A few weeks ago I sent out an email asking you to complete our reader survey so I could get a better picture of TVC’s audience and use that information to plan next year and beyond.
Thanks so much to everyone who took the time to submit your answers. I really appreciate you taking the time to help enlighten me.
Of those of you who answered the two open-ended feedback questions at the end, the vast majority had nothing to say but praise. While this is great (and I’m humbled) it’s always the critical feedback that helps me improve and make changes.
Here is a quick summary of the results:
The largest demographic of TVC supporters are aged between 35-44, and male. 21% of respondents were female.
Most people (approx 60%) first came across TVC somewhere online. The next place was in a shop, and then social media (which I’ll take for also being “online”). This means we are reaching more people through our website than in other places.
TVC has a minimal social media presence, and I often wonder how people are finding our site and our books. Every time I see a new name pop up in the order list, I wonder “how did they find TVC?”. My guess is that it must be thanks to our great fans who share our content online!
74% of respondents said that their preferred way of keeping up to date with The Velvet Cell is via email. This was a really interesting answer for me. I’ve put a lot of focus into our email marketing, but I always worry about sending too many emails.
At the moment we send out a monthly email with updates and announcements, as well as sporadic emails regarding new releases and contests. We also have our bi-weekly newsletter Tranmission that I send to a separate email list discussing my favourite projects of the past fortnight and how they inspired me. It’s meant as a ‘photography-first’ email, with no hard selling, but from time to time I will mention something that’s also going on at TVC, such as a contest.
An overwhelming majority (almost 90%) of people said they prefer our current price structure with free worldwide shipping over our old model which applied shipping once you added your books to the cart. I’ve seen this in the analytics too with a very low percentage difference between those who add to cart and those who actually go on to buy the book. I suppose this is because there are no high shipping surprises awaiting you in the cart.
Photobook buyers have always complained about the high costs of shipping, so I’m really excited to see the long term effect of this strategy.
Over 80% of respondents said that, going forward, they would like to see a blend of books by both undiscovered, exciting photographers and those more well-known, such as Toshio Shibata and Peter Bialobrzeski.
I am happy about this answer because I too want The Velvet Cell to be a place to discover new talent. I have always made sure that our catalogue puts photography and projects first. But, with that said, the survey results don’t match the sales reality.
It’s remains very difficult to sell a less-well-known photographer’s book. The top sales from this year are, unsurprisingly, from books by the likes of Toshio Shibata, Alejandro Cartagena and Peter Bialobrzeski. This reduces my ability to make publish books by less-well-known photographers without funding to cover the editorial, printing and promotion costs.
68% of respondents also said that they would like to see more monographs in the future compared with the likes of essay books, or books with a mixture of essays and images.
While the majority of the projects I have lined up for 2018 will have a single author, I hope to use my position as editor to expand the project beyond a simple artist book.
Personally, I would like to see more books and projects that use info and texts to become something more than just a collection of images.
A recent example of such a book like this that inspired me was Watershed | The Tennesee River by Jeff Rich & Fall Line Press. It told a great story about the area through Jeff’s images, but it also used maps to illustrate the river area, and texts to give the project a better context.
I asked respondents what interested them about The Velvet Cell, and the majority of you replied “great photographers”. I love our photographers too, obviously! They are making great projects and it’s a privilege to be the one who presents them to the world in book form.
A large portion of people also said that they enjoy the design of the books, and focus on architecture and urbanism. There were some comments, however, about the narrow focus that I will share below.
At the end of the survey were two open ended questions, namely:
- What can TVC improve about the ways it does things currently?
- How would you like to see TVC improve next year?
For the first question, I was looking to see if people had any particular issues that were not being shared with me via email, such as packaging, prices, fulfilment – all things that people might feel more comfortable sharing anonymously.
For the second question, this was an open forum for suggestions and critical feedback. Most of the survey was multiple choice, so I wanted to give respondents a chance at the end to speak their mind.
Here are some examples of the feedback received to the two open-ended questions:
Regarding TVC’s focus on Architecture & Urbanism:
“I would like to see a little more diversity of subject matter or approach.”
“More…[e]mbracing of other genres except architecture and urbanism.”
“Not only focus on architecture”
While 53% of respondents did say they liked the focus on architecture and urbanism, the comments seemed to tell me that people didn’t necessarily want this as an exclusive focus, and that a little diversity would be nice.
This was interesting for me to read and process. I always felt that my strength lay in my focus, and that it was better to be known as a publisher of a specific genre.
Personally, I don’t like it when music labels I listen to, or publishers I follow, release something that is so out of kilter with the rest of their catalogue. There is a reason I follow them – because they do a certain thing very well.
On the other side, however, I must say that I am intrigued with the idea of publishing different kind of projects. I think everything I publish will always have a connection with sociology, modernity and urbanism….you won’t see me publishing personal stories through photography (nothing against them, just not my style)…but perhaps I could mix it up a bit going forward. Food for thought.
One person made reference to the work I am doing with my IndiePhotobooks newsletter promoting other photobooks, and asked the question “are you promoting TVC books enough?“
It’s definitely true that I spread myself a little thin, but I have always struggled with how to promote The Velvet Cell and our photobooks. I’m sure many of you will share the sentiment that it can be very difficult to promote yourselves to the degree that you should and you often err on the side on under-promoting.
I have almost stopped using facebook and instagram these days as a way of promoting new books as I’m just not seeing the engagement. Whether this is because of facebook’s move towards paid promotions or just the sheer volume of content on the platform, I’m not sure.
My main focus now is to promote via email, but the question is always: “how to get people onto the email list?”.
Other respondents took the opportunity to express their thanks for the books, which I really appreciate.
“Continue with your great enthusiasm and love for excellent photography and photobooks” and “I very much appreciate the passion and focus that small publisher’s such as TVC have and their support for photographer’s. I collect photography books and I am a practicing photographer so platforms like TVC are very welcome indeed. Thank you!”
I love making the books and making them available to you. I appreciate that The Velvet Cell is nothing without an audience that likes what it does and actively supports it by buying the books, and for this I am very humble. Every sale makes a difference. Thank you!