Monday, 27 June 2016

Setting an achievable publishing strategy for your list

RebeccaLovellRebecca Lovell is the Commissioning Editor for Humanities at Cambridge Learning for Schools (UK & International). In more than ten years in publishing she has worked in the educational sector and consumer books. Listen to Rebecca summing up her job in just 21 seconds.

Rebecca's five point guide to publishing strategy

1. Dive into the data

The foundation of any good strategy should always be accurate data. It can tell you so much and enable you to take stock of your current performance and position before you decide on your next moves. You can drown in it though, so focus only on the data that will help your decision-making.

I always think of my strategy as telling the story of my list. Present the data clearly and allow it to help tell that story by analysing and evaluating what it tells you. Ask yourself, what will you do with this data?

But understand data’s limitations; you must also apply insight and instinct to it, and this comes from knowledge of your customer and trends in the market.

2. Always consider your customer

Your customer should be at the heart of your publishing plan – so get out and talk to them! Who are they? What do they need and how can you help them more than a competitor can? Appraise your strengths and weaknesses and decide whether your strategy needs to segment your customers into different groups according to differing needs – creating customer profiles will help with this.

3. Put it all into context

What is happening in the market that might make your customers behave differently in the future? Monitor trends in the market and read around your list by signing up to relevant newsletters and following appropriate news channels or blogs.

Think carefully and honestly about your competitors – both traditional and new. Anticipate where they might move next by considering what you would do in their shoes.

The point of a strategy is to help you focus your thoughts and create a plan that will strengthen the position of your list. You can’t fight on all fronts so decide where to focus efforts for the biggest or quickest wins (be realistic about resourcing and investment).

4. Utilise strategic techniques

It’s all too easy to believe that you should be investing (or not investing) in a certain project when you look at it in isolation. Using strategic tools like SWOT analysis, a BCG grid or Ansoff’s matrix will help you to see how a project fits into your list as a whole and where you should take it. This forces you to be objective and impose priorities on your publishing plan. You will see that some areas of your list require a defensive strategy, whilst others may need offensive tactics. 

5. Put your strategy into action

Your strategy document should be ‘live’. Once it has the approval of the management team, refer to it frequently to keep your work on course. Every project proposal should be contributing towards you achieving specific strategic goals. Trust in your plan; if you have analysed the data, listened to your customers and considered your place and direction in the market, it will anchor your workload for the coming year.


Commissioning and List Management (CLM) is the PTC's flagship course for up and coming commissioning editors in the educational, academic, scientific and professional sectors. It next happens September 26 – 29. Course Director Paul Cherry explores the role in more depth and relates it to CLM in our free PTC Guide.

More established editors should take a look at Managing Publishing Strategy next due May 9 & 10 2018

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