The Rise and Rise of Self-Publishing. How self-published authors are creating, publishing, marketing and selling their own titles successfully.

On Tuesday night we attended another successful and interesting Tech Tuesday – run by London Book Fair – event at the delightful Hoxton Hotel in Shoreditch. The focus of the event was self-publishing and how it compares and contrasts with traditional publishing.  The panel consisted of Orna Ross, both self- and traditionally published author, and founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors, David Shelley, Publisher at Little, Brown, and Brenda Van Camp, CMO Blurb and Andrew Crofts, Author and Ghostwriter joined the Director of The London Book Fair, Jacks Thomas, for a debate on the Rise and Rise of Self-Publishing.

The evening saw the panel debate the positives and negatives of both self-publishing and traditional publishing. The discussion kicked off with Andrew Crofts explaining that in the first instance there were storytellers, then publishers who had the money to spread the stories and somewhere along the way it became more about the money being made and pleasing the publisher than about telling your story. Crofts explained that this advent of self-publishing is handing more power back to the storytellers and getting the stories out to the people who want to read them. This was one debate of many which divided opinions about traditional publishers and self publishers…. and one of many that led to the conclusion that however you publish, the reader must be your focus.

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This direct to consumer trend was one that flowed throughout the evening and as we’re into Social Media Week, the role that social media plays in publishing (self or otherwise) was a hot topic. Social Media allows authors to interact with the readers without the channel of the publisher or agent which is a fantastic recipe for self publishing. However we can’t forget that it also allows consumers to communicate back directly to the author or brand creating a true bond between reader and the source of the story. It’s not just a “Direct to Consumer” market, it’s also “Consumer Direct to Brand” one. This doesn’t need to stop with self publishers though and traditional publishers can take away from this a key message: that engaging with the readership will make a very powerful product proposition.

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In general, self publishing can be seen as a liberating and wonderful process in its own right but it can also be viewed as a challenge to the traditional publishers, encouraging them to step up their game. Self publishing breaks down several boundaries: how to market a product, what is “publish-able” content and even what makes a “book”. Publishers can’t be complacent. We must all be better at what we do and whatever we do, make sure that we don’t lose sight of our raison d’etre – bringing stories to readers.

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ALPSP 2014 – An Inspired Summary

Last week, Inspired Selection attended the annual ALPSP conference at the Park Inn, Middlesex. The event is dedicated to exploring the latest trends in STM, Academic and professional society publishing and Esme Richardson and I wanted to find out as much as we could.

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The conference provided the opportunity for an open and honest conversation about this area of publishing and it was oddly refreshing to hear several of the speakers ask the question – why is it so hard?

The Plenary on Cross Fertilisation, chaired by Toby Green of OECD, opened the can of Open Access worms, asking why it was taking so long to take on. The liberated worms wriggled in the direction of the reader. While we are a highly educated country, are there enough people wanting to read academic material? Does is actually increase reach and impact of the content as researchers can usually get to the article whether it’s open access or not?

In the session on Competing with the Corporates, David Maclean from Packt Publishing unashamedly acknowledged what hard work it was making a living out of the publishing business! Luckily he works very hard and is very good at it, reminding us, as the other speakers did, that size doesn’t matter in publishing. The internet is a real leveller in the publishing landscape; you are only as good as your discoverability and with the right metadata a small or medium sized publisher can be found just as well as the larger players giving us all the chance to be Kings of the Google Jungle. Of course, the content must be high quality and meeting the needs of the readers to keep business going. David talked about his alternative, data driven commissioning system which informed decisions on the type of content to be commissioned by monitoring what users are searching for online.

Google’s ears must have been burning hot red last week as the threats and opportunities that it poses publishers were mentioned several times. Martha Sedgwick from SAGE asked why it is that making academic content discoverable on library search tools is so hard when Google is so good! On one hand Google Scholar might take our researchers away from the library tools or even from the content as their attention is lost clicking around the various pages to land them in the right place. However on the other hand it can serve to bring researchers to the tools themselves, driving web traffic into our hands. Moreover, it drives us to improve our products which can only be a good thing.

What was evident throughout the conference was that despite this area of publishing actually being quite a tough gig, it is a fantastic and dynamic area to be in and it’s filled with people who are up for the challenge. This was particularly clear at the Awards Dinner sponsored by Semantico where the winners – Frontier – and runners up – IOP and JournalGuide – reminded us of the success that can come from innovation in this area. The speakers and panellists throughout the programme were inspiring as are the technology and business models that they are involved with. People often find things hard when they’re being stretched to do them really well and they care immensely about doing them well and we are very lucky to be surrounded by such people.

