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London Book Fair 2018 Round-Up

 

We’ve had an amazing (if exhausting!) three days at the London Book Fair 2018 this week. We’ve had really productive meetings with clients new and established, met some brilliant new candidates, been to fascinating seminars and walked far too many steps (I wish I’d had a pedometer to keep count)!

Our Highlights from the London Book Fair 2018

We had a comfortable booth in the Club at the Ivy, which acted as our base and a venue for meetings on all three days of the fair.

The excitement of the fair was contagious, and it was really fun to walk around soaking up the atmosphere and looking at the stands. It was great to see what new releases are coming out soon as well as new developments in the industry as a whole, including a big focus on technology and audio.

The big talking point this year was the recreation of the Oval Office, built to publicise the release of Bill Clinton and James Patterson’s new novel, The President is Missing. My other favourite was the Usborne stand, which looked like a treehouse! The children’s section was as fun and colourful as ever.

The Bookcareers Clinic

Christina and Alison had a great time at the Bookcareers.com clinic supported by The Publishers Association. They met enthusiastic future publishers and gave them our best tips as well as explaining a little more about what we do, including our temps service, which is a great way for aspiring publishers to gain (paid!) work experience. If you missed it, you might want to have a look at our Work Experience and Entry Level Resources page on our blog.

Networking

Helen particularly enjoyed meeting interesting people in academic and professional publishing at the ALPSP (Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers) drinks on Tuesday. She would like to thank them for organising such a good networking opportunity!

Seminars

There were too many excellent seminars to name all of them, but here are some of our highlights:

Anna went along to the Society of Young Publishers seminars on Getting Into and Getting Ahead in Publishing. These seminars were broadcast live on Facebook and if you missed them, you can still watch them here. They simultaneously launched their new mentoring scheme, SYPinto – find more information here and get your applications in quickly! The main take-aways from the seminars were: tell the recruiter why they should hire you, don’t include irrelevant or negative things and the cover letter is as important, if not more important than the CV. Networking and making contacts is the thing and that’s partly what LBF is about!

Helen went to the seminar ‘Academic Research: How Free Should it Be?’ It was very interesting and opened her eyes to the complex drivers behind Open Access (OA) publishing and the complexity of the issues surrounding it, including the differing perceptions of OA in different markets. For example, Indian researchers are generally suspicious of OA but China tends to have less of a problem with it and will be happy to go OA with a prestigious brand.  It’s a complex global picture and the lines of communication between publishers and researchers are not always clear, which leads to difficulties.  Researchers often take a narrow view and are focussed on how publishing affects their funding but publishers have an overarching view of the complex issues and other drivers of the change to OA, so they aren’t always “on the same page” and that is a challenge that needs to be addressed.

From Academic to Children’s publishing: Ellie was particularly excited to see one of her childhood heroes, Jacqueline Wilson. She went to listen to her give a great question and answer session, where she spoke about the challenges and rewards of writing about children from disadvantaged backgrounds who experience very difficult situations. She also talked about returning to old characters (as in her new book, My Mum Tracy Beaker) and the new challenges facing children growing up today compared to when she first started writing. Apparently she finds it much more difficult to write a text-message conversation than an in-person one!

On a more serious note, Claire went to the talk on ‘A Bookish Brexit’, which covered ideas on what the international publishing community might expect from a post-Brexit UK publishing industry and what policy positions the UK will need to adopt. The Publisher’s Association released their Blueprint for UK Publishing which you can see here.

Claim to fame…

Our very own Senior Recruitment Consultant Claire Carrington-Smith was featured in the Bookseller Daily on the Wednesday for ‘My Job in Five’! If you missed it you can see it again here.

 

Let us know what your favourite part of the London Book Fair in the comments below. Or contact us on any of our social media: TwitterFacebook, LinkedInYouTube or Instagram.

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London Book Fair 2018 – What to Expect

Here at Atwood Tate, we’re getting ready for the London Book Fair, which will be taking place on the 10-12th April at the Olympia exhibition centre in Hammersmith. We are busy booking in meetings with our wonderful clients; it’s a great opportunity for us to connect or reconnect with our contacts across the industry. It’s an important time of year for publishers, especially for rights and acquisitions departments, but for everyone else involved in the production and sale of books too. It may be held in London but it is a global affair, with stands from 1,000+ companies from 56 countries around the world and attendees from over 118 countries.

