It’s difficult for smaller publishers, especially when attending an event like London Book Fair, not to feel completely dwarfed by the big players with their vast resources. But small publishers can still see big successes when using the right methods, as Melissanne Scheld, Managing Director of Publishers Communication Group explains.


Smaller academic publishers face unique challenges in growing their sales. How can they get noticed in a world of Big Deals and competitive marketing tactics? Sometimes it may feel like an overwhelming challenge and not worth the risk – but there are tactics smaller publishers can implement to ensure market growth.

Over the years PCG has worked with dozens of ‘small’ (who’s to say!) publishers to help them increase sales and visibility. Following are some of the most successful routes we’ve seen:

Work with Partners

Small publishers mean small teams and you’re likely already stretched in too many directions. Working with external partners means you can expand your bandwidth without logging more hours at your desk. And it might not be as expensive as you think as third-party agencies often have scalable pricing.

Discoverability is key

A researcher using search terms isn’t going to know – or care – about the size of your publishing program if the content is relevant. Make sure your content – articles, books, chapters, datasets, abstracts – are as discoverable as you can make them. Wrangling with metadata isn’t the most fun way to spend your short time, but having robust, granular data will help your content surface faster in searches.

Use your authors/editors/contributors

These are the best advocates for promoting your publications. Create marketing materials for them to share with their campus libraries and department heads. They’ll be pleased to know you are supporting their publications – and who doesn’t love to talk about their own work? Encourage them to use social media to help expand your reach.

Through many focus groups and author conversations, PCG has learned that the #1 way researchers learn about new publications is from word-of-mouth.

End-User Outreach

Engaging with the end-users and not just librarians to help make purchasing decisions is crucial. In many parts of the world, it’s the academics who decide what to purchase. Build your individual contact lists as well as your librarian lists.

Identify and prioritize a specific product or territory

Saying you want to ‘increase sales’ may actually be too tall an order. Breaking it down into smaller activities may be more manageable. Could you focus on campaigns just in the US or India at first? What about championing one journal or product for a period of time, then once you have some confidence in that project, add a second.

Produce ready-made materials for your sales team

Small publishers need to automate as a way to find more time. Producing brochures, posters, logos and having them easily available (e.g. in Dropbox) will help sales partners respond to potential customers faster. And in this industry, reps who show up first often win that budget allocation.

While there are no silver bullets and you are probably doing some of the following already, it never hurts to see what’s working at similar companies. Good luck!


For more insights, catch Melissanne at the London Book Fair on Tuesday 14 March, 13:00-14:00 as she and a selection of panellists discuss Journal Sales Strategies for Smaller Academic Publishers. You can also email Melissanne directly.