Sally Rooney’s phenomenal success has given a major flip to literary fiction, reminding the public of the joys of the smart contemporary novel that examines the way we live now. In the likes of Candice Carty William’s Queenie, What Red Was by Rosie Price and Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawlor, we’re already seeing a new generation of writers take on important subjects in innovative and different ways.
While selecting our Books of the Month and looking at nominations for Roundups and Featured Titles promotions, we’ve been struck by the breadth of the titles being published. Publishing is often accused of being risk-averse, but there seems to be a much more varied choice in stories than even eighteen months before. Certainly, it has become even more difficult to select the books we feature!
This broadening of horizons is replicated by readers’ tastes, which we’ve seen become more varied. More nonfiction titles have been added to NetGalley than ever before, with publishers recognising that members are attracted to interesting stories whether they are invented or not. It’s great to be able to showcase such titles to our members, and to help them find titles they might not ordinarily have requested.
We’re fond of saying that NetGalley is like a sandbox for books – a place where you can see how a title performs before it goes out into the wild – and we’re delighted to see so many titles, in so many different genres, picking up great reviews from our members.
NetGalley UK will be back in April to look back on the year so far and share our insights with you!
From cryptocurrency’s spectacular boom and crash of 2017-2018 to ads in the New York subway system for a regulated cryptocurrency exchange, cryptocurrency and blockchain are still overwhelming to most people. They seem to be somewhere between futurist Internet fantasies and the newest technological solutions for streamlining business and communication across many different sectors of our lives.
Blockchain is the underlying structure upon which cryptocurrency (like Bitcoin) is built. Publishing has had its eye on blockchain for several years already. But, nevertheless, it is still more than a little mysterious or confusing for the industry.
So, we’ve put together a handy primer about what blockchain is and how it might affect the publishing industry, plus some resources for more further reading.
What is blockchain?
At its most basic, blockchain refers to a way of storing information or value without relying on a centralized authority. So for cryptocurrency, information about who has what amount of a given currency (like Bitcoin) is not stored at a central authority like a bank, but is available on a ledger that is accessible to anyone on the network. Transactions are bundled together into a block and then blocks are chained together in a way that cannot be broken or altered. In systems that rely on a central authority, that central authority could cook the books. But, because the information is decentralized and accessible to anyone on the network, it’s impossible for an individual or group to conceal or alter transactions. Blockchains can then tell anyone where an item or piece of information is and where it has been before. It’s a way of decentralizing data and authority, while making transactions more transparent.
Instead of checking in with a central authority, like a publishing house or a bank to arrange a transaction, the end parties can complete the transaction themselves. So, for example, I can pay my share of rent to my roommate directly using cryptocurrency instead of talking to the bank to take money out of my account and then having my bank talk to my roommate’s bank to deposit that money into their account. Once I tell the blockchain that I have given money to my roommate, that transaction enters the blockchain ledger so that it can never be changed.
Station F has a great introduction to blockchain on Medium.
What does blockchain have to do with publishing?
Blockchain can open new possibilities for the exchange of resources, goods, and data between individuals and companies. The whole publishing industry depends on many teams working in different departments and companies working together and speaking to one another, all of which could be made much easier by using blockchain. It represents a new model for storing data across multiple parties — From authors and agents, to publishers, to warehouses and distributors, all the way to retailers and end-audiences/readers.
Which parts of the publishing industry could be affected by blockchain?
Smart contracts & the supply chain
It comes as no surprise to anybody in the publishing industry that many moving parts working at many different companies have to work together to bring a book into the world. Authors, agents, publishers, production teams, distributors, warehouses, and more. Smart contracts, which use blockchain, could make this process more seamless. Smart contracts are pieces of code that are stored on a blockchain network. The code of the contract defines the terms of the contract that all parties have agreed to. If required conditions are met, actions are automatically executed in an “if, then” structure. For example, a smart contract might program a car to drive along a certain path, automatically stop at every stop light, pause at every stop sign, and go past green lights. Traditional contracts are more similar to having a physical person driving the car, making the decisions. Or, having a person driving the car on the phone with someone confirming that they should, in fact, stop at a red light. So, if a publisher and a printer have a smart contract, printing could be automatically triggered once the printer receives final proofs, instead of someone from the publisher emailing someone from the printer who will then get the ball rolling. This video and this article provide great intros to smart contracts.
