The Bookseller Children’s Conference 2014

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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

  Zoe

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Byte the Book – What’s the future of book selling in the digital age?

On Monday night we attended Byte the Book at the beautiful Ivy Club in Soho where Sam Missingham (Head of Events – HarperCollins) chaired a fantastic panel consisting of Julia Kingsford (Business Development & Consumer Insight Consultant – Valobox), Jon Woolcott (Buying and Marketing Director – Stanfords) and Simon Edwards (Owner – The Little Ripon Bookshop and BIC) where they explored the future of book selling in the digital age.

Sam Missingham kicked off the evening by quoting a sobering figure – indie bookshop numbers have now dipped below 1,000 since records began and asked of the panel what was going on to influence this trend. Julia, whilst not quite answering the question, brought home the key issues facing the publishing industry and booksellers today by taking a quick audience poll – who thought Amazon is destroying business and who also thinks Amazon does a brilliant job of their business. This highlights how even though we may not support Amazon, there is a strong lesson to be learned and the publishing industry is at a real turning point where they must be able to also create an innovative business model in order to continue to compete.

Simon countered this point by describing his experience as an independent bookshop owner in a small city by extolling the value they add, which in nature tends to be more intrinsic and something that digital retailers cannot match. He explained that the success of a small independent bookshop can in large part be related to their connection with the community and remaining at the heart.

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Jon built upon both these ideas by explaining the strategy at Stanfords, a specialty travel and map bookshop with two locations and an online store. By making their business so specialised, they are able to reach out to a very niche group of customers and really make sure they are taking care of them, providing a tailored service whereas larger chains such as Waterstones and Amazon can become too busy and bogged down by all their different channels.

What was perhaps most interesting was when the conversation turned to looking towards the future and making predictions for how the book selling landscape would appear in 10 years time. Will there be a Netflix or Spotify for books? Sam questioned. Will Blinkbox be able to take on Amazon? Julia brought up their imminent launch into the book consumer eco-system.

All agreed that it’s impossible to predict exactly what the future will hold, but the general consensus of the panel was that even though we are a turning point, the next 10 years will not be so dissimilar to the present. Julia was perhaps the most optimistic with a message of hope – that in the future we will be able adapt content into whatever format necessary in order to be able to reach out to as many people possible.

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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Are apps cannibalising or complementing publishers’ content? – LBF’s Tech Tuesday

Are apps cannibalising or complementing publishers’ content?

We’ve all heard about ‘online’ and we’ve all heard about eBooks – are they an exciting new revenue stream for publishing or are they destroying our wonderful industry? We’ve all had the debate, internally and with colleagues, and I think most of us have come to the conclusion that online publishing may take some adjusting to but does allow for innovation and for us to reach new audiences. But there is another question mark in this world of ‘digital’. Applications?

At London Book Fair ’s Tech Tuesday last week. Stuart Dredge (The Guardian), Dean Johnson (Brandwidth),  Louise Rice (Touch Press) and James Huggins (Made In Me) all told their story of how mobile / tablet applications can apply to the publishing industry. Story telling did indeed become a theme of the event as the message was clear to cast aside the idea of format and focus on the story. Whether the content is delivered in a print book, an eBook or an app, it is important that the story is of good quality and told well. Apps can enhance the way a story is told, making it an interactive and engaging experience for the reader.

Apps need to be given more attention by publishers, invested in more. They shouldn’t be, as Stuart Dredge put it, DVD extras, a second thought after the books are produced but should be in the spotlight. We could even develop a Spotify model, allowing users to share reading lists and see who else is reading your favourite book.

The engaging nature of apps means they have a lot to offer the Education market. Students can click, tap and swipe their way through course materials and study guides. While school tablets seem a forward thinking, modern concept, Louise Rice told their story as she has seen them evolve over a number of years in Australia as a fantastic one stop shop for all their textbooks. The challenge is certainly not in the technology but rather in the teachers and users as they come to understand effective ways of using the tablets.

