5 Questions for Jeremy Trevathan, Publisher, Pan MacMillan

Jeremy Trevathan

Jeremy Trevathan, Publisher, is responsible for the shape, direction and profitability of the adult publishing lists at Pan Macmillan in the UK. This includes Macmillan, Pan, Picador, Mantle, Sidgwick & Jackson, Boxtree, Bello and the recently launched Bluebird. His authors have included bestsellers including Ken Follett, Jeffrey Archer, Max Hastings, James Herbert, Wilbur Smith, Peter Hamilton, China Mieville and Roy Jenkins to name a few. He began his career working in the Production Departments of Oxford Univeristy Press and Penguin Books, before transferring to the Subsidiary Rights Department at Penguin. Stints at Time-Life Books and Reader’s Digest Books in editorial roles preceded his arrival at Pan Macmillan in the mid-1990s as Subsidiary Rights Director. In 2000 he became Publisher of Macmillan.

1. Since starting at Pan Macmillan in 2000, what market change would you say has had the biggest influence on publishing plans?

The biggest change in the market since I became a publisher at Pan Macmillan has been the ebook. Amazon’s emergence in the late 1990s led to the growth of this format in publishing in the UK. During the 1990s Amazon quickly made all physical books available to all readers, which was pretty transformational in itself. There was no more need to wait 2 weeks for the arrival of a backlist title from a retailer.

When Amazon embraced the idea of the digital edition in the early 2000s, the market for ebook publishing exploded. I would say that book publishing experienced nothing less than a rebirth—a paradigm shift in which publishers were now able to re-imagine the future of the book and the entire book publishing process. They could now create both traditional books and device-agnostic digital versions that readers wanted to buy, at prices they could afford – all from the click of a button.

2. You have worked with some top name authors such as James Herbert and Jeffrey Archer. How has the author/publisher relationship developed since 2000?

That huge market change, together with the gathering influence of social media, has had a significant effect on every aspect of publishing including the relationship between author and publisher.

Until the late 1990s, only one viable option existed for authors looking to be published: to have their manuscript accepted by a traditional publisher mostly through the auspices of a literary agent. The chances of an author gaining credibility and respect without a publisher’s stamp of approval were virtually non-existent until the advent of ebooks. The publisher’s role for the author traditionally was to fund the author and take the financial risk and to provide editorial direction, production, marketing, publicity and distribution.

Suddenly, in the digital era, authors can take the risk themselves and ‘publish’ their own books without an agent or a publisher.

However, the real difficulty lies in getting any attention for their book in a world of increasingly competitive calls on everyone’s leisure time, i.e in the marketing and promotion of books.

Social media and the freelance world suggest that established authors in particular could truly ‘publish’ themselves, i.e. produce, market, publicise and distribute for themselves.

Thus the publisher’s role for the established author has evolved gradually as has the author’s role for the publisher. The publisher still remains the organization prepared to fund the author early in the process of publishing and indeed to pay to free up an author’s most precious commodity: time to be creative. The publisher still provides a vitally important role in offering editorial direction for many authors. The publisher also continues to produce, market and distribute the physical editions in an increasingly complex retail world. But thereafter publishers, for the first time, have had to earn their keep by providing a value that extends beyond production and distribution. As readers demand a more direct relationship with their authors through social media and the web, authors (and their agents) now have to take on more of a share of the responsibility for the marketing and promotion of their books. Publishers have to provide real help to enable them to do that.

Publishers now provides access to the knowledge of technical developments and data to target and facilitate authors’ relationships with their readers. I would say that the biggest change is that authors, agents and publishers now work together in much more of a partnership, particularly with marketing and publicity, to stay competitive, current, and discoverable in a shifting digital landscape. Publishers ensure authors have the right tools to be effective and in touch with their readers. Publishers also help establish a robust network of connections both directly with readers and with retailers that helps both the author and publisher to better market and promote the author’s work.

3. When creating your publishing list, how and when do you start to think about digital components?

At Pan Macmillan, from the very early days of the digital format, we decided to ensure that the digital edition was just another edition. All our physical editions will have a digital edition published at the same time. We’ve never had a separate digital team nor have we put digital editions through an entirely different workflow. So the digital edition is totally part of the whole process of delivering a book to the market. The process of editing and proof-correcting the script remains exactly the same as before, except that we code the text correctly for the digital editions with chapter breaks, special characters etc.

We also have digital-only publications but don’t have a separate digital list (aside from Bello which has a particular remit to bring out-of-print titles back into print digitally). We will discuss digital-only books in our editorial and business meetings, as with all our other publishing, and we fit them into our lists depending on a viable readership and their commercial potential, but we don’t treat them differently. This means that no book we publish, whether in physical or digital format, is ever acquired without an idea of what the publication strategy is for it.

4. You now work across a number of imprints including Macmillan, Pan, Picador and Sidgwick & Jackson. Do you think publishers in general should be sharing their resources across imprints more, or are they too diverse?

This is a very interesting question particularly in relation to the large publishing groups that now exist in both the UK and USA.

The use of imprints traditionally was essentially as a marketing tool for publishers to alert retailers and reviewers to know where a book was coming from, what tradition, genre etc.

That obviously still very much pertains in publishing today.

Occasionally an imprint will have such impact that readers actually search out a book because of the imprint, such as a Penguin, Tor or Picador paperback. But most readers pay no attention to the imprint on the spine. They are more interested in the author on the front. It seems to me that these days imprints in the huge corporations are as much an internal mechanism to create internal focus around a group of titles to help the sales teams clarify what titles they’re selling and promoting and why. As such one of the biggest dilemmas for the larger corporations is how to allocate shared resources in a way that keeps the imprints distinct enough to keep that focus. Many groups share their sales forces but maintain separate and distinct editorial, marketing and publicity teams for each imprint.

At Pan Macmillan we are lucky enough to be small enough that we share resources across all our publishing. We focus on our authors and our readerships more than our imprints. All our sales, marketing and publicity teams are divided only into fiction, non-fiction and children’s teams, regardless of the imprint. Even our editorial teams share their copyrights across the imprints. Mantle, the hardcover imprint managed by Maria Rejt, for instance, publishes into both Pan and Picador paperbacks depending on the book and the author. Some non-fiction editors will publish their non-fiction titles on the Picador imprint rather than the Macmillan imprint and vice versa, again to the benefit of the book rather than the imprint. That’s not to say that I don’t have publishers, such as Paul Baggaley for Picador, whose job is to keep a close eye on the Picador list and ensure that everything with Picador on the spine deserves to have Picador on the spine, but we’re definitely not a territorial company in that way.

5. And lastly, what is your top tip for anyone trying to get ahead in the publishing industry?

My tip for anyone in publishing now is to learn as many skills across the board as you can. Don’t define yourself as entirely ‘editorial’ or ‘marketing’ or ‘publicity’, be flexible. Learn about production or the art department. We’re increasingly moving into a world where publishing companies are made up of a network of individuals with many skills, where roles will blur and responsibilities will be shared. The more you learn different skills across publishing the more useful you will be and the more enjoyable your experience of publishing will become.

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