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Category: Future of Publishing

Debbie Williams

MA audio publishing module made available for the first time at the University of Central Lancashire

We spoke with Debbie Williams, Director and Associate Professor of Publishing at the University of Central Lancashire on their new module entirely dedicated to audio publishing. Why was an audio module necessary and what could students expect to learn on the module? We got in touch to find out more.

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Why publishers should be like Bond (James Bond)

Last week I gave a talk at the CoreSource user group on success and agility. Ingram Content Group itself exemplifies both: over the last 20 years it’s reinvented itself by a steady process of acquisition, reorganization and diversification, from its early days distributing microfiche readers in Nashville to an international group offering solutions to publishers and authors at every stage of the print and digital workflow. (So, no pressure, then.) The theme of the day was ‘Secrets and Spies’. I began by asking: What is James Bond’s most effective weapon? Could it be the Beretta 418, the gun featured in the original Casino Royale? Or the Walther PPK that replaced it? The improved flamethrower from Live and Let Die? Or maybe the remote controlled BMW in Tomorrow Never Dies, with its sunroof missiles and the wire cutter hidden in the logo? It’s none of these, of course. Bond’s most effective weapon is his ability to adapt. He is the ultimate survivor – not just because he’s handy with a semi-automatic, but because he constantly changes, evolves, reinvents himself. Bond is agile, in every sense of the word. I’ve been in publishing for 25 years now, and in digital publishing for most of those years, and for pretty much all that time publishing has been ‘in crisis’ somehow or other, there’s been one villain after another threatening to take over our world. First there was ‘the threat of digital’, ‘the death of print’, closely linked to the hysteria over piracy. We’re navigating the transition and actually it’s been kind of fun – but costs generally went up and revenues generally went down. Then there was Amazon, disrupting the established bookselling industry, driving down prices, keeping its data on ebook sales to itself and leaving us guessing at the true size of the market. More recently there’s been ‘the threat of self-publishing’, and the rush of publishers to justify their existence, the fear of being disintermediated. Turns out there’s still room for traditional publishers, but because authors now have options, the terms for authors had to become more favourable, which erodes publishers’ profits, and the overall market share of the traditional publishing sector went down. Now it’s ‘the sharing economy’, fuelled by cocreation and collaboration, its core values open access and connection and access rather than ownership and loads of stuff that runs directly counter to the traditional publishing model of selling discrete units of content to people for money. So where does all this leave us? Each wave of disruption has tended to chip away at profits and add to costs. It feels uncomfortably like the laser is getting every closer to our critical bits. But of course disruption is just another word for opportunity. The reality is that for those with the imagination and the will to make the leap, there are more opportunities out there than ever before for publishers to make money. Content is the currency of our age, and we are experts on content. Everyone now needs the skills we have. But publishers who are still exclusively focused on picking one course through this explosion of possibilities, still wedded to the traditional model of selling content in books to consumers through shops to make a profit, are missing out on potential revenue today and I suggest may also  be writing their death warrant for tomorrow. Like Bond, and indeed like Ingram, successful and agile companies select and seize opportunities – and the best opportunities will be different for each – build on what’s there already to add new revenue streams in growth markets to supplement declining revenues in old markets. So what are YOUR weapons? What do you do best? How can you exploit that in new ways? Don’t forget that Bond didn’t operate alone. You can innovate faster and smarter if you collaborate with the right partners. Take a long hard look at your existing partners – are you making the most of the opportunities that they’re creating? And if they’re not creating opportunities for you, consider making some new partners with the right tools and skills to help your achieve your mission. After all, where would Bond be without Q? Alison 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

