Explorative Concepts for The American University in Cairo Press
This overview contains broad-stroke direction for the American University in Cairo Press (AUC Press) in Cairo, Egypt to increase the reach of its publishing brand based on a cursory review of Internet research and the publisher’s catalog. The statements and ideas presented here are meant to encourage and stimulate AUC Press to compete internationally with both printed and electronic university and non-academic commercial imprints.
Regarding Ebook Publishing
Included is a section on why AUC Press should consider Ebook publishing. Although hugely important, the topic is vast and cannot be covered entirely here, and learning who the major players in electronic book distribution landscape, such as Apple, Amazon, Google, and Barns & Nobel not to mention understanding the print-to-electronic conversion and distribution process, are research topics of their own.
Authorship and Editorial Direction
Although editorial direction is not covered in this proposal, progressively nurturing and acquiring new authorship is. Best selling books can sustain a publisher and provide the momentum for growth, and best sellers are the work of the publisher nearly as much as the author.
Design Aesthetic of American University in Cairo Press
Finally, this proposal is seeded with graphical ideas that, although worth criticism, are not real design or copy concepts, and they are introduced to make a point only. It will be recommended that AUC Press rebrand its imprint and undertake an entirely new approach to book jacket and promotion design. The creative steps necessary to solve these issues will require a rigorous developmental process.
One: Brand Your Publishing Imprint
Most universities do not use the same university branding for their publishing imprint:
- A publishing imprint separate from the university gives the university prestige and credibility through affiliation. The university is seen to generate enough academic and cultural production to maintain a publishing entity.
- The separately branded publishing imprint assumes the prestige of the university but retains its own editorial and publishing identity. Although affiliated with the university and a venue for publishing its academic work, it also, as an international imprint, publishes content on a scale that exceeds the boundaries of the academic space.
- A branded publishing imprint permits latitude to differentiate published content to reach broader audiences while still borrowing equity from an institution of higher learning.
This proxy imprint identity shows possibility for giving American University in Cairo Press its own brand. A unique imprint brand is an opportunity to market AUC Press publications with commercial market freedom, yet with academic prestige. It is a opportunity to appropriate the best of Egyptian heritage and transform it into identity that portrays the publishing imprint within the epicenter of world culture. It is a way to convey a more universal idea of Middle East/North African origin and affiliation than the University’s Arabesque symbol. Differentiating the University and the publisher permits the educational institution to generate academic thought without presuming to control publishing, while the publisher includes, but grows its catalog beyond the University’s academic scope — and both enjoy affiliation with each other and the prestige it brings.
Two: Rethink the Web Site
Perform a competitive review of university imprint websites along with large and small publisher sites to learn how they promote books and present their catalogs. Analyze how they promote new properties versus classics, fiction versus academic, cultural topics and histories. Evaluate each element on the AUC Press site and all supporting pages to understand whether it does or does not bring value to the user.
- Learn who the users are and what is most important to communicate to them and engage them.
- Discover who is not seeing the site and develop promotional tactics and site content that serves as bait to lure in new users and retain them.
- Get rid of any superfluous content that may confuse users and block site exploration.
- Place new books on home page with links to the book and author mini-sites.
- Use blog areas for perpetual infusion of data regarding publishing and author activity, and tie this information to all social network venues and increase on-line synchronization of publishing promotion.
- Create new publisher events—symposiums, speeches, workshops, teleconferences—to increase public, academic, and media engagement with the publisher and university.
- Streamline connection to Ecommerce backend or links to AUC Press distributors.
- Use simple, but contemporary design styles that facilitates spontaneous updates and insertion of editorial accomplishments and timely editorial coups.
- Utilize content web formats like WordPress and SquareSpace to permit updates and editing by multiple administrators.
- Eliminate unnecessary links. Place utilitarian links at the bottom of the site with copyright info.
- Utilize a progressive and informed tone of voice in all copy to maintain authority for the imprint’s franchise in Middle East publishing.
- Direct content to look and convey a 21st century aesthetic and style, and reflect the University’s progressive academics and cultural attitude.
Three: Transform the AUC Press Catalog to Ebooks
As mentioned before, it is important to aggressively approach the transition of the AUC Press catalog to include Ebooks and to learn both the technological and the economic advantages of this publishing venue.
A recent report from Author Earnings, who carefully tracks Ebook sales activity, shows a consistent growth of the Ebook segment over the last several years. Although its findings do not cast eminent death on paper publishing, it underscores the importance of having the AUC Press catalog available digitally, and the argument of which type of publishing is better is not solely wrapped in the issue of the reader’s preference for reading from a paper book versus an Ereader:
- Digital books are available immediately and can provide a customer instant reading gratification and cuts out the delivery wait time.
- Shipment and international shipment is eliminated for global, regional, and local customers.
- Near East scholars needing textbooks can attain readings faster eliminating the likelihood that they will search for used books, a sales win for Amazon and a sales loss for AUC Press.
- Higher profits for AUC Press because manufacturing, warehousing, distribution, and shipping costs are minimized.
