Category Archives: Publishing Companies

The battle of the future begins: FutureBook Hack

I think it’s quite safe to say that I’ve been out of the blogging-sphere for a while. While I’ve finally landed a full-time, salaried job (hurrah!!), admittedly not in publishing, I have definitely drifted away from the publishing world, and have since realised that it’s time to get firmly back into it again…

One of the most intriguing articles I’ve come across is that The Bookseller‘s The FutureBook will be hosting a ‘Hackathon‘ next month in which many of the industry’s major players: Pan Macmillan, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House and Faber & Faber, all of which are founders of the event, shall be attending. The initiative behind it comes from Simon Trewin (William Morris Endeavor). It is thought that such events have occurred in many different sectors in the past in which companies and businesses can come together and brainstorm solutions to issues concerning the industry. It is said that nothing like this has been taken on by the publishing industry in the past.

According to The Bookseller‘s article,  Trewin has stated that introducing new people and ideas to the industry will create a fresh perspective for the sector. He feels that the industry needs to take greater risks in order to continue to develop. If we are to look back to The Bookseller‘s FutureBook conference last November, Jamie Byng, Director at Canongate, stated that fewer books needed to be published each year, but a greater focus needed to be placed on those published.  He affirmed that by doing this it would mean that “greater care” would be put into those published.

If I were to think about it from my personal perspective: a Graduate who studied a Masters in Publishing, a self-confessed lover of books and reading, and as a young twenty-something looking to break into the industry; I feel that publishers may be right to reduce the number of books they publish. Certainly, it may be worth a trial. My only reasoning for this, is that with how fast the industry is currently moving, and how fast industries surrounding it (ie. technology and IT) are moving, surely it may be worth taking a little breather and focusing on change and development, one piece at a time? I know what you’re thinking… Bad idea, you’ll get left behind?

While I totally admit, I am no expert in the field – I mean, I don’t even currently work in the sector – I can only comment as an observer and as someone who intensively studied the industry for twelve months, publishers should take the risk to get it right. What I’ve learnt over the past two years of undertaking internships and completing the MA, is that the industry is continuously playing catch-up. Although, from what I have seen, they’re doing a great job! And if I look at this from a consumer’s point of view, I myself, have trouble keeping up with what’s out there. I mean, it took me a couple of years after Kindles were produced, to actually purchase one! (And giving in to one was tough enough). But I think I certainly realised that I needed to be open-minded, particularly when wanting to pursue a career in the field.

Stephen Page, the CEO of Faber, stated in last November’s FB conference, that the transition to digital was “comfortable”, however “more innovation was needed”. Michael Bhaskar, digital publishing director of Profile Books, reaffirmed this by saying “publishers had to define themselves better […] It is about filtering and amplifying content to add value. If you’re doing that you’re a publisher”. I must agree with this, publishers do need to define themselves better. What’s more is that they need to brand themselves more and become more recognised.

I remember attending the London Book Fair in 2013 and thinking about how exciting and intriguing it would be to tailor the Fair to consumers, the people who, at the end of the day bought the books and products in which they [the publishers] were trying to sell amongst themselves. I felt that if consumers knew more about the industry and publishers branded themselves more, surely this would encourage even more people to buy books and integrate with the sector?

Obviously, I am no expert, but the whole idea of the FutureBook Hack and the focus on taking the industry forward is certainly an interesting and exciting one, and it definitely gives me food for thought. I’ll be keeping tabs on this one!



William Morris Endeavor (WME) with support from the Centre for Publishing at the Department of Information Studies, University College London, Blackwell’s and Midas PR. The initiative for the hackathon came from WME’s Simon Trewin


A ‘digital-first’ future for publishing?

Whilst carrying out my regular scouring of the internet for anything publishing related, I came across the term digital-first. On looking more into the term, it appears that many publishers are looking to release new titles in digital format only, in order to predict as to whether the book can sell well in print format. Some of the first publishers to trial this new concept are HarperCollins and Harlequin.

The former announced earlier this year that mystery line, Witness Impulse, would be one of the first lines which the publisher would release digital-first. The first ten titles shall be released in October under the imprint, William Morrow.

Dan Mallory, the man behind the line noted that digital-first publishing was the most effective way to market unknown books and authors. He also highlighted that the launch involved libraries as they aim to deliver titles through ebook loans. Shawn Nicholls, marketing director for Impulse (an imprint of Morrow), mentioned that digital-first is ‘part of a larger branding campaign to build sales for midlist authors overall and to help readers discover’.

As  my previous blog entry suggests, discovering books through digital formats, i.e. the internet in particular, will become easier with apps such as BookVibe. Integration with digital is increasingly becoming a part of everybody’s daily life. Should ‘digital-first’ be embraced by more publishers in the future, it can be suggested that browsing for books online will become easier. (Now don’t even get me started on what this will mean for bricks-and-mortar booksellers!)