What’s on

Seminars

There are SO MANY interesting talks on, and while it’s impossible to go to them all, you should definitely look at the programme to see what you’re interested in going to so you can plan your time around them. Some of our must-sees are:

  • How to Get Into Publishing – Wednesday 11th April, 4-5pm. This panel, organised by the Society of Young Publishers (SYP), will discuss how you can get your first role in publishing.
  • How to Get Ahead in Publishing – Wednesday 11th April, 5:15-6:15pm. Another SYP panel event, this one is aimed at those already in publishing looking to make it onto the next stage of their career and climb up the ladder.
  • Bookcareers.com clinic supported by The Publishers Association – Thursday 12th April, 14:30-17:00. Come and chat with an HR manager or publishing recruitment consultant at this careers clinic! Get advice on your CV and ask questions to the experts. Our Senior Recruitment Consultants Alison Redfearn and Christina Dimitriadi will be there and can’t wait to meet you. Be warned though – this is a very popular event and will be busy. Get there early and prepare to queue.

Networking

There are plenty of opportunities to network at the fair – at stands, in queues, sitting next to people in seminars… There are also networking events, and you are likely to see us hovering around – do say hello! We’ll be at:

Market Focus

This year there will be a Market Focus on the Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) as they celebrate a century since their independence. The aim of the Market Focus is to showcase books and the publishing trade in specific countries and regions around the world, and to highlight and encourage business opportunities globally.

This is really just an introduction to what will be happening at the London Book Fair this year. Whether this is your first time at the Fair or your thirtieth, we look forward to seeing you there! Get your ticket here. Follow #LBF18 on Twitter for more updates.

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Museum & Cultural Publishing: an evening with OPuS

 

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Last Thursday, OPuS held an event to discuss Museum and Cultural Publishing. The speakers were Declan McCarthy (Ashmolean Museum), Samuel Fanous (The Bodleian Library) and Katie Bond (National Trust). John Hudson (Historic England) was the Chair.

The publishing and retail scene in museums, galleries and the heritage sector has been resilient during the recent unsettled years in publishing, and is a significant component of the wider cultural sector which is one of our national success stories. Within the sector, books are published on a variety of models – on a fully commercial basis or one of cost recovery, or in some cases conscious subsidy as part of a wider agenda. In this session, publishers from the National Trust, The Bodleian Library and the Ashmolean Museum, all based locally, describe their business and the particular characteristics of the cultural publishing sector.

 

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Things learnt:

  • Lots of cultural publishers are members of ACE: The Association of Cultural Enterprises
  • The Ashmolean publishing programme focuses on event catalogs, tied to the 3-5 exhibitions the museum holds each year. These differ from general trade books in that the sales are tied very strongly to the actual exhibition, and any sales beyond a show are a bonus.
  • For the Ashmolean, business is still very focused around producing beautiful, physical books. E-books, apps, and other digital forms do exist and are continually looked into, but at the moment they are not viable revenue generators.
  • Whilst the Bodleian has always published, the current publishing programme is still very new and has been grown gradually and carefully.
  • Public engagement is fundamental to the continued survival of cultural institution, and a publishing programme is a useful tool for this.
  • The Bodleian has several different approaches it takes when publishing titles: 1) doing a direct facsimile edition of an out-of-print book, 2) repackaging material in a new format, 3) publishing newly authored titles (that often use illustrations and source material from the collections), 4) gift-books to bring in a new audience of non-scholars.
  • The National Trust has over 200 shops – that is more nationally than Waterstones – and around 50% of their book revenues come from sales in those shops. The other 50% is primarily from sales in the UK trade. Like the Ashmolean, most of their sales are print, with digital and ebooks having more presence overseas.
  • Along with the annual Handbook that goes to all National Trust members, and the individual property guidebooks which are done in-house, they also publishing specialist books, illustrated narrative non-fiction, and children’s books. These are published in partnership with Nosy Crows, Pavilion, and Faber & Faber.
  • A book that sells well in the Trade does not (always) sell well in the gift-shops, and vice versa. Katie has learnt that the more a book is embedded in the organisation and ties back to their core message, the better it does.
  • The Children’s market is challenging, nostalgic, brand driven, infuriating, hard to break in to, but with massive talent, potential, and hugely rewarding.
  • As an editor you may come across challenges from elsewhere in your organisation about why you commissioned a particular title from a particular author. You need to know what you are publishing and why, and don’t be afraid to stick to your guns if it is important. That is the editors job!

