The IPG Autumn Conference – all about Reaching Readers

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It was a great day of talks and a forum for sharing ideas recently as the crème de la crème of the independent publishing world met up at the RSA for the IPG Autumn Conference. (Interesting fact: I got married at the RSA!)

Nick Harkaway kicked off with an entertaining look at how publishers can reach their readers via digital channels.  He urged us to consider what is the perfect reader experience? What’s yours?  What’s your readers?  He encouraged us to engage with people – more Argentine tango style and to be responsive, engage their passion.  Pick your area and know who you are as an independent publisher.  He mentioned a couple of publishers doing it well: Brands like Nosy Crow and Angry Robot are engaging and he knows that he’s very likely to like what they do next.

Other suggestions included publishing more quickly so readers don’t have to wait 12 or 18 months for the next book.  Also readers don’t want to pay more than once for the same content in different formats so think about bundling and in return get the customer details so you can learn who they are and what they will want to buy in future.


Tim Williams of Edward Elgar and Kate Wilson of Nosy Crow gave case studies of 2 very different publishing styles for different markets.

Edward Elgar Publishing specializes in the academic and professional markets and their books are mainly sold direct to libraries and Tim asked the question, if the customer isn’t the reader, why bother trying to reach them? Answer: Readers are also authors; readers request books from librarians; they write new books and they leave a trail of citations and usage data.

Nosy Crow has come a long way fast.  It’s hard to believe such a strong brand has only been going since 2010.  They have to reach their readers but through another person e.g. teacher, librarian, parent.  Kate outlined that publishing used to be about shouting to an unknown audience but now we have the opportunity to connect with book buyers directly.  This involves interacting with them via twitter, blogging and other social media.  They gather audience mailing info and have ambassadors who get early release material.  They have oversubscribed reading groups and have run a conference for their authors, illustrators etc.

Tips with social media – you need to be:

Consistent – stick to the voice you’ve decided on

Responsive – internet not as broadcast medium, interact

Respectful – have a sense of privilege to connect with readers

Grateful – for good reviews etc. thank them

Generous – talk about other publishers


In the very important ‘Supply chain’ section, Colin James of Penguin Random House outlined some of the changes they’ve made e.g. moving to a little and often printing model.  He stressed the importance of getting strong partnerships in place with printers and suppliers and getting SLAs in place.

Andy Cork of Printondemand-worldwide urged publishers to think about designing for manufacture in order to keep costs and timing manageable for POD.

Gareth Cuddy of ePub Direct gave us an insight into his world and considered the important question of how to help publishers manage and control data?  There are lots of products out there and publishers need reports but need to know what to do with all the data once it starts flooding in.


Suw Charman Anderson, gave lots of sound advice on publishers’ social media strategy, suggesting publishers think about their audience demographics – each social media has different users.  She advised us to use every piece of content 3 times e.g. on Twitter, your blog and Pinterest.  It’s important to measure the activity of your audience – when are they online?  Also measure your activity – are people sharing information? Importantly, review what you’re doing regularly and how successful it is and change as needed.

Guy Fowles and Rob Nichols from Constable & Robinson encouraged us to engage with our audience, encourage them to interact and share your content (& link back to your sites!).  Advice was given on how to get to the top of google listings – we need to have unique high quality original content that adds value e.g. photo albums, author interviews, comment or blog pieces, promotional videos, competitions.  And share it across multiple platforms different times to reach different audiences.


Chris Bennett of CUP gave a fascinating talk on global pricing issues and advised indies to hold their nerve.  The pricing disparity where publishers produce home market and international editions of textbooks and price to the local market is more severe especially with the onset of eBooks.

Lee Harris from Angry Robot was very entertaining and after his first thought on preparing a talk on pricing: “Look at what everyone else charges and charge that” gave a fascinating outline of the various considerations involved in setting prices.  He considered the implications of print and eBook pricing and the variations in acceptable prices both in the UK and the US.  What’s the best price for an eBook? Depends on what best refers to – the reader / publisher / industry!

Matt Haslum of Faber & Faber gave us some great ideas on the power of partnerships and how pretty much any publisher can come up with a partnership idea to suit their brand.

So, a lot of ideas and suggestions on reaching the reader along with some interesting observations e.g. that we want absence of screen sometimes (oh yes!) and that we consume in different ways.


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