Author Archives: Sam

MA Publishing Digital Showcase

On the 5th June I attended the Digital Showcase for the City University Publishing MA students who were finalising their end of year projects. The course is currently overseen and run by the Programme Director Mary Ann Kernan. Those in advisory attendance included several leading industry professionals and key figures in the industry including myself.

The session began with a chance for several established industry professionals to spend time with the students overlooking their group based collaborative projects. Each project was entirely digitally focused and looked into revitalising an existing publisher’s backlist into a profitable, interactive digital sales platform. Each group also had additional projects in which they explored their personal interests in line with designing and producing specific digital projects.

What struck me at first was the sheer diversity of ideas generated within each group. The level of detail that had gone into each individual project was quite astounding. Having worked in publishing for some time now it’s clear to me that the students at this point are way ahead of the game. The intrinsic understanding of not only digital publishing but the cultural and commercial implications of the market itself were very impressive.

What’s important to highlight in this is that there was a real sense of collaboration within each team. The session ended with a series of mock job interviews conducted by the industry key figures in attendance. Eric Huang made an interesting and wholly viable comment around the idea of empathy within working in publishing. This idea certainly appears to be at the centre of the ideologies behind the MA Publishing course itself. It was certainly refreshing and somewhat illuminating to see individuals working together to produce such cohesive and, essentially, profitable ideas.

Overall Mary Ann has managed to collectively steer a creative and bright collection of individuals straight into the choppy waters of this new digital age. As a recruiter I tend to keep both ears and eyes open. Overhearing Mary Ann not only engage the group but advise each individual based on their strengths and backgrounds was a brilliant insight into the level of knowledge she has managed to accumulate. Mary Ann knows the industry like the back of her hand.

The future looks uncertain. The future in hand for each student finalising their MA in Publishing Studies at City University is very promising indeed.

I’d like to say a huge (very late) thanks to Mary Ann for inviting me along. Mary Ann is Programme Director of the MA in Publishing Studies at City University London. You can find her on Twitter at @maryannkernan

The details of the MA course are here.

Finally I’d like to thank all the students for taking the time to showcase their projects. It’s clear to me that the collaborative approach running to the core of the MA Publishing course itself is producing a new generation of firebrand.

Keep it up.

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Trading Standards – Recruiting needs between STM/Professional and Trade publishers

When recruiting into the publishing industry we find that most entry level individuals, or even candidates looking to move into publishing, tend to be focused on editorial roles within a trade publishing house. The industry itself tends to attract a particularly creative crowd. It’s fair to say that many of those coming to us have a dream of working with established authors, taking long lunches to flesh out new creative visions and clinking glasses with an innovative team light years ahead of its time. The dream job.

Anyone who is currently working or has worked in the publishing industry before will know that the day-to-day reality of publishing isn’t always like that. Perhaps inevitably, from our perspective, we tend to find that STM, Educational, Academic and Professional publishers are often overlooked by those starting out. The bulk of our business tends to be within STM, Academic and Professional publishing markets. These markets are changing, growing and advancing quickly, digitally and commercially.

That being said, the differences between the recruitment needs of every sector don’t vary as much as you would expect. For instance, the obvious assumed prerequisite for recruitment within STM would be a relevant academic background. It is certainly helpful, in editorial roles particularly, but not always the case. Production, Sales, Marketing and Operations teams within Professional and STM publishing require the same excellent attention to detail, strong communication skills, the same ability to liaise with people at all levels and a great commercial focus and analytical eye. These skills will always be transferrable, whatever sector you’re looking to work in within publishing.

In regard to published content when working in STM, Educational, Academic or Professional publishing you may work on publications covering endocrinology, oncology, neurology, respiratory medicine, vibration or trauma. You may also come across journals covering sociology, art, language, logistics or even graphic novels. The sheer scope and proven impact of academia is far reaching and, some would argue, equal to the equivalent cultural reach of trade publishing.

It always helps to have some connection with, or interest in, the content you’re working on. This is why the Trade editorial route appears to be the preferred career path for candidates when stepping on to the publishing ladder. It’s fair to say that marketing or working in the production team for a physics journal may not be as immediately attractive as a popular fiction paperback list. However what is not said often enough is that the content, product, business models and markets in STM publishing are revolutionising the publishing industry and the scientific community which will have an impact on both our professional and personal lives.

STM and Academic publishing are pushing boundaries in terms of Open Access, peer reviewing and the general accessibility and distribution of content. STM and academic content has been digital far longer than trade mass market ebooks have been around, and digital skills in these markets have been in high demand for even longer. It’s the Developers, Project Managers and all-round digibods in these sectors that are now being hunted for trade publishing.