All in all, it was a fascinating evening learning about a sector of the industry many of us are not aware of. The main lesson I learned was that publishing in the heritage sector requires a thorough understanding of the requirements of your market, a deep appreciation for the uniqueness of your source material (be that a museum, a library collection, or several hundred distinct properties around the country), a creative mind to see the new potential, and the willingness to take a risk on something that hasn’t been done before.

Let us know your thoughts on the event, on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn! Or tag us in your photos on Instagram!

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The British Book Industry Awards 2016 (BBIA)

The Bookseller has revamped The Bookseller Industry Awards (the trade “Nibbies”), making them much more focussed on books and all about getting more people reading.

If you didn’t make it to the awards, here’s the list of winners highlighting the best of the British book trade and the people working in it:

http://www.thebookseller.com/british-book-industry-awards

And here are some reading ideas with the shortlists for books of the year in various categories:

Children’s Book of the Year

Debut Fiction Book of the Year

Non-fiction Book of the Year

Fiction Book of the Year

Here’s the Bookseller’s article about the winners:

http://www.thebookseller.com/news/bbia-crowns-transworld-and-w-h-smith-328533

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The Bookseller Marketing and Publicity Conference 2015

Last Tuesday I attended the annual Bookseller Marketing and Publicity Conference, hosted on the Southbank. It was the first time I’d attended the conference and it was a great opportunity to meet other marketing and publicity publishing professionals, exchange ideas and learn about new developments in the industry. I was impressed by the range of topics which were discussed as well as the speakers brought in from outside the industry, from companies such as Pinterest, Sports Interactive and Unruly Media.

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The day was split into 5 sections, which I’ve summarised below:

The Rules of Engagement

Will Francis, founder of digital agency Harkable, kicked off the day with a talk about “full stack” authors who are multidisciplinary and excel in using social media. Next up was Zoe Pearson, Marketing Manager at Pinterest, who showed how publishers should be using Pinterest to successfully market their books. This was followed by Matt Haslum, Consumer Marketing Director at Faber and Faber who spoke about how publishers should adopt a start-up mentality and write love letters to their customers, instead of newsletters. Next up was Ciaran Brennan, Communications Director at Sports Interactive, the creative studio behind Football Manager. He gave a really interesting talk on the Digital Fanscape and how publishers should engage with their fans. Caroline Maddison, Head of Consumer Marketing & PR at Collins, finished with The Scrabble Week study. This was an inspiring example of how Collins turned the marketing of their Official Scrabble Words Dictionary into a major event on a small budget.

Under Pressure

Toby Hartwell, Director of Forward Thinking inc and Phil Rumbol, Founding Partner at 101 Agency, began by discussing the problems of too many books, channels and competitors. This was followed by Rohan Gunatillake, Director of Mindfulness Everywhere who spoke about user driven products and PR. Next came Sarah Benton Fiction Marketing Director at HarperCollins and Niamh Murray, Head of Marketing at Profile Books/Serpent’s tail who discussed how publishers should effectively allocate limited resources to achieve results. Natalie Ramm, Marketing Consultant at Pushkin Press, then spoke about the power of brand partnerships. This section was rounded up by a fascinating panel discussion about the possibilities and perils of author led marketing and how sending a lamb chop into space can really help sell books!

Influencer Afternoon

The post-lunch section began with a panel discussion about exploring alternative ways to generate publicity and the importance of being proactive and having a personal approach. This was followed by advice from Sandra Taylor, publicist turned bookseller, who shared her tips for using the retail environment to promote books. Vicky Palmer, Head of Marketing & Digital at Headline and Georgina Moore, Communications Director at Headline and Tinder Press concluded this section by talking about their savvy Lemon Grove campaign and the 8 questions that all marketers and publicists should ask themselves to ensure success.

