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by Porter Anderson for Publishing Perspective April 24, 2018
With quietly moving devotion, leaders of Greece, Guinea, the United Arab Emirates, UNESCO, and the International Publishers Association, have opened Athens’ year as World Book Capital.
On Monday evening, World Book Day (April 23), the magnificent Acropolis Museum was closed early so that Prokopis Pavlopoulos, president of Greece, could join George Kaminis, the mayor of Athens, in consecrating the country’s and the city’s unified intention to produce more than 240 events between now and this time next year—an international promotion of books and a nationwide engagement in reading.
The invited dignitaries, guests, and media members passed through security screenings into the eerily silent museum, with its patient treasures from the Parthenon and surrounding excavations. In this land of Homer, everyone smiled at the mayor’s first line: “The question is not why Athens has been chosen for this honor, but why it took so long for it to happen.”
Of course, “so long” has almost no meaning in the vast millennia of Greece’s history, luminous each night as the glassed top floor of the museum glows to life, answering the lit columns atop the Acropolis. The World Book Capital program’s concept is only some 22 years old, having been launched in 1996 at the suggestion of the International Publishers Association (IPA). In 2001, Madrid became the first city to call itself a World Book Capital.
And over the years, a symbolic handoff tradition has been growing in which each successive city passes the baton to the next, not unlike the ceremony seen annually at the Frankfurter Buchmesse, as one Guest of Honor country gives over to the next.
In Athens, Conakry’s chief of staff Moundjour Cherif was present, to hand off to Athens. And representing the “other side” of the transfer, the UAE’s Sheikha Bodour bint Al Qasimi was there to honor Athens—which on World Book Day 2019 will hand off to Sharjah, the first Arabian Gulf city named a World Book Capital.
Bodour was accompanied by Mohammed Meer Al Raesi, the UAE’s ambassador to Athens, recently apppointed.
Sharjah has helped support the restoration of Guinea’s Djibril Tamsir Niane Library, and also has contributed to textbook provision and distribution in the country, as well as participating in the donation of 2,000 much-needed books.
Pavlopoulos: ‘Sacred Space’
Hosted by the Greek journalist and anchorwoman Maria Houkli, the official program was a simple one, set in the nine-year-old museum’s auditorium. The session would end with the music of a flute quartet, but it was memorable chiefly for Pavlopoulos’ impressive, forceful commentary.
“Athens actually merits this honor and we will vindicate the choice of Greece because it is here that the largest library was established, and we should remember that even the Library at Alexandria was a Greek library.”Prokpois Pavlopoulos
Speaking without notes, the Greek president referred to the “sacred space” of the museum, which stands over an excavation of Byzantine-era Athens. He referred us to specific pieces in the museum collection, including a sculpture of Athena from around 468 BC.
“I don’t think there is any work of art,” Pavlopoulos said, “that can represent better what Athens was then and what it aspires to be today.”
The subtext, of course, as the 200 or so invitees in the room knew, was about the Greek government debt crisis that started about the time the new museum was being dedicated and led to 12 wrenching rounds of reforms and international bailouts through 2016.
Today, Athens bustles again with new energy and the ebullient crackle of its famous municiple personality, but the price has been heavy. And it’s easy to see that being selected as World Book Capital is a fine signal of Greece’s return to world society and its rightful cultural leadership.
Pavlopoulos referred to how “It is here that ‘the citizen’ was born”—the concept of democracy’s essential player—and how “the common heritage of the world” is carried forward by each an educated member of a culture, a reader.
“Athens actually merits this honor,” Pavlopoulos said in his resonant basso, “and we will vindicate the choice of Greece because it is here that the largest library was established, and we should remember that even the Library at Alexandria was a Greek library.”
In the digital age, Pavlopoulos said, Greece can do no less than find her footing in delivering to the country’s population and visitors in the next year “the powerful potential that books do possess.”
Borghino and Denison: ‘The Grid’
During the ceremony’s reception on the museum’s terrace in the shadow of the Acropolis and amid late-day breezes from Piraeus, Publishing Perspectives spoke with Ian Denison, UNESCO’s chief of publishing and branding, and José Borghino, IPA’s executive director, about how a World Book Capital is chosen.
The program has moved over the years from Beirut to Ljubljana, from Port Harcourt to Incheon, from Wroclaw to Conackry.
