BookMachine has a fresh coat of paint for 2018 and we’d love your feedback! Let us know what you think.

Tag: Innovation

Abbie Headon is Commissioning and Digital Development Editor at Summersdale Publishers, and a BookMachine Board Member (representing the Editorial Channel).

I was lucky enough last week to go to my first official publishing event wearing my BookMachine hat, as I wended my way to The Caledonian Club in the heart of London for the catchily-titled ‘Westminster Media Forum Keynote Seminar: Book publishing and the wider creative market – cross-sector collaboration, copyright and new avenues for growth’.

Despite having a total inability to remember the name of this event, I was excited to hear a panel of experts from across our industry discussing the issues of the day, including the likely impact of Brexit, the relationship between publishers and authors, the importance of technology and innovation, and the lack of diversity in publishing.

A force for good

Stephen Lotinga, Chief Executive of The Publishers Association, introduced the event with a summary of the main issues to be discussed – Brexit, copyright and diversity – but what really struck me was his statement that ‘Book publishing is a profound force for good, and one that we should cherish.’ In an era that sees Simon & Schuster USA’s Threshold Editions paying $250,000 to bring us the collected thoughts of Milo Yiannopoulos, it’s a useful reminder of our duty to publish books we can truly be proud of.

Brexit

Paul Herbert, a partner at Goodman Derrick LLP, gave us a rundown of the specific ways that changes to the EU copyright framework may affect us as UK publishers. In summary, we won’t be facing a full-scale rewrite of our copyright laws, but rather a set of tweaks at the margins.

After taking us through all the details of the likely changes, Herbert explained that, as the new framework will be an EU directive, it will not be legally binding unless enacted by the UK parliament in legislation – so whether we press on with Brexit or not, we will still be able to choose whether to exist in harmony with our EU neighbours.

Working with authors

It says a lot about the publishing industry that authors are seen relatively rarely at publishing conferences. Nicola Solomon, Chief Executive of the Society of Authors, presented us with a list of concerns she has for her members, including the need for a strong copyright framework, for all work by authors, illustrators, photographers and translators to be credited, and for freedom of movement of creators in and out of the UK to be maintained.

Solomon called for accounting clauses to show authors not only how many books a publisher has sold, but also who has sold them down the line, and for authors to be rescued from a ‘triple tax whammy’. Touching on an issue that has flared up frequently on social media over recent months, she also supported the need for more diverse voices to be published, but pushed back on authors’ right to create characters beyond their own identities, saying, ‘Please don’t troll our authors for cultural appropriation every time they put a black face in their book if they’re not black.’

Cross-platform storytelling

Many of the speakers mentioned the competition that books now face as a category, as our attention is distracted by Netflix, online gaming, 24-hour news, social media and more. Crystal Mahey-Morgan described her strategy of reaching a wide audience through cross-platform publishing: her company OWN IT’s first product, Don’t Be Alien, exists as an animated video, a book and a song, and as six-word stories that can be bought as designed t-shirts and jumpers. People can enter the world of this story through any of these products, ranging from a 99p song to a £30 t-shirt.

Another way of looking beyond the book came from Rosamund de la Hay, President of the Booksellers Association and owner of The Mainstreet Trading Company. She pointed out that bookshops are a vital ‘third place’ in our communities: ‘not home, not school, but familiar and safe.’ Her bookshop in the Scottish Borders also has an antiques concession, a deli and a café, and they cross-promote books across the entire shop. Books are displayed with relevant products (just as shops like Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters are doing), and the café produces food from specific cookbooks. These strategies, combined with festivals and other events, demonstrate how a book can be far more than just a book.

Another advocate for reaching broad audiences is Sam Missingham of Harper Collins, who described the way that fan communities congregate in different spaces, such as Wattpad for sci-fi lovers. Her BFI Lovefest last year was a virtual book festival delivered via Twitter, Facebook, and Google Hangouts, with a live film screening at the BFI itself. The broad range of events combined with the massive reach of the BFI’s social media following provided a huge audience of people who might not see themselves as natural literary-festival-goers.

Technology and innovation

Justine Solomons, founder of Byte the Book, took us on a tour of innovation in publishing. Her own quest to bring tech companies, authors and publishers together began when she was reading a fellow student’s typescript on a Kindle six years ago and wondered, ‘Why can’t I buy this directly from the author?’

Although self-publishing can seem to be a modern phenomenon, it has a long history, reaching back to Jane Austen, Ezra Pound and Virginia Woolf, and even including J. K. Rowling, the founder of the Pottermore website. Indeed, Solomons argued, traditional publishing can even be regarded as a form of vanity publishing, because it shows that as an author, you need somebody to validate you. She highlighted Unbound and OWN IT! as innovative publishing companies, and Mark Edwards and Mark Dawson as impressive examples of self-published authors.

Oli Christie of Neon Play shared his tips on what the book industry can learn from the world of gaming. His first piece of advice was to be agile and prepared to pivot: bring out products quickly and be willing to change them if they’re not working. Next he stressed the importance of analytics: examining user data and trying A/B testing to find the most successful types of plot and character. Finally, use brand partnerships to extend your reach to much bigger audiences.

