From Publishing Perspectives:
Some of the FutureBook conference’s most memorable moments came from speakers who addressed challenging issues and lobbied for awareness to drive the industry forward.
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During the conference, the collegial and congratulatory aspects of the program were occasionally punctuated by contrarian events, comments, personalities presenting healthily challenging viewpoints to an industry that might prefer an unrelieved reflection of itself as stable and successful.
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Richard Johnson: ‘The Industry Is Too Snobbish’
That woke everyone right up. Richard Johnson, the CEO of Bonnier Publishing, gave an opening keynote.
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“Books have the power to enrich everyone’s lives,” Johnson said, “particularly the youngsters that we sell to, the ones who need education and have got no money. We should be selling to those people. And we do, but the industry should as well. The industry is too snobbish still.”
He’s not wrong that his company’s focus on inclusivity has been on display to all. The fun caricatures of its staffers in all their diversity have been on the site for years, and some of us have written about this. As it turns out, these are the faces with which Johnson feels he was able to get ahead of the current acute need for egalitarianism in publishing, and he sees this as having set him and his company way ahead. He may not be wrong.
He took it farther, too, urging the business to think of itself as “an entertainment business, not the literary business. Sometimes we create literary masterpieces which is fantastic,” he said, “but we have to entertain people to attract people.”
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“And let’s not be afraid to say that: We are in the entertainment business.”
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Jeff Norton: ‘Publish 10-14 Books Per Imprint Per Year’
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In a resonant moment of the conference, Jeff Norton, the author and television producer (Awesome Media Entertainment) recalled a 2013 moment in the FutureBook conference’s “Big Ideas” session–missed this year–when Canongate’s Jamie Byng (who was on another panel this year) announced that he would publish only as many books in a year as he had staffers. Publishers, Byng asserted, simply were publishing too many books.
Today, more publishers are aware of this. Simon & Schuster UK’s Ian Chapman told Publishing Perspectives at Frankfurt that his company will produce 100 fewer titles this year and focus more on strong marketing. And for his part, Norton said that imprints should cap their output at 14 titles per year. That arbitrary figure was a joke, but the concept was not: Norton knows that the problem of over-production in many of today’s publishing markets is a real one.
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“Film is dying a slow, painful death. Books are at risk of becoming ‘niche products’ or simply intellectual property source material” for the burgeoning television production industry that has recaptured its audience with superb storytelling, production values, and streaming delivery onto every device in the digital arsenal.
“Netflix knows me,” Norton said. “Amazon knows me.” And yet, he said, he’s been trying for five years without success to get Hachette, his publisher, to correct the reader age-range on his Metawars books’ online listings.
Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives
PG posits that “publish fewer books” is also a reflection of the impact of self-published books by indie authors which are coming to dominate online ebook markets. As Author Earnings has demonstrated, indie authors and Amazon imprints combined are the leading sellers of adult ebook fiction on Amazon.
Additionally, Author Earnings has documented that sales through traditional outlets for print books – Barnes & Noble, other bookstore chains, Walmart and other mass merchandisers, etc., are declining. Amazon is where virtually all growth in print book sales is occurring :
- 41% of all traditionally-published print books are purchased online
- 69% of trade-pub adult non-fiction unit sales are online
- 63% of trade-pub adult fiction unit sales are online
As far as ebook sales are concerned, the more ebooks sold, the lower the share of sales from traditional publishers:
- 91% of online adult fiction sales were ebooks. Over half – 52% of these ebooks were published by either indie authors or Amazon-owned imprints
- There is a direct linear relationship between the share of unit sales of ebooks and the share of ebook sales by either indie authors or Amazon-owned imprints – the more ebooks that are sold, the higher the number of sales by either indie authors or Amazon-owned imprints.
- In the monster genre – Romance – only 34% of unit sales are made by traditional publishers.
- In an underserved genre – African-American Fiction – only 26% of unit sales were made by traditional publishers (and only 4% of unit sales came from Big 5 publishers).