The Bookseller Children’s Conference 2014


This time last week, The Bookseller hosted its annual Children’s Conference at the South Bank Centre. With a fantastic line up of speakers from all areas of the Children’s market including: Greg Childs, Co-creator and Editorial Director of The Children’s Media Conference, Michael Acton-Smith of Mind Candy, Alison York of Nickelodeon UK to name a few.

To open the conference, Ann-Janine Murtagh of HarperCollins Children’s Books (winner of Children’s Publisher of the Year at this years Bookseller Awards) used a brilliant quote from her best-selling author, comedian David Walliams:

“But being a child is such a special fing. When yer a child, ya can see all the magic in the world.”

This was very poignant as not only did it highlight the importance of children’s publishers as gatekeepers, inspiring and nurturing a lifelong love of reading from an early age, but it also displayed what a magical and rewarding experience publishing for children can be.

The day was full of interesting and insightful talks providing vital information and research covering all aspects of the children’s publishing industry. Nickelodeon UK provided some interesting statistics on kids and their digital habits in a thought-provoking talk entitled ‘Me, Myselfie and I’ which covered the online behaviour and attitudes of children. The key finding from this research was that children prefer and engage with immersive experiences above all others, and so publishers should strive to achieve this when producing digital content.

The Bookseller’s own John Lewis then provided us with some exciting data on the Children’s book market in a comparison with the previous year which showed that in 2014 the market is up by 10%. He also touched on the importance of utilising your backlist as a children’s publisher by stating that there is no backlist in children’s publishing: if a child hasn’t read it, then it is a new book. He supported this by revealing that six of the current top best selling children’s books are not new titles.

The conference also included two panel discussions. The first, chaired by Charlotte Eyre of the Bookseller, was on Social Media and Kids. The panel consisted of Sanne Vliegenthart, Digital Co-ordinator – Hot Key Books, Sean Moss, Digital Marketing Officer – Walker Books and authors Matt Haig and Alice Oseman.

Key points of the discussion were:

  • Social media is integrated into the publishing process now and therefore it is no longer free as time is money and not always the most cost-effective way to reach children.
  • YouTube is the most effective social media platform for reaching young readers via book trailers, interactive videos and live streaming from book launches.
  • YA readers are mostly hanging out on Tumblr, yet it is more difficult to reach them due to the personalised nature of the platform.
  • To use social media effectively is to remember the social aspect and to start conversations; to be direct but remember your audience as a collective; and to be inclusive not exclusive as this cuts down the market outreach.

The second panel discussion, chaired by Anna James of the Bookseller, focused on Working Together – how we can be a more collaborative industry. The panel discussed initiatives that are working well in the industry such as PR relationships and collaborations schools and running interactive author events and book readings. They also discussed what could be better and the resounding answer was that publishers could provide more support to independent bookshops, which at the moment feel as if they are somewhat detached from the rest of the industry and don’t receive as much recognition from publishers for all the hard work they put in selling their titles.

At the end of the day the Bookseller had an exciting announcement: the launch of their YA Book Prize for outstanding fiction in the UK and Ireland. It is the very first prize of its kind and is open for short-list entries until December, with the prize winner to be announced in March 2015.

Overall, it was an insightful and motivating day with lots of opportunity to expand our knowledge of the Children’s market. It was so wonderful to experience the passion and enthusiasm those involved in Children’s publishing have and made it part of the industry we can feel proud to be a part of.

By Zoe Portway



FutureBook Conference 2013

FutureBook Logo

Last Thursday we headed over to the QEII Conference Centre, across the street from Westminster Abbey, for the annual FutureBook Conference where we had a full day ahead of us attending brilliant seminars and meeting some industry leaders.

After collecting our badges and a quick cup of coffee, we all headed into the Fleming Room for the opening remarks from Nigel Robey (CEO of The Bookseller Group) setting the context for the day as well as the three keynote speakers who all addressed Amazon (who is decidedly becoming less of an elephant in the room) and the future of book sales and publishing strategy. First up was Brad Stone, who has recently published a biography of Jeff Bezos, creator of Amazon, followed by Seni Glaister, CEO of the Book People, and then finally, Charlie Redmayne, until recently CEO of Pottermore and now the new CEO of HarperCollins.

