What’s the future of poetry publishing? #BytetheBook

We spent Monday evening at The Ivy, attending the much anticipated Byte the Book event, “What’s the future of poetry publishing?” Chaired by former Poet Laureate, Sir Andrew Motion, the panel included poets Helen Ivory, Paul Lyalls and Claire Trevien, along with Faber and Faber’s Head of Digital Publishing, Henry Volans. What ensued was an engaging and enlightening insight into the changes created in the world of poetry by the digital revolution and the ways in which this has both aided and abetted this industry so seeped, as it is, in tradition.

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There was a structured framework for the panel’s input, with each guest speaker answering a specific and pre-subscribed question. Sir Andrew Motion opened proceedings by giving his own opinion on the integration of the internet into his profession; “internet is a good friend to poetry”, he stated at the onset, though he does feel frustrated by the current situation as he believes that digital poetry publishing is just on the cusp of the next big thing, “it is stuck and waiting for someone to ‘unstick’ it”.

Henry Volans spoke next, answering back to the posed question, “Can digital formats add to publishing or make it worse?” He believes that it can do both and went on to agree with Sir Andrew Motion’s points and expand by discussing how it is strange that poets still have to wait until they have a complete collection before they can publish their work. Digital publishing is working toward making, and in some case has already made, it possible to publish a single poem. He equated the process to that of the short story.

While digital platforms such as T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland and Shakespeare’s Sonnets have led the way for creative publishing solutions using new technologies, so far these only work  for existent publications and there is still no set option for new work – how can we create new product or market types? On the other hand, is poetry better as a fixed style? The panel continued to explore this with Claire Trevien addressing the importance of the visual in poetry and how this can be digitised. Her issue with Kindles is that one can never see the full poem on the page and in this way, digital is not kind to poetry collections and can take from them visually.

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However, one interesting idea that was put forward was to consider that instead of focussing on how it might be possible to transfer work from beautiful book format to digital platforms without losing the integrity of the content, instead, perhaps now it is time to start writing specifically with a digital medium in mind.

Helen Ivory gave her thoughts on the importance of format, making the point, which the majority of nodding heads in the audience seemed to confirm, that books are beautiful as objects and that digital creations, like Kindles, are just a means of transferring information and won’t leave you with that same joy of leafing through a book, examining the cover and admiring the illustrations. But at the same time, how has technology and social media helped Helen as a poet, when editing? It allows her to work quickly and in a more cost efficient way, with access to lots of images.

Paul Lyalls spoke about the importance of performance in poetry and how it is a huge part of a poet’s success allowing them access to their audience directly and a chance to create an identity and reputation as an artist. One never knows who is in the audience they read to and in the same way social media now helps writers to be published, the more traditional art of live poetry still does the same thing.

The landscape for poets is indeed changing and Sir Andrew Motion feels that he is on the verge of that revolution and he cannot wait for it to come in his lifetime. However, a premature nostalgia for the stifling of traditional platforms by digital was evident throughout the discussion as a whole, from Claire Trevien lamenting the potential loss of those arguments with her editor over a comma, to Henry Volans’ clever analogy at the end about a Google figurehead’s explanation for publishing his autobiography in paperback; “I wanted to be taken seriously.”

Here at Inspired Selection, we are passionate about the publishing industry; we talk about publishing, read about publishing and attend all major publishing events like the one you’ve just read about.  We would love to meet you at events so do feel free to come up and introduce yourselves! If you’re interested in opportunities within publishing do keep in touch and register for our Vacancy Update Service as well as keeping up to date with us on Twitter


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Frankfurt Book Fair 2013 – The lead up!

Frankfurt BannerThis evening, three members of our team are leaving for the Frankfurt Book Fair. After weeks of preparation, meeting scheduling and building excitement, the time has come for this year’s fair to commence and five days of networking and industry insight lie ahead.

This annual event allows for members of the publishing world to gather and mingle, learning from each other and exchanging news and ideas. Throughout the halls, the atmosphere will buzz with information and our Frankfurt team will be there to take it all in.

Meeting with current clients and candidates and introducing Inspired Selection to those we haven’t worked with yet, we are gaining more knowledge of changes and trends in this industry we work in, and putting ourselves in an even better position to work with finding the right talent for our clients while also working closely with our candidates and prioritising their needs and career aspirations.