The SYP Recruiters Evening

Last Thursday we participated in the Recruiters Evening, a fantastic event organised by the London Committee of the SYP. At this event, we had the opportunity and privilege to present alongside other publishing recruiters to a full house at The Phoenix Club in Soho.

The events put on by the SYP are so fantastic for those at the start of their career and are an extremely helpful tool. This evening was all about giving everyone an initial overview of the publishing recruitment and exactly what it is we do. With recruiters in different corners of the room, those in attendance were then free to both come up and ask us any question they liked or even to just mingle and socialise with their peers. For the attendees, it was a great chance for them to pick our brains about CVs, interviews and the seemingly daunting application process. For us, it was the perfect opportunity for us to offer guidance and top tips as well as reassurance that although getting a step into, or step up in, this industry is difficult, it’s such a fantastic place to be that it’s well worth the effort and we see success stories all the time.

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Those in attendance were all at varying stages of their careers and included everyone from students to individuals looking to change departments as well as others looking to change from their current industry into a new career in publishing. It’s always so fantastic to be involved with events such as these and to meet such passionate and bright individuals in the nascent stages of their career, and indeed, the future of the publishing industry.

Next up on the publishing calendar is of course London Book Fair, from the 8th – 10th April where the SYP is presenting two seminars within the People Development Seminar Stream which yours truly, Inspired Selection, is sponsoring. This seminar stream is fantastic for publishing people at all stages of their careers and in any department to ensure your career is #Futureproof. We hope to see everyone there and look forward to working with you in the future!

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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A New Year at Inspired Selection

As we embark on the first month of this new year, we all have resolutions and plans. For many, this involves assessing where we are at with our careers and where we would like to go. We want to know our options and how we can utilise our existent skills but also allow ourselves those vital opportunities to develop our skillset and to learn even more. With that in mind, it is a good time to re-cap on Inspired Selection; on who we are, how we work and what we can provide for both clients and candidates in 2014.

We are a niche publishing recruitment agency specialising in sourcing the best talent in this industry and placing those candidates in the right roles. We work to brief and pride ourselves on understanding our clients and how best to add to the teams within their companies. For us, communication is key. We meet all our registered candidates face-to-face, going through their CV’s in detail and making sure we know what it is they are looking for.

Client meetings are just as important to us; there is no substitute for visiting the company offices and really getting to know the culture of each environment. Inspired Selection Consultants come from publishing backgrounds and, in many case, we have once been sitting on teams within publishing companies, thus giving us that understanding of the publishing processes and that passion for the industry.

With offices in London, Oxford and Madrid, we work across all sectors within the industry – education, academic, professional, STM and Trade. Each Consultant specialises in one or two particular sectors and with those being their focus, they work on registering the best possible candidates for a variety of different roles within those sectors and also on building on our already impressive client base, forging new relationships and expanding on our knowledge of the types of roles that are out there.

We work with our clients and candidates from the very beginning to the very end of the recruitment process, from examining the job spec in detail at the initial stages to negotiating for both sides when it comes to offer. We check in with both parties after the placement has been made to ensure that everything is running smoothly and we nurture those relationships, hoping to be able to help out again in the future.

We are publishing people working to recruit the best talent into an industry that we love. We very much look forward to meeting and working with more of you in 2014.

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

Jobs in Publishing: An Inspired Approach

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Next Wednesday, September 11th, we are gathering at Hotel Strand Continental to hear our Managing Director, Suzy Astbury, speak at the monthly “Women in Publishing” event. This meeting will focus on jobs within publishing and how to take the next necessary steps on your career path.

As a specialist recruitment agency, Inspired Selection deals exclusively with publishing roles and Suzy is best equipped to explore this area in more detail bringing with her extensive experience and interest in the publishing industry and the best tips on what it takes to succeed. Suzy will cover, amongst other things, the skills that are in demand now in various publishing roles and how to get them.

Having worked with Michael O’Mara Books and The Quarto Group, Suzy has a finger on the pulse of the ever-changing publishing industry and, along with the rest of us here at Inspired, wants to spread this knowledge and enthusiasm and help people to make the most of their skills and experience.

It will be an evening to be inspired and to think outside of the box. Suzy’s key aim is to seek out talent and ensure that it is used and developed. For those of you who love publishing and want to work in the right role within the right company, this is an event not to be missed!