“We have a grid of criteria,” Denison said, “and within the grid, we have sub-criteria. And what we’ve done is make sure that freedom of expression is the highest-rated criterion.” As Borghino explained, the IPA’s leadership in the freedom to publish, with its annual Prix Voltaire for the most courageous champions of expressive rights, is represented in the selection of Greece by a major component of Athens’ program which will address the reading needs of the country’s many refugees.
“In terms of the honor, every country named a World Book Capital appreciates it in a different way and needs different things” from UNESCO, Denison said. “A place like Conakry, for example,” he said, “needs more infrastructure support,” as in the library-rebuilding efforts that Sharjah has assisted Guinea with.
“We felt that in economic times that were so difficult” in Greece, “to be focusing as they were on migrant children and refugees was something quite amazing.”Ian Denison
“While a place like Athens,” Denison said, “doesn’t need that kind of support, it needs recognition of what it’s been through” in the past decade, and that a corner has now been turned.
“We felt that in economic times that were so difficult” in Greece, he said, “to be focusing as they were on migrant children and refugees was something quite amazing.”
“And then Sharjah, of course, is a different story,” Borghino said, with its generation of effort led by its royal family to found a knowledge-based culture on reading and books.
“The story for each World Book Capital,” Borghino said, “is positive. But each is positive in a different way.”
The IPA and UNESCO are joined by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions and the International Booksellers Federation in assessing and selecting each year’s World Book Capital, evaluating proposals on the criteria of that grid of considerations.
“It’s actually a very joyous thing,” Denison said. “We’re now about to see what new stories the Athenians are going to come up with in the next year.”
by Olivia Snaije Originally published in Perspective Publishing April 19, 2018
In a tightening market for fiction and especially for debut authors looking for that big break, editors can be choosier—and many are more dependent than ever on literary agents to find their next debuts.
Two trends gave a session on debut acquisitions at last week’s London Book Fair special interest. First, the fair’s Author HQ program is smartly including trade authors’ interests, such as placing a first novel. Second, as Michael Cader at Publishers Lunch has pointed out, not only did significant nonfiction deals at LBF this year, but debuts were way down. By Cader’s count, there were 34 debut fiction sales in 2016; 37 in 2017; and only 27 debut fiction deals this year. —Porter Anderson
‘I’ve Pre-Empted Two Books This Year’
A room filled with aspiring writers awaited three editors and a debut author last week at London Book Fair’s session “Why We Commissioned These Debuts.” Speakers included:
• Penguin Random House UK editor Jade Chandler, who handles crime and thrillers for Harvill Secker and Vintage
• Nick Wells, the founding publisher at independent house Flame Tree Publishing, which is to launch an imprint for horror, crime, and science fiction/fantasy in September
• HarperCollins UK editorial director Martha Ashby
• HarperCollins author Sarah J. Harris was on hand to provide the debut writer’s viewpoint
Harris is also published in the States by Simon & Schuster, and she’s written three YA novels under a pseudonym. And she described the comparatively dreamy experience she had in entering the market with The Color of Bee Larkham’s Murder.
Having spent nine months writing the book, she said she researched agents and picked out the ones she thought would suit her best. Among them was Jemima Forrester who was starting a new list at David Higham’s agency.
Harris wrote a cover letter, targeted her agents’ list, met Forrester first and signed with her. Once the book was edited, Harris said, Forrester submitted it and the manuscript drew overnight interest from publishers.
Within less than a week, HarperCollins made a bid, which Harris said she knows is unusually fast action.
From an editor’s viewpoint, Harvill Secker’s Chandler said that in a pre-empt, a publisher may “offer quite a lot to the agent because you want the book” to be taken off the table. “But sometimes the agent will have it go to auction. I’ve pre-empted two books this year,” Chandler said, “and it usually involves reading the book overnight. It’s very dramatic and exciting and involves sleepless nights.”
Chandler said that like most editors, she finds authors through literary agents who filter submissions. “It’s quite an old fashioned process,” she said, “but in reality, I’m just one woman and I can only read so much.” Not surprisingly, she said that good relationships with agents become important if an editor is to find the best material.
‘You Know Within a Few Pages If the Writer Can Write’ - Martha Ashby
Martha Ashby is the editor who pre-empted Harris’ book—shutting down all competing offers by striking a deal with the agent. Ashby said she meets with agents and tells them what she’s looking for. She doesn’t read submission letters, she said.
