It’s not long now until our exciting trade event on Friday, 15 November and so we spoke to a couple of our participating speakers about their industry experience and what they see as the biggest challenges facing Irish publishers today. Anne-Marie Scully is the founder of Orchard Wall Publishing, and having worked with Google for over seven years she is no stranger to digital marketing strategies and customer strategy. We caught up with her during her busy schedule to talk to her about what she has learned through a long and diverse career in the industry:
PI You were one of the first 200 employees to begin at Google’s European headquarters in Dublin. Can you describe what this was like for you?
AMS It was an extremely exciting time for both the employees of the company and our customers. Google was still relatively new back in 2005 and an advertising platform like Google AdWords, which used a pay per click auction model, had never been seen before. It was hugely empowering for small businesses in particular, who could now reach their customers more effectively than ever before and in a more cost effective manner. You really got the feeling you were a part of history, of something special. Our email queues and phone lines were flooded with customers who needed our help and it was extremely rewarding for us to see the impact we had on the bottom line of their businesses.
PI In the seven and a half years that you worked for Google during this time you worked your way from being an Associate to a Senior Manager. What kind of process did this entail? What was it like?
AMS It definitely involved a lot of hard work on my part but it was fun too. Growing with Google, as we liked to call it, involved many different things. It was necessary to be adaptable and flexible to change and be able to navigate through ambiguity. The product and the organisation was constantly changing and it was important to be able to keep up. Being people focused was also paramount. At Google your relationship with your manager is central to your development. It is common practice to sit with your manager and have a meeting just to talk about your career development and what you want to achieve. By having this open opportunity to talk about where you want to go your manager can then facilitate by giving you extra projects or more responsibility. There are also regular opportunities for you to give and receive peer feedback which provides further insight into strengths and development areas. Being open to feedback and acting on it was critical to success.
PI What were the most valuable lessons that you learned from your time at Google?
AMS First of all, I think it would have to be the focus on the customer and the end user experience. For us at Orchard Wall Publishing, this translates as our authors and our readers. Everything we do is with these two stakeholders needs in mind. When you put the focus on your customer you have a much better chance of success. I also learned from Google the importance of being able to adapt to change and be ready for anything. You can’t sit around complaining about change even when it’s not in your favour. You have to embrace it.
PI What was the most difficult thing about working for this kind of large company? What was the most rewarding?
AMS The most difficult thing was communication. As we were working with teams based in different time zones all over the world it was difficult to build relationships over email or video conferencing. Of course we often met face to face at conferences but I did find it challenging trying to ensure good communication when markets and customers were so spread out across the globe. The most rewarding was working with our customers especially our small businesses. It was amazing to see a small bike shop owner in the remote wilds of England growing his business and finding customers using AdWords.
PI What led you to establish Orchard Wall Publishing?
AMS After seven and a half years in Google I really felt it was time for a change. Having studied English literature in university I have a great love of books and the utmost respect for authors. I had always wanted to work in publishing but the opportunity never presented itself until the ereader and digital publishing were introduced to the world. I realised that I could marry the skills I had acquired in Google with a lifelong passion and so Orchard Wall was born.
PI If you could start the whole process of Orchard Wall over again, what would you do differently if anything?
AMS Sometimes I feel we possibly over invested in creative elements like book trailers, author websites and other rich media which were expensive and perhaps haven’t had the greatest impact on sales. Some of the simpler strategies have worked better.
PI In your experience what has been the most challenging part of setting up your own business?
AMS Having to upskill on so many new areas and then trying to juggle all of them with little manpower. Also, going from working in a company with thousands of people in an office environment that is unparalleled in terms of employee benefits, to working largely on your own at home, eating beans and toast with only your dog for company, has also been challenging!
PI What do you see as the biggest issues that Irish publishers have to face in today’s industry climate?
AMS In general, Irish publishers seem slower to adopt digital and face getting left behind as a result. There seems to be a lot of fear especially around areas like the pricing of ebooks and when fear creeps into an industry it is never a good thing for the morale of people working in it, the customers or other stakeholders that may be important. They also need to become more author focused in this changing world where the author will be more empowered. I think it is fantastic that authors now have more of a say in how their books are marketing and sold and that they have the opportunity to earn better royalty rates.
PI In terms of resources for small Irish publishers (such as training, networking opportunities, etc.), what would you like to see more of?
AMS Definitely more training opportunities particularly around how to market in the digital age. Digital marketing is so much more cost effective and influential than traditional marketing efforts and in these challenging economic times that is more important than ever.
PI What piece of advice would you give to new publishers starting out now?
AMS Digital must play a major role in your overall business strategy, embrace it and don’t be afraid of change. Also make sure that you connect with readers as well as authors, bookshops and other publishers. I feel publishers in general don’t spend enough time on getting to know their readers.
Don’t miss our trade day event!
*Anne-Marie will be speaking at our trade event Reaching Out to The World: Publishing at Home and Abroad on Friday, 15 November in Smock Alley Theatre, Temple Bar. The event is open to everyone. To book your ticket, go to http://www.eventbrite.ie/myevent?eid=8972752745