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5 reasons to use social and mobile for scouting new talent

Sweek, a social platform for free reading and writing, and Ravensburger, a well-known German publisher, have successfully completed #SchreibMitRavensburger, a Young Adult writing contest. At an exclusive event at the Ravensburger headquarters, Samira Bosshard was revealed to be the winner of the contest and earned herself a publishing contract, after impressing both the Sweek reading community and the expert jury of Ravensburger.

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FutureBook … or FutureRead? Fostering the next generation of readers

Sheila Bounford has worked in service businesses connected to the publishing industry for thirty years. A former Executive Director of the IPG, Head of Business Development at NBNi, and mentor to independent publishers, she is currently teaching English to secondary school pupils as part of the Teach First Leadership Development Programme.

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Alchemy: Why poetry publishers need to get it together

In May this year, three wrestling matches were held in a library. Two small poetry publishers, Sidekick Books and The Emma Press, nominated their champions for the ‘Pamphleteers’ grand slam, roared about their scrapping prowess and set them against each other in a no-holds-bard smackdown. Pamphlet took on pamphlet, and the poetry pitted dinosaurs against dragons, witches against sinister government agencies and, most curiously of all, mackerel salad against Angela Lansbury.

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Interview with WriteNow mentor Lydia Yadi

WriteNow, Penguin Random House UK’s programme to find, mentor and publish new writers currently under-represented on the nation’s bookshelves, is back for 2017. The world’s number-one publisher is looking for new writers from a socio-economically marginalised background, LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer) and BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) writers, or writers with a disability, to make books and publishing more representative of the society we live in. Find out more and apply at www.write-now.live. Applications close on 16 July 2017. Join the conversation using #WriteNowLive @PenguinRHUK. 

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How to secure publicity for potentially divisive books

January this year saw the launch of our new series of books on gender diversity. From first-person memoirs to children’s storybooks, many of these books are written by trans and non-binary people and consider the particular challenges that this group faces.

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Interview with Sam Baker, co-founder of The Pool and Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2017 judge

Sam Baker has spent 20 years in magazine journalism, editing some of the UK’s biggest magazines, including Just Seventeen, Cosmopolitan and Red. In 2015, she co-founded and launched The Pool, with broadcaster Lauren Laverne, with a mission to celebrate and amplify women’s voices. An award-winning digital platform for women that has been described as redefining women’s media, The Pool was recently awarded Best Mobile Lifestyle Site/App at the Webbys (also known as the highest honour the internet can bestow). Here Norah Myers interviews Sam about The Pool and her role as a judge for the 2017 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.

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Interview with Alice Curry, winner of the Kim Scott Walwyn Prize

Alice Curry is the Founder and Publisher of Lantana Publishing, a London-based independent publishing company nominated for the Bologna Prize for Best Children’s Publisher of the Year 2017. She is this year’s winner of the Kim Scott Walwyn Prize. Norah Myers interviews her here. 

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The author platform: Why it matters for publishers

Adrian Zackheim, founder of Portfolio, Penguin’s prestigious business book list, knows a thing or two about acquiring and marketing business books. So when I spoke to him in The Extraordinary Business Book Club this week I asked what he looked for in an author. An existing platform – a strong social media following, highly ranked blog, YouTube channel, podcast or the like – is certainly one factor.

‘When we’re taking on an author who has never had a book published before, one of the indications that this is a person we should consider is the pre-existence of a significant platform… because that means that this person has already started to attract a community, and that that community can be built upon. It’s an obvious strategy for publishers to seek out people with pre-existing platforms and attempt to extend them.’

It’s not the only factor, of course. Zackheim describes the acquisition decision as a triangulation of three key elements – platform, sure, but also person and concept:

‘There is this calculation that one has to make about: where is that platform? How significant, how important is the platform, and how good is this person as a communicator? Then how significant are the ideas that are being developed here? You have to triangulate those three considerations in order to determine the prospects for an author, and obviously we’re wrong as often as we’re right.’

There’s a potential Catch-22 for publishers here, of course: if someone has a strong platform, they may be asking themselves if they need a traditional publisher at all.

And many authors, who see a book as a way of establishing a platform, certainly feel it’s a particularly vicious double bind: ‘You mean you won’t publish me until I’ve got a following? But I need the book to get a following!’

Zackheim’s logic is irrefutable, though. You may have needed a gatekeeper such as a publisher or broadcaster 10 years ago to get your ideas out and build some energy around them: now you have an embarrassment of channels and tools through which and with which to disseminate them. If you’re not using them, the inescapable conclusion is that something is lacking.

As Zackheim puts it:

‘Anybody who is a compelling thinker and communicator, who has been completely unable to build any sort of following or to even create a ripple of interest in the media world, when they come to us with their book proposal, we have to consider it with some suspicion, because how come nothing has happened around this idea set so far?… Particularly if [they are] now coming to us and saying, “I am dying to get this idea in front of a large community. You need to help me because this idea is so important, but I really have not been able to attract a single follower.”’

The age-old dance between publisher and author, the delicate power balance played out in pitch and offer and negotiation, has evolved: while the principle remains the same – to communicate an important idea effectively to the people who need to hear it – today the publisher is just one of a number of partners on the floor.

What’s exciting about this of course is that the partners aren’t competing: if the publisher takes the time to understand what underpins the author’s platform and finds ways to support and build those channels, the reward is more attention for the idea and more sales of the book.

