The Independent Publishing Conference 2019: Some Take Aways
November 28, 2019
Last week Les and I attended the Trade day of the Independent Publishing Conference at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne. We’ve done this annually for the past five or so years and usually come back with a few great bits of info that help us in publishing and marketing of books. It’s also really great to catch up with other small publishers to see what they are doing.
Anyone who works in book publishing knows that it’s a tough business. This means that there has to be a lot of passion for the trade in order to keep at it year on year. But every year I am reminded that there are a lot of very passionate book people out there and great books are being published all the time.
The first session we sat in was the BookScan update by Bianca Whiteley. This segment always interests me because we get to see what does well in the market over the year. Book sales weren’t as strong as last year but there was growth in children’s books (by about 19%), which is great to hear because we really want our children to be introduced to books as early as possible and to nurture a community of well-read humans. This helps our industry in the long-term not to mention that reading is the foundation to EVERYTHING.
Most other genres of books are travelling along as usual with Barefoot Investor still at #1 in non-fiction, as it was last year. The growth areas are: Children’s books, Graphic novels, books about Mind, Body, Spirit, Family, Health & Relationships, World, Ideas & Culture and Personal Development. It’s also good to know that almost half of the books in the top ten of all categories are Australian.
There has been a lot of talk about publishing platforms and where our books should be. Is ebook worth having, is audio growing as much as we think? Australia being a small market is hard to gauge but if we look at the market in the UK, it looks like ebooks are flatlining a bit because readers are wanting to be off their screens but audio is a really fast growing area. In fact, 30% of new audio users have only discovered audiobooks in the past 12 months. This means that there are new consumers of books that may not be readers of print but will happily listen to the book read to them. This correlates with the huge rise of podcasting.
So yes, audio is definitely worth investigating as another platform to reach your audience.
The State of the Industry
There’s no doubt that the book industry is changing. Amazon, print on demand and the rise of self-publishing are all disrupting the way books get into readers hands. I think this is good. Some might say that self-publishing means lesser quality of books but the fact is that the bad stuff doesn’t get traction.
On the down-side, this means that there are more books on the market to compete with from the creator point of view. Marketing continues to be the hardest part of the journey. There was a lot of discussion about how to get bookshops on board with new ways of doing things and possibly looking at the old models of commission sales and the amounts of commission paid. There’s a long way to go with that idea.
At the end of the day, the 6th edition of How to Market Books (Alison Baverstock & Susannah Bowen, Routledge, 2019), in association with the University of Melbourne’s School of Culture and Communication, was launched. I’ll be looking at that and passing on some wisdom once I’ve gained it! You can never know everything about this but I’m hoping for a few gems.
If you’ve never been to this conference, I highly recommend it. They have lots of offerings for publishers as well as indie authors in terms of workshops and discussions. It’s organised by the Small Press Network, of which we are a member, but you can attend without being a member.