We attended a wide breadth of seminars throughout the day but It became clear early on that a key topic of the day was going to be about ‘insight’ and understanding the consumer. Publishing for a long time has primarily had a B2B business model but now with technological advances, we have learned that there is a need to adapt our earlier models and focus more on connecting with the end customer and making sure we are developing consumer led innovation and products, rather than industry led. This was highlighted in the Partnerships That Scale seminar, with crowd funding a new way of publishing being pioneered by Unbound, where the audience and readers are responsible for the funding of books they wish to see publish. Patrick Brown from Goodreads highlighted how modern technology and consumer reviewing is playing an ever increasing role within the publishing world. Ashleigh Gardner, Head of Content at Wattpad explained how their platform represents another form of publishing with readers writing for readers and reviewing each other.

FutureBook Photo

The dangers of modern publishing were also demonstrated by Michael Tamblyn, C.E.O. of Kobo, who portrayed the events of their recent crisis in the form of a video game. Whilst humorous, Michael was able to cleverly describe how even with the promise of an increasingly digital future, there also come potential pitfalls, particularly with regards to overseeing self publishing platforms and communities.

The Big Ideas panel was particularly insightful. Rebecca Smart, the CEO of Osprey presented her idea of decreasing publishing’s absurdly long production time, allowing great flexibility and responding to market demands. Jamie Byng, CEO of Canongate, suggested that less is more, with producing fewer books of a higher quality being better than producing large commercial volume and Simon Trewin’s Hackathon for publishers idea was perhaps the highlight of this section.

All in all, it was a great day for learning about the cutting edge ideas and content currently being created by publishers. Perhaps most reassuringly, it felt like publishing and publishers are finally coming into their own in this digital age and becoming more proactive – rather than reactive. The atmosphere was hopeful and we can’t wait to be a part of and see what’s next!

For more information on opportunities within the publishing world or if you’d just like to chat about FutureBook, please don’t hesitate to check out our website or email us at

Inspired Logo

ALPSP Conference 2013


Last week Inspired Selection attended the ALPSP conference, 3 days at the Belfry in Birmingham dedicated to the academic and STM publishing industry. Throughout the conference there was an overall theme of communication – ensuring we are speaking in the right language for our consumers and also a chance for everyone to network, learn and discuss current challenges that the industry is facing.

We kicked off on Wednesday with a keynote speech from Tim Brooks, CEO of the BMJ; Are we Waving – or drowning? He talked about the difficulty of change and how we can be so blinded by our own language that we stop seeing what the consumer wants and what language they communicate in. Tim discussed how to ‘storm the barricades’ so to speak and really encourage change by talking with everyone in your organisation and offer the opportunity for people with insightful things to say to talk. It’s important to push different disciplines together, let new members of staff input and influence the future as they will be the leaders of tomorrow.

The conference was jam packed full of fantastic information and ideas from the industry on what we’re doing right and what we could be doing better – specifically in the area of communication. As an industry we are strong on communication on behalf of our products and authors but perhaps we need to improve on our communication of what it is that we are responsible for in each of our roles within our publishing sector! To focus on key themes from the conference important for moving forward as an industry:

Data is the language of the future; it is clear that were are now entering a time of change where content is key but the way in which that content is delivered needs to change. The way we consume data through devices will adapt and grow and we will need to change the way we consume and sell this content. Hazel Newton talked about a way in which we can challenge the restrictions imposed by traditional print publishing with the input of digital technology; Palgrave Macmillan has created Palgrave Pivot – a way for researchers to publish their research at its natural length, quickly and fully peer reviewed.

Communication is key; as publishers, a huge amount of time is spent talking about authors and their research – but are we talking in their language? A key theme of the conference was to ensure that we are looking at everything from our audiences’ point of view and ensure that we are communicating everything in a way that others can understand.

Accessibility was a strong theme for one of the plenary sessions. The focus was on making content available for everyone; the majority of popular books, newspapers and magazines are published digitally and there is an opportunity for those who are print impaired to read and access these products. The key challenge for publishers is to make everything available at the same time and price for print impaired readers – including academic content for students and researchers.

Publishing skills are changing – we are seeing more roles come through that are content, digital and platform focussed and for these roles there is a need to seek candidates with a different set of skills. Publishing is becoming more diverse and as well as current candidates within the industry adapting to the change in skillset we are also seeing a rise in candidates coming from outside of the industry. 

For researchers, there is a huge focus on making data accessible; this has a huge benefit for research but it must be done in such a way that it encourages researchers to make data available in an arena where they will get recognition and credit for doing so. Data could be made discoverable through Open Access however this could be taken beyond the discoverability of data to become knowledge sharing – a way of accessing the data and using the data to assist current research but also allowing credibility for the person who shared the knowledge in the first place.

The whole issue of current trends within Open Access publishing is a major factor for all publishers – both journals and books. Fred Dylla, CEO, American Institute of Physics led an interesting update on government responses (UK, US, EU) on the issues involved with the differences between Gold and Green Open Access publishing.

