Catalogues Revisited: A Q&A with Alexa Love

Posted: Friday, February 02, 2018


UBC Press's newest catalogue, Spring 2018, marked a big change in the way UBC Press does catalogues. In the past, we had two catalogues: a trade catalogue (for general-interest, trade bookstores) and a scholarly (for our main, academic audience). Alexa Love, Catalogues and Advertising Manager, was tasked with redesigning the UBC Press catalogues—doing away with the print trade catalogue and designing one single catalogue for all UBC Press and distributed titles. Curious about the redesign, I asked Alexa about her process.

Why the transition from one to two catalogues?

One of my favourite questions to ask is, "Is the juice worth the squeezin'?"

We were publishing two catalogues per season: a trade catalogue, which included mostly titles from our publishing partners, and a scholarly catalogue, which was exclusively for UBC Press titles. It was a lot of work having two production schedules running almost simultaneously, as well as maintaining separate mailing lists. With our sales reps moving towards online title management systems, we were getting fewer and fewer requests for our printed trade catalogue. Eventually, the print run was low enough that we couldn't quite justify the effort and cost.

So now, instead of presenting our agency titles in an 'eclectic' mix in the trade catalogue, we give each agency its own section within our main catalogue. We feature a few of their titles with covers and a detailed description, and have also made room for a complete listing of their season's books, which we weren't able to do before.

How has this changed the way people browse the catalogue?

I think it's a huge improvement because anyone who browses our catalogue (which used to be UBC Press titles only) will now see that we also carry books from a variety of other publishers like the University of Washington Press, Island Press, the University of Arizona Press, Oregon State University Press, and more.

In addition, the time and money saved has allowed us to test other marketing approaches, such as customized flyers for conferences, as well as targeted mailings of our subject catalogues.

With so much online, do people still use print catalogues?

There's definitely a need for both. I wish it were the case that one group strictly used online catalogues while the other used print. It would make my job much easier!

Take librarians, for example. I recently heard from one who needs to switch over to e-catalogues because their library has moved to an automated ordering system. Soon before that, another woman messaged just to say they appreciate our catalogue's format and the paper it's printed on because it doesn't smudge when they're making notes.

We each interact with technology differently, which is why I would never want to force a particular format on someone. Electronically bookmarking and highlighting titles in an e-catalogue may be one person's forte, but it's also likely another person's nightmare.

As a Generation X'er, caught somewhere in the middle, I can understand both.

What was the biggest challenge you faced when creating the new design?

The biggest challenge of this project—and most projects, as I'm sure you can relate—was getting people used to the idea of change. That's why it's important to remind one's self and others that doing away with something old is often necessary to make room for the new.

What advice would you give a publisher wanting to re-design their catalogue?

If it's been more than five years since you've updated your catalogue, it's probably time for a refresh. And if you're going to go to all of that trouble, be sure to add value. Whether it's making the catalogue easier for your readers to navigate through the use of headings, colours, etc. or adding additional information such as related titles or some photos, make improvements to both its form and function. 

Posted in Q&A
Posted by Megan M.
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