There are undoubtedly aspects of Academic, Professional and STM publishing that are worlds apart from Trade: the target customers and market that Sales and Marketing teams are focusing on (Academics, Students, Librarians); the production lifecycle of a journal is quite different to that of a book (it’s quicker!); the marketing tends to focus on a brand not an author/particular book/list; and the content is peer reviewed and edited by peers within that particular community rather than on an Editor’s laptop late on a Friday night. This knowledge of the industry isn’t inherent in anyone; they’re things that people learn from relentless enthusiasm and a bit of experience. Ultimately, relentless enthusiasm and a bit of experience is the most transferrable criteria of all.

Ultimately, regardless of the sector, Marketing roles need creativity and a good analytical eye, Sales roles need excellent interpersonal and relationship building skills, Editorial roles need an excellent grasp of the language they’re bashing into a coherent bit of text, Digital roles need pretty much everything. All of these are transferrable. The rest of it you can pick up or learn on the job – all you need is to think outside of the trade shaped box.

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Anna Lewis

In 2010 Anna started working on ValoBox with Oliver Brooks. It’s a platform that offers web-friendly books, solving the problem of accessing expert information when you’re short on time or money. It lets you read books directly through your web browser, and only pay for the chapters you need.

Prior to that she set up the online publishing community which offers print-on-demand printing and other publishing tools to authors and small presses. She is passionate about finding ways that new technology can enable people to engage in new and exciting ways with books and authors. She talks to us today about Valobox, digital content and the fusion of the internet to the written word.

Anna Lewis and Oliver Brooks

Why did you decide to set up ValoBox and what have been your highlights?

In our experience of studying and running a business, my co-founder and I often found it far too costly and time-consuming to find specific bits of information buried deep within a book. Our research started with Google, but finding the trusted, up to date content that publishers had painstakingly curated, was too difficult.

ValoBox grew out of this belief that there simply had to be a better way of doing this. We created a web-based ‘pay-as-you-go’ eBook service allowing the reader to buy content in smaller pieces such as chapters rather than the whole book. It opens the door to new opportunities for marketing and selling books. For example, pages of a book can rank alongside pages of a website in search engines, and readers are able to share important parts of a book simply by sharing a link.

Particular highlights for us have to be this year’s Tools of Change Conference in New York, run by O’Reilly where we were nominated as finalists in the Start-up Showcase. We’ve seen large amounts support and interest on an international level, which we didn’t expect. Besides the US we’ve been invited to talk to publishers in Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Italy and India.

Describe a typical day at Valobox

We work with our head in the clouds most days. And I mean that as a technological rather than psychological statement. Our ‘shop front’ exists in the ether so we can be anywhere and it’s a working day for us. We have an office in Camden, but I’m often on the road at various conferences or spending time in tech heaven (San Francisco). I couldn’t live without google apps, dropbox, lastpass or twitter. My most frequent question is probably “What’s the wifi password?” Work is where the web is!

We’re constantly looking to improve and grow our service and so I’m usually in conversations with publishers, exploring their content and discussing how this could best be suited to ValoBox.

Oli is the technical lynchpin. You’ll generally find him analysing, managing or building improvements to the website as well as working on streamlining processes with publishers.

Do you feel that the service that Valobox (promoting specific parts of a book) is a sign of the times in terms of how people digest content?

Absolutely yes. We live in an increasingly fast-paced world. When it comes to information, people expect everything and anything to be accessible within nanoseconds. And they are loathed to pay for anything that is not directly useful. Traditional book publishing models sit rather uncomfortably with this concept but ValoBox uses the latest in web tools to quickly connect their content to those who need it. We’re also using web analytics to shed light on exactly how people actually read so we can give publishers a breakdown of what chapter and even page is most popular, and they can keep improving their product.

If you could travel five years back in time what advice would you give yourself?

Go for it! Don’t be afraid to get things wrong, it’s all a part of the learning curve. I’m pretty happy with what I’ve achieved but there have definitely been too many sleepless nights worrying over things that were ultimately not that important. So… “sleep more, worry less” I guess.

Who do you admire and why?

Joe Wikert and Kat Meyer from the Tools of Change team. They radiate so much energy, enthusiasm and optimism when it comes to bridging the gap between traditional publishing and new technology.

What predictions do you have for 2013 for publishing?

It probably sounds terribly biased of me, but I’m going to say that 2013 will see books in browsers make a transition from the new-kid to the accepted way forward. It’s definitely starting to pick up pace (it’s not just a handful of us doing it these days). The fusion of web and books can only increase and although it won’t be ubiquitous by the end of the year, I think most publishers will have it as part of their future strategy.

Lastly if you were the living embodiment of a publishing business model what animal would you be and why?

This is a pretty bizarre question! Well, I think maybe the ValoBox business model is most like a hive of bees…

ValoBox books can fly around the web and pollinate the publishing ecosystem. Instead of waiting for a chance gust of wind to spread the knowledge, ValoBox actively takes it to where it can take root and germinate.

Everybody gets a share of the profits (the honey?) whether it be the publisher, the author or the person who promoted the book.