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5 x 5’s: 5 experts for 5 minutes on 5 rules

Timur Cetin, VP Business Development (EMEA) at Unruly Media, gave his 5 rules for creating viral video (cats are overrated!) Next was Jo Henry, VP of Insight and Analytics at Nielsen, who spoke about making the most of your consumer insight. She was followed by Liz Vater, Director of Stoke Newington Literature Festival, who gave her 5 rules for pitching to literature festivals. Freelancer Stephanie Martin then gave her 5 rules for email marketing. This section was rounded up by Iain Miller, Co-founder of Canelo, who spoke about his 5 rules for successful e-book marketing.

Brand Ambitions

The final section of the day was opened by Claire Wilshaw, Brand Director of Vintage and Zeljka Marosevic, Managing Director of Melville House UK, who discussed how to successfully build a distinct publishing brand. This was followed by Sarah Patel and Fergus Edmondson, both from Pan Macmillan, who discussed how to launch a non-fiction brand. James Spackman, Managing Director of DBP Watkins, closed the conference with a really interesting presentation about how publishers can enhance the reader experience through the physical design of a book.

Thanks to all the speakers and the Bookseller for organising. We look forward to seeing everyone at next year’s conference!

Full programme and PowerPoint slides for the conference can be found here.

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The Bookseller Marketing and Publicity Conference 2014

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We had a fantastic day on the Southbank earlier in July for the Bookseller Marketing and Publicity Conference. With so many publicity and marketing people crammed into one (dimly-lit and wifi-free) conference room, it was an excellent chance to mingle with some very friendly, very passionate publicity and marketing professionals. It was a very long day, with so much useful and interesting information, that it would be impossible to write everything we heard. Here’s a quick summary of the day (slides from the day are available on the Bookseller website):

Nigel Roby and Alice Ryan kicked off the day welcoming us all and introducing Jessica Elvidge who is Creative Strategist for YouTube and Daniel Dalton, Staff Writer at Buzzfeed who both gave us some great tips on using content for YouTube (for example – I’m a backwards Q introvert, in case you were curious) and on social media (tip number 3 – be emotional, not rational was my favourite, using the @WstonesOxfordSt twitter account as an example of how to use twitter effectively).

Danny Asling from Wiley and Katie Sadler from Harper Collins followed with excellent examples of how trade and academic publishers are using social media and events to engage their audiences. Jo Henry from Nielsen Book Research had some fascinating things to say about Consumer Insight, followed by Claire Evans and Louise Vinter from Transworld and Penguin Random House respectively, who told us about how they’re embedding consumer insight across the organisation and how they’ve been learning about getting to know their audiences.

Nicholas Lovell, founder of GAMESbrief taught us about The Curve and the morning was rounded off with a panel of booksellers. Melissa Cox, Children’s Buyer for Waterstones, Sheila O’Reilley, Owner of Dulwich Books and Jasper Sutcliffe, Head of Buying at Foyles discussed how booksellers can act as an extension for the publicist, championing books that they feel passionate about directly to the customer.

Our afternoon kicked off with rules for writing good copy from Andy Maslen, Founder of the Andy Maslen Copywriting Academy and Dan Bond, Head of Digital Marketing at Adestra asked us if our email marketing was a world cup winner.

We had some super case studies in the afternoon, starting with Clara Nelson, Editor and Alice Broderick, Publicity Director at Vintage talking us through their campaign on a shoestring for John William’s Stoner, followed by Tania Vian Smith – Head of PR and Gemma Green, Marketing Manager at Penguin Children’s Books, showing us what magic you can create when you use bird cages and hunky young actors in city centres. Crystal Mahey-Morgan, Digital Account Manager for Random House then talked us through a superb presentation for Jamal Edward’s book and their @selfbelievers campaign, showing us how to sell books to people who claim to hate reading, thinking outside the box and repackaging content to suit the audience.

Katie Roden and Damien Horner from Fixabook explained why design is our most important marketing tool and how to make the most of our covers and driving the value (not cost!) of print content up. Following this, the very interesting Preena Gadher, Managing Director of Riot Communications talked us through her ideas book and how they use their combined creativity at Riot to come up with great campaigns.

Finally, to wrap up a fab day, the panel of Literary Editors chaired by Cathy Rentzenbrink, Associate Editor at The Bookseller gave the Publicist in the room some fantastic tips from the other side about how to best convince a literary editor to review your book. Patricia Nicol – Freelance features writer and editor, Fanny Blake – Books Editor of Women and Home and Robert Collins – Deputy Literary editor of The Sunday Times gave some really great feedback about how they’re working with Publicists at the moment and how they go about picking which books to review each month or week.

