How digital progression in publishing will affect you
I was lucky enough to receive a press pass to Europe’s largest digital conference, FutureBook, which looks at publishing progressions and digital developments. This is what I found out…
‘At some point over the summer,’ announced Ogilvy’s James Whatley, ‘Pokemon Go was more popular than sex.’ It’s true, apparently – backed up by statistics – and it references a widespread digital movement. Technology is now more popular in some respects than humans, and publishing is not exempt from this trend. Talk after consecutive talk told us: the future of publishing is technology, going hand in hand with the people who know how to use it best.
That’s not to say that the book is dead – far from it. There was prevailing support for the merit of the ‘analogue’ book; the appeal of holding a beautiful book remains undisputed. It was agreed that there is ample room for other formats, though – multi-format publishing is prevailing and is the best way to reach a breadth of consumers. The audiobook, hailed as one of the next big things in publishing, has proved itself to be so popular that there was a whole conference dedicated to it this year.
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There were a few points of contention, though not the standard ‘battle of the formats’, which seems to have been resolved. It was agreed that consumers want immediacy; they are unwilling to wait for new books or media content. But whether or not we should always deliver on this expectation was a discussion point. When the immediacy of ebooks became a reality, some argued, how long did that hold consumers’ attention for? What did such instantaneous content delivery do to the book industry? It’s a valid point, and one that is still open for discussion.
Tips for Indies Looking to keep up with technology…
As individuals, we might not want to embrace all technological advances. We may not be eager to produce an augmented reality children’s book. Some of us will never fully understand what a chat-bot is, nor how virtual reality works, let alone understanding its application in the publishing world. Not every part of the conference was directly relevant to self-publishing… But indies are a key part of an evolving industry; we need to know what’s going on and how developments will affect us. The publishing industry has changed drastically in the last year and it’s going to continue to alter.
The way that you publish as an individual will need to change. Bonnier’s Anki Ahrnell summed this up nicely when she highlighted ‘the importance of becoming more effective in whatever you’re doing.’ It’s all about innovation. Experiment with how you publish by all means, but don’t linger long on something ineffective. Identify your audience and get to know that particular demographic. Tailor your marketing strategies towards your target consumer and don’t be afraid to attempt, fail and move on.
How best to do this? Data is something that publishers are ultra keen on, and there are free online data analysis tools that you can try… But unless you have funds as well as a good deal of data analytics expertise, you’ll find it tricky to extrapolate usefully from any sales data – and without effective use, it’s pretty pointless. Crowdfunding and content curation are becoming more prevalent though, and they are both concepts that you can embrace. Already, they are legitimate, mainstream publishing tools. On UK start-up Alexi’s website, there’s a quote from The Guardian, ‘Everyone and their Spotify-playlisting aunt is banging on about “curation”.’ They’re not wrong. The great news is, you can get involved. NB: For information about curation and how you can use it, click here – and look out for more articles from us soon.
Talk after consecutive talk told us: the future of publishing is technology, going hand in hand with the people who know how to use it best.
What other developments could you try? The experts say that we are living in a ‘video first’ world. That means that that any other form of media won’t be as effective at selling your book. Due to our modern day content inundation, uploading a clip and calling it marketing is no longer enough – it has to be impressive enough to hold an audience’s attention. Although the popularity of video is not new, the quality of the content that’s being produced has improved. Audiences want top-notch video, so produce it yourself or hire someone who can do it for you.
…Which brings me to my penultimate point. Eva Appelbaum, another of the keynotes, suggested we ‘learn from each other about how to create this technology’, praising collaboration and knowledge sharing – something indies, by their very nature, are well practiced at. She stressed that empowered staff and an open mind contribute to reaching publishing goals. The good news is that you only have a responsibility to check your own mindset, rather than that of an entire company, and the wealth of resources available to you is fantastic.
Most importantly – write first, innovate later. Without an excellent book, you won’t gain much from your marketing strategies or benefit from trying to predict who your audience might be now or in ten years’ time. Write an absolutely cracking book, produce it to a high standard, then innovate and be open to educating yourself and enlisting the help of experts.