One of the more exciting things to do as part of the marketing team is get outside the Lulu walls and engage with authors and creators. Attending industry trade shows like major book fairs, expos, and publishing events gives us a chance to hear what authors, publishers, and creators are hungry to learn about. It also gives us a chance to have conversations face-to-face about new innovations at Lulu, like our new Lulu Direct platform.
Rewind to March 2020, we were excited to fly across the pond to the London Book Fair. Flights and hotels were booked, our group even had dinner reservations set for a few nights. Then, one by one, major publishers pulled out due to the looming threat of a virus we didn’t know enough about to understand the dangers of international travel. I won’t go into detail about the tragic 18 months that followed, as we did our best to stay at home and do our part. All events were on hold.
Kicking off 2022, we knew we wanted to find a way to attend events safely, get back to meeting Lulu creators, and see what’s new in the landscape of publishing and printing books. So we happily signed up to attend three events this spring: the London Book Fair, the Independent Book Publishers Association Publishing University, and the Creator Economy Expo. All within a month of each other! We got busy planning to hit the road and share the message about Lulu Direct. Here’s a roundup of what we learned, some observations about the post-pandemic publishing industry, and what publishers, authors, and creators are saying.
London Book Fair
The London Book fair is an annual trade show for all things publishing, including content rights negotiation, services vendors, and distribution across print, audio, TV, film, and digital channels. It’s a place where the publishing community can learn and network with like-minded colleagues. Building brand awareness and conducting face-to-face business is the most likely outcome of events like the London Book Fair.
Publishers from around the world exhibit at the London Book Fair. Our booth was situated between teams from Indonesia and Ukraine. Attendees will see major traditional publishers like Macmillan, Harper Collins, and Simon & Schuster introducing their collections of forthcoming titles. London’s Olympia Centre is a large, colorful, and visually stimulating environment with book covers displayed everywhere.
For three full days, we visited with authors, publishers, specialists offering a variety of publishing services, and industry experts. We had a few Lulu authors stop by, which is always a nice surprise. Mainly, our discussions with attendees were around the new Lulu Direct platform. Our Shopify integration piqued the interest of those who stopped by our booth and was a great conversation starter about the benefits of direct-to-consumer sales. We had a captive audience of those looking for alternatives to selling on Amazon, ways to earn more money, and strategies around owning the customer journey. All in all, it was great to see the publishing industry live and in person again.
Of course London was a fantastic place for travel. For the book nerds, here are two pretty cool sights I found while out exploring:
Independent Book Publishing Association’s Publishing University
The Independent Book Publishers Association’s mission is to lead and serve the independent publishing community through advocacy, education, and tools for success. The team at IBPA worked hard this year to offer virtual and in-person back-to-back events so that all members would have the chance to participate, even those who aren’t yet comfortable with travel. The IBPA Publishing University schedule is packed with valuable learning sessions, mini “meet the expert” conversations, an exhibit hall, and other networking opportunities. This year the in-person event hosting independent publishers was in sunny Orlando!
Our team had a table in the main exhibit hall and led a session “Owning the Customer Journey: How to Think like Amazon and Utilize Direct-to-Consumer Trends to Grow Your Audience.” Many in the audience had varying degrees of success selling DTC, and it led to a lively discussion about the benefits and tools necessary to sell Direct. Other publishers we chatted with were newer to the idea of selling direct, and were excited about the possibilities of connecting their current Shopify and WordPress platforms to print-on-demand.
One notable topic that came up frequently was Lulu’s B Corp status. Transparency around sustainability was important. Savvy creators want to connect with their audience and sell their products in socially and environmentally conscious ways. Using Lulu as their fulfillment provider, publishers can inform their buyers of their efforts to use a sustainable supply chain.
I was particularly impressed with the Keynote speaker, Stephen Green, COO of A Kids Company About. In his speech, he talked about Direct-to-Consumer sales and some challenges around distribution and staying authentic to your brand. He said “authenticity sells,” and “the market does not respond to good, it responds to great.” He went on to talk about how they turned down a distribution opportunity, as it would’ve required them to be inauthentic to their brand. The room of Independent publishers could all relate to making brand decisions about how and what to publish and sell.
It was an educational and informative few days. We enjoyed making new connections and talking about the benefits of selling direct.
Creator Economy Expo
The Creator Economy Expo connected the best minds and brightest voices to help content creators become successful entrepreneurs. Industry expert, Content Marketing Institute founder, and creator of The Tilt, Joe Pulizzi, lined up an impressive list of presenters and breakout session speakers. There was discussion around creator coins, NFTs, Web3, and how content creators can thrive with a digital business. Team Lulu left Phoenix enthusiastic about the future of publishing and Web3.
It was an incredible experience to showcase the technology at Lulu at a show outside of the publishing industry. The conversations we had with attendees at CEX were eye-opening and generated valuable ideas about how printing content can benefit creators. Content creators who didn’t necessarily see themselves as authors were now envisioning ways they could compile their top blogs into a book, or create a printed workbook to go along with their top-selling online course.
For many entrepreneurs, their book is a vehicle to connect with their audience, whether that supports their business, personal blog, YouTube Channel, or platform. Selling directly to their audience fosters connection, and that was important to CEX attendees. One of the best highlights was when content creator Daren Smith stopped by our booth to show us the book he’s printing with our Lulu Direct Shopify App.
We had a hunch the attendees at CEX would be a fit for our technology and tools, and we were not disappointed. It’s up for discussion as to who learned more, us or them.
Hitting the road invigorated the team at Lulu. The value of reading excited facial expressions when talking about Lulu Direct was well worth the time and travel. We’re looking forward to attending more shows this year and lining up some interesting ones for 2023.
Sarah is the Ecommerce Marketing Manager at Lulu. Her primary role is to educate and help those who would benefit from our direct-to-consumer tools. Sarah is passionate about helping authors and publishers find ways to connect with their audience. In previous roles, she led public relations campaigns for over 75 authors and coached many more in preparation for their book launches. When not in the office, you’ll likely find her in the bleachers at her boys’ baseball games or cheering on the UGA Bulldogs.