Reselling digital titles
Blockchains allow an item (whether a bitcoin or an ebook) to be tracked wherever it goes because of the decentralized ledger that holds the record of where an item went and when. Blockchain could make it easier to resell ebooks while keeping a record of whose hands the title passed through and for how long. Scenarex is already experimenting with this through Bookchain.
For academic publishers, clear peer review process is crucial to the publishing process. In 2018, Springer Nature, Taylor & Francis Group, and Cambridge University Press teamed up with the pilot project, Blockchain for Peer Review. With this project, they are experimenting with using blockchains to make the peer review process more transparent, which they hope will ultimately lead to increased trust in the produced research.
Blockchains could allow publishers to keep tabs on all individual copies of a title, physical and digital. Blockchains keep track of all transactions, including buying, selling, and reselling. So, that means that it could be much easier to see when a copy has slipped into the wrong hands or is being distributed illegally if a publisher is keeping track of its titles using blockchain.
How much is hype?
As with any new and trendy technology, some of the interest is bound to be hype. And after the cryptocurrency crash in 2018, it might have seemed like the end of a trend.
But, rather than thinking that the blockchain fad is over, we think that we’re just past the Peak of Inflated Expectations on the hype cycle.
Heavy hitters are putting resources into developing long-term strategies for cryptocurrency and blockchain (see the Blockchain Center from the NYC Economic Development Corp.). Publishing industry groups are incorporating blockchain into scope of interest. For example, BISG has hosted multiple events about blockchain and Digital Book World has an award for Best Use of Blockchain in Publishing Technology.
So while it remains to be seen exactly how blockchain will change the publishing industry, it seems clear that enough corners of the market – publishing and beyond – are investing time and energy into thinking about how blockchain could solve some of their recurring problems.
Who is already using blockchain?
Read all about publishing’s early blockchain adopters here.
Publica: Publishing platform using blockchain and cryptocurrency technology to innovate in how books are funded, distributed, bought, and read. Announced partnership with Morgan James in Aug. 2018.
po.et: Open, universal ledger that records immutable and timestamped information about your creative content and uses open protocols designed for interoperability with current industry standards in media and publishing.
Authorship: Platform to provide readers, writers, translators and publishers with a single platform to offer and avail each other’s services. Uses site-specific tokens to conduct transactions, which can then be converted to Ethereum (a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin).
Scenarex: Bookchain project allows authors and publishers to publish and distribute ebooks using blockchain.
wespr: Ethereum-based platform that helps distribution of content between artists and their audience.
Blockchain for Peer Review: Collaboration between Springer Nature, Taylor & Francis Group, and Cambridge University Press to investigate using blockchain to make peer review more transparent and secure.
On Tuesday, Feb. 5, we attended BISG’s Technology Confidential program. The panel included Rod Elder of Virtusales, David Hetherington of knkPublishing, George Logan of Klopotek, and Rob Stevens of Firebrand Technologies. Of course, we’re happy for any opportunity to cheer on our colleagues from Firebrand, but we were also there to hear from other panelists and attendees across the industry who are focused on using technology to help publishers get their books into as many hands as possible.
Virtusales, knk, Klopotek, and Firebrand all provide software to help publishers manage multiple aspects of the publishing process from title management to ONIX delivery to rights across multiple divisions and throughout a title’s lifecycle.
The panelists talked about the perils of customization, challenges of changing publishers’ workflows and implementing new technologies, and the importance of clearly-defined strategies at all levels of a company.
Configuration, not customization
The panelists lamented the challenges of leaning too heavily on customizations. While at first it might seem like customization can streamline workflow and tailor software to the unique needs of a specific publisher, all of the tech experts on the panel cautioned against it. The panelists uniformly recommended configuring software instead of customizing. Configuration keeps the basic structure of a software while shaping it to the style specifications and some of the unique needs of an individual company. Customizing requires new code whereas configuring does not.