Smart phones: Changing the rules of the game

Jacob CockcroftJacob Cockcroft is Co-Founder and CEO of The Pigeonhole, a made-for-mobile digital book club, serialising their books in installments delivered straight to a reader’s virtual bookshelf on the iOS app or website. Here he writes on mobile reading and making digital work for your company. E-books are on the decline. Digital reading is only for romance novels. Waterstone’s no longer sells Kindle eReaders. Excellent, publishers can go back to business as usual. The physical book has prevailed. Well, OK, if you want to misread the tea leaves. The inescapable truth is that there will be 2.5 billion smart phone users by 2019, all potential readers. The largest industry oversight is a distinct separation between physical and digital reading, with digital being the cheaper, dirty cousin. There is a tally for physical sales and a tally for digital sales, count up the points and see who wins. This simplicity fails to understand how mobile phones are hard coded into people’s daily routine, behavior and psychology. They are the single most important discovery tool for anything: holidays, clothes, kettles, and of course books, but this discovery tool could be so much more efficient, if used properly. The art is to exploit the opportunities smart phones provide and, most importantly, to use data driven analytics to hone the message. This is something physical books simply can’t offer (in much the same way that digital books can’t bring the touch, feel and smell of a physical book). Interaction, sociability, discoverability, immediacy, pinpoint targeting, measurable ROI. View digital reading through a marketing lens and it can bring you all these things. But it has to be fun; it has to compete with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat on the home screen of every IOS or Android device. This is the business of habit-forming products, of providing that 10-15 minute hit of endorphins as someone breastfeeds, or waits for the tube, or a friend to turn up in a bar. This is the battle that we wage at the Pigeonhole. We are building dynamic reading experiences, something to take part in, to feel as though you are on a collective journey with others, discovering the most exciting books of the moment. It’s not enough to just pipe content onto a phone and expect people to churn through hours of turgid reading, the temptations of the other apps are just too great, even for those with the best intentions. There is no great mystery as to why digital completion rates for traditional reading apps are so low. You have to make it FUN. Satisfying. Exciting. Challenging. This is all possible, more than possible, it’s real. All of our publishing partners have given their experience the thumbs up, and over half who respond to our surveys would actively recommend the Pigeon to fellow readers. It is still early days (we have a community of over 12,000 users and our Android app is coming in September) but we are getting closer and closer to perfecting the experience. And it is the author who benefits from us more then anyone. Many publishers are acutely aware that they aren’t delivering for their authors on the marketing front; they just don’t have the bandwidth. Our partnerships solve this, giving the author a direct line to their readers, creating genuine buzz around the book across social media, and facilitating those reviews on Amazon and Goodreads to boost the all-important algorithms. In turn, this drives the sales of physical books through direct click-throughs from our site to Amazon and both online and offline word of mouth. We are the ultimate content marketing platform, using the most powerful thing you can – the book itself. Our serialisations allow any book to fit into any life, whilst offering a structured framework for conversations to play out through between the author and their readers In this way, digital becomes part of an integrated strategy for the promotion of a book, driving discoverability, author profiles, digital sales and physical sales. Posters on the tube are great, but pound for pound, displays in the Facebook newsfeed of keen readers can be much more powerful. With a holistic strategy like this you really can fulfill the potential digital reading provides. So my message: Don’t be scared of digital and don’t turn your back on it. You just need to be smarter, more creative and ambitious with it.
Authors marketing

Four players in the book business with the power to rewrite some of the rules

The news came recently that ReaderLink has purchased Anderson News. Those two companies have been the leading suppliers of books to the mass merchandisers: primarily Wal-mart, Target, and Sam’s Club. There are other players selling books in the space, including Ingram, Baker & Taylor, and smaller distributors like the less-well-known American West. But most of the books going to most of the mass merchant accounts have gotten there through what will now be one company supplying them: ReaderLink. By my count, that puts four companies in the book business who have extraordinarily powerful holds on their space. They are ReaderLink (in the supply of books to mass merchants), Amazon (as an online retailer), Barnes & Noble (as a bricks-and-mortar retailer) and Penguin Random House (as a commercial trade publisher). ReaderLink, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble now have extraordinarily powerful positions from which to demand better terms from their publisher-suppliers. In all three cases, they have customer bases which are extremely difficult, if not impossible, for a competitor to take away from them.

Amazon

Amazon has pretty much owned the online book customer since the year they opened for business in 1995. There is a faint hope that fragmentation of the online marketplace and the placement of commerce in the social stream, such as is enabled by Ingram’s Aer.io technology, could wrest some of their share. Perhaps, over time, that will happen. But they keep pulling further ahead of their only real competition, BN.com, and I am not aware of even one single reporting period when Amazon’s share of the online book market hasn’t grown. It is simply not an option for a publisher who wants to sell to consumers to avoid Amazon. (The only way a publisher could conceivably do that is if their customer base is reached entirely by direct sales or through intermediaries outside the book business.)

Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble may be losing brick-and-mortar market share to independents, but they remain by far the leading bookstore chain. If a publisher wants books in the retail marketplace, Barnes & Noble has been, since the demise of Borders five years ago, the only one-stop way to get national coverage. In fact, they almost certainly control the majority of bookstore shelf space in the country, and their single biggest competitor, Books-a-Million, has fewer than half as many stores. And B-a-M’s stores are smaller.

ReaderLink

ReaderLink is now in a similar position vis a vis the mass merchants. These stores constitute the other big component of the store retailing system and they are critical for bestsellers, mass-market paperbacks, and “merchandise” like adult coloring books and kids books. In fact, ReaderLink and Anderson lived with what was a “managed competition” controlled by their accounts; they each had stores assigned to them by their mass merchant customers. Publishers have always had to deal with both of them in order to place their books in the mass accounts. And, indeed, it could be that there will be efficiencies to this consolidation that will be beneficial for the publishers. But, if there are, it is also quite likely that ReaderLink will find ways to adjust their terms to take at least some of the benefits back and they are likely to be successful persuading publishers to allow that. (They have also manifestly strengthened their negotiating position with those accounts that are committed to stocking books.)

Penguin Random House

There is a fourth powerful player: Penguin Random House. PRH is almost (but not quite) the size of the other four members of the Big Five combined. As such, they are in a position to do things in the marketplace that no other publisher could contemplate. Since the merger of Penguin and Random House, I’ve written about what they uniquely could do with their marketplace power. The two key suggestions, neither of which has drawn any evident interest from the management at PRH, were a program to supply non-bookstores with vendor-managed inventory (creating store retail accounts nobody else would have) and to create their own ebook subscription service. (That would also create unique distribution.)

Mass-merchant supply

The new combination in mass-merchant supply could suggest another such opportunity. Perhaps this one will be more compelling. The supply of books to mass merchants, as to any account that is not primarily in the book business and comfortable with both the logistical challenges and relatively low profit potential in books, is complicated, expensive, and usually inefficient. The number of titles that actually make it into these stores is a paltry percentage of the industry’s output. Only the biggest publishers have enough of the right books to really play. And then the publisher has to cover both the retail accounts that will ultimately sell their books and the distributor-intermediary that supplies them. It will be a bit easier for the big publishers selling books to Wal-mart and Target to manage the business through one big account rather than two (one fewer account to deal with), but it is still a frustratingly inefficient segment of the business. (The one fewer account aspect of this is bound to be causing some nervousness right now in the sales departments of some publishers.) Visibility into inventory status is, relative to the store-level view available at Barnes & Noble, klunky. Returns are high. Responsiveness to breaking events is slow. And the margins are worse than for any other part of the domestic business. But part of the reason for that is that delivering on the service requirements for these accounts is expensive. One sales executive I spoke to estimated that ReaderLink has more than 2500 detail people calling on the outlets of the mass merchants: checking stock, tidying fixtures, and replacing sold books. No wonder these distributors need hefty margins to do this work. And this also explains why Ingram and Baker & Taylor, who, of course, carry all the titles these merchants would ever need, don’t appear to move aggressively to take this business away from the incumbent(s). To picture the Penguin Random House options, I try to view this from the perspective of one publisher with about half the books that these mass merchant accounts need. I’m giving away margin to a middle player that adds a layer of inefficiency and cost in order to be an effective aggregator. Obviously, the accounts want that aggregator. They don’t want to deal with hundreds of publishers individually, or even with just each of the Big Five. It would be a non-starter for a publisher supplying five or ten or even twenty percent of their books to say: “can we work out a way to do this directly?” So just about everybody has to accept the inefficiency.