Project Management and Budgeting in Production – Lecture given by Jackie Dobbyne, Cambridge Publishing Management

I recently wrote a blog entry for Jackie Dobbyne, Managing Director at Cambridge Publishing Management and thought it would be great to share it on my own blog…


Jackie Dobbyne, Managing Director at Cambridge Publishing Management, gave an informative and engaging lecture on project management and budgeting in production to students on the MA Publishing course at Anglia Ruskin University on Thursday 21st February 2013.

Feedback from class members has shown how helpful the session was in teaching them about the daunting (especially for us beginners!) process of working out a costing sheet to produce a book, and the time and energy which goes into managing multiple projects at any one time. It was fantastic to hear Jackie’s own experiences gained through working at CPM and she gave us advice on situations to look out for and how to avoid them in our future careers.

As someone who is interested in undertaking a career in the production side of the industry, the lecture helped in providing the fundamentals of a successful brief, showcasing those necessary items for capturing a publisher’s vision. In addition, it was brilliant to hear the reasons why publishers choose CPM to produce their works. I feel that Jackie gave a great overview of why CPM benefits publishers, but she also outlined why a publisher may choose not to use a company such as them.

The session was concluded by setting us exercises in prioritising tasks and constructing a schedule for producing a manuscript, enabling us to put our new knowledge to the test. Overall, I feel that the lecture was a brilliant insight into the production aspect of the industry, and it definitely complemented the other lectures on our Production module.

Here is the link to the CPM blog page, and also the original entry with Jackie’s thoughts on giving the lecture.

Please note that I do not own the copyright of the above CPM logo.

The year of the mergers

Penguin Random House

(Image taken from Aziz Isham, The House of Penguin: Notes on a Publishing Apocalypse)

Penguin Random House

The Bookseller released an article last week reporting how Australia has approved the Random House Penguin merger which was announced in October last year. It has been reported that companies Pearson and Bertelsmann will own approx. half each; the former owning 47% of shares and the latter owning 53%. Of course this means that both companies’ publishing firms across the world will be involved in the merger, including offices in the USA and Canada, Australia and New Zealand, India, China and Spain.

Waterstones and University of Derby

Not only have two of the publishing worlds’ ‘big six’ has joined forces, but other companies in the publishing sector are also coming together. Book retailer Waterstones have of course done deals with e-retailer Amazon in the past in which they have agreed to sell Amazon’s Kindle in their stores. More recently, however, Waterstones has announced its agreement with the University of Derby to launch the first professional qualification in bookselling, which will be the equivalent of a first year in an undergraduate degree.

Curtis Brown and Conville & Walsh

The two literary agencies announced earlier in February that they would be joining together to ‘extend their authors’ reach in the new publishing multiverse. Like with the Penguin Random House merger, Curtis Brown has bought a 50% stake in Conville & Walsh. It is not the first time the agencies have worked together though; both have formed alliance on film projects in the past for M L Stedman and S J Watson to name a few.

Predictions for 2013:

Whilst obviously, the Penguin and Random House merger was a big deal in the trade publishing world, however, the end of January saw the prediction that consolidation of academic publishing houses will become more common this year, particularly with the mass rise in digital sales, as well as developments in Open Access. George Lossius, CEO of Publishing Technology told The Bookseller how consolidation is ‘not the sole domain of the trade’ although the consolidation of small publishers into large publishers recently means that the prediction for this to happen in 2013 is more likely.

Other developments predicted is the mass surge in Open Access publishing and the rise in purchasing digital academic textbooks for Universities around the world. Cambridge University Press Chief Executive, Peter Phillips, said that digital educational services were massive, yet the demand for print textbooks and Print On Demand was still popular and was still a growing part of academic publishing, particularly in the Far East and Latin America.

Personally, I think that mergers between publishing houses will continue to change the industry. With the changes in the digital revolution in publishing, large (and small) publishing firms have joined forces to try to enhance the services which they are already providing. In addition, with the rise of giant Amazon, publishing houses should stick together. It is thought that Amazon controls 80-90% of the market, as reported by Aziz Isham, The American Reader (as above). With Amazon controlling such a large part of the market, there are obviously fears that the future of publishing will not extend much further than Amazon. Personally, whilst I do and have used Amazon in the past, I think it is important for publishing houses to still exist! It would be a shame for years of companies’ hard work to be over-taken by Amazon and in addition, I do like to have that choice of being able to purchase my books direct from the publisher – again another service which is increasingly on the rise…

As I have summarised in this post, mergers are affecting ALL aspects of the industry: trade, academic, literary agents and retailers! I guess the interesting game now is, one publishing house at a time, to guess who will be the next merger…?

Imagineering the book trade of the future

On 20th November 2012 last year, I attended one of the Cambridge Publishing Society’s events headlined by the Cambridge University Press President, Stephen Bourne who gave an intriguing talk entitled ‘Imagineering the book trade in 2050’.

Whilst I did not blog about it at the time, I saw this article (Google Glass offered for $16,000 on eBay) on The Guardian today, and it triggered the event in my memory.

Firstly, I feel I must define the term Imagineering – imagining how things can be in the future and engineering that through. Bourne commenced the talk by describing the changes in technology over the past 50 years by mentioning colour television sets, telephones and the first cell phone in 1984. He then proceeded to talk about possible book trade scenarios in 205o…

This included the increase of reading on devices, ie. the Google Glass.