“I want to read the book as someone who doesn’t know what it’s going to be like,” Ashby said. “I want to come at it as a reader would. I think about who the audience is. Is it different from other books in the market? What would the elevator pitch be? If I’m really excited about the book I’ll flag my publisher.
“You know within a few pages if the writer can write. If the voice is great but I don’t know where the story’s going, I’ll still keep reading, bearing in mind that the manuscript has been roughly edited.
“Sometimes an author will need to cut the first few chapters. Once we’re excited about a book we’ll circulate it to sales and marketing and publishers.
“If I can, I tell the publicity and marketing and sales teams about where the book sits in the market because they need to know who the readers are. Are they reading Elle or the Daily Express? Are they on Facebook or on Twitter? Everyone is thinking about how we’d publish the book from their own perspective and from their area.”
While all this is happening, said Ashby, five or 15 other editors are doing the same thing. A book can then go to auction, or be pre-empted, and the process can take between one day to one month, or longer.
“Sometimes agents will want to see a publication pitch,” she said. “How we’ll present the book. The most important thing for an author is to feel like they’ve found the best home for their book.”
For her part as the writer in question, Harris confirmed that the experience at HarperCollins made her feel “like the whole team was onboard with my book from Day One. I had contact with them all.”
‘Headaches and Sleepless Nights’ - Nick Wells
Running a much smaller, independent house, Nick Wells said he goes about things differently at Flame Tree. Editors there feel, he said, that it’s important to engage directly with writers and readers. For this reason, he said he doesn’t rely on literary agents and is open to submissions for periods of time—“which causes headaches and sleepless nights,” he conceded.
“We have short windows for submissions,” he said. And yet, “We [recently] had submissions from 12,000 people and an editorial board of six with some outside readers.” All of which confirmed for him that “there’s no question that the agent route is very helpful.”
As far as submissions go, Wells said that if writers are hungry and know their market, they’d find a way to send him their manuscript.
Searching Out Better Work - Jade Chandler
A relatively new element of the business is the digital visibility authors may have, even if they’re not thinking of it.
Some editors go to blog sites and various social media to look for authors, and many like to see how influential those writers are in the social realm. “If someone isn’t on social media at all,” Chandler said, however, ‘that wouldn’t discourage me.”
The editors agreed that they’re open to the idea of working with self-published authors and that remaining flexible in the industry is important.
And while all the session’s panelists hadn’t directly addressed the title of the session with rationales for precise acquisitions, they did say they’re also trying to get more submissions from a range of writers for diversity. Chandler mentioned Random House’s Write Now program, and Wells said that a more diverse staff is needed if a house is to connect with diverse writers. At HarperCollins, an inclusive hiring scheme has been in place for some time.
Olivia Snaije is a journalist and editor based in Paris who writes about the Middle East, multiculturalism, translation, literature, and graphic novels. She is a contributor to newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, Harper’s Bazaar Art, The Global Post, The New York Times and CNN.
Customers are searching for a solution to their problems. But do they even know your brand exists?
The key to being discovered lies in effective communication. Your brand must explain what it is doing and how that will impact your target audience. This information must be easy to find, understand and share with others.
Enter the press release. This traditional PR tool is often underestimated and overlooked as an asset to build your brand’s reputation. When done right, press releases can build a larger brand following, convert leads to sales and help you gain more media coverage. Press releases also help increase your discoverability, rank higher with search engines and boost web traffic.
Here are 11 tips to help you amplify your press release strategy for maximum exposure:
1. Lead With The Right Hook
First thing’s first. Your press release needs to be newsworthy. To pass this test, ask yourself a few questions. What is new or different about your brand? Will this interest anyone outside of your business? Why should anyone care?
If you can answer all three questions, begin to outline your news in a few sentences. You will want to lead with the most important information. Brevity is key in a world where attention spans are shorter than eight seconds.
2. Perfect Your Headline
Use your headline as an elevator pitch. Think back to why anyone should care about your news to determine how to give readers a reason to click.
“Your headline should offer enough information to understand what the announcement is about without giving away too much so that readers will want to read more,” says Kimberly Brazell, Editorial Manager at PRWeb.
If your press release distribution service includes a sub header option, use that space to add context to the main message.