An alternative model

But what about if it were a supplier that provided half the books? And what if that supplier offered, as an opening gambit, to share some of the margin that now goes to the middle player directly with the account? And what if that effectively became the account’s only way to get those books, because the powerful publisher was no longer willing to play ball with the high discounts and high returns that the current system entails? Only Penguin Random House is in a position to take this approach. And it wouldn’t be an easy thing to do. They’d have to create a VMI system. They’d have to organize a detailing army quite different from the sales force(s) they have created and managed historically. They’d have to either gear themselves up to execute more smaller shipments or form alliances that would make that possible. But the payoffs would also be substantial. And PRH has a much bigger margin share to support their efforts than ReaderLink, or any other wholesaler or distributor, would have. Sales would go up. Returns would go down. Margins would improve. Their competitors would be weakened. In fact, it is conceivable that, over time, a PRH direct-supply operation could morph into a ReaderLink service that was available to other publishers as well. (All big publishers, including PRH, already offer their core distribution services to competitors. This would be a variation on that theme.) Perhaps Penguin Random House will never behave in a qualitatively different way than the other Big Five houses, exercising power that they uniquely have. They certainly haven’t so far. On the other hand, it was pointed out to me recently that the integration of what were the two biggest publishers among the Big Six when Random House and Penguin combined four years ago is, even today, not yet complete. Rationalization has occurred in the “back end”, with the consequent job losses which are part of the payoff for the owners in any big merger of this kind. But more consolidation is still in front of them, and perhaps the radical paradigm-shifting initiatives need to wait until that job is really done. And perhaps Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and now ReaderLink are wary of poking the bear, and are less demanding that PRH honor their primacy with margin than they are of PRH’s competitors. In fact, the CEO of one of their Big Five competitors told me a year or two ago that he liked having a competitor of PRH’s size on the publisher side because this executive felt it kept the overall industry terms under control. The belief on this CEO’s part was that PRH’s size restrained the big accounts to the benefit of all the big players. But unlike Amazon or Barnes & Noble, whose businesses can not be efficiently replaced by any direct effort, the supply of mass merchant accounts is something PRH could conceivably do better on their own. Whether the acquisition of Anderson by ReaderLink provides the catalyst to get them to try it is something it will probably take a couple of years to find out. Although Ingram occupies a unique position in the global book supply chain and, indeed, might be the single most important player, they aren’t in the position of these other four to exercise power. In wholesaling, they have always had a powerful national competitor, Baker & Taylor, which is now even more financially stable having itself been acquired by Follett. Even in smaller-publisher distribution, where Ingram grew dramatically by acquiring Perseus, they will always have all the big publishers and a host of smaller distributors as alternatives for those considering their services. Indeed, Ingram could try to compete with ReaderLink for the mass merchant accounts, but they’d have to support the substantial systems and staff investments on a distribution margin, which is a much more challenging proposition than it would be for PRH with the publisher’s margin. Mike Shatzkin has been in publishing since 1962. Since 1979, Mike has been an independent consultant (The Idea Logical Company) with clients that have included most major publishers in the US and UK, retailers including Barnes & Noble and Borders, wholesalers including Ingram, and a host of tech startups. You can follow him on Twitter @MikeShatzkin. This post was originally posted on The Idea Logical Company blog in May 2016.

Here’s where innovative publishers need to focus

There are a number of key attributes successful publishers will be known for in the future. These core capabilities will be very different from the ones that have led to the modern empires of the Big Five. Some attributes will remain the same, of course. For example, it will always be crucial for publishers to acquire, develop and produce excellent content. But the services and capabilities that surround and complement the acquire/develop/produce core are what will matter most. With that in mind, here’s my short list of what will separate tomorrow’s publishing leaders from all the rest:

1) Being data-driven

Remember the old days when Ingram data was the only source of industry-wide sell-through information? Then Bookscan hit the scene and it felt like we moved from the Stone Age to the Information Age. I’m not talking about this kind of data. Bookscan and other retailer sell-through numbers are lagging indicators. They represent what happened yesterday, last week or last month. The successful publisher of tomorrow wants to know what’s happening right now and where the trends are leading. Real-time website analytics, heat maps, email open/click-thru rates…that’s where the actionable data can be found today but most book publishers treat them as secondary information sources at best. A publisher who thinks they’re data-driven today might adjust plans for a book scheduled to publish six months from now based on sell-through data they studied from last month. Tomorrow’s data-driven publisher will alter the free content on their website this afternoon based on information they gathered this morning.

2) Breaking free of containers

Why are publishers focused on lagging indicators? Because they’re stuck in the era of containers. They’re producing books, magazines or newspapers and they measure everything based on those containers. It may not be obvious but the container model is slowly fading away. Please don’t misinterpret this. I’m not saying books are going away. Print books will still be produced for a long, long time. But the way content is being consumed is shifting to a more digital, container-less model. Think about that last bit of content you read on your phone. Did you care whether it was originally produced for a newspaper, a magazine, a blog, a website or a newsletter? Probably not. What mattered most is that the content covered a topic that matters to you. Innovative publishers need to think more about highly relevant content streams rather than content containers.

