised service.  Yet its ordering system is failing and it reverts to distribution companies who take a huge slice of profit rather than buying direct from publisher who can deliver at a local level and help control stock issues through creating a demand and buying to fulfil that demand.  Sadly they sacrifice speed and directness for a huge cut (over 20%) in their profitability and increased travel miles and carbon footprint.  The publishing industry has to be one of the most wasteful and dirty industries still to clean up its act. Publishing face huge challenges all the way to the consumer and now is the time to react. These are not just environmental changes but changes in attitude by a new generation of readers who are not prepared to watch thousands of books being printed at unsustainable levels to be carted from pillar to post before being pulped and sent to landfill.  They can see the appeal of digital books and machines which print to demand.

 

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