A huge thanks for Anna for taking the time to talk to us about Valobox and the concept of it. It’s always fascinating for us to get an idea of what’s happening at the front line especially from groups and entrepreneurial individuals. You can find Anna on Twitter here: @anna_cn and Valobox here: @valobox

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Inside Atwood Tate

Recruitment is a busy business. Recruitment into the publishing industry is quite immeasurable at the moment due to the ever changing nature of it. Finding the right candidate for the right job is at the very core of what we do and, realising that some publishers aren’t even sure of what they need themselves, therein we find the challenge.

It’s a tricky business at times. So what happens when you apply for a job through us? What’s the process? How can we help you find your next role?

It’s very simple.

Firstly, at the very beginning of the process, we have to understand what our client is looking for. We have to understand not only the skill set required for each job but also the characteristics of the potential perfect person for the role. We work very closely with each client. Not only does this mean we know exactly what they’re looking for it means we have a better idea of whether the job is going to suit you.

Essentially we are the gatekeepers for the role.  Essentially we have an idea of the skill sets and the candidate experience required by our client. This means that, even though you may think that you are right for the role, you may not be the right “fit” for the company. We know exactly what our clients are looking for. Sometimes this isn’t going to be you and we like to think this works both ways. We can’t put your application forward for a role that we both know isn’t going to be successful. There’s no point in finding you a job that isn’t the right fit for you.

So you have followed the guidelines for preparing your cover letter and application? Your CV is up to date and error free? Great. Once your CV and cover letter are sent off to the right consultant your work is done. You wait for a response.

Please bear in mind that we deal with a large volume of candidates and a huge amount of client correspondence. If we don’t get back to you straight away please don’t take it personally. Like any job we have to prioritise what is most important at that moment, on that day and in that week. (We DO read every email and respond as soon as possible, however).

However if we feel that the job is perfect for you we will endeavour to contact you straightaway as, in essence, you become a priority. Our job in the main is to spot the right candidate amongst the variety of others that apply. We’ve got a good sense of what makes a good candidate. It’s part of our job to recognise talent.

Then we meet you face to face. We meet in our offices and discuss your CV to some depth, discuss your experiences and find out what exactly you’re looking to explore in your career path. Meeting people is the one true way to establish whether someone is a good candidate. Not only does it allow us to establish what you’re capable of, it gives us an idea of “you” based on your body language, approach, use of language and basic interview performance skills.

If you’re invited to interview we’re with you the whole way. We can discuss interview techniques, the company profile, HR requests or any part of the process which you feel you need help with. If the client likes the look of you and, more importantly, whether you think the role and the environment is the right fit for you we then handle the acceptance procedure.

Lastly we bid a farewell to our newly successful candidate in the hope that our services are being highly spoken of to their new colleagues. We like to think that all candidates will eventually become clients one day. We are in it for the long game. A good way to measure how good a candidate is how long they stay on our books. Excellent candidates don’t stay with us for very long. Sad face.

The hardest part of this job is telling people “no”.

“I’m really sorry you haven’t been invited back for second interview”.

“There were just some stronger applicants more suitable for the role”.

“I’m sorry to tell you that they won’t be taking your application any further”

A lot of our time is spent informing people that they are not suitable for the job. A lot of time is spent circumnavigating the often incredible amount of correspondence from those looking for work. Unfortunately not everyone is going to be perfect for every job. Not everyone is going to be lucky enough to be applying for the right job at the right time.

At times, due to the sheer volume of applicants, we have to send out automated replies to those unsuccessful. This is a time saver for us so, again, please don’t take it personally. We can assist you much more effectively if you take some time to think about whether you are suitable for the job you’re applying for. We can guide you more appropriately if you are realistic with your expectations. We can be honest with you if you are honest with your expectations.

This marvellous post should set you on the right track for establishing exactly what role you should be applying for and how to go about it.

If there are any roles you think you’d like to apply for get in touch. If you want to find out more about what Atwood Tate do then get in touch. We’re all friendly, approachable people who are very good at what we do. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Bobby Nayyar

Bobby Nayyar trained in publishing at Faber and Faber. He went on to join the marketing department at Little, Brown Book Group. In 2009, he founded his own publishing house, Limehouse Books. Since 2011, he has also been managing Equality in Publishing (Equip), which continues the project work of Dipnet. A top networker, a champion for the written word and a lovely chap to boot Bobby takes some time out of his busy schedule to answers some questions from me.

Bobby Nayyar

1. What is your most memorable achievement in your career and why?

The last four years of my life have been quite a roller coaster: leaving marketing great authors on the Abacus and Virago lists, setting up Limehouse Books, managing and developing Equality in Publishing – it’s hard to pick one memorable achievement, but the first that sprang to mind was the inaugural launch of Limehouse Books, which took place at The Minories by Tower Gateway. We launched two books that were put together with some sound and fury, a fantastic team effort and a launch with real energy and enthusiasm – a clear reminder why I set on this path in the first place.

