Inside MAI Blog: Thoughts on global publishing

Marketing: Where creativity meets culture

“Marketing’s greatest success comes when creativity meets culture,” said marketing director Stanley Ng of Breakthrough Ltd. in Hong Kong. “Marketing is really about culture,” he said, in a panel discussion last night. “We try to provide books that address the culture—books that are relevant and respond to interests.”

What a full, rich day yesterday at the MAI-Asia Publishing Forum. Sixty-plus Asian Christian publishing staff are receiving top-flight training in marketing and training.

Tony Wales, one of MAI’s active trainers worldwide, began the day with a masterful two-part session with the thought-provoking title, “Is Marketing a Christian Concept?” 

As you might guess, it was a rhetorical question, because without marketing Christian books (and thus, the Gospel message) will gather dust in a warehouse somewhere. But marketing Christian books in Asia also raises some thorny questions, as participants shared in breakout groups:
--What if people aren’t willing to pay for books because of the long history of give-away Christian materials?
--How do you find the proper balance between price, affordability and sustainability?
--How do you market a book on a needed topic for which the audience has no sense of felt need?
--How do we fight the problem of piracy—i.e. someone obtains one copy, then illegally reproduces 1,000 copies and sells them in competition with the “legal version”?

In the afternoon, publications director Yna Reyes (photo at left) led a powerful seminar, “A Calling and a Challenge: The Editor’s Role.” Despite being slotted in the “graveyard session” right after lunch, Yna kept our attention with a wealth of anecdotes illustrating the crucial, servant role of an editor. Little-known fact about Yna: Had she not been hired as an editor at OMF Literature in the Philippines, she would have gone into acting or politics. Gifted woman that she is, I’m sure that she would have succeeded at either. Thankfully for readers in the Philippines, she got the job at OMF Lit!

Three simultaneously held workshops followed Yna’s seminar. I attended “Web Sites: What Works and What Doesn’t,” led by Andrew Choi of Breakthrough. If you’ll pardon the cliché, Breakthrough is on the cutting edge of social media and internet technology in its multi-faceted youth and publishing ministries. So, Andrew, who spent some time working in Silicon Valley before assuming his present role at Breakthrough, knew what he was talking about. He got our attention with research indicating that Facebook will probably replace websites as the go-to portal for companies and ministries in the near future—just as Facebook has already replaced email for most young people.

Highlighting the influence of social media, Andrew noted research showing, “Ninety percent of consumers trust peer recommendations; only 14% trust advertisements.”

I should add that some of the best learning at this Forum is taking place around the meal tables.

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