It’s now 3 months since How Change Happens came out (did I mention I’d published a new book?) so I dropped in
at the publishers, OUP, last week to take stock.
OUP took some risks with this book, notably agreeing to go Open Access from day one. That is a huge leap from the traditional publishing model of publishing only the hardback for a year, then deciding when to go into paperback. Some people, particularly cash-strapped students used to reading on screen, are likely to take the OA route, but OUP hoped the buzz around open access would generate some sales, or people would start reading the pdf, and then see enough to buy a copy.
So what happened? Turns out that Open Access doesn’t harm book sales and if anything, promotes them. So far, OUP has sold 3,500 hardbacks and Oxfam has distributed a further 1,500 of a paperback edition at events, to staff etc..
Obviously, there’s no clear counterfactual as all books are different, but OUP are pretty convinced that OA has generated more of a buzz than a simple hardback ever could. It’s certainly better than I’ve had with any of my previous books.
The Open Access numbers are also really interesting (at least to me): 5,700 downloads of the full pdf, mainly from the Oxfam site; over 2,000 book views on Oxford Scholarship Online; and 115,000 page views on Google Books, with the average visitor reading 10 pages. Somewhere in between comes the £2 kindle version – just a couple of hundred so far.
So big tick on Open Access, and props to OUP for being willing to take the risk. Glad it’s paid off so far.
The launch schedule has been pretty gruelling – at times I have felt like one of those rock bands whose only income is from selling merchandise at the gigs (see here for the LSE version, with Naila Kabeer and Hugh Cole). The discussions have been uniformly top notch (my favourite question is still from someone at the Blackwells launch in Oxford: ‘do you believe in the perfectibility of mankind?’ – still thinking about that one). My main trips over the next few months are to Australia and New Zealand (27 March to 7 April), and the US West Coast and Canada (1-12 May). If you want to organize an event, get in touch (dgreen[at]Oxfam.org.uk).
One less gruelling and very enjoyable way to tell people about the book has been through webinars (e.g. to staff at World Vision and Care). Again, get in touch if you’re interested.
But one fly in the authorial soup (so far, at least) is translations. As long as the book is only in English, its value in many countries will be greatly reduced, and limited to elite English-speakers. If you’re interested in seeing a translation, there’s a procedure to follow. OUP’s rights team handle all translation enquires. This is so they can coordinate which publisher is interested in which language. They deal with publishers rather than individual translators, so you need to get a publisher interested before contacting the OUP team at email@example.com. More advice on translations here. If that’s too hard, there is also this ten page summary, which anyone can translate.
And the coolest thing so far has been making a podcast with my son Calum. A Texas podcast producer got in touch and asked me if I would discuss the book with a real activist (rather than the book-writing kind). No better candidate than Calum, who foments revolution and affordable housing as a community organizer at Citizens UK. It was great fun chatting to him in a BBC studio, while the host sat in a closet in Austin (I presume for sound quality reasons, rather than personal preference). Will let you know when it goes live.
In the pipeline: a MOOC (we’re advertising for a MOOCista here, application deadline 19th Feb), a Masters module, maybe an audio book and at some point, a second edition, once I can answer that question about the perfectibility of mankind…..
Any other feedback/suggestions very welcome.