Tag: Snapshots

business

The business of books: Only connect

At the launch of BookMachine’s Snapshots III I kicked off the talks by raining hard on the book industry parade. (Sorry.)

While I was on holiday in Dorset last week I wandered into a charity shop in a pretty market town and remarked on the number of books they had crammed onto their shelves. The woman behind the counter said wearily: ‘We’re not taking any more books. Everybody’s getting rid of them and nobody wants them.’

She didn’t know I was a book person. She had no idea she’d just delivered a punch to my gut. It’s not the sort of thing people in my world, and my social media bubble, tend to say. But it is of course true, or at least there’s truth in it.

As publishers, we spend our time with people who love and appreciate books. This is NOT THE REAL WORLD. For many people in this country books are an outdated technology. An irrelevance.

The Reading Agency reported last year that:

  • 44% of of young people aged 16-24 don’t read at all for pleasure (for older adults, that figure is 36%)
  • Only 26% of 10-year-olds say they like reading

And for an industry that makes its money from the sale of books it’s a perfect storm because, as fewer people want to buy books, more books are being published than ever before at lower prices than ever before.

So what’s the answer? Well, there’s no one answer. There never is. But we can find AN answer, I believe, in the creating of connection.

We already know that for many readers a book is interesting only when it’s connected to something else, something beyond the book, that has meaning for them. If they love Bake-Off, they’ll buy the book. If they’re a devoted fan of the YouTuber of the moment they’ll queue up for a signed copy, if they’re at an event with a great speaker, they’ll buy the book at the back of the room, if they’re in a book club they’ll buy the book they’re discussing: they need a reason, they need a connection.

When we write and publish today, we’re engaging in a battle for attention that’s more sophisticated and segmented than ever before. The people who really get this are the platform builders like Pat Flynn, Seth Godin, Jeff Goins, Joanna Penn, Hugh Howey, Denise Duffield-Thomas – and many of these are indie authors because they want control and they can reach their people directly. They have podcasts, blogs, YouTube channels, businesses: they have fans and/or customers instead of a sales force, and their book reaches new readers who become new fans and/or customers. It’s the attention they’re monetising – for many of them the revenues from the book itself are just a side benefit.

When rapper Akala spoke at Futurebook last year, revealing that his self-published books outsell CDs at his gigs, he asked ‘Why would I need a publisher? I have my own customer base.’

The good news is that books have an irreplaceable role in this new online/offline economy of connection and attention, but we have reached a tipping point: readers need a reason to read them. They need meaningful context. And the most powerful reason is always human connection – directly with the author, or with other people who’ve read and loved the book. Which means that publishers need to find ways to support authors to find their tribe and build their platform.

If we don’t respond to that challenge, if we don’t recognise that we’re in the business of making people care and connecting them, we’re simply adding to an undifferentiated pile of books that nobody has a reason to read. We also risk being left with a world in which only celebrities or business-savvy authorpreneurs can succeed in the book market.

Publishers have traditionally thought of themselves as gatekeepers, but once the walls have come down it’s a bit pointless continuing to stand beside the gate. And, even worse, if you insist on standing there you’re going to miss the party that’s going on inside.

Maybe a better metaphor for our future is as table hosts. Publishers don’t own the venue any more, it’s not even our party, but we CAN host part of it: we can lead the conversation in our area, give a voice and a platform to people with something interesting to say, we can make ours the table everyone wants to come to, where the best conversations happen and the most interesting connections are made. We can be where the party is.

And that’s much more fun than guarding the gate, right?

future of the bookAlison 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. 

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.

Snapshots I launch party

Organising a book launch: tips for making it awesome

If you read this site often, you will know that it is ‘book launch’ time. Snapshots III, BookMachine on Publishing is a compilation of the best of the BookMachine blog. It requires a big bash to announce its arrival. And, as any event organiser will know, the success is in the detail.

Snapshots I was a hoot, down in the basement room at Adam Street Club. Snapshots II was a North London affair, with crowds and contributors congregating upstairs at the Island Queen in Angel. All very London-centric we know; so for Snapshots III’s launch you can find us in London, Oxford, Cambridge or Brighton – take your pick!