The conference was a fantastic platform for networking and for the sharing of information across the industry. It is a sector that is thriving with activity, change and exciting adaptations. Everyone we met and spoke with at the conference was brimming with new ideas and it’s clear to see how much passion publishers have for their industry and for the future.

Bett 2013

It is an exciting time to be a student or someone otherwise involved with education right now. During our time at Bett 2013 we saw many new exciting innovations being developed for educational purposes. The main theme of the event and amongst the Educational Publishers present was how to best adapt current technology to the best benefit of students and teachers alike.

Walking around the different areas of the show we saw everything from traditional learning materials to the latest digital apps being displayed on both iPad and PC. Perhaps one of the most interesting product demonstrations we sat in on was for a supplemental program for students to complete work online – the achievement here being that this specific program now allowed for tailored and detailed feedback on each student’s assignment as well as giving them the opportunity to directly correspond with their teacher about particular assignments, even when not in the classroom. Teachers were also given the ability to specifically adapt assignments individually to each of their students, ensuring that each is given the personal help they need.

Many products, especially for younger children, were centred on creating a highly interactive learning environment. This was especially apparent with the way touch screen interfaces were utilised in order to capture and hold their attention. Everything from SMART boards to tablets was being employed in new capacities, to help students with everything from learning to read or practicing maths.

It is clear that the main aim of these products, and in fact of the publishers, is to use new technologies to make content as engaging as well as constructive as possible in order to enhance their education. Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of the different technologies on display was their ability not to overtake traditional learning methods, but to supplement current curriculum and texts as well as offer customized support in order to fit the individual student and teacher needs.

It is a very exciting time to be involved with Educational Publishing. Let Inspired Selection help you begin your career with the leading publishers of the 21st century.

Future Book Conference, 3rd December 2012

FB conf imageNigel Roby, Managing Director of the Bookseller started the conference by announcing this to be the biggest Futurebook conference to date. There were 38 speakers at the event and they honed in on the all important factor – ‘integration with digital’. With only 5% of print-only publishers in existence it’s all about how publishers can bring entertainment and content to their audience.

Kobo’s Mike Serbinis kick started the discussion with an introduction to Kobo, a company which has only been delivering reading resources for the last 3 years yet has managed to secure a 20% global market share. Their vision is to ensure that there is an e-reader for everyone and they firmly believe that within the next 25 years we will have made the print to digital transformation.

Dominic Rowell, MD of Lonely Planet, demonstrated how to stay on top in a dwindling travel guide market as they continue to maintain their place as No. 1 guide book publisher. Focusing their business across digital platforms and providing the consumer with travel solutions.

Charlie Redmayne, CEO of Pottermore, explained how they have built successful platforms for JK Rowling fans to explore content. Charlie described how publishers need to build brands and harness a fan base to ensure success in the digital age.

A highlight of the morning was an announcement from Foyles, they plan to open a new flagship store adopting a collaborative approach; opening up to the audience and the consumer to help plan and contribute ideas to how they can make the best bookshop.  Interesting themes and ideas arose from the days discussions which ranged from pricing structure and how to create an effective strategy for digital products, to how best to reach your digital consumer and understand them as well as sparking debate on the role of the literary agent and where this exists in the digital age.

The Future Publisher session presented some interesting viewpoints with Stephen Page CEO of Faber & Faber emphasising ‘writing for readers’, their search for ‘future book formats’ and the growth of Faber Social. Rebecca Smart, CEO of Osprey Group discussed partnering with other companies to add value for consumers and asked that key question: “are we meeting the needs of our consumers?”  Dominique Raccah, CEO of Sourcebooks focussed on the need to make books more personal and how they have developed this in their children’s books.

Anna Rafferty, Nick Sidwell and Michael Tamblyn chaired the panel: Harnessing data to shape your products, marketing and strategy. In using their brand, whether it’s Penguin, Guardian Books or Kobo, they are able to adopt different methods: a focussed email marketing strategy, data mining for specific information and also through blogging and asking their consumers what they want. The ability to harness data for any brand is a unique way of making your content and your product specialised to your specific market and we saw several fantastic examples of this.

In Transformation of the Academic market we heard about the Open Access model from Ziyad Marar, Global Publishing Director at Sage and the disruption in the market as well as the changes within Higher Education. He described 2012 as the “rise of the institutions”.  Neil Broomfield, Business Development Director, HE at Wiley talked about the year on year decline in print sales, and the strong need to address the fact that the majority of students have a preference for using mobile devices to study. Ruth Jones, Business Development Director for Ingram gave an excellent talk on Ingram’s e-text book platform, Vital Source and informed us of their delivery of 5 million eBooks during 2011.

