DEAL SEALED. How bloggers and festivals made a regional publishing house one of the best in the country
Instead of a holiday in the Yalta House of Writers – spending an evening in the kitchen with a laptop. Instead of a rest house for writers in Peredelkino – Goloseevsky park or a cafe with delicious craft coffee. That unrecognizable change took place in the everyday life and interior of people who can now become a modern popular writer. Still more alterations were introduced in the life of new authors by Vivat publishing house in Kharkiv: they have started to print books by bloggers. Their reliance on popular internet authors with thousands of subscribers has played in full. “First, Zasynalochki – a book of lullabies, was published. The copies were quickly sold up. Fantastic illustrations, the layout, and the paper have made the book a success. Children love it.” Tatusya Bo, a popular blogger, shares her impressions.
A successful experiment has become part of the company’s marketing strategy. According to the Book Chamber of Ukraine, over the five years of this strategy, these “gutenbergs” from Kharkiv have doubled their profits and entered the top five publishers of the country.
Leadership Journey learned from Yulia Orlova, Vivat publishing house CEO, how she and her colleagues managed to get into the elite of a highly competitive publishing market.
To team up and invest in a new brand
The Vivat publishing house is a merger of two Kharkiv publishing houses – “Argument Print” and “Pelican”. Yulia Orlova is the founder of the first one. Sergey Polituchiy, President of the Factor group of companies, owned the second typography gang.
Thus, the partners decided to unite their forces in conquering a sufficiently saturated market by the time. Orlova’s publishing house was printing applied and children’s educational literature; and «Pelikan», owned by Polituchiy, was engaged in gift books and children’s fiction. “We’ve managed to use the strengths of each company, to significantly expand the range of products and the market, to improve the quality of books and to increase their circulation,” says Orlova.
The book publishers decided to take into account the growing trend for publishing high quality books in the Ukrainian language. The merger allowed expanding the assortment in several literature directions at once.
Over the past few years, the company’s print shops issued a batch of high-quality translated and original fiction, books for children and teenagers, as well as an assortment of applied and non-fiction literature. The list of bestsellers includes “Dilemmas of a business founder”, “A million-worth startup: How Ukrainians earn money on technology”, “Lyubomir Guzar. I want to be human”, “Magic beings of the Ukrainian myth. Spirits of Nature”, “Miracle”, “Eleanor and Park”. “They have a diverse assortment that stands out for its quality: there is children’s literature, business, psychology, non-fiction, art, both in Ukrainian and translations,” says Daniil Makhno, director of the Kharkiv branch of Knigarnya E (bookshop).
To divide the areas of responsibility
At first, the merged publishing house went through a difficult stage of development. Polituchiy and Orlova have divided the spheres of influence. Managers of “Factor” company, which has been operating in the market for 27 years, took over the accounting, logistics and economic issues. The Orlova’s company began to control the trends in the book market, the range of products, recruiting and the alignment of publishing processes.
To sort out knowledge
Prior to merging the publishing houses, Yulia Orlova has graduated from an MBA program of a branch of the Open University (UK). She believes this stage was necessary.
«There appeared a clarity and order of thinking. The marketing concepts we have studied are not pure theory. They come handy at setting up and solving business problems. It feels like a big cleaning-up was done in my mind: everything was put in place, spread out on the shelves; a lot of problems were cleared out.»
To introduce in a team a transparent system of material motivation
Everyone in the publishing house knows how much he will earn. The system of counting is fixed in the employment contract. Employees are motivated by the result and understand how their work and their colleagues’ work specifically affect their earnings.
Loyalty to the company is the main criterion for selecting candidates
The engagement of employees pays off very quickly, according to Orlova. «You can’t force an employee to work if he is reluctant to do it,” she says. “If the majority in the team learns and the situation prompts constantly to accept challenges, the rest members of the team mobilize, looking at their colleagues.»
To love freelancers
The Vivat publishing house employs 88 people. Among them, there are mostly chief editors, editors, sales managers, and call center specialists. In the past four years, the publishing house has been working with many freelance designers, translators, artists, editors, and proofreaders.
«I can hardly imagine an illustrator doing his job from nine am to six pm. The number of remote employees with flexible schedules is growing more and more. This is typical for large companies and enterprises, in particular, for organizations working with many creative people,» according to Yulia Orlova.
To stick to deadlines
The main problems that arise in working with freelancers are non-observance of the deadlines. Efforts are taken to discipline the creative freelance employees by including these issues in the employment contracts. However, Orlova admits violations of terms do happen.
“I think it’s almost impossible to cope with the breakdowns of deadlines, but we are still trying to avoid them. When a creative person works remotely, he lacks a sense of shoulder; his responsibility is weaker. He does not see those people whom he is letting down. Our main task is to build a smart system of cooperation, and not to re-educate the world,» says Orlova.
Communication with staff – regular and freelance
It is easier to fulfill common tasks with those who work in the office. A completely different situation arises with freelancers. “No matter how you set a task or describe an assignment when the employee is working remotely, a situation often arises “I am an artist, I see it this way,” says Vivat’s CEO. “If we understand there are grounds for violation of the task or the assignment by a freelancer, we always consider it is interesting.”
To hold a book festival in the city
In addition to manufacturing delights, Vivat conducts an active promo campaign. The publishing house is a partner of the book festival Kharkiv BookFest, which is held by “Factor” holding of Sergey Polituchiy for four years.
According to Kharkiv residents, although they do not intend to compete with Lviv Book Forum and Kyiv Book Arsenal, the event is popular with people. “There is a demand for such events judging by the reaction of our guests. They tend to leave the final event of the festival – the book fair – with purchases,” recalls Yulia Orlova.
To go for experiments
The propensity to experiment is another useful quality in the market. Kharkiv publishers did one thing that other publishers are reluctant to do. About three years ago, the company had launched a series of graphic novels and other books for children and adults written by bloggers.
Even the bloggers themselves did not believe in the success of the experiment. “I was afraid that the book would be exclusively for my Facebook audience. However, the book turned out to be of interest to a wide range of people. Once I have visited a bookstore to choose a few new books for my child, and I saw two women buying 10 copies of the lullabies book for gifts. The salesperson complained the book was going very quickly out of stock. It was then, that I have realized the book was a success,” says Tatusya Bo.
Apart of Tatusya Bo, the publishing house is now cooperating with two other well-known bloggers – Nadezhda Kushnir, an “off the beaten track” illustrator and Gorky Luk, an author of political satire. All the three projects are successful. After Vivat had published several books by online authors in print, the readership of the Kharkiv publishing house has enlarged significantly.
Orlova reveals the essence of the network writers’ project: the released books are not collections of individual stories. This is an integral narration with a clear plot split into separate units. “And judging by the feedback from the readers, I think this is a promising direction,” she believes.
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