2. Why do you think people invest the extraordinary levels of passion into publishing that they do?

Put simply it’s the belief that books made the world a brighter, better place.

3. You demonstrate a great deal of passion into promoting diversity and equality in the workplace. What gave you the impetus to get involved with Dipnet and then Equip?

Well, in part I am a product and beneficiary of the Dipnet initiative. In 2006 I did a diversity traineeship at Faber and Faber. It was a tremendous experience that laid a crucial foundation, which I still use as a publisher today. As part of the traineeship, Dipnet organised a mentor for me – Ellah Allfrey, now Deputy Editor of Granta. The mentoring was a crucial part of the process. Since that experience I had been following the progress of Dipnet, and when a work opportunity came up to manage the project, I pursued it with brio! I strongly believe in the values Equip promotes – widening access to the industry by creating opportunities for our business and individual members.

4. If you could travel five years back in time what advice would you give yourself?

Make lots of mistakes. Learn from them.

5. What advice would you give someone looking to find work in Publishing?

Join Equip –

Make sure that they have a good profile on LinkedIn and Twitter

Make sure they have a great, well written CV with no typos

Find work that requires writing or other communication skills in their local area so they can demonstrate an interest in the industry and actually find out what it’s like

Read as much of the trade press (Bookseller etc) and try to understand the financial realities of the industry

And lastly if you could change the publishing industry overnight what single change would that be?

I would want that every new job going was advertised widely and beyond the publishers website and trade magazines. I’ve heard of instances where jobs are never advertised, rather circulated to contacts by email, and now I hear more of publishers advertising jobs through Twitter, which on the surface sounds like a great idea, but perhaps isn’t going to make the inroads to the industry reaching out further and wider.

Finally, I’d urge that people come to our next event on Thursday 21 March, 6pm at City University London. Details here:

And also for all people trying to get into the industry to fill out this survey:

A huge thank you to Bobby for taking the time to talk to us. I would urge you all to take a close look at what Equip are doing. Their ethics and overview of the publishing industry are something that Bobby, and Equip as a whole, are extremely passionate about. Equality across UK publishing, bookselling and agenting is fundamental in these changing times to access talent and performance far beyond present expectations. You can find Equip on Twitter @equip4 and Bobby Nayyar @bobbynayyar

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Videl Bar-Kar

With over 10 years at the intersection of media and technology, and currently as Director of a leading group of literary festivals, Videl considers himself both a seasoned technologist with a deep understanding of the digital content space (licensing, store-front management, marketing and complex, high value platform sales to mobile network operators), and also more recently an entrepreneurial festival leader, producer, artistic programmer, and partnership builder (Google, Telegraph, Waterstones, Sky Arts and Arts Council). He has been lucky enough to develop both of these passions over the course of his career and looks forward to a new challenge in the publishing industry that combines this hybrid mix of skills and experience.

Videl B ar-Kar_profile pic

1. Why did you decide to join “Ways with Words” and what have been your highlights?

Having concentrated on the digital side of media and content for a good ten years or so, I really felt the desire to turn towards live events and while my degree was in German literature, I had moved far away from books and the written word. Joining Ways With Words festivals of words and ideas was a unique opportunity for me to move into those worlds while also giving me the chance to harness and develop my commercial skills in terms of fundraising, marketing and management of a small and focused team that annually produces over 300 author events that attract an audience of around 40,000 across the UK.

One of the biggest perks of the job is undoubtedly being involved in programming and introducing incredible authors to intelligent, independently minded audiences. Last year’s highlights included Jang Jin Seong, the former court poet for North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, who appeared as part of the national Poetry Parnassus programme. I was also thrilled when we managed to beam Channel 4 international editor Lindsey Hilsum live from her hotel room in Tripoli to our audience in Devon via Apple FaceTime to talk about the previous day’s post-Gaddafi free elections and her book Sandstorm. There was a real sense of uniqueness and excitement to that event.

The other huge highlight for me was devising, funding, programming and launching a new not for profit children’s books and arts festival in south London called Word Up!, which received support from the Arts Council as well as Google and launched after a really strong media campaign. Even Blue Peter came to do some filming! We managed to get around 5,000 children and families to experience 40 events over 3 days, which felt like a fantastic result. I will never forget the sight of children sprinting to the front of the book-signing queue to meet their favourite authors.

2. A lot of parallels have been drawn between the music industry and the current flux in the publishing industry. Do you feel this rings true?

There is no doubt that technology’s effect on music and books away from their historical position of scarcity towards ubiquity has permanently disrupted both industries on a massive scale. On a macro level there are some pretty fundamental questions that we still don’t really know the answer too, in particular whether this move towards ‘everything always on, always available’ is compatible with generating sustainable income for authors and musicians, as well as their publishes and record companies.