3) Direct-to-consumer (D2C)

I vividly recall talking five years ago with a Big Six executive about the importance of creating a vibrant direct-to-consumer channel. She rolled her eyes and said they’d never do that because they prefer to let their retail partners handle the consumer connection. I feel somewhat validated now as I see that same publisher experimenting more and more with D2C. It’s not just about capturing all the revenue. The data and resulting opportunities to do some very powerful things with that data are what make D2C such an important model. That, and the fact that you become less reliant on middlemen who control your destiny, ought to be reason enough to focus on D2C.

4) Owning and leveraging the list

The most important piece of data every publisher should own is the customer name and email address. This is what makes D2C so special. Securing names and emails isn’t as easy as simply making a sale. You’ve got to earn the consumer’s trust by having them opt in to your future marketing campaigns. Too many publishers who have built a D2C channel simply become data hoarders, gathering names and emails but never doing much with them.

5) Building the funnel

One of the biggest reasons publishers don’t go direct is that they feel they’re unable to attract enough traffic to make it worthwhile. That’s because they’re not applying the funnel model. You start by offering plenty of outstanding free content on your site. Once visitors arrive and they like what they read you have the opportunity to connect with them via free newsletters, for example; rather than waiting and hoping they come back, offer to continue sending outstanding content right to their email inbox. Part of this step includes asking them to opt in for other offers and information from you. As the funnel narrows from top to bottom, you’re leading these consumers along a path loaded with all your terrific content, some of it free and some of it paid. This isn’t for everyone. For example, the Big Five are simply too reliant on the existing ecosystem, unwilling to risk alienating certain channel partners and built upon a very rigid container-based creation and distribution model. The Big Five will remain large, just like B&N and Borders did for many years after Amazon arrived. But then Borders went away and in order to survive B&N evolved from a bookstore to a gift shop. The smaller players though, the ones who focus on a particular topic, vertical or audience are the publishers who are best positioned to embrace the attributes described above. And as they do they’ll find themselves in a far better world with a direct connection to customers and the ability to serve those customers with more than just one or two types of container-driven content. Joe WikertJoe Wikert is director of strategy and business development at Olive Software. This post was originally published on his blog, ‘Joe Wikert’s Digital Content Strategies‘, where he writes opinion pieces on the rich content future of publishing.
membership economy

The next 5 years of publishing: Alison Jones interview

On the 8th June we’re launching the third title in the Snapshots series, BookMachine on publishing: the next 5 years, with a free event in four cities. Here Allison Williams interviews one of our speakers from the London event, Alison Jones on current publishing trends and predictions.

1) What are current trends and predictions that excite you most about the future of the publishing industry?

I’m enjoying the social reading developments from players such as GoodReads and Wattpad, which empower authors and readers (and to a lesser extend publishers) to build excitement and engagement around books. I expect to see this model extend beyond its home in genre fiction into other areas, particularly non-fiction. For publishers specifically, I think the trend of partnering intelligently, bringing the content and publishing expertise that brands so desperately need to partners who have the reach and funds the publishers in turn need, is exciting: in the attention economy, we’re stronger when we work together.

2) What is the trend or prediction that scares you most about the future of the publishing industry?

Amazon’s dominance, particularly in the UK where it controls c.90% of the ebook market, still worries me, and as I write Waterstones has just followed most of the other players out of the arena leaving Kobo the last challenger standing. I don’t think many publishers are comfortable with the fact that the ebook market in effectively owned by secretive company for which books aren’t even a main source of revenue any more.

3) How do you think we can best combat that trend or prediction?

There are many interesting experiments going on with direct and social selling (I love Aer.io), new subscription models for libraries and individuals (particularly digital audio), so I don’t think the game’s over yet. For publishers, I think it’s essential to build a direct-to-consumer stream and find the right partners or activities to help build that – your customer’s data is more valuable than any one sale to that customer.

4) What is one thing you’d like to see the publishing industry start doing in the next 5 years?

Some have already started, but I’d love to see more publishers getting into events. These are a great way to support direct sales, they facilitate the direct relationship between author and reader that publishers are in a prime position to nurture, they can be a profitable additional source of revenue as well as helping upsell books themselves, and they’re so versatile – from festivals to workshops, readings to conferences, there’s something to suit every type of publisher.

5) Can you give us a sneak peek of the ‘snapshot’ of the industry that you will be sharing with us at the launch?

Let’s just say it’s all about connections!