Diversity

This was a constant theme throughout the conference, and it’s one that none of us can ignore any longer. Sarah Shaffi of The Bookseller explained that it’s not just the wealth of competing distractions that turns people away from books; she said that many readers feel the publishing industry ‘isn’t speaking to them in their language or in the spaces that they occupy.’

Shaffi reminded us of the troubling fact that of the thousands and thousands of books published in the UK in 2016, less than one hundred were written by non-white British authors. She also gave an impressive range of statistics showing that film and TV adaptations, which demonstrably boost book sales, are nearly always based on books written by white people and feature non-diverse casts. This is an area where so much more needs to be done, and as Shaffi pointed out, the argument of ‘but we need to be commercial’ just doesn’t hold water: the book on which the musical Hamilton is based saw a 16,000% sales increase in two years, something any publisher would welcome heartily.

Crystal Mahey-Morgan made the ultimate point to close down any argument that diverse publishing is bad for business. In 2016, she published Mama Can’t Raise No Man, by Robyn Travis, which according to reports was the only novel published by a black British man in the entire year. (Take a moment for that to sink in.) The launch event, featuring a gospel choir along with poets and other performers, sold out the Hackney Empire, with tickets priced at £7-£10. So not only is it the morally correct thing for us to do as publishers in opening up our lists to diverse authors; it makes financial sense too. And in this era of constant change, that sounds like exactly what we need.

For more information, check out the Westminster Media Forum website and the Twitter stream from the event at #WMFEvents.

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

Continuing with the theme from my last post for BookMachine on interesting English Language Teaching (ELT) Publishing start-ups, I interviewed Karen Spiller, freelance ELT project manager about her most recent venture with fellow ELT professionals Sue Kay (ELT author) and Karen White (freelance ELT project manager).

What is ELT Teacher 2 Writer and who is it for?
ELT Teacher 2 Writer puts English Language Teaching (ELT) teachers, who are aspiring authors, in touch with publishers looking for new authors. It also offers an online training course in all the skills and areas new authors need to consider while they are preparing their material for publication.

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There’s been a lot of bad shit going on in publishing of late. Stuff that genuinely makes me worried, and I think rightfully so, about the future of the industry. But hell, if the Frankfurt Book Fair is the Glastonbury of the publishing industry, then surely London Book Fair is Reading, where a bunch of publishing people get together and share some ideas – though not app sales figures – and rock out to some cool conference sessions, and, from what I understand, share the love for authors and books. Which is why I think it’s the perfect time to take some advice from The Singing Detective (yes, that’s a thing) and accentuate the positives.

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Things have moved fast in publishing recently, there’s no doubt about that. It’s moved so fast in fact it’s easy to forget all those high-flying ideas we had at the start about things that would take off and just… well… haven’t. Here’s just a couple I’ve been reminded of recently. Like sands through the hourglass, these were the early days of our innovation.

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When managing any innovation project, organizing your team is one of the most important challenges you will face. No matter if you found a startup or drive innovation in an enterprise environment, it is always about orchestrating the talent of your team members in order to generate growth. The perfect organization of any innovation team is lean and simple. It does not block progress but unleashes productivity. Innovation never loves being constrained by too many rules. There are so many ways to organize your team, from controlling to participating, from autocracy to anarchy, from hierarchy to holacracy. This article aims to provide you with some key questions to raise in the process of developing your ideal form of organization. Answer the following 7 questions to shape an effective innovation team.

1) What is our ‘why’ and what is our ‘how’?

For an innovation team it is essential to share a vision. Without this common idea of a better future, there is a lack of orientation. In innovation we have to run many tests, we experiment with our ideas, and we pivot regularly. Oftentimes we spend days or weeks in creating something only to trash it in the end. This can be very discouraging if you do not know why you are doing what you do.

Based on the foundation of a shared vision, core values that are openly discussed will boost the productivity of every team. Just imagine a situation where you share a coworking space with a potential competitor. Imagine your teams sit together every day, share lunch from time to time, and of course, you are also exchanging information about your businesses. How do you act in terms of transparency in this situation? Does your team share knowledge or do you hide? Do you proactively help your competitor or do you only try to grab the best of their ideas? In this case, having defined a team value (e.g., ‘transparency and borderless collaboration’) will help your team to have a common understanding of how to act in complex situations.

2) Who owns the decision-making process?

Unclear decision-making processes are frustrating. You have an idea and it gets lost as nobody decides to realize it. You give your best for a whole day and in the evening, your team lead trashes all of your work. You are running a small innovation project and suddenly it turns out that you missed an opportunity to ask for feedback from some core decision-makers.

In an innovation team, it is important to have clear decision-rules that run fast. You want to decide within minutes, not in days. Speed in execution is essential for innovation. The team wants to know who to ask for what. Decisions have to be consistent. Ultimately, your team wants to be involved and take some ownership of the decisions. Nobody likes to be bossed, especially the ones with an entrepreneurial spirit. If you want to run a truly effective innovation team, a transparent and participative decision-making process is inevitable.

3) What are the domains each team member owns?