In terms of similarities, certainly over the last 10 years both industries have experienced a decline in bricks and mortar retail (as I write this HMV has just gone into administration), a huge rise in physical online sales and most recently a big shift from physical to digital products (according to PwC, the proportion of global digital revenues for music was around 32% in 2011 while books was only 4%, so there is probably a lot more growth for digital books still to come). What happened with music and what is happening with publishing now is a wave of innovation coming from technology companies big and small, which is helping to build a new roadmap of products and services that consumers hopefully want and will pay for (unavoidably this comes with a fair share of wrong turns and dead ends along the way, some potentially disruptive).  Another commonality is that a very small number of digital retailers have become dominant on a global level, Apple and Amazon in particular.

On the other hand it’s really important to understand some of the key differences between the industries and also how music and books are experienced and consumed. A large part of the music industry’s revenues comes from live performances and tours (around $4.6bn in the US in 2009 according to IFPI – and there is a very smart London based start up called Songkick who are making it easier to go to more live shows), while book festivals, poetry slams and other literary events, no matter how important for the spreading of ideas, creativity and free speech, will never come close to generating those kind revenues. It’s important to remember that until the advent of the gramophone, music had always been a live art form and was intrinsically a social experience. Books on the whole are read privately and I think one of the challenges is how to make the book reading experience more social in terms of readers being able to share their views and create a sense of community. This is certainly starting to happen with Wattpad and Goodreads amongst others but it’s just the beginning. We all know that a personal recommendation is more powerful than one from an algorithm.

When music is bought, it is typically listened to many times while books tend to be read once. Might this be a good argument for an eBook subscription or lending service? From a consumer’s point of view, I think probably yes for a certain type of reader. Its going to be the publishers’ job to help third party retailers find the sweet spot in the market where a certain segment of book buyer will happily pay for an all you can eat subscription of eBooks or lending service. If the sweet spot can be found, it shouldn’t necessarily cannibalize single purchase revenues and publishers should start licensing for subscription services sooner rather than later in order to start learning what really works. Music subscription service Spotify now has about 5m subscribers who each spend about £100 a year on accessing music. That’s a pretty good result in terms of serving a particular segment of music consumers.

The unbundling of music is also an interesting phenomenon in terms of how technology has changed the form that musicians create their music in, as well as how it is consumed. Recorded music started as singles (78s), moved to albums in the 1950s (LPs) which continued with cassettes and CDs, and since digital downloads and iTunes has moved back to singles to a large degree. There is now a great deal of non-fiction unbundling, particularly if you look at how we can build our own self-curated online magazines using platforms such as Flipboard to aggregate content from newspapers, blogs and twitter feeds. In fact, I wonder if certain types of non-fiction, current affairs type books might morph into containing some kind of serialized element as a way of keeping all the facts and information bang up to date. The resurgence of serialised fiction (which feels like unbundling) is also very exciting and will surely grow but not to the extent that singles have come back to dominate music. I’m pretty confident that a good long form novel is too powerful and immersive an experience to disappear. If I were negative however, I might argue that the next generation of readers will find it so hard to concentrate on and commit to an 80,000 word narrative, that serialised books might become much more dominant. Time will tell.

I’m running out of space and haven’t even talked about piracy and DRM.

3. If you could travel five years back in time what advice would you give yourself?

The professional advice I still give myself now, and what I would have given myself five years ago, is not to be afraid of mistakes or not immediately knowing the answer to problems. I have been lucky enough to work with some brilliant and brave entrepreneurs who have been able to figure out creative ways out of problems through very open, collaborative thinking. Having recently taken my own risks in funding and building two new literary festivals, I know there is not always a perfect answer to everything. Rarely does a single individual have the answers. It’s about collective problem solving and sometimes its actually just about vision and drive. There would be no entrepreneurs if they worried about all the obstacles that faced them at the start of a new venture.

4. Who do you admire and why?

I admire publishing and technology entrepreneurs like Chris Book of Bardowl and James Huggins of Me Books, while at the other end of the spectrum I take my hat off to Google for their sheer ambition and determination to digitize the entire written word.

I also admire self-editing, non-profit organisations like Wikipedia who have contributed so much to the ubiquitous availability of knowledge throughout the world. The optimist in me finds it incredible that Wikipedia is the 5th most visited website in the world. We are obviously moving in the right direction.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet so many wonderful writers at our festivals but these days I can’t get enough of Craig Brown’s razor sharp, satirical wit, especially One on One and The Lost Diaries. He’s also a real gentleman in person.

5. What predictions do you have for 2013 for publishing?

In essence, 2013 is going to be an exciting if daunting year depending on who you are. There will be more consolidation amongst publishers (there are now 3 record companies that control around 70% of the global music market) and as far as retail is concerned, as much as I hope Waterstones will have a good year, it will be hard. Although I am convinced that physical bookshops still have a role to play, the underlying economic conditions in the UK are tough. I have just heard that we spent £5bn less this Christmas compared to last year.