The next 5 years of publishing: Seonaid MacLeod interview

On the 8th June we’re launching the third title in the Snapshots series, BookMachine on publishing: the next 5 years, with a free event in four cities. Here Allison Williams interviews one of our speakers from the London event, Seonaid MacLeod on current publishing trends and predictions.

1) What are current trends and predictions that excite you most about the future of the publishing industry? 

There’s some really exciting developments in the way we publish and work. I see a lot of chat around making books coverage and conversation less elitist, and the industry itself – I’d like to see that turn into action.

2) What is the trend or prediction that scares you most about the future of the publishing industry?

Not so much a trend, more a continuation of the status quo. Ignoring potential audiences by publishing what is ‘known’ to sell is not just exclusive, but also bad business.

3) How do you think we can best combat that trend or prediction?

Thinking about where we’re advertising – not just our books but also job opportunities and industry information. Remember that social media can easily just reflect our own interests back at us… you might just be seeing booky monochrome Twitter.

4) What is one thing you’d like to see the publishing industry start doing in the next 5 years? 

Keep on keeping on.

5) Can you give us a sneak peek of the ‘snapshot’ of the industry that you will be sharing with us at the launch?

Seonaid MacLeod pic Grab your free ticket for the launch of Snapshots III here.
Self-employed in publishing

The next 5 years of publishing: Jasmin Kirkbride interview

On the 8th June we’re launching the third title in the Snapshots series, BookMachine on publishing: the next 5 years, with a free event in four cities. Here Allison Williams interviews one of our speakers from the London event, Jasmin Kirkbride on current publishing trends and predictions.

1) What are current trends and predictions that excite you most about the future of the publishing industry?

I am so in love with crowd funding right now. It’s so brilliant: not only is it basically completely financially stable for the publisher and the author, it also increases the diversity of what’s getting published. By bringing print runs down and securing sales before the book even hits the shelves, it very low-risk in what are still quite uncertain times. But whilst being low-risk, crowdfunding actually also allows for the publication of interesting, diverse, unusual books that traditional publishing models would see as incredibly risky. It allows readers from so many more little niches to get stories that they’ll really love, and uncovers some real hidden gems. Getting this level of connectivity and support is using the internet to its best advantage. In a similar vein, it’s also intriguing watching how many publishers are picking up really popular books from self-published and not traditionally published authors – whether through Wattpad or Amazon or whatever. I think we’ll see a lot more of this in the future. Though I wouldn’t say I’m excited by it, I think it’ll be fun to watch how that plays out in the long run.

2) What is the trend or prediction that scares you most about the future of the publishing industry?

There’s a lot of challenging stuff ahead, but I think virtual reality (VR) could be the next thing that really affects the industry in a scary way. It’s just about to start coming into its own, and I think it’s a much more immediate problem than something like AI.

3) How do you think we can best combat that trend or prediction?

I think this will really affect trade fiction a lot more than any other market, so I’ll focus on that. We need to remember what we do best, what fiction books offer that nothing else can. The beauty of a book is that, if it’s well-written, it can transport the reader into someone else’s shoes absolutely. Whether they’re picking up Fifty Shades or the next Man Booker winner, I really believe that somewhere in their reading experience, amongst other things, people are seeking out that feeling of frisson. That is the thing we will have over VR, but in order to be competitive, we have to keep up our editorial standards, our understanding of what the readership is seeking, and how to communicate with them.

4) What is one thing you’d like to see the publishing industry start doing in the next 5 years?

Look at the environment more. We have a lot of short term issues that we face as an industry and I’m not belittling those, they’re important. Actually, a lot of them – like diversity – have underlying causes and tensions that are really interconnected with environmental concerns. But we need to have a lot more meaningful discussions about our impact on the environment, and start actioning those quickly and effectively. It’s clear from the Paris Agreement that politicians aren’t going to put the pressure on industries enough for us to up our game before cause a complete catastrophe, so we’ve got to learn to put that pressure on ourselves. When the agreement was read out, a number of the African politicians just got up and left, because it was an ecological death sentence for their respective countries. We’re already seeing the first climate refugees. You know, we’ve got to look at our industry’s part in that.

5) Can you give us a sneak peek of the ‘snapshot’ of the industry that you will be sharing with us at the launch?

