"We are at a very early stage in imagining the future of the book." — David "Skip" Prichard
The publisher delivers a single file. With that file, Ingram Content Group will deliver the content globally in a variety of ways, whether as a printed book or as a digital file which will ultimately create books for every digital platform around the world. They have the industry’s largest active book inventory (access to 7.5 million titles) and the markets they serve include bookstores, libraries, schools, and specialty retailers.
What do the book makers believe about the future of reading? I had the pleasure of speaking with the charismatic President and CEO of Ingram Content Group, David “Skip” Prichard.
How do you see the growth prospects for books in all forms over the next five to ten years?
I’m bullish on the growth prospects for books. First, the demographics are favorable. We have an aging baby boomer population that should fuel reading. Demand for English-language books is also a positive long-term trend. Second, technology is increasing demand for books whether on digital devices or through the ease of buying books online. Enhanced e-books are only in their infancy, allowing authors to add alternative endings or interviews. Down the road, who knows what’s possible? Maybe we will have biometric devices that can sense your pulse and body temperature and change the plot based on your feelings — and you think Stephen King is scary now. Third, the very definition of a book is evolving. The information in books is fast becoming linked to other content in various forms, blending into articles, research, and other media. As books become part of the larger information landscape, they become both more relevant and more important.
Are there enhanced books available this holiday season that have already changed the definition of a book?
Yes, for example, a biography can to come to life in many ways. Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy has all of the interview audios, videos, photographs, text, and transcripts available. Even classics — Penguin has updated Pride & Prejudice with clips from the movie and even instructions on dancing. For the 75th anniversary of The Hobbit, HarperCollins released an e-version with exclusives including J.R.R Tolkien’s book illustrations and recently discovered Tolkien recordings. Publishers are still learning what added value readers will or won’t pay for. I expect we’ll continue to see lots of experimentation in this arena.
Does this mean authors will require different skill sets to create books?
Yes, there is definitely a demand for new and emerging skill sets. Publishing is full of creative types, including talent that is savvy about the new tools becoming available. The challenge is less about talent and more about the need to find the right business model. For example, you don’t want to create a book that’s very cool but too expensive for the average reader. There’s no limit to what can be done, but there is a limit to what consumers will pay for.
"We are able to print a book on demand within hours and deliver it the next day." - Skip Prichard
How do you see the playing field for books evolving in the next five to ten years?
Three powerful trends in the last few years have been the growth of online retail, the rise of the e-book, and the explosion in the number of titles available. These will continue for some time. It doesn’t mean that all bookstores will close. And it doesn’t mean that the printed book is dead. What it does mean is that traditional bookstores will need to continue to be creative — change inventory, add more events, and make the local experience unique. Large print runs will diminish as e-book sales increase. Today, many printed books are created through the technology of print-on-demand, arriving in stores, libraries, or at home the day after printing. Finally, authors are finding new ways to reach markets directly. All of these potentially threaten players not adept at staying ahead of the changes. Fortunately, many publishers are ahead of the curve and already anticipating the next phase of growth. We are at a very early stage in imagining the future of the book.
What will be the effect on brick and mortar outlets? What recommendations do you have for these outlets?
Physical stores are redefining their role for the future by finding unique and compelling ways to differentiate the experience from online. Just as print and digital will find a balance, so too, will online and physical retail. My recommendation is, “Find your niche, your unique value proposition, and lock in your customer relationship experience.” The challenges ahead for brick and mortar outlets are not unique to bookstores. Almost all physical retailers are confronting these same challenges.
What will be the effect on publishing companies and what opportunities will this provide to authors for self-publishing?
Publishers are making changes and developing new models for the future. The publishing house of yesterday is being replaced as visionary publishers adapt to new ways to reach readers. Content creation will extend past the current definition of the book. With the explosive growth of books in recent years, the role of the publisher to select, edit and promote content is more valuable than ever. And the prestige of getting published remains for all authors and potential authors.
There are also more opportunities than ever for self-published authors as the barriers to publishing are lower than ever. Self-published titles are increasing in both print and digital formats. We’ve seen some self-published authors break into the bestseller lists. Interestingly, these same authors generally end up accepting lucrative publishing deals when they are approached.
"Three powerful trends in the last few years have been the growth of online retail, the rise of the e-book, and the explosion in the number of titles available." - Skip Prichard
How can the book industry protect itself from piracy?
Piracy isn’t a new issue. In fact, the majority of pirated copies are from print books being photocopied and distributed rather than from the distribution of digital copies. Keep in mind that what separates books from other forms of entertainment: for those who can’t or don’t want to pay for books, they’ve always been available for free from libraries. The key is to continue to make books not only an engaging experience but also an affordable and easy-to-access experience. We need to make it easy for consumers to find and purchase books legally, meaning publishers must package and share e-content with consumers in formats they want to read without unreasonable restrictions.
