The Society of Young Publishers’, or SYP, AGM took place this week at the beautiful Stationer’s Hall in the heart of the city. This venue is especially fitting for the SYP as the historical Stationer’s Company can be considered the ancestors to the modern publishing business. This beautiful building dates back to 1673, when after the site burned during the Great Fire of London, the company had the opportunity to build a new and grander Hall. Throughout the centuries, new generations of Stationer’s Company have adorned the building and we felt most fortunate to be able to have the opportunity to meet in such an impressive and historically rich setting.
The evening kicked off with our 2013 SYP Chair, Lottie Chase, giving her farewell speech rounding up what a fantastic 2013 the SYP had with a successful series of events including career speed dating, a sell out of London Book Fair seminars, the Kim Scott Walwyn Prize and the launch of the Gilbert Collection honouring Matthew Gilbert who had on his bucket list to get published before he died. Lottie gave an emotional speech about her time as chair for 2013 along with vice-chair Andrew Turner and ended with her publishing take on the poem ‘if’ by Rudyard Kipling. Lottie also said farewell to the 2013 committee and welcomed in the 2014 team including our very own Esme Richardson and Chelsea Vernon!
After a quick networking break we were back to the hall for the big debate on ‘Why do people buy books?’, on the panel were Annie Eaton – Publisher at Random House Children’s Publishers, Nicolette Jones – Children’s Book Editor at The Sunday Times, Anna James – Librarian and also book blogger at Go Book Yourself, Louise Corcoran – Supervisor at Foyles, Stratford & Gareth Howard – CEO at Authoright and chaired by our 2014 Chair, Helen Youngs. The panel started off by discussing blurbs and reviews, does this affect whether someone will buy a book or not? The panel were in agreement, people generally buy books because what they’re told; for example, it’s usually if something has been recommended to them by a friend or someone they trust. Onto the subject of book blurbs, this has to be quite a considered approach for publishers as they need to be able to sell the contents of the book but not give too much away as this can put people off. For the young adult market @caseforbooks says that it is important for teenagers to have confidence that they will enjoy the book which is why that blurb is so important.
One of the most interesting questions of the evening was – ‘Can you manufacture a best seller?’ Gareth Howard pointed out that this is the role of a publisher; but as Nicolette Jones highlights, it used to be enough for a publisher to run a slick marketing campaign with guaranteed results but now publishers have to come up with more creative ways of doing this. To finish off, the panel discussed Amazon – why should people pay RRP for books? Anna pays RRP for books because in all the years she has been reading, she wants good books, rather than cheap, bad books; Nicolette Howard receives a lot of free books but will still buy a lot of books from book jobs as they add value to her experience with knowledge and events. Gareth Howard disagrees, Amazon is publishers’ biggest customer, yet they criticise. Perhaps the best point of the evening in defence of RRP, is that publishers need to be trying to portray that books have an intrinsic value and worth – by selling books at huge discounts, the public begins to no longer believe they have much value.
In summary, it was a fantastic evening of thinking about yet another facet of the publishing industry, consumer behaviour. This seems to be something that is becoming more and more prevalent with each event we attend and was a noticeable theme at FutureBook this year. With all the advancements in technology, consumer data is becoming more and more accessible which will allow publishers to tailor their business to the public’s tastes.
A huge farewell to the 2013 SYP committee and welcome 2014, we’re so excited for the year ahead!
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