Keep calm and lobster on. Grab your free ticket for the launch of Snapshots III here.
George Walkley

Looking foreword: The next 5 years of publishing

Here’s George Walkley’s foreword to the latest BookMachine book (published Spring 2016) and a taster of what’s to come: Much of the debate about the future of publishing has concentrated on the print versus ebook dynamic. That is unsurprising, at least in as much as ebooks represent one of the most important commercial developments or our industry in recent years. In particular, they have allowed many authors to successfully publish themselves, reading to a parallel set of conversations about traditional versus self-publishing. If only the world were so simple, and could be reduced to these sort of binary variables. Print, ebooks, traditional publishers (large and small) and self-published authors will all coexist, as part of a future that is more messy and fragmented than the industry we know today. As publishers, we’ve innovated around business models and delivery formats, but barely begun to realise the potential of genuine innovation around how we entertain and educate readers. In future, authors and publishers will offer a broader range of books and other media, products and services, print and digital, narrative text and non-linear content. Those will be delivered to readers via an increasing range of stores, platforms and devices, and sold according to multiple commercial models. They will face ever greater competition from a broad range of media, especially when consumed on a smartphone or tablet which also affords access to every other form of content. Some of the intermediaries and businesses in those processes will be long established in the world of books. Some of them won’t exist today and will emerge from the next decade. The greatest challenge for publishers will be managing the range of processes and outcomes implied by these variables: structures, resources and capabilities established over many years may still be relevant for parts of the book market, but will seem, at best, situationally appropriate. Any publisher with scale and breadth of output will find itself having to manage multiple new processes alongside their existing business – and those who avoid that challenge by electing to specialise in particular niches may find their market smaller and returns diminishing. In that context, the fundamental skills for publishers will be agility and learning. I believe that the publishers who are alive to creative, technological and commercial possibilities – those in fact who have the sort of professional curiosity and drive on display in this volume – will be the people who create the future of this industry. George Walkley is Head of Digital for the Hachette UK Group with responsibility for enabling and driving implementation of digital initiatives and strategy across the group, including ebooks and apps. Since 2005 he has held various positions in marketing, business management and digital strategy at Time Warner Book Group and latterly Little, Brown Book Group.

How crowdfunding is changing publishing: Mathew Clayton interview

Mathew Clayton is as an editor, events organiser and writer. Currently, he works as the Head of Publishing at the innovative crowdfunding publisher Unbound and runs a literary tent at Glastonbury Festival. Here Sarah Ann Juckes, co-host of the free BookMachine Brighton event (How crowdfunding is changing publishing, 8th June). interviews him.

1) You’ve had a varied career in literature as an editor, festival programmer and publisher at Unbound. What drew you to working with books initially?

When I left college, I set up a second hand bookstall. Every Saturday I went round jumble sales and bought all the half decent books I could find, then I sold them to students at Sussex University. I really enjoyed doing this, but I wanted to move to London, and managed to get a job working for the Guardian in their PR department. My boss was also involved in the Guardian’s book publishing – they had an imprint with Fourth Estate and I started helping her with that. Fourth Estate were then a small, exciting and fast growing independent publisher. I was hooked.

2) Has any of these roles changed your view of the industry and/or books?

Festivals are really interesting, as they are part of a new emerging literary culture that includes book groups, creative writing courses, independent bookshops and crowdfunding. None of these thriving sectors have emerged from within the traditional industry, they have all been developed independently by writers and readers.

And everyone involved in publishing should, at some point, sell books. You gain a real understanding of how difficult it is to get people to try something new.

3) As Head of Publishing at Unbound, do you think there is a certain type of literature that lends itself particularly well to crowdfunding?

I think non-fiction is easier to fund than fiction and it really helps if you have an established network of people that are interested in your work. But underpinning that is the need to be the kind of person that wants to establish a network of people that are interested in your work, rather than simply hoping that someone else will do it for you.

4) What are the biggest mistakes you feel other publishers are making today?

Not building direct relationships with readers. In three years of programming literary events at the Brighton Festival, no publisher ever asked if it would be possible to get email addresses of the people that paid to see their authors. Publishers don’t own bookshops, they don’t run festivals, they don’t organise book clubs. I realise I am generalising here a little, but their whole way of operating is to sell via shops – they are used to keeping readers at a distance. This is very short-sighted.

5) What do you think the future holds for crowdfunding books?

