Event: Publishing Now at City University

I am happy to introduce my very first twin post in conjunction with Kingston University’s MA Publishing blog which follows the events of Sat 3rd December. 

In true publishing spirit, this years’ Publishing Now event kicked off on a Friday night, with a small team of industry experts poised for battle in a dark room at the back of The Boadicea pub in Clerkenwell. Three surprise questions were selected from a long list and posed to four industry pros – Suzanne Kavanagh, Eamonn Carey, Oliver Brooks and Simon Appleby,who, sometimes begrudgingly, had to argue from opposing sides. This is what I’ve been waiting for; from an industry where harmony prevails I was finally about to listen to a little enforced argument. Here’s a snapshot of what was thrown around on Twitter in response to several quite daring questions…

‘Is this the generation of instant gratification?’

‘We are the generation that wants, and we want it now!’ @eamonncarey

‘Give it to us now, and give it to us for free.’ @eamonncarey

‘Surely all generations would have liked quick information. It’s just that we can actually get it now.’ @tambourine

‘It still comes down to considered, long-form digestion.’ @sashers

‘Why aren’t short stories selling more if we’re an instant gratification generation?’ @novelmarketing

‘Is the book being de-valued by self-publishing?’

‘Self-publishing undermines the core skills of publishing.’ @sashers

‘Publishers offer experts in editing, marketing, retail, jackets.’ @novelmarketing

‘Self-publishing doesn’t mean abandoning editorial quality.’ @JohnP_Education

‘Real independent authors use professional editors, designers, formatters, mostly working freelance from traditional publishing.’ @thecreativepenn

‘A publisher filters the content as a writer doesn’t know what’s good and what isn’t.’ @novelmarketing

‘I’ve always thought of us as like the backstage crew of a theatre. Brilliant, but generally we go unnoticed.’ @JohnP_Education

‘It is REvaluing the book.’ @kristinbergene

‘We don’t need no innovation.’

‘Innovation in form but not necessarily content, content is king.’ @jcmc

‘If we don’t want innovation maybe we should stop calling them ‘novels’.’ @micycle

‘Can’t we spend some time digesting what we’ve already innovated?’ @JohnP_Education

‘Sometimes you have to go against what people think to make a difference.’ @BookMachine

Suffice to say, having to fight for the opposing side put some of the speakers in a precarious position, and had latecomers yelling ‘Blasphemy!’ at the Twitter screen.

a taster of things to come, the following day…

State of the Industry

Unlike the financial industry, publishing has been relatively slow on the technology uptake. Yet, Charkin explains, it’s clear that technologies are in a constant state of flux and that we need to be adaptable. He neatly encapsulates the industry’s current fear, that Amazon may very well eat us alive, or, as the case may be, beautiful books will be more important than ever. This he says before plugging Sarah Raven’s Wild Flowers, priced at £50, “…but you can get it for about £30 on Amazon.” Honestly! Charkin went on to explain that although it’s a tough time for first time authors, scientific writers have never had it so good with access to an abundance of information.

Gavin Summers, Digital Services Manager at Hodder Education, considered the question, ‘Have we any new ideas?’ casting a critical eye on the seemingly few changes that have come about since the Roman wax tablet. He said it was unfortunate that apps with the page turn effect sell more, and questioned why we so limited by the traditional page. Stories used to be fluid and change over generations of re-telling. Instead of producing content in a fixed form, Summers believes we need to collaborate, suggesting we look to the following web-based forums for inspiration:

  • Kickstarter and Unbound – Where book ideas are pitched, fans pledge money towards them and they’re produced if popular enough.
  • Subtext – An app-based reading community; read other peoples comments and media and add your own views as you go along.
  • Readmill – Share what you’ve read or the progress you’re making with friends.
  • Copia - A multimedia social network. Bring your friends along and receive discounts in their bookstore.

Summers hastens to add that the number of sites like this is no problem, only healthy competition that will keep us pushing boundaries and thinking outside the box.

The afternoon came to a close with an uplifting juxtaposition of the old and new on behalf of Mary Ann Kennan and Alistair Horne. The former, demonstrating the gradual shifts in the format of print books – from the very first, shoddily made paperbacks to Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which begins its prose where you would usually see the copyright page. The latter amused us all with his comparison of the state of the publishing industry today with the Austro-Hungarian Empire on the brink of WW1; Amazon being profit hungry Germany, iTunes mimicking Russia in a state of uncertain leadership and Google acting foolishly as England, happy to act then pay the price later. I strongly believe he should copyright this idea before someone publishes a witty current affairs article copying him word for word.

To adventure further into the magical minds of publishing experts, visit the Kingston University Publishing blog or wait until tomorrow, when I intend to write a post on advertising in unusual places…unimaginable places! So keep an eye out. For now, I shall leave you with an interesting photograph taken quite late on the Friday evening of myself and debate team member, Suzanne Kavanagh. I like to think the arrow is pointing to the rest of my blog!

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One response to “Event: Publishing Now at City University

  1. Pingback: Publishing Now: The Golden Age of Innovation | Kingston Publishing: inspiring future publishers

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