#InspiredTweetUp – How To Get Into Publishing

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Inspired TweetUp – 20th September 2012, 12 midday

How To Get Into Publishing

  • Calling all those looking for their first role in Publishing.
  • We’re about to start our live tweet-up on How To Get Into Publishing, feel free to send us any questions!
  • The next hour will offer an overall discussion on entry-level publishing roles and tips on how to get your foot in the door.
  • Publishing is a competitive business so it’s essential when applying for jobs in the industry, to have a basic understanding of the various sectors and roles.
  • Here are a few things to think about to ensure you use your time effectively in advance of applying for jobs:
  • What sort of role suits you best? What do you think you will enjoy the most?
  • There is a lot more to publishing than editorial!
  • Take some time to investigate the different departments involved in the publication of a book or journal.
  • What sort of publication would you like to work on?
  • In addition to book publishing, have you considered academic journals or electronic publishing, for example?
  • Now let’s take a look at entry-level roles in the different departments within a traditional Publishing company.
  • Editorial Assistant: to assist senior editorial staff in the administration of commissioning or production (editorial process) of content.
  • The level of responsibility and range of tasks will depend on the structure and size of the company.
  • A fantastic way to gain an insight into the Editorial process!
  • Key skills: proven Administrative and computer skills;
  • A qualification in editing can help but is not essential;
  • Educated to degree level or equivalent;
  • Word processing skills & enthusiasm to learn & carryout what can sometimes be repetitive & mundane tasks;
  • Previous work experience in a publishing environment (ideally in an editorial department).
  • You will also need: an eye for detail, good organisation skills & good communication (written & verbal).
  • Design: Some books from fiction to STM books follow pre-set typographic designs, but for the more integrated colour books, a more complex design function is required.
  • In-house designers work either in a design department or in a production department, reporting to the design or production manager.
  • Key skills: A creative mind and an idea for what sells & understanding of the market
  • A vocational qualification or equivalent (pre-entry specialist training is virtually essential);
  • Technical proficiency; a concise and well-presented portfolio; knowledge of QuarkXpress/InDesign, Photoshop, or other software packages.
  • Production: The production department is the link between editors and designers and external suppliers.
  • They are responsible for the physical process of transforming the manuscript and artwork into the finished book or journal. 
  • This includes everything from ordering the paper, obtaining estimates for typesetting, printing and binding to arranging proofs and print-run numbers with an appropriate printer.
  • Production staff must be able to work with editors and designers effectively, as well as prioritising tight cost control and the maintenance of dates, which requires excellent communication and people skills. 
  • Key skills: Numeracy; Effective communication skills (in-house staff and external suppliers);
  • Computer literacy & often knowledge of InDesign.
  • Sales: Sales involves calling on booksellers and encouraging them to stock both new and backlist titles.
  • Their role in supporting the efforts of marketing is critical to the success of a book and the sales team work closely with the editorial and marketing teams.
  • Academic and Educational Sales people also have to visit bookshops, schools and institutes of higher education.
  • This is to discuss forthcoming publications with buyers, teachers and academics, and in some cases establish where there might be gaps in the market for future publications.
  • Key skills: Articulacy  & excellent communication;
  • An ability to build relationships, and influence people;
  • A good understanding of the UK book trade.
  • Marketing: Marketing is frequently divided into two separate functions.
  • One focuses on pre-planning the marketing campaign including press advertising and the production of catalogues and promoting materials, the other is publicity.
  • Obviously the market will strongly influence the type of marketing activity carried out.
  • There are, for example, substantial differences in the way children’s books are marketed and sold and the way an adult bestseller or an academic journal will be promoted.
  • The aim of the Publicity Department is to make the media, book trade, and consumers conscious of the company and what it offers or a particular new title; and hence stimulate demand. 
  • It concentrates on getting press exposure and organising promotional events such as book launches and author signing tours to establish a book when it is first published.
  • Key skills: Educated preferably to degree level or equivalent;
  • An understanding of consumer buying habits and why people want to read books.
  • It is advantageous in looking at the way to market them – bookselling experience is often seen as an advantage.
  • Specialist knowledge of the material being published (i.e. a Maths degree if working in the Marketing department of a publisher that is printing Mathematics textbooks).
  • Rights: The selling of rights is a small and specialist career area.
  • Rights departments have the responsibility for the selling of all kinds of rights for published books including serial rights, foreign language rights, rights to publish in paperback, television and film rights, merchandising rights and occasionally electronic.
  • Rights staff check and monitor the contact made between the publisher and others.
  • The reactive work involves responding to enquiries and seeking copyright permission to reproduce material.
  • Rights work involves close contact with all the other departments on a regular basis.