Customization can make it more difficult for the software to communicate with other softwares, and can make system updates more difficult, resulting in patched solutions upon patched solutions. David Hetherington noted that heading down a road of customization is a road that will ultimately be longer, harder, and more expensive.
This is why publishing-specific software are so important. Rod Elder of Virtusales acknowledged that publishers have unique needs compared to businesses in other industries. The solution is to use publisher-specific software rather than customizing software that is meant for a different industry to make it work for publishing. Publishing-specific software can be specific enough for the unique needs of book publishers so as not to require huge amounts of configuration, but still flexible enough from a UI perspective to fit the quirks of an individual house.
Consider the costs
David Hetherington gave the audience an acronym for thinking about workflow and technology updates: TCO – Total Cost of Ownership. It forces you to ask: What is the cost of doing things the way they’ve always been done, versus adopting a new technology to solve the problem?
Say a publisher workflow includes manually and frequently enter data in multiple databases for a single title. The publisher should consider both the literal cost of employee hours spent doing repetitive administrative work and keeping a big IT team to deal with bugs, plus the more abstract cost of an employee’s intellectual or creative energy that is left on the table when so many hours of their day are taken up with data entry. The TCO for this workflow might be high enough to necessitate a change in the status quo, either by internally streamlining or by introducing new software to make the process less manual and less repetitive.
Publishers tend to think about implementing new technologies only in terms of the cost of the new software and the time it takes to integrate it into daily operations. But the panelists reminded the audience that there are real costs to consider in these calculations related to maintaining the status quo.
Articulate the “Why”
Rob Stevens of Firebrand reminded the audience how important it is to ask why you and your team do what you do. Why do you fill in that box? Why do you enter data in a specific place or at a specific time? Why does your team need that report? If the reason is “that’s the way we’ve always done it,” you might want to consider dropping that task from your to-do list, which we’re sure is already long enough!
Asking why a company needs certain pieces of data can also help technology solution providers determine the best way to help meet a company’s needs or solve a particular problem for them, and can even drive development on the technology solution provider’s end.
Clearly articulating the “why” can also help ease some of the growing pains of implementing new software and workflows. If all members of a team know why they are being asked to change their day-to-day operations, they are more likely to adopt the new tools and use them successfully. The success of new technologies in a publishing house largely depend on the enthusiastic adoption and experimentation by the people who are using them on a daily basis.
BISG works to create a more informed, empowered and efficient book industry. Its membership includes trade, education, professional and scholarly publishers, as well as distributors, wholesalers, retailers, manufacturers, service providers and libraries.
For more cross-industry knowledge and events, follow BISG on their website, where you can see all upcoming events. You can subscribe to their newsletter here.
Today we are excited to announce the launch of NetGalley Advanced! This new, premier level of service is now available as an upgrade*, offering new reports to help publishers track activity within NetGalley, and new tools designed to reduce manual effort and time for staff. With more insight and flexibility, NetGalley Advanced will help you analyze your data so you can make strategic decisions earlier and anticipate trends before your books go on sale.
As we begin a new year, it’s always fun to look back on all the great things that happened in the last year. The needs of our clients have always led the evolution of the NetGalley service, and I’m proud that our conversations with various types of publishers continue to drive our development.
Through these conversations, it has become apparent that publishers of all sizes are relying on data to assess how their strategies are working, and if they’re reaching their goals for engagement. More and more of you are employing data scientists, or are analyzing data yourself. Numbers from all across the industry come together to reveal the story about a book’s success. You’re tracking and analyzing results that range from engagement with your social media platforms and click-throughs for your digital advertising, to sales numbers and rankings.
One of the purposes of NetGalley has always been to give you more insight into the success of your pre-publications efforts. Many reports in NetGalley (including Feedback, Opinions, Snapshot, and Detailed Activity) already offer a deep dive into the specific activity your titles are seeing on the site.
During the Firebrand Community Conference this year our CEO and Chief Igniter, Fran Toolan, mentioned the DIKW hierarchy–a model that emphasizes the relationships between data, information, knowledge, and wisdom. The idea is that each level of the pyramid is reached through analysis that adds context to the level below. So data will lead to information, which will lead to knowledge, which will lead to wisdom. Once you reach wisdom, all of that learned experience can guide your actions.
