Masterclass with Ralph Möllers

At the end of the day, getting books produced is not enough; then, watching them sit in a warehouse or on the shelves would be satisfying. The job is not done until the books are in the hands of the readers and in today’s Kindle and iBooks world, their devices too. Like any other sector, globalisation and technology has successfully caught up with and reformed the way publishers get books to readers. This does not however mean traditional marketing and distribution channels have become obsolete but, rather, implies that there are more constantly being thrown in the mix. These were some of the things the session with Ralph Möllers intended to highlight.

If you’re now wondering if the session was on marketing, then yes . . . at least so we thought. It appears those who have been constantly exposed to the fuss about marketing are now quite bored with the topic. So if you’ve had enough of the ‘why’ and ‘mix’ of marketing, then you’re in luck, I don’t believe in preaching to the choir either. The session turned out to be more than marketing in its pure sense, I had a pleasant time learning about online and multimedia platforms for books. This write-up is only intended to highlight a few of the things I personally found interesting and memorable.

One of my favourite takeaways from the session was when he mentioned he works with his wife in his companies and described her as ‘the limiter of stupid ideas’ in his professional and personal life. It’s indicative of the fact that in the world of publishing, sometimes when you have a passion for the kinds of books you produce—whether it is educating kids through an entertaining medium, preserving knowledge and history, giving people of a different language an opportunity to enjoy a great story, etc.—you might get carried away. It is however important to pay attention to the business aspect as well; even non-profits have to survive.

We are all aware of how quickly there’s a new technology or a new feature for additional capability in existing technologies. Ralph mentioned that by the time he becomes conversant with the current technology, the world introduces and moves on to the next one. Like most people, he believes that younger people are more abreast with these changes. ‎After listening to his presentation ‎and seeing his demonstrations on how to use some of the online platforms he’s involved in running, I don’t think I’m one of those people anymore. Ralph gives himself credit for at least trying to keep up with technology unlike most people his age who give up; I however give him credit for successfully knowing how much he does. At this point, he’s probably more technologically savvy than I (‘the younger one’) am. I would purchase a book from the app store, download and just read it in my iBooks app. Ralph can purchase a book, download, unlock and convert it to a normal ePub format so that he can import into an independent app (not iBooks or Kindle) where he can read it (without being tracked).

Tracking was another interesting ‎topic we discussed. Turns out online stores can track more than what books you looked at or bought and which ones you may also be interested in. Does seeing adverts on the sides of your screen which tie into the content of your email or searches make you raise a brow? If yes, well, you might get wide-eyed. Through apps, your activities on books you’ve bought can be tracked. As readers, you and I might find this a little creepy but on the flip side, as publishers, such data is a source of credible feedback, say, at what point did readers abandon a book?

On the multimedia front, Ralph shared with us an online marketing tool that he has developed: Book2Look. It is a platform where publishers, bookstores, bloggers can advertise their books. Flipintu, I found very interesting, probably because of the unique feature that accommodates groups such as a class or a book club. The group can read, highlight, post comments and have discussions on this platform.

Ultimately, looking at the things I found interesting from the session, I’ve come to realise that sometimes it’s not the things we didn’t know, it’s the things we weren’t aware of about the things we knew.

P.S. I’m currently sifting through my mind wondering which of my people would be the best limiter of stupid ideas J

Habibah Kike Kamaluddeen

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