Why should a book be your number one gift purchase this holiday season and what are your recommendations?
Books educate, inform and inspire. They cultivate curiosity, nurture the imagination, and promote a sense of wonder. Books are also terrific conversation starters. In addition, books keep on giving well beyond the day they are received whether to the original recipient or to someone else.
How is Ingram changing its culture to embrace the digital age?
We have been early adopters of a number of different technologies. Our print on demand business, Lightning Source, started fifteen years ago. As more books go digital, publishers will have to cut print runs. We are able to print a book on demand within hours and deliver it the next day. Last year we expanded to France. This year we expanded to Australia.
Ingram was an early investor in digital. We’ve had experience in digital for many years and expanded these services to include things like CoreSource, a digital warehouse for publishers. We can send an e-book to all the sources for digital devices, so a publisher does not have to worry about the logistics of file conversions, the bibliographic data about the book, and the security of delivery to consumer channels.
Ingram also purchased VitalSource, an electronic textbook platform that is our fastest growing business. We now have 2 million students using the platform worldwide. It’s transforming the way students interact with educational material. Textbooks come alive using video, audio, and text, and allow students to share notes. It has technology that allows us to tell a publisher: “Nobody is reading Chapter 8.” Or, “People like these three chapters best so you might want to expand them.” It helps the students learn better by engaging with the material in the way that they learn best.
We are watching the digital space carefully. We’re an active participant behind the scenes in this transformation. We embrace it and will continue to be a central part of it. Ingram sits as the center hub between the publisher and libraries and retailers. We get a wide view of what’s happening in the marketplace.
C. M. Rubin and David “Skip” Prichard
Photos courtesy of Ingram Content Group, Inc.
Visit Skip Prichard’s blog: www.skipprichard.com
C. M. Rubin is the author of the widely read online series, The Global Search for Education, and is also the author of three bestselling books, including The Real Alice in Wonderland.
Follow C. M. Rubin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@cmrubinworld
"In 5 years you will have an entirely new marketplace of digital reading material for young children, in all new forms" - Karen Lotz
Karen Lotz is the Group Managing Director of Walker Books Ltd., a London-based company that includes the children’s publishing companies Walker Books UK, Walker Books Australia, US based Candlewick Press, and a children’s television development unit, Walker Productions. She is the President and Publisher of Candlewick Press. The Walker Books Group is one the world’s largest employee-owned publishing companies, and it has a unique business model that includes more than one hundred and fifty authors and illustrators in its profit sharing. I recently interviewed Karen regarding the future of children’s books.
What is your estimate for children’s e-books and print books over the next 3 to 5 years?
The children’s books market was estimated to be over $3 billion in sales in 2010, approximately 25% of the overall book market. We are beginning to see traction for digital sales of young adult fiction, though children’s as a whole is well behind the adult marketplace in terms of what percentage of new releases might be purchased in print versus e-book. Over the next 3 to 5 years, I can imagine that digital will trump print in the majority of cases rather than the exception. Currently a lot of adults, as well as teens, buy new young adult books in digital form, which is a really good thing in terms of expanding our market overall. Teens are purchasing more than ever before as reading devices proliferate, and from Candlewick’s perspective we’ve also seen some significant growth in middle-grade digital purchasing during 2011. Picture book publishing in digital form is still in its infancy, but that too will change more quickly than we can imagine. In 5 years you will have an entirely new marketplace of digital reading material for young children, in all new forms - some of which we can’t even envision yet.
Sales in children’s picture books seem to have fallen in the last decade. Do you believe this trend will continue with e-books?
It’s interesting to hear that statistic, because from my perspective, it’s not so true. Some of the most successful picture book publishing has happened during the last decade, a period during which we basically doubled in U.S. revenues as a company, and it’s been a catalyst for our growth. For Candlewick Press and Walker Books globally, picture book investment continues stronger than ever, and our sales are also very strong, even given the loss of some key retail partners that supported picture books, such as Borders in the U.S. and U.K., and some key chains in Australia. Our other partners, though, including the U.S. independents, are as strong as ever. We do excellent business in China with picture books, and our first Chinese picture book that we’ve brought in, A New Year’s Reunion, has just been recognized as a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year. The market for young adult fiction has grown, but it does not seem to me that it’s been at the expense of picture books, as others suppose. Without loving picture books, kids are less likely to grow up to love chapter books or graphic novels, and so on. Reading starts here: that’s our picture book publishing motto.
"We must continue to support the importance of reading to our children as a culture" - Karen Lotz
What will Candlewick’s products for young readers look like - for print, e-readers, and tablets? How much emphasis are you putting on digital products?