3. Add Insight from Credible Sources
Associate your news with the expert or leader directly involved in your news announcement. Ask for their opinions on the matter in a few short quotes.
“Expert quotes add insight and credibility to your press release and help readers relate to your news on a personal level. Think of them as a recommendation from a friend, a face and a name you can put to the advice,” says Brazell.
Be conscientious of what you include though. Avoid jargon or technical language. Insights should reiterate the reasons why your news matters, not add unnecessary fluff and bury your lead.
4. Attract More Eyes With Visuals
With so much content coming from all directions, your audience can feel overwhelmed by another piece of text-heavy content. To increase your brand’s impact, include high quality and relevant visuals and/or videos in your press release.
For example, if your brand wants to promote an upcoming conference, include photos of who will be speaking along with information on what they’ll discuss. Or, perhaps your brand just appointed a new CEO and wants to spread the word. Include a video to introduce him to the public and highlight his vision so readers have a sense of how they’ll be affected by the news.
5. Optimize for Search Engines
Google has penalized the black hat techniques some brands use to garner the attention they desperately want. Keyword stuffing, excessive links and low-quality content is easily spotted and should be avoided. Starting with high quality, natural language content is critical, which means keywords should not be included in every single sentence.
Instead, research which words or phrases your target audience is already looking for and use those to direct but not lead your copy. Include one link per 100 words to drive traffic back to your brand’s website without looking overly promotional, and don’t forget tracking codes.
6. Provide Detailed Direction
The only way to prove results is to first know the goal you want to accomplish with your press release. Once readers get past your first paragraph, they’ll know what’s happening with your brand. But how do you want them to get involved?
“Think about what action you want your readers to take after reading your release. You need to make that next step abundantly clear to your audience, because they won’t be going that extra mile without some sort of direction from you,” says Brazell.
Whether you want someone to attend an event, buy a product or download your owned content, make your call to action clear and easy to follow.
7. Make Contact Easy
One very simply way to increase your chances of earned media is to include contact information in your press release. If your headline hooked a journalist, they will want to find out more information before they include you in a story. Make it easy for journalists to reach out with questions.
Include the contact’s social channels, email address and phone number so that readers have options. Always include a direct phone line. The automated prompt systems often associated with 1-800 numbers will quickly turn off interested journalists.
Also verify that the team member whose contact information you share is readily available to respond to the media and aware of all details of your brand’s announcement, so your brand can quickly take advantage of earned media opportunities.
8. Promote Across Multiple Channels
To successfully reap all of the benefits you seek from press releases, you must set attainable goals. Whether you want to drive leads, increase social shares or earn more media, promotion plays a big role in getting to those ideal results. Every time you create a press release, use as many channels as possible to announce your news and link back to your press release.
Coordinate with the team members who head your social channels, blog, emails and internal communication to ensure everyone has the right messaging and is spreading the news at the right time. Multichannel promotion will allow you to reach your audience wherever they may be which is key in such a fast-paced, digital-focused world.
9. Pitch To The Right People
According to Cision’s State of the Media 2016 Report, 93 percent of journalists still prefer to be pitched by email. But simply copying and pasting a press release and hitting forward to all will not put you in good standing.
Before approaching the media about your news, turn to your media database to verify that each journalist you target covers the same beat or industry, works in a relevant geographical location and/or works for an outlet that aligns with your brand.
10. Measure Beyond Basic Metrics
While media pickup is a major goal of any brand, it should not be the only metric measured when you distribute a press release. Look at audience engagement levels, sentiment and conversions as well.
Track the value of individual press releases in real time as well as over time. Group the data together by type of news announcement or time of year. Doing so will allow you to pinpoint which ones increase sales and have the most impact on audiences.
11. Use Results to Reap Future Benefits
Pay close attention to hills and valleys in your numbers. Examples of what to focus on include the topic or type of news announced, distribution time and day, multimedia type and link placement.
Once you’ve combed through the data, set up A/B tests to optimize future results. For example, if you’ve noticed higher engagement rates for the last four press releases that were sent in the afternoon, you might want to consider shifting distribution to that time moving forward.
Remember, don’t stop testing once you’ve updated one part of your press release strategy. Reevaluate your tactics and the tools used to spread your story to gain an edge on competitors and boost your brand’s discoverability.
Discoverability isn’t automatic. Your brand must work hard to be found and that starts with how you craft, distribute and track your press release.