In 2019 we’re excited to bring you even more tools to drive targeted activity on NetGalley, and to display valuable data and information to help you reach those levels of wisdom that can inform your strategies. When you analyze the activity happening in your NetGalley account, it can help you identify early trends so you can anticipate them as your books go on sale, or give you evidence that support a change in strategy.
We are committed to continuing to build tools that will reduce manual effort and time for your staff, and give you more space to gain knowledge about your strategies and the activity they’re generating. It’s our New Year’s Resolution to continue to help you attain wisdom about your strategies, and strive for it ourselves, too.
To learn more, join our webinar on Wednesday, Jan. 30 all about NetGalley Advanced–our new, premier level of service.
Since NetGalley Insights launched in July 2018, we have published nearly 40 articles about the publishing industry – interviews, industry trends, best practices for using social media, case studies from successful book marketing campaigns, and more.
We are looking forward to continuing to leverage NetGalley’s unique place within the industry to provide creative marketing ideas, to highlight the great work that’s being done across the publishing world, and to help our readers keep up with new tech and trends.
We are grateful to our community of publishing industry professionals for sharing their expertise and experience with our audience. And, of course, to you, our readers.
Here’s what we’ve been up to in 2018!
NetGalley has unique access to different members of the publishing industry – we work with authors, publishers, and publicity and marketing services. By sharing their successes and strategies with you, we hope you’ll find new, creative ideas that you can implement, too. In 2018, we interviewed members of the publishing industry at all levels; from interns to senior account executives. We even tapped our own team for their experiences finding and keeping mentors.
We know how valuable it is for authors, marketers, and publishers to learn from each other’s successes. That’s why we feature case studies from our NetGalley clients. We’ve shared the strategies that made Glimmerglass Girl, a debut poetry book, one of the Most Requested poetry titles on NetGalley, how NYU Press successfully engaged with NetGalley members, and North South books used availability settings and timely subject matter to create pre-publication interest for a children’s book.
Readers looking for their next pick tend to trust recommendations from content curators in their communities and online . With that in mind, we talked to librarians, podcasters, and a BookTuber to help publishers better understand these influencers’ communities, what kinds of books they are looking for, and how they find them.
We know that you can’t be everywhere at once, so we’re doing our best to be there for you. NetGalley Insights attended conferences for the ECPA, Firebrand, and for BISG. We listened to book club gatekeepers, including the books editor at O: The Oprah Magazine and the founder of Well-Read Black Girl, talk about what’s important to them as they make their influential book club picks.
With a dedicated NetGalley UK site and partner sites in Germany, France, and Japan, NetGalley is a part of the global book industry. With our global perspective, we featured stories about the German book market and recapped the first year of NetGalley.co.uk.
Subscribe to our weekly digest so that you can stay tuned for everything that NetGalley Insights has in store for 2019. You can expect articles on blockchain and metadata, interviews with content creators and curators, case studies from successful marketing campaigns, tips for authors, and more coming to you in the new year.
It’s been a year since we launched NetGalley.co.uk – our dedicated UK platform, showcasing all the best in British books – and so it feels like the right time to give an overview of all that’s been happening on the site. We’ve been delighted by the response from readers and publishers alike, and are proud of the new ways we’ve been able to highlight titles to prospective new reviewers.
New promotions, new views
With Netgalley.co.uk, one of the main aims was to find new ways for members to find titles – and to show a distinctly British slant on the site. Now members can see only the books for which they are likely to be approved, and British titles are always front and centre on the site. The introduction of featured titles and category spotlights has been hugely successful, boosting impressions, discoverability and requests for all titles included.
Results have been amazing, with an increase in requests for featured titles on the previous two week period varying anywhere from 150% up to 8800%!
Eblasts – more popular than ever
Our dedicated eblasts are sent to all UK members opted into marketing communications, and have become the most popular way of marketing to members. It’s the digital equivalent of a Super-Proof, showing members just how excited you are about a particular title.
We still only ever send one eblast a day to our members, which means that we’ve been fully booked for almost every day – week and weekend – for the whole of 2018. As many of you know, spots are now at a huge premium, so in order to get the date you want, don’t forget to book well in advance. Booking forms for 2019 are here.