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And this comes to the answer to our question. Apps have the power to complement the publishing industry, allowing readers to engage and experience stories in an exciting new way but (and there is a but!) if we don’t develop or use them well or if we don’t understand their value they have no chance but to be a significant expense to the publisher and a side line thought to the consumer who may turn their attention to other, more enticing applications.

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

SYP Conference 2013

Last Saturday we attended the fantastic SYP Conference at Oxford Brookes University. The day was jam packed with some excellent speakers from each corner of the industry as well as opportunities to network and meet new people.

For us (and probably for many others), the real highlight of the day was the keynote speech from Mr Youngsuk ‘YS’ Chi, Chairman of Elsevier and Director of Corporate Affairs for Reed Elsevier. YS gave an inspiring speech on his thoughts on the publishing landscape today and what young professionals should be thinking about at this stage in their career. To discuss the current publishing landscape, YS employed 10 ‘E’s that he felt best portrayed the current state of affairs: Electronic, Excessive, Easy, Expansive, Enigmatic, Experimental, Experiential, Ephemeral, Empathy and Eternal. Following this very interesting insight into the industry, YS opened up to the floor for questions about his life, career and how he got there. Key take home messages for us were: ask great questions, show passion, don’t be afraid to learn and ultimately surround yourself with people you trust and believe in.

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Next we headed to the seminars where we learned about everything from current trends in academic publishing to how technology is used to continue to engage audiences; interactive apps and gamification models are increasingly being used as tools for e-learning within children’s, academic and educational publishing. Gaming is hugely motivational – people will engage and actively strive to voluntarily overcome unnecessary obstacles, with this in mind we can use psychology to turn gaming into in educational resource. Eric Huang of Made in Me talked about working with partners in order to get the most from technology and used the example of their new app – ‘Sneak’, nominated for a BAFTA award to engage children. The use of technology within publishing is definitely an opportunity, not a threat; we can use this to create an all round reading or learning experience with the ability to step away from the real world into an augmented reality type situation.

Technology was also another key topic in other seminars, however, rather than talking about how it can be used for creating engaging content, other industry experts discussed how it can be used to improve communication channels within the workplace. The ideas they put forward were how you can use social media platforms such as ‘Yammer’ that can be utilised across platforms and ensure employees feel like they have open forum to communicate company wide. Also, with the world rapidly changing, the more ‘informal’ modes of communication can be better for actually making sure you reach your colleagues and they pay attention and can see missives from whatever type of device they are using.

It was now the end of the day and we headed to the main lecture hall for the final panel with the topic still to be revealed. When we arrived, it was announced that Matthew Cashmore, Digital Director at Blackwell’s,  Alex Ingram, career bookseller,  and Lindsey Mooney, of Kobo,  would be on the panel discussing the future of publishing sales with Samantha Missingham, Head of Events at HarperCollins, moderating.

Following Matthew’s engaging presentation, the panel quickly devolved into a lively debate regarding the future of publishing sales and whether it’s possible to compete with Amazon. Matthew’s analogies ranged from huskies to music, radio to TV and on into film. Matthew became impassioned and insisted that “YOU CAN” beat them within your niche market.

What it all boiled down to was something that was also touched on in an academic seminar held earlier in the day: whilst we must adapt to the change, it’s no reason to panic. Publishing has been around for over 300 hundred years and knows how to change and survive – and we’ll do it again. This also relates back to YS’s ‘Eternal’ ‘E’ from the morning and is something that publishers have started to remind themselves and each other, leading to such a great feeling of excitement and hope for the future.

It is a fantastic time to be in the industry; as YS said – the publishing landscape is ‘eternal’, there is a lot that is changing but the book itself is not going to go anywhere. We should use digital transformation as an opportunity – there has never been a more exciting time to be in publishing.

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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FutureBook Conference 2013

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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.

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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 admin@inspiredselection.com

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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.

Poetry Byte the Book

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


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.