  • Key skills: Educated to degree level or equivalent;
  • Good interpersonal & negotiation skills;
  • Modern languages;
  • Customer related skills;
  • In a small publishing house, the editor will probably deal with the author contracts but in larger houses, there will be a contracts department.
  • They will maintain responsibility for ensuring that these documents are in line with the original deal arranged by the editor.
  • Substantial liaison needs to take place with the rights department to take into account all possible markets for the book and therefore organising permissions on relevant materials.
  • Key skills:  Meticulous eye for detail;
  • Legal background could be useful;
  • So there is an overview of the types of roles. Now to think about the types of roles.
  • Which area inspires you?
  • Trade publishers:
  • These make up the most visible part of the industry.  They form the mainstay of public libraries, bookshops and book clubs.
  • Consumer publishing is the high-risk end of the business – book failures are frequent but possible rewards great.
  • Children’s publishers:
  • Children’s books are published by the specialist children’s divisions of the major consumer book publisher.
  • They must appeal to both children and adults and are usually aimed at age bands reflecting the development of reading skill.
  • Educational publishers:
  • These provide materials for schools, chiefly textbooks and sometimes supported by ancillary printed materials for class use or for teachers i.e. workbooks, cassettes and teacher’s books.
  • The books are market specific.
  • A knowledge of and interest in the national curriculum would certainly stand you in good stead as would any teaching qualifications (e.g. PGCE, CELTA).
  • Academic, STM and Professional book publishing:
  • Academic publishing can refer to books published in all subjects from 1st year university/college students and above.
  • The term is often restricted to the humanities and social sciences.
  • Scientific, technical and medical (STM) is undertaken predominantly by large publishers.
  • These publishers are mostly outside central London with a high concentration in Oxford.
  • Professional publishing serves the “professions” such as law, veterinary studies, architecture, accountancy, engineering etc.
  • As with educational publishing, it is a distinct advantage to have a qualification in the subject matter that you are printing.  This is especially true of STM publishing.
  • Journals publishing:
  • Journals are published by not-for-profit societies and research institutes and by divisions of academic, STM publishers, including the university presses.
  • The content is not pre-determined and is based on contributors submitting papers and original research to an academic editor.
  • How do you know you are doing the right thing?
  • It is possible at the start of your career to move across to other departments and areas of publishing.
  • Over time this becomes more difficult, as you will need specialist knowledge of a subject area and specialist knowledge of the activity and markets. 
  • In smaller firms, it may be easier to move around the firm and learn different jobs.
  • Such knowledge, however, may not be considered specialist enough by the larger companies. 
  • Junior staff in large firms may find it hard to cross the more pronounced departmental boundaries but will gain in-depth expertise afforded by the greater resources of the publisher.
  • Tips: Do lots of research into the different types of publications and relevant publishing companies.
  • Make as many contacts as possible – during work experience placements or join relevant societies, eg. The SYP, WIP etc.
  • Networking can play a key role in helping you find your first job and here are a few tips when working the floor…
  • Make sure you introduce yourself;
  • Dress to impress;
  • Maintain eye contact with whom your speaking to;
  • Ensure you bring plenty of business cards;
  • Try to get a list of attendees prior to the event;
  • Identify key people you want to meet ahead of time ;
  • Look them up on LinkedIn before you go;
  • Think about specific information you want to find out, and prepare some related questions;
  • Remember that other people are there to network too;
  • Do follow up any interesting conversations with a brief thank you email or perhaps a connection on LinkedIn;
  • Do as much relevant work experience as you can. This looks great on your CV and also reinforces your decision about what sort of role you are looking for and type of publisher.
  • If unpaid work experience is not possible, then a good track record of administrative and general office work is also very valuable.
  • This proves computer and IT skills, and competency in working to deadlines, working in teams, attention to detail, receiving instructions etc.
  • Have a look at jobs being advertised in publishing.  This will give you a good idea of what is involved in specific roles and basic requirements you need to aim for.
  • London first jobs in publishing, contact: Abigail Barclay; Tel: 0207 440 1491 Email: a.barclay@inspiredselection.com
  • Oxford first jobs in publishing, contact: Mel Cunningham; Tel: 01865 260277 Email: m.cunningham@inspiredselection.com
  • We hope you found that useful, please do email us any questions and sign up to our blog for details of the next one https://inspiredselection.wordpress.com/
  • For those who joined us at the end, all the tips will be published shortly on our blog https://inspiredselection.wordpress.com/
  • Details of our next tweet up will be on our blog and on here! https://inspiredselection.wordpress.com/
  • Thanks to everyone that got involved, we’ve really enjoyed it.
  • To keep abreast of the latest publishing roles sign up to our free vacancy alerts http://www.inspiredselection.com/candidates/-/page/vacancy-update-service/
  • Sign up on our website to register with us http://www.inspiredselection.com/ Look forward to hearing from you!

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