2018 has been a brilliant year for NetGalley UK, and we’re very much looking forward to the New Year, and helping publishers really boost the performance of their titles!
For ten years, the ALA initiative I Love My Librarian has been recognizing the best librarians in the country. Communities nominate the librarians who are best supporting their patrons, providing creative programming, increasing intellectual curiosity, and bringing resources to those who need them. Because we also love librarians, NetGalley attended the award ceremony for the ten winners of the 2018 I Love My Librarian Award at the Carnegie Corporation of New York on Dec. 4.
Winners thanked their colleagues for their support and their patron communities for letting them do what they love for a living. They affirmed libraries as places for patrons to explore their own identities and for marginalized groups to find acceptance and support.
One of the patrons who nominated Lindsey Tomsu, a teen and YA librarian from the Algonquin Area Public Library District, described the work she does to create an inclusive atmosphere. “She creates a haven for…teens questioning their identities and orientations, diverse teens, rich and poor alike…” Stephanie H. Hartwell-Mandella, head of Youth Services at the Katonah Village Library thanked the librarians who didn’t bat an eye when she was a curious adolescent who started checking out romance novels. Paula Kelly, library director at Whitehall Public Library, is committed to keeping her diverse community’s needs at the forefront of her programming. She sends a bus every month to pick up patrons (mostly elderly members of immigrant families) to transport them to and from the library. Her library also partners with its Bhutanese community to preserve their shared history and stories, and to share those stories with other Pittsburgh residents. Learn more about all of the 2018 winners here.
Librarians are an important part of the NetGalley community, so we are always curious to learn more about what makes their communities and their libraries unique. And we know that this information is valuable to publishers, as well! Check out our Ask a Librarian series to read more.
Congratulations to the 2018 I Love My Librarian Award winners from all of us at NetGalley!
NetGalley operates all over the world, serving the needs of global publishers. With dedicated NetGalley sites for Germany,France, and Japan, as well as the U.K., we are proud to support many different publishing ecosystems, all with their own unique characteristics. Today, we’re hearing from Karina Elm, who heads up customer relations and community management for NetGalley Germany. Below, she gives an overview of the German publishing landscape and book market.
Germany, well known to some for its great poets and thinkers (to others for its sausages, beer, football and the Autobahn), owns the largest book market in Europe. Struggling – just like in many other countries – with the rise of strong competitors called Netflix, Facebook, Instagram and others, the book is not yet forgotten. On the contrary: Even though the number of people buying books has decreased, individual people actually read more and the amount of titles published per year is still rising. Let’s have a closer look at some facts and figures from the year 2017 as well as some specialties of the German book market!
Bookselling: Bookstores and Fixed Prices
6,000 bookstores are selling books to readers, employing a total of 27,800 booksellers. 3,500 are small independent bookshops and 1,200 are part of bookstore chains. Berlin has the most bookstores in German – 236 stores for its 3.5 million inhabitants.
Many bookstores meet the challenge to compete with online sales platforms by selling coffee, hosting events (like public readings) and turning their shops into cultural meeting points. Since 2015, the German Ministry of Culture honors the most innovative bookshops with the German Bookshop Award.
Germany has fixed book prices. This means that publishers set a price for each book which is then mandatory for retailers. Only a limited number of discounts are allowed. Publishers can change the price, and the price for a different edition may vary. The tradition of fixed book prices goes back to the 19th century, the current law was introduced in 2002. Fixed prices are widely seen as a strong advantage of the German book market since they have benefits for both the industry as well as from a cultural perspective.
Booksellers of all sizes profit from a calculable margin on bestsellers, retailers compete not just with their prices but also with their service. It is beneficial for brick & mortar booksellers in the often destructive competition with online retailers and vendors outside the book industry. For publishers it means that they can cross-subsidise bestselling books with other works, allowing publishing decisions to be made on other aspects than just the selling potential sometimes. This helps support the work of lesser-known authors, as well as titles with complicated or expensive layouts. For readers, the fixed price system results in a large variety of books as well as publishing houses with different profiles. It also allows for a very efficient distribution system: If you order any book at your favorite bookstore you’d most likely be able to pick it up the next day. Last but not least, a strong network of bookshops offering a diverse and colorful range of books is an important part of a diverse and colorful society!