On the upside there has never been so much choice for readers, so many different new online communities for discovering new books (discovery is one of the most important issues in our ‘long tail’ world), different types of devices for reading, or so many alternative funding models for self-published authors and for small, smart presses who can offer a distinct identity to authors and readers. For me, Faber as an independent publishing brand does this incredibly well.

Like others in the industry, I agree that publishers big and small should seize the opportunity to launch new D2C strategies in order to build up what Seth Godin rightly calls permission directly from readers. Record labels gave most of their customers’ data to Amazon and Apple and publishers should learn from the music industry’s missed opportunity.

Subscription and lending services (both for eBooks and audiobooks) will grow and some may find a route to market through being bundled into the price of our monthly mobile phone bills (Berlin based Textr is using this strategy). Publishers will use software like iBooks Author to create multimedia versions of books that don’t require the huge investment of a fully blown native app and finally, digital marketing will get seriously data driven with companies such as Bookseer leading the way.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Google will start to make more of an impact with its Play store for books, we’ll see more established authors like Margaret Atwood taking a hybrid approach to publishing their work, and more authors will be scouted via self-publishing platforms and will have already existing fan bases in place.

Certainly not a static industry in 2013 then.

A huge thank you to Videl for his insight, time and predictions for 2013. Videl is a hive of information, a champion for the power of the written word and is an extremely friendly chap to boot. You can find him on Twitter at @videlbarkar

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Laura Austin

Laura Austin works at YUDU Media and is always on the lookout for trade and education publishers looking to digitise illustrated content for the web, tablets and mobile. Laura’s first publishing job was at Pearson, where she project managed and edited a range of digital and print products for ELT. Laura moved into her first sales position in 2008 and covered the UK, Ireland and Maltese Education Markets for Cengage Learning before moving to OUP as the ‘Digital Champion’ for the UK Sales team. She then moved to Brighton to join a Brighton-based tech start up, whilst co-founding BookMachine, a fast-growing community for the publishing industry.

Laura Austin

1. What has been your industry highlight of 2012?

Definitely the launch of iBooks Author. It has enabled publishers to create highly interactive books for the ipad (and ipad mini) at the fraction of the cost of a native app build. It’s been a great tool for our team at YUDU to work with. For educational publishers in particular, it allows them to take advantage of the student friendly features of the software, such as digital index cards and online glossaries. This means that the textbooks have considerable advantages over their paper equivalents. This is a really exciting development and really showcases how useful digital developments can be for the consumption of content.

2. What three things would you do first if the world ends on 21/12/2012? (assuming that everyone is alive to read this)

As simple as it sounds; I’d probably spend an afternoon with my brother. He also lives in London, but being busy people we tend to see each other twice a year. Shocking I know! After that it would have to be travel related really, I’ve always been into ‘Evita’ so a trip to Buenos Aires would be amazing. Finally – the sea. Nothing beats swimming in the sea on a warm day. So that’d be it – the perfect finale to life.

3. Since starting Bookmachine what insights can you offer into the nature of publishing?

Before starting BookMachine, I used to associate the publishing industry with the big 5 (or 6!) and focus on their movements as a benchmark of the nature of the publishing. Since starting BookMachine, I tend to focus on industry entrepreneurs – those who are creating platforms, tools and organisations, which support industry change; and who are seeking to find that missing piece of the jigsaw, which will revolutionise publishing. Great examples of these are Jellybooks, Valobox and ReadSocial. We’re about to see some significant shifts in how content reaches the market; and watching these models evolve is as insightful as it gets.

4. If you could travel five years back in time what advice would you give yourself?

Earlier on in my career I don’t think I was patient enough, I liked to turn everything around quickly. Now I am older, I can see that everything takes time – new processes take time to develop, relationships take time to build and skills take time and dedication to master.

5. What advice would you give anyone looking to find work in publishing?

I’d recommend attending BookMachine events (excuse the blatant plug!) and networking like crazy. Remember to ask people how you can help them, rather than always be looking out for something yourself.

Make sure you focus on finding work in growth areas. You are likely to spend a lot of time at work, so make sure the skills used in jobs you apply for, are likely to help you in the future, and are not shortly to become ‘redundant’.

6. Lastly, predictable as ever, what is Santa bringing you for Christmas assuming you’ve behaved yourself this year?

All I want for Christmas is a day on the sofa (uninterrupted – and that includes the Twitter addiction!) with a really good book. That’s all!

A huge thank you to Laura for taking time out of her hectic schedule to talk to us. Sometimes I don’t know how she does it. You would be hard pushed not to have noticed or bumped into Laura at a publishing based event. I would also like to doff my cap to her for Bookmachine. It’s an excellent networking resource and they’re always lots of fun. Her and Gavin Summers have made a real success story out of it. You would be wise to attend the next one. You can follow Laura on Twitter @lauraaustinnow

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From a Recruitment Perspective

Often it depends entirely on who you talk to. Some say that publishing is on the brink of collapse. Many say the printed word will be dead within five years. A brave few say that the main contenders will stand firm and remain unchanged. The fearful many will just have to wait and see. In all respects the passion remains untouched. It’s almost like a multi layered game of poker. The only differences being that you can see your opponent’s cards, there aren’t any rules and no one can possibly estimate how long the game will last for.