Phew! After all of that, we were all treated to some complimentary drinks to mingle and catch up with familiar and new faces. It was a great day with a lot to take away and think about. For me, the two highlights would have to be:

  • Bringing people in from outside the traditional industry (gaming, social media, agencies) is a long called for development and it was an absolutely fantastic chance to bring in creative peers from many industries to give ideas on how things can move forward in marketing and publicising content. It’s great to see that we’re finally opening our doors to people in other sectors to come and share how they see things in their areas of expertise.
  • The focus on consumer insight – we had quite a few speakers talk to us about knowing who you’re selling to and focusing on using that data to more accurately reach the most likely buyers. We now have access to enormous amounts of data about how people shop and what they buy so it was brilliant to see how this is being translated within marketing and publicity campaigns to make sure that the industry evolves and moves forward.

Full programme for the conference can be found here.

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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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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.

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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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Rebecca Smart

Rebecca Smart is CEO of Osprey Group, a UK-based international publishing company focused on producing the best content for enthusiasts across a broad range of specialist areas including military history, heritage and nostalgia, transport history, crafts, antiques, science fiction and fantasy, and mind, body and spirit. Osprey Group publishes in four divisions: Osprey, Shire, Angry Robot and Watkins. What defines the company is not what it creates but for whom it creates. Osprey Group publishes books and content based on subject enthusiasms and passions, whether it be authoritative technical data on the military technology of World War II, a positive psychology guide, a history of the Great Western Railway or an edgy genre novel set in near-future South Africa.

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

The achievements I remember most are those of my team. I believe the most important way I can spend my time is in helping people be the best they can be, and it’s such a great feeling to see someone step up to a new level in their work, or to take on a new role and really fly in it. I know that sounds very clichéd but it’s true.

2. How much impetus was placed on the use of social media with the release of Angry Robot? Any lessons learned?

Angry Robot is very much part of the community (of both authors and readers) it serves. The editors and marketers use social media all the time as a natural part of being ‘in the gang’. Developing a brand within a niche market takes time and patience, but a steadily growing feeling of belonging is crucial and social media is key to this. Lessons … don’t try too hard, blend different types of communication, be yourself, make friends, remember that face-to-face is a social medium too.

3. What are you most excited about as one of the Judging panel for FutureBook’s Digital Innovation Awards?

I have been really excited to see work which matches great use of a digital platform with meeting a clear market need – not just innovation for the sake of innovation. I can’t say any more for now!

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

On workflow and systems, be creative in finding low-cost solutions which move the company towards an ultimate goal, don’t worry about getting there all in one go. And recognise that change makes people feel uncomfortable and that it’s OK for things not to be OK at times – it’s part of the process.

5. What do you look for when hiring individuals into a digital capacity?

In no particular order …

  • Creativity – not just capability around design/appearance of a product but also in thinking about process. I need people who can find their way through a project using innovative solutions. And that means flexibility is also key.
  • High energy combined with strong communication skills and a ‘can-do’ approach – I want someone who can enthuse and evangelise about digital and who is driven to succeed.
  • Technical knowledge and/or a hunger to learn a broad range of skills.
  • Broad commercial awareness and a focus on the customer.

6. And lastly if you were the living embodiment of a publishing business model what animal would you be and why?

We’d be Perry the platypus, from Phineas and Ferb (if you haven’t watched it I urge you to check it out, it’s brilliant). All the qualities of a platypus (people don’t get it but it’s perfectly suited to its environment) and a secret superhero to boot.

A huge thank you to Rebecca for taking time out of her extremely busy schedule to provide such insight. You can find her on Twitter via @rebecsmart. Rebecca is one of the judging panel for this year’s FutureBook’s Digital Innovation Awards of which we are a proud sponsor. I would strongly suggest heading over to the Futurebook blog site for some fascinating takes on digital publishing where you can read more from Rebecca and many others. As a further note the bookings for the Bookseller’s FutureBook 2012 conference close on Friday 23rd November. More details here. The conference takes place on Monday 3rd December so do come and say hello if you’re attending.

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