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Open Educational Resources Collective Publishing Workflow

Conduct Marketing Activities


Marketing Open Textbooks

Now that you’ve published your open textbook, it’s time to let your audience know.

If you don’t have any experience with marketing or promotion, consulting with the marketing department at your university can help you get started. They can work with you to develop a general marketing plan for open textbooks and assist with promoting specific releases through official university communication channels.

Remember that every open textbook project is different, so you’ll need to keep adjusting your marketing approach.

The University of Illinois’s OER Promotions Guide contains some useful resources for marketing open textbooks.

Marketing Roles

While anyone on your publishing team can market your textbook, it’s a good idea to provide a clear promotional plan, along with resources to help them communicate with a consistent message. Some of the roles involved in marketing an open textbook are:

  • Project leaders – create the plan and decide on the strategies to deploy
  • Communications lead – assembles the promotional material, writes a project summary, composes tweets and other blurbs
  • Contributors – provide (or solicit) reviewer blurbs, endorsements and recommendations for communications channels. 

Determining Your Textbook’s Audience

The story of your textbook starts before it’s even written, with the reasons for creating it, the content it covers, your intended audience and your authoring and publishing teams.

Knowing as many details as possible about the author will help you understand the target audience. For example:

  • What field are they a specialist in?
  • What membership organisations do they belong to?
  • What conferences do they attend?

Some publishers develop a marketing questionnaire to send to authors at the beginning of the project, although some other tools you can use to help you determine the audience include:

  • the project proposal
  • the book itself
  • comments from peer reviewers
  • meetings with the author.

Branding

The key to branding is understanding the unique value your product or service offers.

Many universities have in-house branding guidelines that provide guidance on messaging and visual identity, including use of:

  • logos
  • fonts
  • colours.

The title and cover of your open textbook are critical components of branding, along with design elements such as:

  • the look and feel of the book’s interface
  • the fonts used.

Your textbook’s title and cover should connect with your intended audience. The title should also include words your audience are likely to use as search terms (see the section on metadata below).

In addition to branding books or books series, you may also want to develop a brand identity for your publishing service, separate from your university’s or library’s brand. This brand will evolve with your mission and goals, informing your promotional strategies and activities. For example, if your mission is to ‘provide support and resources to the University community for creating, curating and disseminating open educational works’, this is what you want people to think of when they think of your brand.

Marketing and Promotion

Once you’ve settled on a brand, you can focus on promoting your textbook. This means crafting a pitch that highlights what’s special about the book (aside from its open licence). For example:

  • Was it created with students?
  • Has it been peer reviewed prior to publication?
  • Is the author a pre-eminent expert in the field?
  • Is it the first book of its kind?

Below is a list of ways you can promote your open textbook:

  • use email and mailing lists to inform colleagues, as well as department heads
  • contact the communications and marketing department of your university and ask if they’ll write an article about your book in their next newsletter
  • blog posts (with clear links to more content that’s useful to your audience) milestone announcements (providing information on what someone can do next, like contribute, review or adopt)
  • social media (either from your accounts or a dedicated project account, sharing updates and other relevant content)
  • discoverability (so readers, adopters and adapters can get their hands on the textbook when they want it), meaning:
    • maintaining a public listing for the project
    • submitting completed content to repositories
    • ensuring metadata is comprehensive and accurate
  • listserv discussions (so you can become an engaged participant in a community, naturally directing people to your resource)
  • email signatures (which can keep the project front of mind as you interact with people)
  • community calls (to share updates, gather feedback and reinforce community building)
  • conferences (as opportunities to present, be challenged, make connections and reconsider what you think you ‘know’ about your project and how to make it better in a future release
  • promotional materials (that not only reinforce the value that your resource brings, but do so in quick and friendly formats), including:
    • slide decks
    • blurbs or review quotes
    • pamphlets
  • print copies of the book for potential adopters (to put a physical presence on their desk – front of view, front of mind!)
  • project mailing list (for more frequent and detailed updates).

Some tips for promoting open textbooks:

  • Share content updates, success stories and key milestones.
  • Use every step as a communications opportunity and keep content flowing outward.
  • Showcase the team members behind the work.
  • Share aspects of accessibility, inclusivity and diversity in your concept, content and design.
  • Engage with new ideas and opinions to connect with relevant, current discourse.
  • Tell your stories honestly and transparently.
  • Provide accessible feedback tools, so that communication can be two-way.
  • Get the word out early and often using different channels.

Sharing and Distribution

Below are some places you can distribute an open textbook:

Many open textbook collections allow authors to submit requests for their book to be included. Some repositories require that a new textbook meet certain criteria, such as an evaluation by a subject matter expert. Below are some examples of where you can apply:

Wherever possible, it’s best to link back to the webbook in Pressbooks (or wherever you’re hosting your textbook) to avoid having to update files and information in multiple locations. 

Metadata

Metadata are data about data. Metadata acts as keywords, making your open textbook discoverable during a search. Common metadata for open textbooks includes:

  • title
  • author
  • subject area
  • description
  • other information about the book and its publication.

Sharing metadata during the publishing process makes your textbook easier for others to find. You can create and save metadata for your textbook in the Book Info page fields in Pressbooks.

Several metadata-related topics are covered in more detail in other resources in this stage of the workflow, including:

For more detailed discussion of OER metadata practices, see the following resources:


Attributions

Adapted from:

'Marking and Communications Summary’ and ‘Marketing and Communications Overview’ in The Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far) by Apurva Ashok and Zoe Wake Hyde, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.

'Marketing an Open Textbook’ in Open Textbook Publishing Orientation (PUB 101) by Open Education Network, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence, based on ‘Unit 6 Assessing Impact: Purposeful Marketing, Promotion, Publicity – Narrative’ in Library Publishing Curriculum, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence and ‘Where to Share’ in Authoring Open Textbooks by Melissa Falldin and Karen Lauritsen, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.

'Communications’ in Self-Publishing Guide by Lauri M. Aesoph, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.