At its heart, our model of publishing is selling books direct to readers in advance of publication. More and more people will do this – any new publisher that doesn’t try and do this is mad. I don’t think many traditional publishers will try crowdfunding, as they will not be able to culturally get their head around the idea that a book might fail before it is even published. From a personal perspective, I love commissioning books in this way – I have far more freedom than I ever had when working for Random House, Octopus or Michael O’Mara. Grab your free ticket to hear more from Mathew at our Snapshots III book launch event here. BookMachine Brighton is hosted by Sarah Ann Juckes and Isheeta Mustafi. We are also hosting events for the launch of Snapshots III in London and Oxford on the 8th June, and Cambridge on the 13th. Join us.
Business books

The business of publishing: on writing a book live

You’d think that publishers would be in the perfect position to turn their hand to writing a book, wouldn’t you? Especially one who actually began her career – back in the Cretaceous Period – as a writer: my first gig fresh out of university in 1991 was to write a dictionary of saints’ lives for W & R Chambers. (I’d turned up for a speculative interview on the day they’d been let down by an author. In publishing, as in life, it’s all about putting yourself in the way of opportunities then grabbing them with both hands.) But actually, publishing and writing are wildly different skill sets. As a publisher you take a big-picture view, creating a commercially focused commissioning strategy, putting in place systems and processes to optimize throughput of titles. You’re out there networking at conferences or lunching agents, getting sales reps fired up about your latest acquisition, planning a new campaign with your marketing team. You’re taking what the authors give you and making it fly. It’s creative alright, but it’s a special type of creativity: collaborative, coordinating, commercial. As a writer, you’re typically sitting alone at your keyboard for days at a time. You’re immersed deep, deep in your subject; there are probably only a handful of people in the world with your level of expertise and you’re too worried about them stealing or rubbishing your ideas to talk to them about your book. Whereas your editor has a stake in many titles simultaneously, you’re completely invested in this one. It can be a lonely business. You need deep reserves of self-belief and stickability to build a sustained, original narrative from a blank page. It took a conversation with my friend Sue, herself a powerful coach, to make me see that I’m naturally a publisher, not a writer: I’m an extrovert, I get my energy from connecting and engaging with others, not sitting alone with a keyboard. The interesting thing is that this holds true for many people, particularly entrepreneurs, many of whom have fascinating books inside them that will probably never get out if they don’t find a new way to write, one that suits their busy, multitasking lives and extrovert personalities. And in any case, why should a business book be created as something apart from the business? Can’t it be created dynamically from its day-to-day activities, becoming an intrinsic part of the business itself? I’ve spent my career at the forefront of innovation in the publishing industry, so it seemed logical to treat this business book challenge as a live experiment in the book business. So earlier this month I launched The Extraordinary Business Book Club, a weekly podcast featuring a wide range of high-profile authors, gurus, futurists, publishers and business and writing experts all exploring what it means to write and publish a business book today, and giving their views and experience on the best approaches, techniques and tools to get the job done. And that’s exactly what I’ll be doing: trying out their ideas and writing my own business book live, week by week, reporting on my progress and discoveries, and encouraging others to do the same. I’ll be blogging weekly for BookMachine on what comes up from the publishing perspective – the way the self-publishing and hybrid markets are evolving, the emergence of new services and tools (as I write, I’m just about to record an interview on the emergence of social selling), the role of agents, how authors can work alongside publishers on promotion, and so on. If you have something interesting to say about the future of business books – or authors with interesting stories to tell about the writing of their books and how they work alongside their business – I’d love to hear from you: drop me a line on alison@alisonjones.com. And why not subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or at http://extraordinarybusinessbooks.com/? Most authors have just one publisher checking on their progress and holding them accountable: I feel simultaneously privileged and terrified to have the entire BookMachine community on my back. Alison 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. 

My 2016 ebook marketplace hopes and wishes

Rather than speculate on what might happen in the ebook sector this year I thought it would be wiser to simply list the developments I’d like to see. So although some, and perhaps all, of these are a long shot, here’s my short list of hopes and wishes for the ebook market this year.

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Self-employed in publishing

Hope and Confidence: An optimistic future for publishing

Some weeks ago, I was explaining the returns system and how integral it had become to the industry to a friend. “I get it,” he smiled, “publishing’s built on its broken bits.” The comment was said without malice, but it gnawed at me. Is publishing really that ‘broken’? I don’t believe it for a minute, but is that naïve idealism, or do we have a real reason to hold out hope for the future?

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