German Readers: Who they are and how they read
Just like in many countries, book bloggers are on the rise in Germany. By 2018, thousands of blogs about books, reviews and other bookish topics can be found online – the actual number is difficult to establish. The blogosphere is very active, well connected and spanning all genres and formats. Booktubers and Bookstagrammers are on a strong rise, too. By now, many publishers are working closely with individual bloggers, some even launched unique platforms for bloggers to read and review their titles. In 2017, the first German Book Blog Award was initiated by NetGalley Germany in cooperation with the German Publishers & Booksellers Association and rewarded the best German-language literary blogger as well as one booktuber. In 2018, the prize was given out in 9 categories, among them Romance, Literary Fiction, Suspense, Children’s Literature, Newcomers and Other Formats.
The Tolino is Germany’s own reading device for ebooks, competing with Amazon’s Kindle – and rising above it with a market share of 40% in 2017. Tolino is a strategic alliance between biggest German retailers to offer and produce e-readers and tablets. In January 2017, the Japanese Rakuten Kobo took over the shares of their former technical partner Deutsche Telekom. 2,000 bookstores sell books through the Tolino system and many independent booksellers are connected to it as well. Contrary to the Kindle, Tolino is an open system which means ebooks can be bought at any participating shop and read on any other device as well.
Book Industry Events, Awards, and Associations
Two book fairs are the German publishing industry’s yearly highlights and every book lover counts the days between them. The big one, Frankfurt Book Fair, is actually the world’s largest trade fair for books and has a long tradition, rooting back to 1454. Every year in mid-October, publishers, agents, tech companies, and content providers meet for business, trading, and international rights deals. Over the weekend, the fair opens for the public. More than 7,300 exhibitors from over 100 countries and more than 286,000 visitors took part in 2017.
In comparison to this, Leipzig Bookfair and it’s 208,000 visitors in 2017 is like a younger sister. It’s history goes back to the 17th century and it is a fair for the public: Visitors can attend all 4 days in order to discover new books and meet their favorite authors. There are hundreds of public readings at the fair but also throughout the whole city of Leipzig which transforms into a huge festival of reading during this time in March.
Germany has numerous literary awards for books and authors. The most famous of them is probably the German Book Prize which can be compared to the Man Booker Prize. Launched in 2005, it honors the best novel written in German in each publishing year and is awarded at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October. Most of its winners have already been translated into English, you can find a list here.
The most prestigious literary award in Germany is the Georg Büchner Prize which honors an author’s lifetime of work and was, for example, given to later Nobel Prize winners Günter Grass, Heinrich Böll, Elias Canetti and Elfriede Jelinek. A very atypical literary award is the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize. It honors an author for an unpublished literary excerpt only and is very publicly awarded during the Festival of German-Language Literature where the texts are read out loud and the jury comments directly, often very critical, while the audience watches in the room as well as in front of the TV across the whole county.
The German Publishers and Booksellers Association (Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels), founded in Leipzig in 1825, represents all sectors of the book industry: Publishers, Retail Booksellers, Antiquarians and Wholesalers. They also organize – among other things – the Frankfurt Book Fair and the German Book Prize, and they are custodian of the fixed price system.
NetGalley.de was launched in March 2016 (just in time for the Leipzig Book Fair!) and by now has more than 11,500 members, The first ones to adopt the platform were of course book bloggers who had already used NetGalley.com and were very excited to finally also find German publishers and titles available for them.
German publishers by then were working with their own bloggers already and saw NetGalley as a platform to use it in their communication with those bloggers, and to widen th
eir network. However, a few adventurous German publishers started sending the NetGalley widget to their network of booksellers, as well. It was a big transformation of workflows that have existed for many, many years (and we all know
how painful this can be) but it was worth it: We now receive excited and very happy feedback from both publishers who followed this example, as well as from booksellers, telling us how much easier their daily work has become.