From a recruitment perspective it’s been, and is going to be, a fascinating yet challenging time. As an agency we are constantly adapting to the changing face of the industry as and when it happens. We have to. Everything is evolving. Sadly with evolution comes destruction and we’ve had to bear witness to the downfall of some established and illustrious names who just don’t know where to turn anymore.

So we turn to those who can point us in the right direction. We dig deep into the minds of our new pioneers of the industry. We analyse trends and seek new language. We take time to ask people working in the industry what their opinions are, what they’ve learned and how they perceive the industry as it stands. We want to know what they think. We want to know what you think. There’s no right or wrong answer but that’s the entire point. If we don’t learn from those that have already learned their lessons then we would be as lost as those who currently feel they are.

Evolution also brings birth and subsequent rebirth. As we explore digital dominions there are new skills required, new lessons to learn, new ideas, new technology, new candidates and new companies. The entire span of the industry, from assistant editor to managing director, is bearing witness to the birth of a new age. Where once we were afraid we now embrace the multi-faceted collage that we now claim to be our new conceptual business model. As complicated as this may be there’s a sense of freedom to it. The industry’s lack of direction can only inspire the path seekers to keep searching for their final destination. The rules have been changed, broken and rewritten. We now seek the brave, the entrepreneurial, the opportunists and the steady pair of hands.

The advantage we have as an agency is that all of our consultants have worked in the publishing industry. We understand the late nights in the office meeting an impossible schedule. We have pored through the slush piles. We have felt the fizzing office atmosphere of a new publication creeping through a last minute embargo.  We have clutched advance copies to our breathless chests. We have clinched sales deals only to charge onto the next one. We are fascinated by the changes our industry is experiencing and are as passionate as you are.

We can help you find the right people to help drive you in whatever direction you are choosing to go. Equally we take much needed time with both clients and candidates. It’s not just about the skills sets or the salary or the people they know. It’s about the passion, the office culture, the personality fit and the feeling you get when you meet a candidate and your heart beats a little faster when you know that they have a great and grand future ahead of them.

These are challenging times. These are opportunistic times. The future of the book is in our hands. We can help you shape it.

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Futurebook 2012 Roundup

On Monday the 3rd December we attended and were proud to sponsor the Futurebook 2012 round up. There were many fascinating speakers, many eye opening debates and certainly lots of concept based conversations based on the new ways in which publishing companies exist in this new marketplace. A lot of familiar ground was covered but there were some refreshing and ground breaking ideas and opinions from individuals keen to know more. If you were lucky enough to attend you may have noticed a prevailing sense of adventure and new life being breathed into business practices that had previously been thought of as impassable. It’s a brave new world and we’re proud to be a part of it.

We’ve gathered our opinions here but feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment box below.


International Perspective (Claire Law)

It was an excellent day for discussing all things digital and I really enjoyed the International Perspective session.  We’re doing more and more work with international publishers and it’s helpful to know what’s happening globally.  Of particular interest was Marcello Vena’s introduction of RCS Libri’s new free ebooks on trains project.  As a regular train traveller this would be amazing but can’t see it happening any time soon here!  As so many people have said, it’s all about discoverability – the issue for sales of the 99% of titles that aren’t bestsellers.  It’s not just about book discovery, it’s also about the discovery of readers!  Patrick Rouvillois, MD International, Barnes & Noble outlined the creation of the Nook ecosystem and Nook channels for better discoverability. And Hannah Russell, Publisher Relationships Manager at Txtr gave us a fascinating case study of their move into the Malaysian market and the obstacles they’ve overcome working with a local partner, Maxis.  The Txtr beagle product is the first to be charged via battery with content added via Bluetooth – great for emerging markets.

Branding (Claire Louise)

Last Monday I was at FutureBook with others from the AtwoodTate team. I got to spend the day with my favourite people (publishing people ROCK!), listening to some really clever chaps and chapesses talking about what is happening in an industry I love – it was a good day. Lots and lots of things were talked about, but two things in particular struck me.

The first was the concept of The Brand. Publishers need to be looking beyond the book format (be that print or digital), and instead be embracing the whole IP (intellectual property). Think Harry Potter – it is the books, but it is also apps, games, and films, it’s a website, a theme park. It could be something else they haven’t invented yet. At the core is a central IP, or brand. This is going to require a change in working practices, multi-partner collaboration, and people brave enough to experiment.