So after organising quite a number of book launches, here are our top tips:

1) Remove chairs from the room

People want to move around and meet each other. They don’t want to be stuck sitting next to the person they sit next to all day at work. We recommend only having enough seating for 10% of your guests. It’s polite to let them know beforehand so that everyone is wearing comfortable shoes and can move around the room and sit through a presentation hobble-free.

2) Send timely reminders

Most event ticketing software does this for you, but lacks detailed information. If you are using Eventbrite, for example, it is worth customising the automated emails so that guests are reminded about catering (will you be serving food?), exact location (should they head to the 3rd floor?) and timings of the evening (can they arrive 20 minutes late and still catch the presentation?). This encourages people to show up, as they are clearer about what to expect – and also means you get less last-minute emails asking about the launch detail.

3) Ask people to help you promote the launch

You also want to remind those who didn’t attend the launch that they can buy your book. How do you do this? Encourage guests to tweet. Post the hashtag around the room, email it to everyone before the launch and remind them on the night too. It’s a great way for them to keep in touch with everyone they have met at the event, too. We often see #BookMachine #hashtag being used in dialogues days after a launch. It’s great for guests and a brilliant marketing tool.

Whilst we are here, talking about book launches – please do join us in June for the launch of Snapshots III, BookMachine on Publishing, in London, Oxford, Cambridge or Brighton.

book launch

Marketing the latest book: a competition for publishing people

It’s nearly launch time here at BookMachine. The third book in the Snapshots series is about to arrive on publishers’ desks. There’s something slightly awkward about selling books to those in the trade. Yes, we are huge book buyers and love to read; but we all get so many freebies – how can we justify buying one more book to add to the already-bulging bookshelves?

So here is how you can help. Below are three ways that we are going to market Snapshots III, BookMachine on Publishing. If you have any other suggestions of how to market this book to publishing pros then please add them in the comments below. At the end of this week, and next week, we will pick the tip of the week and the winner will find that Snapshots III lands directly on their desk (or in your mailbox if that’s how things work in your office).

1) Free launch event with option to buy the book

Every good book needs a party, right? BookMachine have organised 4 free events in 4 cities with awesome speakers. Guests can get a ticket for free, or buy a copy when they are signing up. The London event will ‘star’ contributors from the book, giving an insight into what the book contains.

2) Old-school adverts

Every week BookMachine emails are sent to around 5,000 inboxes. The advert is going to be clear, bold and enticing and take readers through to a link to buy the book. The emails are content-rich and interesting for publishing folks (yes, we are very humble); so this is non-intrusive but also relevant for email subscribers.

3) Content marketing

We know that content is no longer king.  However, publishing people like to read; and Snapshots III has some interesting contributors with a lot to say about the industry. So watch out for interviews and snapshots of what these publishing pros think – and if you are so inclined you might be tempted to join us…

So that’s the start of the marketing plan.*

What comes next? What would you suggest?

We look forward to hearing your suggestions (good or bad) and picking our winners.

*You can probably tell that we have only shared a ‘selection’ here.

typesetting

Learning from Snapshots III: 8 typesetting tips for beginners

BookMachine have been busy with the next blook in the Snapshots series, Snapshots III, BookMachine on Publishing: The Next 5 Years. For the third year in a row, we’ve teamed up with Kingston University Press who have appointed a production team of students from Kingston’s Publishing MA course to design, typeset and proofread a selection of our best posts. Here Dania Zara, who designed and typeset the book, shares her top tips for beginners.

1) Get your master pages ready

Well laid out master pages will save you a lot of time. If your book contains multiple layouts that are to be used repeatedly, create a master page for each layout for easy application and to ensure consistency.

2) Plan your hierarchy

Evaluate the text and create a visual hierarchy that represents its structure. Possibilities are endless, from the standard bold and italic to changing the colour or font. It is advisable that each level of the hierarchy should be indicated by no more than three formatting styles.

Pro tip: Always remember to start with the longest heading or the longest title.

3) Create styles for formatting

To facilitate efficiency and consistency, create proper styles for headings, body text and their variations, instead of manual formatting. It will also make exporting the file to an ePub much easier.