The growing implementation of NetGalley in publishers’ work with booksellers has resulted in the following division of member types, very special for the German market: As of October 2018, 47% of the German speaking members are reviewers, 43% booksellers, 5% media and 5% librarians and educators. Their favorite genres are Fiction (45%), Teens and YA (40%), Thrillers & Crime (37%), Fantasy & Sci-Fi (35%) and Romance (25%). During an average month in 2018, more than 26,000 galleys were sent out through NetGalley.de, and members provided over 5,000 pieces of Feedback.
Do you publish in German? Use NetGalley.de to reach out to our avid community of professional readers, promoting your tiles to German readers! I would be very happy to hear from you via email@example.com.
Karina Elm is Customer Relations and Community Manager at NetGalley Germany – and a huge bookaholic. After studying Comparative Literature, she worked for Ullstein Publishers as part of the team around digital imprints Midnight and Forever, and as the online marketing manager at Clear Canvas, an online marketing agency in Berlin. Karina Elm is initiator and driving force behind the German Book Blog Award which launched in 2017 and has been teaching a class at the Free University of Berlin about online reading communities in 2018.
The Book Industry Study Group (BISG) works to create a more informed, empowered and efficient book industry. Their membership includes trade, education, professional and scholarly publishers, as well as distributors, wholesalers, retailers, manufacturers, service providers and libraries.
Throughout the day, seven different presenters described their jobs – their workflow, the challenges they face, and where their work fits into a book’s lifecycle.
Most of us only see books during a relatively small part of their lives. The details and strategy that consume our workdays are only a fraction of the work that goes in to bringing a book to the public. Acquisition editors see books when they are just manuscripts and ideas. Printers shepard books into the physical world and then pass them along. Library marketers are thinking about how books will live in communities years after their pub date, when the pages are soft and earmarked. This overview of what our colleagues are doing across the industry was a welcome reminder that we all depend on each other’s work to bring the best books to the readers who will love them.
For those who weren’t able to attend, here is a bit of what was covered:
Publishing is beyond personal taste
Contrary to popular conception, Todd Stocke described his role as SVP and Editorial Director at Sourcebooks as less about his own inimitable tastes and more about analyzing data and looking for spaces in the market to tell new stories. For him to be successful at his job, he needs to be able to think outside of his personal preferences and the demographic details that have given rise to his interests and tastes. He has to have an idea of what people of different backgrounds are interested in, and to have access to the writers telling those stories. He described the necessity of having a pipeline that is both broad and deep. A broad pipeline means getting manuscripts from a variety of sources and a deep pipeline means developing relationships with the people providing those manuscripts so that, for example, an agent will know immediately if the manuscript in their hand is the perfect book for the Sourcebooks nonfiction editor.
All stages of book publishing are about the audience
This was the overarching theme of the day. It was not a shock to hear audience as the focus for acquisitions, bookstores, or libraries. These are the parts of the industry that we know need to be responsive to what readers are looking for. But we were surprised to hear how much audience fits into how other players in the industry do their jobs. As Judine O’Shea described the design process for a book, she made the point that a big driver for her is audience-appropriateness. If she’s designing the title and page layout for a children’s book, how many colors will be too busy for young eyes? Will the font be easily legible for early readers? Michael Shea from LSC Communications pointed out that audience use determines the physical form of a book, too. Different binding styles are better for the different ways books live in our lives. For example, an art book that is meant to lay flat on a coffee table will be bound differently than a trade paperback meant to be read on the subway. The glue used on a technical textbook that will be out of date in a few years will be different from the glue used on a book that might be passed down from generation to generation.
Know your local, professional community
Suzy Takacs chalked up some of her success at the Book Cellar to her close relationships with local players of the book industry. She described her warm relationships with other booksellers, and how she has called upon stores like Women & Children First to help her stock titles in advance of events. She even described visiting IPG’s warehouse for a last-minute pickup. She is able to quickly respond to inventory needs and meet consumer demand because she has positive relationships with other booksellers and with distributors. Stephen Sposato of the Chicago Public Library expressed a desire to work more closely with booksellers. He suggested sharing data about which titles have long hold lists, so that bookstores will know what readers are asking for and can make sure to adjust their inventory to align with demand.