Which brings me onto the other thing that was clear from the day. There is a crying need for people with the right sort of skills, and attitude, to embrace this digital future. Attracting, and keeping, these people might require us acknowledging that the best candidate isn’t always from a traditional publishing background. It is also about recognising that sometimes personality is as important as a set of skills. (Which is why AtwoodTate meets all our candidates, before we put them forward for an interview).

Consumer Insight (Sam Coleman)

One of the most insightful and consistent messages running through the core of the Futurebook conference 2012 was the impact on publishing of consumer insight. Due to the almost open access nature of content the very fact that the customer is now able to provide direct feedback to the publisher opens up an entire new range of business practices. Rebecca Smart, CEO of Osprey, spoke in great detail regarding the need for publishers to specialise in their customer even going to such depths to understand their hopes and dreams as well as the story they tell themselves. This is vital thinking in respect to establishing exactly not only what the customer wants to buy but how their purchase is an integral part of their lives. Being able to understand the patterns of data that are now available to us in terms of customer profiling, spending habits, content usage and territory are quickly becoming fundamental in the way a company sells content and finds their “voice”.

Stephen Page from Faber touched on the next generation of readers and writers who are now in a position to feel a real connection with a publisher’s brand along with the content itself. The existing and emerging market would be foolish to ignore the importance of the consumer. The power of the blogging community is also an essential consideration to be taken into account as a company. There are new and exciting ways in which to focus strategy and enable direct communication with consumer markets. There are new virtual worlds to exist in and understanding the etiquette that comes with these concepts is vital to exist effectively and succeed financially. The power of the consumer in your hands.

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Consultant in the Hot Seat – Sam Coleman

The second of our “Consultant in the Hot Seat” posts, Sam Coleman has been asked a variety questions by the team here at Atwood Tate. Read on.


1. If you could write ‘THE book’ on something, the definitive how-to guide on any subject, which topic would you choose?

I would write a book on the cognitive and physical development of a child. Watching my daughter grow up is endlessly fascinating and I always want to know more about what she’s thinking, how she’s thinking and why she’s thinking. The world must be a terrifying and edifying place for any newborn. I’d like to explore how best to communicate with a person who can only learn how to learn from their experiences.

2. What role would you like to see created in publishing next year?

I’d like to see a role that fits the entrepreneur. I’d like to see a creative, free thinking opportunity that doesn’t fit the usual skill set. I’d like to see a role that reflects and harnesses individual creative spirit. Ultimately I’d like to work on a role that shows a company’s willingness to take a risk.

3. What three books changed your life?

Hero of a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell – The journey of the Hero resides in us all and it’s a fascinating insight into why we adore the (as an example) Star Wars franchise so much.

Preacher by Garth Ennis – I wrote my dissertation on Preacher due mainly to the depth of the characters, the themes within the storyline and the overall impact of the artwork within. A masterpiece of sequential art if ever there was one.

The Proud Highway by Hunter S. Thompson – A vast collection of letters written to anyone he could point his typewriter at. In these I found the writer’s journey, an insight into a life far beyond my understanding and ultimately my inspiration to write.

4. What is the best way to market the skills and experience a candidate has?

Initially you have to bring the best out of them. Work to establish what drives them, what they’re passionate about and what they want to do before even thinking about marketing them. If your candidate doesn’t realise what they’re good at then sometimes you have to show them the way based on your understanding of the business. Once you have this the best way to market them is pick up the phone, talk to the right people and build those relationships.

The other way is to attend events. Get out the door and start networking. Sometimes the only way to establish the right “fit” is to meet the people your candidate could fit with.

5. What three things make the perfect candidate at Atwood Tate?

Integrity, honesty and passion.

6. If you were given the chance to have one superpower from any book/comic character, what would you have?

The ability to breathe underwater.

7. What book are you reading at the moment and what do you think of it?

I’ve just finished Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski. I thought it was one of the bleakest, funniest most savage takes on life in America I have ever read. Read it. Bukowski will change your life if you let him.

8. What has been the highlight/s of your publishing recruitment year?

Every candidate I place into a new job is a highlight for me. Honestly. Not only is it a life changing experience for that particular person I hope that, in turn, my actions have helped to better the inner workings of the publisher as well.

9. What are you most looking forward to in 2013?

Watching my daughter grow up, the next developments in the evolution of the publishing industry and gardening.

10. What is on your Christmas wish list this year?

Comic books. Lots and lots of comic books.

11. If you were the living embodiment of a publishing business model what animal would you be and why?

I would be a bat. Fragile, intelligent, delicate, warm blooded. The way they use sound to establish their surroundings feels very similar to what publishers are doing now – publishing new content, receiving feedback, moving onto the next part of the forest (market). Constantly learning and adapting.

* True fact: Sam used to teach SCUBA diving in Aberdeen, Scotland. Brr.

Follow Atwood Tate on Twitter @AtwoodTate

To find out more about the roles each of our consultants covers, go to the “Meet the Team” page:

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