Some thoughts on the 2012 Publishers Launch conference

Last week Crikey published my response (requires registration) to the Publishers Launch conference that ran on June 4th, the day before the juggernaut of Book Expo America. The conference focused on digital publishing and the ways old and new publishers are responding to the challenges and opportunities of online publishing. It was an exciting day because the mood was optimistic and energetic, and it’s uplifting to see there are so many book lovers involved in digital publishing enterprises.

Below is an annotated summary of my piece for Crikey, focusing on the takeaways for authors.

  • Publishing veterans sat alongside techno-newcomers and spoke in a hybrid publishing patois about metadata and social and E and P (‘Electronic’ and ‘Print’). They spoke of the need for integrating social media with “analog publicity,” of the need for content curation and building communities of readers around “content verticals.” The now hire data analysts and talk of ways to “monetize their content.”

Takeaway: In this context, the backlist seems to offer enormous potential for publishers and for authors who hold these rights to their already-published works.

  • Everyone who mentioned the Australian market expects to see surges in ebook sales here for the next three years until they begin to flatten out, which is what’s happening in the US now.

Takeaway: Authors need to be careful about how they negotiate ebook rights with their publisher.

  • Unlike the music industry, where digital files replaced old technology, all the publishing industry research shows that books will continue in a mixture of digital and print formats.

Takeaway: Yay!

  • The relatively low sales of nonfiction ebooks compared to fiction have inspired entrepreneurs to address what they feel is the reason: the time-poverty of nonfiction readers. (Because all of us fiction readers have nothing better to do, right?) Linda Holliday’s CITIA app allows a reader to navigate a nonfiction ebook with a system of virtual index cards that arrange the author’s material according to themes and main points. “I’m trying to make a book more like lace and less like a brick,” she explained.

Takeaway: Um, okaayyy …

  • The problem of discovery looms as an increasingly complex challenge for book marketers. According to one study on discovering and selling books in the digital age, readers who bought their last book in a physical bookstore had declined from 31 per cent to 17 per cent. That decline was partly offset by gains in digital mass media discovery, personal recommendation and “analog publicity,” but there was a gap of around 11 per cent.

Takeaway: Bookstores continue to be critically important for helping readers discover new authors. We should frequent them and keep them alive.

As always, if you have a question or a comment, please let me know by commenting below or writing me an email, details on the Contact page above. And thanks for reading.

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