On Thursday 22nd November I was invited to sit on the panel of an event looking at publishing in the digital age. I was on the panel with one of our authors, Shelley Weiner, Rachel Ogden a director from publisher marketing company Inpress, and Justine Solomons from Byte the Book. The event was hosted by Rebecca Swift, director of The Literacy Consultancy in Farringdon where the event was held. A broad range of subjects was discussed and it was clear from opinions on the panel that there were areas of great contention especially the shifting tide of sway held by the voice of the reader now being one of the main influencers of a books popularity rather than the considered opinion of reviewers. Times are changing and there is a paradigm shift toward popularism over literature. All I mean by this is that digital has opened the door of democracy taking the opinion of a few select reviewers/judges and given that power to readers. This is the reason why it is important for publishers and authors to engage with their readers and equally important to know who their readers are.
Rebecca Swift did an excellent job in keeping the panel on topic and opening the conversation to the packed house of 50 who turned up on a cold November evening. Shelley Weiner gave a very thoughtful and considered talk on what going indie meant for her following a reading from her novel The Audacious Mendacity of Lily Green. This kicked off the evening adding plenty of strands of conversation.
It was clear from the audience response that Amazon is a big issue for many readers and writers alike, seen as both the bogeyman and the democratiser of publishing. Topics on the night ranged from royalty rates, self-publishing, hybrid publishing, editing, proofreading, the recent mergers of Penguin and Random House as well as the proposed Simon & Shuster rumblings.
My overall thoughts are that the passion for publishing out there is in a far more healthy position than many realise and although this is only a snapshot of 50 or so people, there is clearly a desire to accept change and find ways to exploit that change while still wanting to protect bricks and mortar book stores. Whether this can be achieved is doubtful as I fear for the long-term survival of book stores in the high street, especially independents who are had tied through finance and often by a mind set that is set in the good old days. Those days are gone and unless stores adapt they won’t survive.
Publishing equally has many obstacles and the same can be said for publishers, unless we adapt and learn then we too will become redundant. We have to work with the likes of Rachel from Inpress and listen to forward thinkers like Justine from Byte the Book while listening to our readers and being innovative in our own thought and ensuring we can make ideas turn into strategies.