Four: Redesign of Book Jackets to Attract New Readership
The cover is not only a billboard for the book, but, in a sense, the first page of the story, because it is here that the book can communicate a little of the style and mood of the tale inside. A dark cover, with lots of shadow, can suggest a horror, while a bright white cover with clouds could suggest a motivational textbook. This is important because it speaks to the emotions of the reader, engaging them on a deeper level, and thus potentially not only securing a book sale, but setting the stage for whether or not they will like the book in the first place.
AUC Press continues to print and distribute a hugely popular and important body of Arabic literature and academic work. However, the graphic design of most of the older catalog and some of the newer catalog is not parallel to international book jacket design standards and trends, which are high. Look at it this way: throughout the world, each year, a staggering number of books are published, and publishers are clamoring for the attention of readers using social media, reviews, advertising, and most importantly, stellar graphic design and imagery for their covers and book interiors — and that includes both printed books and Ebooks.
AUC Press must rise to this impressive level of design to compete locally (because all of the major publishers and book distributors look at the Middle East as a vital market) as well as internationally, because AUC Press is central to the World Literature market.
How would such a considerable redesign task be accomplished?
- Target classic books in the AUC Press catalog based on literary importance and selling volume, and begin with those books first.
- Use the catalog redesign as an opportunity to activate the best Middle Eastern artistic talent, especially from AUC, and simultaneously upgrade the AUC Press catalog while giving design opportunities to aspiring Arab talent.
- In fact, why not construct AUC curriculum that emphasizes editorial and web design to inspire student creatives for this and other AUC and AUC Press projects too?
- Continue revamping the AUC Press catalog as opportunity presents.
- Revamp actual on-line and printed imprint catalog too along with all AUC Press promotional items to increase impact on a distribution level.
Competitive Book Jackets
Look at other publishing imprints, both public and academic, to discover how contemporary book jacket design has progressed, and identify what trends that define how books are styled and how these designs function on-line and on the shelf:
- What graphical symbols are used?
- How is modern typography used in book jacket design to heighten marketability of a book and create a collective design umbrella over an author’s body of work? How does typography then extent the umbrella to the master branding of the publisher?
- What type of photographic, and illustrative images are used in contemporary book jacket design, that when used with compelling typography, creates a desirable branded graphical representation of a literary work?
Four: Create Anthologies
Create anthologies of subjects and/or authors and package them into groups that hold greater value to readers because of the collective content:
- Typically, if a readers like a book, they will read or buy more books from that author. Thus, you have literary fans of Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, to name a few, and publishers satisfy readers’ appetite for an author’s work by marketing anthologies.
- These collections incentivize readers to investigate the entire authorship of a writer conveniently.
- This is an advantageous way to market classics and collections, and in the realm of publishing, this is a common denominator of the gift book sale. Happily, AUC Press has a stunning collection of classics.
- It is a larger cash register ring for the publisher, distributor, and retailer.
Five: The Next Literature
Where will the next literature come from? Who is the next Middle East’s author who will create a best-seller in an international publishing market? Whose book will be opted for a movie and published in twenty-four languages? Books like the ones shown on this page become the backbone of a publisher’s prosperity, and it is vital to have winning authors attracted to you for the publishing of their books. It is recommended that AUC Press enlist an unusual developmental process for both finding and nurturing authors, and this idea is more feasible when a publisher holds affiliation with an institution of higher learning, such as the American University in Cairo. On one hand, it is recommended that the publishing brand clearly separate from the academic brand. However, in this instance, it is beneficial to maintain and stimulate the connection and exchange of literary potential.
- Expand the search for writing beyond what authors bring to you. Create writer conferences and search for compelling authorship at book fairs and literary conferences.
- Create a chain of book club-like readers for unpublished work to expose hidden or potential talent.
- Use AUC literature and creative writing departments as incubators for talented writers.
- Attain access to published writers and editors for American University of Cairo workshops and master classes.
- Develop classes, workshops and majors that inspire creative writers to engage in the literature-development process.
- American University in Cairo Press should consider a branding effort that clearly differentiates it from the University while underscoring its academic and cultural bond. The new independent brand should communicate its identity as a publisher of classic literature while also conveying unabashed progressive literary vision that propels it within a complex and crowded international publishing marketplace.
- In addition to rebranding, AUC Press should retool its website to better serve its vast growing catalog and diverse group of users. The website redesign should emphasize ease of use and facilitate rapid fun interaction between user and content, and must be usable across computers, laptops, and mobile devices.
- Begin immediately conversion of the AUC Press catalog to Ebooks, and make available important literature in all published forms.
- Examine the book jacket and interior designs of the catalog, and redesign them to compete in the 21st century marketplace, where extraordinary design is a given, not an exception.
- Create anthologies of important authors and topics to incentivize readers to delve deeper in literature and create greater sales opportunity, especially for gift-giving and institutional sales.
- Develop new author incubators within and outside of the American University of Cairo, and create sources for new compelling authorship