Henry Volans and Matt Haslum on how Faber Members came to pass
Sometimes it is the smallest changes that herald the biggest shifts. When Faber revamped its website last year, it had a new, clean design and a greater emphasis on selling direct to consumers. But alongside the new functions, there was a bigger plan taking shape.
Matt Haslum, consumer marketing director at Faber, confirms: “The launch of the website was the first step. It gave us the ability to see what our readers are really after. What we saw is that the things that do really well are limited editions, signed copies and exclusive titles.”
From that a concept grew, now realised as Faber Members, a free-to-join membership programme offering two key benefits for people who sign up. The first is a range of discounts: 15% off all titles purchased through the Faber website and 15% off all Faber Academy courses, as well as access to a range of events and masterclasses. The second is exclusive access to Faber’s new range of Collectors’ Editions, beginning with Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant.
Faber will also offer a premium tier, Faber Collector, for £500 a year. This will give members 25% off books bought through the Faber website and Academy classes too, as well as a free one-day course and a year’s worth of Collectors’ Editions.
While the company confirmed last week that it would lose eight roles following a restructure, Haslum and Faber Press director Henry Volans are optimistic about the scope of the new project as Faber adjusts to a new world.
Volans, who became director of the new Faber Press division in October last year, charged with creating “a new kind of business”, says that the numbers needed for Faber Members to be a success has been carefully considered. “I know what we are hoping for and I can say that if we got up to five figures for membership, that would make sense. If we had three figures for the Collector [arm], that would be a good start.” He adds: “I think [Penguin Random House UK c.e.o.] Tom Weldon spoke about direct to consumer and said it doesn’t move the dial . . . Faber has a smaller dial.”
Haslum says the business was the next logical step following the website revamp. “I think it’s always been considered that Faber, of all publishers, might have an ability to do a membership programme. We had thought about it a lot from the marketing side of things, but needed that thread of publishing to bring it together, which is where Henry came in.”
Volans says that although Faber had looked at similar programmes, the key to their offer will be the books selected as Collectors’ Editions. “By and large these books are a living thing, part of a thriving business with us. We are not licensing them from anyone else. We’re not trying to invent a new business here. Faber Members is about putting forward Faber as a product.” He adds: “We also have the benefit that this is small enough that if there is a demand for something, it should be possible for us to do it.”
Asked if he was concerned about bookshops missing out on the new editions, Volans points to the Faber Modern Classics series, launched last October. “Faber Modern Classics are perfect for the trade. Both series share the aim of showcasing what’s best about Faber. But what’s different about this is that it’s entirely for Faber.co.uk, entirely for our customers.” Haslum adds that Faber Members is a logical endpoint for a combined “p” and “e” business: “It’s the perfect combination of print and digital—an entirely digital shop window that we are using to sell the most impressive, beautiful print editions that we make.”
The new editions
A key element of the Faber Members programme is exclusive access through www.faber.co.uk to a new series of Collectors’ Editions.
Each month will see the release of a new title, with each book printed in Yorkshire using a traditional lithographic method on a small, sheet-fed Heidelberg press, sewn and quarter-bound in cloth by hand.
The first title in the monthly series is Kazuo Ishiguro’s latest novel, The Buried Giant, which will retail at £50. It will be followed by Seamus Heaney’s New Selected Poems 1966–1987 for April, P D James’ Cover Her Face in May, Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being in June and Simon Armitage’s Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in July.
Each release will be packaged alongside a letter from the book’s editor.