Originally bought at $1,500, the Google Glass was sold for $16,000 on online auction site, eBay. Bourne described that smaller devices with the ability of ‘virtual expansion’ would be a thing of the future, however Google’s new gadget has brought the future to the present. Bourne also stated how he though that devices of the future will be eventually become to be linked to the nervous system, controlled by the brain and our thoughts. This I found to be reiterated through an article which The Guardian published the other day where it said how Douglas Engelbart, pioneer in computer science and inventor of the computer mouse, voiced his strong belief that ‘computers had the power to augment, rather than replace human capabilities’.

That said, one thing which Bourne made clear in his talk and is also something which I believe, is that future devices will be shaped by what the public demands. Who knows how the technology of today will be adapted in the future. Certainly in terms of publishing, Bourne stated how there will be a change in reading patterns where books will be read in bitesize chunks. In terms of the Google Glass, I believe it is devices like this which will take over the Kindle and iPad in favour for a device which will do everything. Personally, I’m not yet sold on the thought of walking around with a computer in my glasses. That said, that was the kind of attitude I had when I first heard about the Kindle.

It will be interesting to see how the future of publishing will be integrated into devices such as Google Glass. One thing is for sure, currently being in my early twenties, I cannot wait to see what technology will be available in my early thirties.

Cambridge University Press visit


Yesterday the MA publishing group had a field trip to the fantastic Cambridge University Press University Printing House. We were told about various departments at the Press and heard talks from a variety of people including Richard Fisher (MD Academic and Professional Publishing), Dan Edwards (Senior Commissioning Editor, STM Journals), Helen Barton (Commissioning Editor, Linguistics), Alastair Horne (Communities and Social Media, ELT), Liz Warman (Global Content Production Director) and Fiona Kelly (Director of Intellectual Property, ELT).

Each speaker gave a brilliant insight into the workings of the Press and how they contribute to the thousands of titles published each year. There were also brief talks from former and current MA Publishing students who talked about their experiences at the Press and how they came to work there.

I found everything really interesting and it has definitely fuelled my ambition of wanting to work for the company. It was great to hear each person’s experience and to also hear about current ways the Press was changing to accommodate for the digital age.

We also got a tour around the Customer Services and HR Department. I am really excited for April as we shall get to visit the Printers for CUP. (More on that when it happens!)

Even if in the future I do end up working for a company as successful as Cambridge University Press, currently I am definitely undecided on which department I’d like to work in. Everything sounded so interesting. I think I would like to do something with ELT. I studied English Language and Linguistics and English Literature for my undergraduate degree (and also did a little teaching in Denmark a few years back), so the thought of going into that part of publishing would be something which I would find interesting.

Until then though, all I can do is work hard and hope that one day, it will all pay off.

Fast-food chain to serve fast-fiction


There has been a lot of criticism on the internet about fast-food giant, McDonald’s, offering a £1 book offer on its Happy Meal boxes. The ‘Happy Readers’ offer will be featured on the children’s Happy Meal boxes and will enable customers to buy selected £1 books at W H Smith until the end of 2014. The National Literacy Trust is said to be backing the promotion and hopes that the promotion will hand out more than 15 million books over the next year.

A four-week trial was held at the beginning of 2012 to assess the response of the offer, with nine out of ten parents stating that they would like McDonald’s to do more promotions like it.

Today I have read a couple of blogs who have criticised the move. Martyn Daniels’ (‘Brave New World’) has blogged about his disapproval of the scheme stating that publishers will have ‘ketchup on their hands’. I think that Daniels made a valid argument on his blog stating that with the focus on junk food and the constant media attention on growing child and adult obesity, the move to promote reading through unhealthy food is ‘cynical’.

Daniels does make a point that all the effort gone into Jamie Oliver’s healthy school dinners campaign, the usual January ‘get fit’ publications, as well as increased attention on obesity in the UK, does all seem pointless when things like this happen.

Despite the negatives towards this campaign, I personally believe that there is a lot of good surrounding the offer. Whilst I’d like to hope that parents don’t regularly feed their children junk food, I think being able to treat their children to McDonald’s once is a blue moon isn’t a bad thing (I remember my parents doing it), and the fact that McDonald’s are promoting such a worthy cause is a great idea, especially when it’s to do with books and reading. With adults having such busy lifestyles these days and perhaps not having much time to read with their children, anything which promotes reading is a good thing.

Overall I can see why there is such an uproar over this as promoting anything bad is never a great move. However, whilst we live in a world where fast-food chains are a large part of every town’s high street, I do believe it is mainly down to parents (and schools) to teach their children about the dangers of fast-food. I think there is definitely enough media attention on junk food to hopefully make adults and children realise that eating a McDonald’s on a regular basis isn’t going to be good, but I do think that the fact that the company are promoting books and reading in young children is a good thing.

Perhaps the book promotion through McDonald’s will be adapted by healthier food companies in the future. Certainly it should give some publishers food for thought…