Saturday, 11 June 2011

digital marketing - HarperVoyager

Over the next few weeks this blog is going to focus on what the four imprints I’m using as case studies for my dissertation do to digitally market their books. Like a bookish clash between Come Dine with Me and Whose Line is it Anyway?, each imprint gets a turn, the rules are made up and the points don’t matter. This post is about HarperVoyager UK.


One thing that I have not taken into account so far with blogging about Tor UK and Orbit UK’s digital marketing is business models. The term ‘business model’ tends to make my brain prepare to be imminently baffled, but what I mean by it here is pretty basic – the number of staff within the imprint and their roles. In Voyager’s case, having done work experience there, I know that there is a grand total of two staff members dedicated purely to this Science Fiction and Fantasy imprint, one of which handles the majority of the digital marketing. Solo points to her before we even begin.

Website: like Orbit, Voyager’s website is really a blog. While Orbit’s site is maintained in by a triumvirate of worldwide imprints (note: not as evil as it sounds), Voyager’s is hosted by HarperCollins and maintained mainly by one dedicated Assistant Editor, and a few guest bloggers. There tends to be about one to two posts every fortnight, and they can consist of: reviews from HarperCollins’ staff members of Voyager’s books, an huge ongoing campaign for George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (HBO’s TV adaptation - Game of Thrones, new covers, eBooks and the date for the upcoming, long-awaited A Dance With Dragons), countdown widgets for upcoming titles for blogs and websites, trailers, occasional book of the month (book of the every other month?), cover launches and a heads-up for their new venture into YA fiction, a post on their physical consumer marketing campaign for Peter V Brett and a few non-marketing related posts, which arguably is good digital marketing in itself. The blog/site also contains links to other sites and every post can be commented on – so community points to them.

As a side note, Voyager’s sister Australian imprint has a great site – complete with blog, online community, search engine, news and events listings and the tantalisingly titled ‘fun and games’. Who can resist such a tab?

HarperCollins hosts a page for Voyager on their main site. This contains links to the Voyager blog, as well as the Voyager Twitter feed, information about authors and their titles and upcoming books, and press releases. It’s not as updated as their blog, and while it is useful, it feels a bit more perfunctory, and not as welcoming as Voyager main. I will allot practical points for this.

Twitter: their Twitter page contains links to their blog posts as well as plenty of perky communication with fellow tweeters and readers, particularly considering there is only one person behind the tweets. What I like about this (warning: personal preference) is that HarperCollins is a hugely commercial publisher but the Voyager feed feels personal. Points for letting people know when they’re going on holiday, or that they left their pen back at the office when they wanted to mark proofs on the bus.

Facebook: I can’t find a Facebook page for Voyager UK. If there is one and I’ve missed it, I’m sorry (although no points for hiding well).

Digital advances: thanks to HarperCollins’ dedication to all things digital, Voyager has a healthy backlist of digital titles available, although the books don’t have any additional interactive features. They get extra goodwill points however for taking advantage of the digital format for the benefit of their customers. George RR Martin’s beasts tend to be unbindable and a few have been released in two parts – but their digital editions have been combined. Voyager even went a step further and bound the whole 3000 page series so far together in one digital volume for a relatively cheap price.

Blog: see ‘Website’.

Extras: Voyager has a monthly newsletter and a YouTube channel, but it hasn’t been updated for a while. Points to them, but not as many as for a well-maintained channel (admittedly these values mean very little).

Conclusion: contain yourself - an exciting summary will follow after all four imprints have had their turn. Disclaimer: they will not win £1000 presented to them on a silver platter. They will not get to read out the end credits in the style of someone delivering urgent information to someone on a bouncy castle.

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