We consider digital editions to be simply another format. We have a very organic process for determining which books go into e-books, just like we do for hardcovers, paperbacks, novelty books, and board books. Every department at Candlewick is involved in making sure that the quality of our e-books is superb and equivalent in every possible way to our beautiful print editions. It is a much more intensive process than simply scanning a page and distributing it in digital form. One aspect of e-books that we have agonized over is typography. Thank goodness, technology is now catching up to enable more graphic choices, and to once again open the doors for a unique aesthetic of presentation. Decades, even centuries of wisdom about typographic choice go into the design of each print book, especially when it comes to designing books for young children. How we learn to read has everything to do with what we see - and don’t see - on the page.
Do you see brick and mortar outlets (bookstores, school libraries) continuing to attract the youngest readers?
I believe brick and mortar outlets - and I love that you include libraries in that category - are going to be hugely important for the youngest readers going forward. The experience of being in a room full of books, for a child, is one of the most empowering and exciting experiences one can have. To look at a shelf of books, to pull one out because it attracts us, and to begin to read is a sacred and amazing process. We know from research that the process of reading aloud to a child is incredibly beneficial and cannot be replaced by mechanical interactions of any kind. Bookstores and libraries are the perfect venues for the communal sharing of books, within families and between professionals and children. I can absolutely see a world where physical book outlets will continue to be places of wonder for young readers, made even better through the best technology being added into the mix, but this will only be true if one thing happens: we must continue to support the importance of reading to our children as a culture. If we don’t, a much bigger future than that of bookstores and libraries is at stake.
What will the evolution mean for illustrators and authors of children’s picture books? For example, will sound, animation and interactive features become important? Will authors and illustrators become less dependent on publishers?
I really believe that in our new digital world, publishers have the opportunity to be what we always have been: book lovers, spotters and nurturers of talent, cultural drivers, great marketers, thoughtful salespeople, and fanatical caretakers of all the detail. Authors often have wonderful ears, meaning that music, speech and drama are often very natural to them. To employ their talents in new ways is an interesting challenge. For illustrators, obviously the choices and possibilities are endless - no longer being bound strictly by the 32-page forms of the printing presses, for example. But for those authors and illustrators who love the haiku of a printed picture book, and the challenges the limitations pose, I hope those forms will always be there too. They certainly will be there at Candlewick.
What are your favorite paper and e-books for children this holiday season?
When it comes to our books, I love them all! And with that, a lovely backlist title for families with siblings pops into my mind: You’re All My Favorites, by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram. Among our new books, the picture book I guarantee you’ll clutch with joy is I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen. For teens, there is a series by L.A. Weatherly that begins with Angel Burn — it’s very satisfying and highly addictive. For a true holiday classic to give as a gift, try The Flint Heart
by Katherine and John Paterson, illustrated in full color by John Rocco. It is one of the most beautiful physical books we’ve ever offered. This is a retelling of a fabulous early twentieth-century novel by Eden Phillpotts that established how the heartbeat of ultimate good and evil came to be buried in England’s dark moors, years before Gollum even found the Ring. My favorite quote from Phillpotts: “The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.”
Karen Lotz and C. M. Rubin
(Photos courtesy of Candlewick Press)
C.M. Rubin has more than two decades of professional experience in development, marketing, and art direction for a diverse range of media businesses. She is the author of the widely read on-line series, The Global Search for Education, and is also the author of three bestselling books, including The Real Alice in Wonderland.
Follow C. M. Rubin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@cmrubinworld
CM Rubin is the author of two best –selling award-winning books. Her third book The Real Alice in Wonderland is currently available in retail bookstores nationally.
Strategies for Selling to Retail Book Stores.
I am in the fortunate position of having worked on both sides of the publishing fence: the development side as a creator, as well as the sales and marketing side as the seller. It sometimes feels like I’m living with two very different personalities in the same body, although I have discovered that, both personalities need to work closely together if my books have any chance of succeeding commercially.
Every year, more than 400,000 new books find their way into print. Some are published by the major publishing houses, but as we know, many many more are now being self-published by authors who are either unable to get a traditional publishing deal, or frustrated by the very unreliable process of working with traditional publishing houses. As all good authors know, it takes passion, dedication and incredible hard work to create a top quality book. However, what those who venture into the self-publishing arena are learning very quickly, is that it is even harder to get your book on the shelf of the few remaining large bookstore chains that pay their bills on time. Distribution is also promotion power, and with it authors make a significant step towards realizing their dream i.e. elevating the sell through of their book to a significant level. I aim to give authors tips based on my personal experience to date regarding how to improve the chances of mainstream retail penetration.
