#pubnow: 8 questions for Simon Appleby [Interview]

Simon Appleby of Bookswarm will be debating innovation this Friday at Publishing Now. Elin Butler has some questions for him…

1. Your company Bookswarm offers digital services to authors and publishers, how important do you think digital services are when talking about innovation in publishing?

No-one can afford to ignore digital, whether that’s digital marketing, which is a large part of what we do at Bookswarm, or digital publishing, which is newer and which is changing the face of publishing. Digital enables innovation, but I firmly believe that a lot of the innovation will still come from the authors and content creators.


2. As a director for AMS Digital Marketing, what are your thoughts on the importance of online marketing channels for the publishing industry?

Publishers need to reach readers more than ever. Obviously digital channels are important, and while publisher websites and social media are useful things, we think that what’s more important is to have places that publishers can have their content discovered and alongside books from other publishers. That means digital magazines, book-based social networks and other things that haven’t been invented yet!


3. Would you say that the digital publishing is limiting print publication, or enhancing it?

Enhancing it, definitely – there are now more ways than ever to create great publications, both in terms of pure digital and in terms of how you can enhance physical publishing.


4. What’s your view on social media’s role in liaising with other publishers and authors? Will it grow or disappear?

Social media is really just a new(ish) term for the kind of communication that the Internet has been enabling for many years, so the answer must be that it will grow and change.


5. You were involved with delivering app and eBook projects for Octopus Publishing Group, how did you become interested in the digital aspect of publsihing?

My background is in scoping and delivering digital projects withing the digital media industry – plus I have always been an avid reader. After delivering digital projects for a number of publishers as a supplier, making the move client-side seemed like an interesting new challenge. Digital technologies are the greatest threat and the greatest opportunity, especially for a non-fiction publisher like Octopus, and I am fascinated by the possibilities for delivering non-narrative content in new and interesting ways using digital media.


6. How would you say that authors and publishers who are active on social media and blogs enhance their brand in comparison to authors and publishers who aren’t as digitally savvy?

Authors who don’t project themselves on social media and the web are passing up possible fans, and ultimately book buyers, but also run the risk of handicapping themselves in the eyes of publishers when they are deciding who to publish and how to market those authors they do publish. Only authors with a serious track record can afford to ignore their own brand online.


7. Of all digital solutions within the publishing industry, which is your all time favourite?

I like simple, elegant solutions that just make immediate and obvious sense – like bringing out-of-print titles back in to the market as eBooks, as in the case of the Gollancz SF Gateway project. That’s the project I wish I had dreamed up.


8. And one last question; which is the biggest mistake you have ever made when talking digital?

Forgetting the extent to which many people in the trade perceive digital as a straight threat, rather than getting excited by the opportunity that it presents.


  1. There won’t be a shift in consumer perceptions about ebook content unless the publishing industry shifts theirs. It is, and the opportunities are self evident.

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