International Collaboration In Publishing: Why Being Old is a Good Thing

Note from the editor: If you’re free on Thursday 23rd May, please do join us at BookMachine Unplugged, as our top speakers discuss collaboration and what they have learned from the projects they have worked on in publishing. Tickets are here.

Publishing gets a lot of stick about being an incredibly old industry, being fusty and insular and old fashioned. Maybe the young up-and-coming tech companies are about a million times cooler than we are, with their boardrooms that double as pool tables, desk garnish that looks like a rainforest, and cocktail Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Fridays. But in our heritage and lives something incredibly powerful – international relationships. While I feel it would be wrong to compare publishing to the mafia, fact is we are a network of likeminded people, a lot of whom know each other perhaps a little too well, with a common goal. I say we should tap that network a little more often.

International publishing is already a reality for many publishing houses, whether it’s syncing publication dates or ensuring the book is available in as many retailers as possible all over the world. More and more, we’re seeing internationally co-ordinated book launches strategically organised for maximum effect. This event-style publishing capitalises on combined publicity, joint marketing, and the fact that fans of authors aren’t restricted by location when they want to discuss a book, so we shouldn’t be when we’re promoting one.

There are brilliant examples of this throughout other industries – specifically television and cinema, who frequently share marketing material. A great example of this recently is the Arrested Development PR stunt, which saw a pop-up frozen banana stand appear in London last week. The same stand will be appearing across the USA in the run up to the release of the next season. This isn’t the product of a single person suggesting a great idea, it’s a joint effort between teams divided by an ocean. Ultimately, though, fans on both sides of the Atlantic are feeding off each other’s excitement, making the entire event feel even more massive than it did before.

It’s not just about sharing resources and getting readers excited, either, but sharing knowledge. Sharing our experience with different titles, different platforms and different processes can help strengthen local strategies. Although publishers are massively unwilling to do this in their own markets, when you’re not in competition with the other publisher, you can share information, resources and ideas freely without the concern that they will then pitch your ideas directly to your audience moments before you were about to. We often look to the music industry as a template for which mistakes we shouldn’t be making, but we should be looking to each other to share what does work and capitalise on trends as they appear.

This might be easier for big houses, who have international branches, similar lists and shared authors, but even independent publishers are doing this. Canongate and Text Publishing in Scotland and Melbourne respectively have a close relationship, due to the similarity of their vision and publishing programme. I think it’s important to find these holds in the international market regardless of size. Chances are, someone else out there has already done what you’re about to do – so know who they are and ask them how it went.

We all want the best for our authors, and as far as I can see, combining resources and ensuring knowledge is shared between publishers in different markets will mean potentially double the publicity and marketing activity, consolidating a disparate audience. Then, baby, you got yourself a stronger industry going on.


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