4) Let the text breathe

Work with the line length, leading and tracking to assist readability and create a pleasing design. It is preferable to have no less than 40 and no more than 70 characters on a line. Experiment with type size and leading to get the combination that suits your publication. A common guideline for body text is that the leading should be 115% or 120% of the point size.

5) Don’t use the space bar to create that indent!

Not only will your indents be inconsistent but, if you plan on exporting your file into an ePub, things will get messy. Create indents using the paragraph settings. Similarly, page breaks should be made by inserting a page break character.

It is also useful to display hidden characters (Type> Show Hidden Characters). It will show those indents made by space bars that need to be replaced by proper formatting.

6) Orphans and widows will make you beg for mercy

It took me an hour to typeset a spread with three levels of headings, images and a widow that refused to be resolved. It made me realise typesetting can only be enjoyed (and endured) by those who love the nitty gritty of typography.

In my opinion, adjusting widows and orphans takes a bit of creative problem solving and depends on your layout. It can be done by: modifying the leading, kerning or tracking; fine-tuning the justification and hyphenation settings; sometimes removing a word can do the trick.

7) Proofread blind and against the manuscript after typesetting

You’d be surprised how many mistakes get through the cracks. Typesetting can make you blind to the text since you’re focusing on the format and style. If you’re working solo on a project, it is advisable to either get someone else to do it or take a break and return to the text with fresh eyes.

8) Books have odd pages on the right

I did not know that until a few months ago. Never even noticed it.

Grab your free ticket for the launch of Snapshots III here. For tips on editorial process, read this: Blook your blog: How to turn your blog posts into a book.

Dania Zafar is a MA Publishing student at Kingston University. She’s also a graphic designer and was a part of the BookMachine’s Snapshots III production team. Her mission is to create inter-cultural dialogue and promote cultural understanding through publishing.

Snapshots III, the launch [EVENT]

Today, a new must-attend free publishing event is announced. Snapshots III – the launch is an informal evening in 4 UK cities, in celebration of the third edition of this publishing-themed book.

Each event will focus on one of the four sections of the book. Events will take place in London, Oxford, Cambridge UK or Brighton and a range of top speakers will be delivering short talks. Speakers include Seonaid Macleod (The Publishers Association), Kieron Smith (Blackwells Bookshops) and Matthew Clayton (Unbound).

This third volume in BookMachine’s Snapshots series, produced in collaboration with students from the renowned Publishing MA at Kingston University, focuses on what the next 5 years of publishing might bring.

The first part of the book is about Predictions. In this section, expert publishers give their insights into the next 5 years. From transitions in retail to new commercial models – a range of industry issues are covered.

Part 2 focuses on Thinking About Design. One thing that digital publishing has taught us is that slick design is fundamental to the success of any project. Multi-device publishing impacts on the design process, and as publishing becomes more global, there is much more to consider.

Part 3 is on Business Models. One noticeable change across the industry is all the new business models being explored. From adapting to smaller screens, to creating an online brand for a product – the publisher to retailer model was long ago disrupted; and now only the smartest business models will rise to the challenge in the new era.

Finally, this book covers Skills for Publishing. No longer is an English degree the only prerequisite for a publishing career. In Educational publishing there’s a drive towards creating enhanced learning material which can include multi-media components. In the world of audio-visuals, ‘editing’ can have a number of meanings. Across the board, people who have digital skills are also in high-demand.

You can choose your city, and grab a free ticket by clicking here.

Blook your blog: How to turn your blog posts into a book

Turning blog posts into books (or blooks) is on the rise, with companies like Blurb even offering specific production and print services. But the style, format and very nature of blogs brings new challenges to the editorial process.

BookMachine have been plotting for the next blook in the Snapshots series, Snapshots III, BookMachine on Publishing: The Next 5 Years. For the third year in a row, we’ve teamed up with Kingston University Press who have appointed a production team of students from Kingston’s Publishing MA course to design, typeset and proofread a selection of our best posts.

Having just finished collating, formatting and copy-editing the manuscript, here are 10 tips for tackling this new editorial territory.

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