Brazil is the Guest of Honour at the Book Fair this year and our team look forward to visiting the Brazilian stands and finding out more about Brazilian publishing companies. There will be a series of initiatives aimed at organizing trade incentive activities that promote the exportation of Brazilian editorial content.

Those of us back in the office cannot wait to hear all about it and for those of you who couldn’t make it this year, keep an eye on our blog for our Frankfurt Book Fair 2013 blogpost next week!

BookMachine event: Launch of BookMachine.me

Last Wednesday night, at the launch of BookMachine.me, Bookmachine’s new global hub for the publishing industry, brands and branding made another appearance, specifically children’s publishing brands and the element of “transmedia” within that industry. This term was explained to us by Alison Norrington on Tuesday night at The Hoxton; it is the art of fragmenting a story and telling it strategically across various platforms, with each platform having a unique way of putting that story across.

The BookMachine event in London coincided with 5 other similar events around the world, held simultaneously in Toronto, Oxford, Barcelona, Brighton and New York.

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Eric Huang, Development Director at Made in Me – the award winning digital agency specialising in children’s entertainment and brand development – was the guest speaker at the London event, and we settled down in the function room of The Green Man at Great Portland Street to hear all about his career journey and how he came from being Faye Dunaway’s assistant in LA to championing digital children’s publishing at Penguin UK.

Meanwhile in Oxford, guest speaker Emma Barnes, co-founder of the independent Snow Books, gave a lively and quirky account of her thoughts on maintaining ‘Profitability’ within this competitive industry. She encouraged publishers to think outside of the box by challenging old traditions, for example, the assumption that all authors should expect an advance, suggesting instead, that alternatively, a higher royalty be offered. She spoke about taking initiative in ‘doing things yourself’, for example, learning new software, to avoid paying external fees for services.

She gave an engaging account of her own journey to starting up, and the cost saving achieved through developing Bibliocloud, a platform to streamline her administrative processes. Her enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit shone through and she ended her short talk by encouraging new and established publishers to take the plunge and join the ranks of start-up independents!

Back in London, Eric spoke about  the importance of branding throughout his career and it is clear that this intuitive and accurate ability to identify what his target market wants and needs that has made him so well regarded in the industry. Eric addressed the merchandising surrounding children’s publications and explained how these days, a book alone will not necessarily do; all the books are supplemented with DVD’s, soft toys, crockery, interactive computer games, etc. However, despite adhering to the demands of the readership, Eric also noted the importance of staying true to the story and the responsibility that writers have to maintain that creative control.

In his experience, games writers for instance approach story-telling differently to writers. The latter will delve deeper into the storyline, developing the background characters and really understanding the full cast and the full tale. They create that fictitious world in more detail, introducing the young audience to a host of new personalities and building them as part of the overall brand. Using characters as authors is another tool that is used, allowing the real-life writers to use their character as their voice and creating a connection between that voice and the audience. It gives those characters an identity outside of the pages of a book and the levels of a computer game.

Though described by Eric as a “spectacular failure”, Made In Me’s, “The Land of Me” was a beautifully created fictitious world published online as part of the Ladybird imprint. It floundered, as the Apple iPad was released shortly afterwards, but plans to bring it back to life are underway and app’s and TV plans are in the pipeline. Developing brands and IP is Eric’s bread and butter and for him, partnerships have been important throughout his career. Eric believes in telling the story first and then considering the platform. Creating an imprint as a brand is instrumental and it needs to be consumer focused and not just a corporate strategy.

Questions from the floor allowed for Eric to sum up the talk nicely. When asked about the criteria for deciding the best platform for a brand, he spoke about how one must look at the story and the characters and decide what platform they would look best on, for example Dora was always meant for the screen!

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It can also be an intuitive decision as well as an unavoidably monetary one. In answer to the big question, “What does it mean to be a publisher today, tomorrow?”, Eric answered without hesitation: it is all about the focus on storytelling and not on format. Once the story is complete, launching the selected format is not the end, it is just the beginning.

Here at Inspired Selection, we are passionate about the publishing industry; we talk about publishing, read about publishing and attend all major publishing events like the one you’ve just read about.  We would love to meet you at events so do feel free to come up and introduce yourselves! Our Trade Consultant, Chelsea Vernon, would love to hear from you with any queries on our current vacancies or on our candidate registration process.  Chelsea is a Kingston MA Publishing graduate and was tutored by Kingston Senior Lecturer Anna Faherty, who hosted Wednesday night’s event. All other information can be found on our website.