Every year, more than 400,000 new books find their way into print. Some are published by the major publishing houses, but as we know, many many more are now being self-published by authors who are either unable to get a traditional publishing deal, or frustrated by the very unreliable process of working with traditional publishing houses. As all good authors know, it takes passion, dedication and incredible hard work to create a top quality book. However, what those who venture into the self-publishing arena are learning very quickly, is that it is even harder to get your book on the shelf of the few remaining large bookstore chains that pay their bills on time. Distribution is also promotion power, and with it authors make a significant step towards realizing their dream i.e. elevating the sell through of their book to a significant level.
I aim to give authors tips based on my personal experience to date regarding how to improve the chances of mainstream retail penetration.
If and when a buyer at a major bookstore chain takes the time to look at your labor of love (instead of the thousands of others in the pile on his desk), he will ask himself the question: Who is going to buy this book? If he gets past that hurdle and believes your book has a good shot in the commercial marketplace (based on his vast experience of what sells and what doesn’t), he will start to get into the details of where it might sell best and how many he might take a risk on. And it is a risk. As far as his bosses are concerned, the buyer is only as good as his next buy. Additionally, he’ll have some of his own selling to do internally since there will probably be others in his buying group who need to be convinced that he’s backing the right horse. So what can you do to improve your chances of being selected and improve his chances of having backed a winner? You need to start at the end and work back to the beginning.
Before you get too far along into your new publishing venture, take the time to create a marketing plan for your book. It should include: 1. Who is the target audience for the book you are planning to write? What other books have succeeded/failed in your genre of choice? What can you learn from the successes/failures of the other books (beyond the fact that you’re a much better writer with a much better story of course!)? Know your target audience intimately.
Before you get too far along into your new publishing venture, take the time to create a marketing plan for your book. It should include:
1. Who is the target audience for the book you are planning to write? What other books have succeeded/failed in your genre of choice? What can you learn from the successes/failures of the other books (beyond the fact that you’re a much better writer with a much better story of course!)? Know your target audience intimately.
2. Timing of your book’s release. Is there a particular national or global event that could make your book launch more timely? Is there a certain month or season or holiday that offers a platform for your book release, making it a timely impulse purchase for a browser and a good fit for a book store’s annual product plan mix? Go into the bookstores in which you want your books sold and look at the books displayed during the calendar year, figure out where your book would fit in the product mix. In other words, understand the selling strategy of retailers you hope to do business with someday.
3. Promotion Hooks: As you begin to write your manuscript, what promotion hooks can you build into the content for use in promotion when your book is ready to be marketed? There will be hundreds of thousands of books competing for the same shelf space as yours. What are the angles that give your book an edge? Look at articles that have been written about books like yours. Identify journalists or bloggers that you feel will connect with your book. Then write up six or seven promotion stories about your book or the making of your book that you think will be of interest to those writers. If a journalist or blogger appears to be interested in your book it’s always best to make a personal connection. Being equipped with story ideas of your own may well inspire more ideas which ultimately will lead to a better article.
4. Design of your book: I once worked for a very successful publishing mogul who never read a book in his life. He didn’t believe in PR or promotion either. All he cared about was what was on the cover. As much as I hated his lack of attention to the content he taught me a lesson I have never forgotten: ‘A cover can make or break a book’. I read a study once that showed that it takes browsers ten to twenty seconds on average to decide whether to purchase or reshelve a book. That’s not a lot of time to grab a reader’s attention. Bottom line - You will never regret the time you invested designing your book and its cover.
5. What’s the sell? The biggest difference between publishing and self-publishing is that the job of selling the book becomes the author’s job. And why not? No one’s voice is more passionate and inspiring than yours when it comes to your book. You dreamt it. You nurtured it. You willed it to happen. Your work is just beginning however. Now it’s time to sell it to the world. Imagine you are going into a sales meeting. Create an impactful power point presentation that presents your book. No more than 5 or 6 pages that can be attached as a PDF to an email. Your presentation should highlight the key selling points of your book in a powerful and memorable way that convinces the audience they must have it. Remember, people have less time than ever these days, so make your points clearly and quickly. You as the author also need to connect with the audience. Think about the image you wish to portray. Practice your presentation until you can perform if perfectly. In addition, if you’ve done all the things recommended in Points 1 through 4 you will have a better chance of making the sale.
5. Getting to the buyer. There are a number of ways to identify the actual buyers for your book, either through the internet or via the sales and marketing department in your self-publishing houses. It’s important to start with a retail test market. Select book stores in your neighborhood which you know friends and family will support. Once you have some sales and hopefully reorders under your belt from those accounts, you can start to build and expand your retail penetration further. Figuring out the key players in the larger bookstore chains is difficult. Getting an appointment is much harder although with perseverance, it is possible. More importantly, you need to be prepared and professional in your approach, once your opportunity arises.
If you give serious consideration to the above process, I believe it will help you a great deal in finalizing your manuscript and cover art, and in laying the groundwork for a successful promotion and selling campaign.