The art of acquisition – it gets more interesting by the day.

membership economyAlison Jones (@bookstothesky) is a publishing partner for businesses and organizations writing world-changing books. She also provides executive coaching, consultancy and training services to publishers. www.alisonjones.com

IPR License

10 Questions for Vitek Tracz, founder of F1000Research

Vitek Tracz is the founder of F1000Research, an open research publishing platform based on open and transparent peer review that offers immediate publication of an article on submission (assuming it passes a set of basic screening checks).

Paula Gantz sat down with Tracz following his keynote address at the Association of American Publishers’ Professional and Scholarly Publishing Conference in Washington, DC recently. In his keynote, he had warned publishing executives that they have become “enemies of the researchers”. He stressed that people don’t read journals anymore. They read articles, and he urged publishers to bypass journals and abandon article selection based on improving Impact Factors. This interview first appeared on the IPR License Blog.

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Interview with genre fiction crowdfunder Simon Spanton

Unbound recently hired Simon Spanton to help develop their genre fiction list. Norah Myers interviews Simon to find out why genre fiction is a good fit for Unbound’s crowdfunding model.

After four years as a bookseller, twenty five years working in editorial for two different publishers and a year as a freelance editor and book reviewer, Simon Spanton joined Unbound in January 2017 to set up a genre list for the publisher. He’s based in Edinburgh. When not reading he’s generally walking, cycling, listening to music or watching films. Some of these things can be done at the same time as reading, some can’t. Apparently.

1) What appeals the most to you about publishing genre fiction?

I love the scope and variety of the genres within the category. Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror encompass so many times, spaces and moods. But also so many literary approaches – from adventure fiction to romance, to literary experiment. Sometimes in the same book. It’s like being able to publish all fiction.

There’s something about genre authors too – I think because they have so often had their books dismissed by some critics as not being “proper writing”, they have a boundless enthusiasm and fight for what they do.

But I also love how engaged and enthusiastic the readers are, the relationship they build with those favourite writers. You can’t bluff genre fans – they generally know more than you about their favourite genre. There’s so much enthusiasm in all quarters of genre publishing that it’s had not to love working in it.

2) What was the best book you read recently that could be classified as genre fiction? What made it special?

That’s a really hard question to answer. My idea of what the best book I’ve read lately tends to shift around a lot. A book that has stayed with me from last year though is The Arrival of Missives by Aliya Whiteley. It’s a slim novel that starts off as a beautifully observed love story that plays out between a young woman and a teacher in an English village after the first world war. The language is subtle and wonderfully controlled, the descriptions of landscape and nature wonderfully done. But as you are reading a weirdness in the events begins to insinuate itself until you find yourself in the middle of an extraordinary SF story about time and history.

I think it’s special because the writing is so beautiful, because it champions the importance of one person’s (and in the context of the time, importantly, one woman’s) actions in vast events and because it allows for huge ideas without ever overwhelming a very human story.

It’s so economic too – genre has tended to fall victim to commercial demands for massive books and series to carry massive stories – Aliya’s book shows you can also tell a story with huge ramifications in dozens of pages, not hundreds.

3) What makes genre fiction a good fit for Unbound’s model?

First and foremost I think it’s the genre community. There’s such a strong link between readers and authors (via conventions and social media), such a sense that they are in the business of genre together that I think there’s a fantastic opportunity to tap into that for crowdfunding – to give readers even more of a chance to be part of a book’s success story, to allow them to get their hands on the books they really want, that the authors really love without, perhaps, some of the very necessary restrictions of the standard publishing model getting in the way.

Because the genre is so varied, because the authors are so creative I think there are sometimes ideas and books that struggle to find a place and these are often the books that are very personal to the authors and therefore have a chance to be very personal for readers too – crowdfunding is a lovely way to make the personal work. A

lso because of how it has been used in other genre media crowdfunding is a familiar model for lots of fans and one which can readily translate to books for them.

4) What do you most look forward to in your new role?

Talking to authors and readers, discovering what new favourite books there might be out there that haven’t been able to find the light of day. I know all too well from my years in publishing that there can be many reasons for a book not to have found a readership and I understand that often those reasons are valid and proper within the traditional model.

Having the chance to explore a different model with authors old and new seems to me to have endless opportunities. Having just moved to Scotland I’m also looking forward to learning more about authors (both inside the genre and out) in this part of the world and establishing links between them and Unbound.

5) What advice could you give fiction authors who currently struggle with crowdfunding?

Well I think we need to take into consideration that working with crowdfunding is a new thing for me as well. But what I have learned already is that I think it’s helpful for authors to remember how valuable favourite books are to them, how caught up they were in the excitement of a book, how close they felt to the author over it. Publishing is a tough business working inside tight margins and with huge risks and it’s easy for that sense of value to come under pressure.

Crowdfunding seems to me to be about emphasising the value – sometimes in unexpected ways. It’s about remembering how special a book can be for an individual reader and being motivated by that. I think you could be surprised by how involved some readers want to be and also by how excited they can be about the story around the book and how being a part of that can be important to them.

If the author can convey their excitement about their book to the reader (one-to-one contact works best for that) that’s the thing that will make a crowd funder work. A crowdfunded book is the best possible illustration of the fact that there is a market that shares your excitement.

And finally if the whole notion looks daunting I’ve sat down with our team of advisors who help authors with their crowdfunding and really had my eyes opened to how much there is you can do as an author to fire up that excitement. There are so many possibilities and Unbound are there to help.

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