We were certainly given food for thought when considering The Future of the Editorial Product; Katharine Reeve, head of MA Publishing at Bath Spa University advised publishers not just to think about the product but also about the role of the commissioning editors,” we need to re-think their traditional roles and start to think of how they can bring value to the changing industry as product developers. The speed in which digital is influencing the industry has tended to put publishers constantly on the back foot, the reality is that digital is giving us some amazing new opportunities to do things that are difficult to do with a book – we must utilise this opportunity”, she said.

A talk on the International Perspective saw Barnes and Noble, Txtr and RCS Libri talking about expansion into markets outside of the UK and the US, key areas being South Africa, Portugal, Brazil and the Netherlands. The Nook defined its unique selling point as providing entertainment for the whole family, on shared devices. Txtr talked about developing into the Malaysian market where the primary device is the smartphone; they have created the innovative Txtr Beagle where content is downloaded via the phone and then Bluetooth to the device. Marcello Vena talked about unlimited book browsing on high speed trains in Europe, highlighting that digital is not just about the product it is also about the service.

The conference ended with a final panel of experts to talk about the future of publishing, they discussed whether other publishers can follow the Pottermore example, but Redmayne agreed that this probably was an exception. This sparked a debate on whether making content available reduces piracy, in the case of Pottermore and Pan Macmillan there has been no increase in piracy and the value of the author has been maintained. They concluded by saying how if publishers can drive consumers to a liberating retail experience with innovation and creativity then they can be successful in the digital age. It appears that the biggest lesson publishers have learned is that of the value of understanding the consumer and what they want.

SYP Conference 2012 – Beyond The Book, Opening Debate

Opening Debate: Game Changers

Julia Kingsford – Chief Executive, World Book Night

We kicked off the opening debate with a presentation from Julia Kingsford from World Book Night; they work to engage people who don’t regularly read in doing so and gave us some jaw dropping statistics on the literary state of the UK…

–          30-50% of people in the UK don’t read/are reluctant readers

–          16% of people in the UK are functionally illiterate

–          40% of the country are at level 1 in literacy (Grade D English GCSE or below)

–          This summer 43% of boys didn’t get a C or above in English GCSE

–          1 in 3 households in the UK don’t have a book in them

Julia is so passionate about getting paper books and stories into people’s lives, she has made it her mission to get people engaged with reading; she casually asked for feedback from this year’s WBN and got 75,000 words worth of replies – that’s enough to publish a book! She wanted to show how the print book has evolved as well as the digital advances in the industry.

Laura Austin – E-Book Manager, YUDU Media

Now we moved on to a presentation by Laura Austin at YUDU Media where she works with publishers to convert content onto digital platforms. She showed us iBooks Author, a fantastic app which allows anyone to create multi-touch, interactive books for the iPad. Laura explained that publishers have spent a lot of money trying to come up with something very interactive for iPad but iBooks Author is a cheaper and quicker way of developing apps which still allows interactivity. The great thing about iBooks is that it allows the Publisher to create their own digital content and make it tailor made to them so they can get the most out of the content. Laura mentioned she has been working with OUP on educational products and HarperCollins on the new Hobbit book – we can’t wait for that one! This really is an inspired idea for the future of books, inspiring a new generation with the iBook Author, thanks very much Laura for opening our eyes to this fantastic way of using content.

Sarah Taylor – Marketing Assistant, Matador

Sarah works for Matador, the UK’s leading self publishing imprint of Troubador Publishing and is particularly well placed to tell us about the growth of self-publishing (which is over 280% apparently). Due to this growth, self-publishing is becoming a saturated market where self-published authors are now attracting the attention of the traditional publishing industry. Matador focuses on high quality self publishing and works hard to create books that are indistinguishable from the rest – they also encourage authors to connect with their readers via the web and social media. Whilst Matador appreciate that technology helps what we do, eBooks are not free to produce and cheap options are usually badly edited and formatted; we don’t want to cut out print, it’s important to keep the market open so we’ll have books for years to come.

Trevor Klein – Head of Development, Somethin’ Else

Somethin’ Else is a content design/creation company; Trevor runs the digital development portfolio and works closely with record companies, games studios and publishers – including Faber, Transworld and Cannongate.  He explains and shows us examples of how publishing used to be single format – now we have new reading experiences on new hardware. Initially, new reading experiences were just translations of the old ones, now we have digital content to allow for a ‘hands on’ and interactive reading experience. The key point I think Trevor draws from his expert talk is that it is so important to understand your audience through data sourcing and learning how to compete for attention in the digital space.