Have you ever worked in a team where the manager decided on every single detail of your work? You had to get approval for irrelevant things and were not able to decide on your own? If yes, you will know that this kills your motivation and your productivity. On the other hand, a team where nobody is ‘the boss’ soon gets out of control. Things are done duplicate, you decide again and again on the same things, and in times of failure nobody feels responsible.

Giving people ownership of their domains will change everything. Let them decide and suddenly they are involved. This will not only help to raise motivation but also to speed up decisions. At the same time, somebody is finally responsible. You can set goals, clear expectations, and you know who to talk to, if things go wrong.

4) How do we structure our meetings?

Who does not know these regular boring get-togethers where you achieve almost nothing. What a waste of time! We tend to set up too many meetings that are too long and involve too many people. In the end, most of the time is wasted in discussions that are not related to  the original purpose of this meeting.

There are simple rules that will help to boost your meeting productivity. Keep meetings small, set a clear structure that focuses on decision-making, and have a facilitator who restrains irrelevant speeches. Try to always leave a meeting with a clear outcome, e.g., an action plan or a decision protocol.

5) How to give feedback?

Everybody loves to work in a harmonious team but at some point, differing viewpoints will arise. Oftentimes teams neglect to utilize the power of dissonance. In discussions and feedback situations, we focus on the good things and avoid speaking out on the bad ones. Over time, this will intoxicate our team. There will be a growing number of things that are left under the table. Furthermore, situations of conflict hold a massive power for innovation. If we always agree, we will never invite something new. Only in disagreement and developing tradeoffs will we find new solutions. A formalized feedback process can prove a great asset to your team. Give feedback and ask for it. Encourage people to give negative feedback in a setting where they can feel safe.

6) What boosts our motivation?

Being motivated as a team is not only a question of bringing the right people together, not only of talent or skills. It is also a question of how we organize our work. Much too often we formulize vague projects with unspecified tasks. Procrastination evolves, projects seem to get stuck, and in the end we are demotivated. With some simple mechanisms, we can create motivation boosters: break down projects into actionable tasks and somehow visualize progress (e.g., with Kanban). If we constantly see progress, every small task that is executed transforms into a small win.

Also, the atmosphere in which we work will transform. We feel that we are achieving something. This creates the breeding ground for a motivating environment that fosters innovation.

7) How do we manage ideas?

If you set the right atmosphere and encourage people to express their ideas, you also have to ensure that these ideas are valued. Too often we conduct brainstorming meetings and create a bunch of great ideas, just to see them fade away, written down on some piece of paper that is lost in your drawer. Idea management includes not only the idea generation process but also the mechanisms to evaluate, test, and realize those sparks of innovation. Tools like a Post-it wall or a Trello board can do magic.

Matthias Reinholz is a Digital Marketing and Innovation Manager. This post original appeared on his site, https://matthiasreinholz.com/ 

To celebrate 5 years of publishing events, BookMachine held a big birthday bash on Thursday night. Appropriately, the event was all about the next 5 years of publishing – what to expect and how we can approach it. The event was hosted by the wonderful Evie Prysor-Jones and George Walkley, Head of Digital for Hachette UK, was our speaker for the night. Taking inspiration from the infamous Donald Rumsfeld quote, George explored some of our industry’s known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns, offering us a framework for navigating the next 5 years.

Here’s a collection of photos and tweets to sum up the night.

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Did you ever have a super-indie friend when you were younger? The kind who would have a party catered by his friend who owned a microbrewery and his other mate who was a DJ, and there wouldn’t be room to park your bike next to the warehouse and when you went inside your friend would kiss you on both cheeks and give you a beer in a jar with the label on because it was not only environmentally-friendly but also re-appropriating some mass-market iconography, and you’d find yourself drawn into a conversation about Berlin even though no-one had ever been, and then your friend would ask you what you thought of his art and you’d say it’s fantastic and he’d say ‘really?’ and you’d say ‘of course!’ and then you’d notice the warehouse was decked out with his photography and they all had price tags on them and you’d walk away £200 lighter carrying three black-and-white photos of lamp-posts?

Well, that friend can pack away his tiny kegs and price tag stickers, because the internet has spawned a new way to be totally indie and totally cashed up at the same time. Kickstarter.

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Welcome to the world of Inanimate Alice, a truly digital novel that has taken the educational world by storm. The idea for Alice first came about in 2003 and the team (Ian Harper, Chris Joseph and award winning author Kate Pullinger) published the first episode in 2005. The story is told by Alice through 10 episodes. Each adventure looks back through her childhood & into her early twenties, a bildungsroman.

The plot for the series uses Alice’s increasing interest and competency in game development to exemplify her transition from childhood to early womanhood. The first four episodes have been completed, the fifth is being released this year and the final five are still in development. With a team of creators fostering its relationship with its readers across the world, this is a novel on an epic scale.

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Photo courtesy of Toby Rhind-Tutt (http://www.greytrilby.com/)
Alastair Horne (Innovations Manager for Cambridge University Press) is everywhere. On Twitter, at ELT conferences, writing for FutureBook, TOC and at our very own BookMachine parties. We decided we wanted to know a little bit more about this innovative, super-networking creative type….

 

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