The independent gene

<p>Neill Denny's recent call for the sector (<a href="http://www.thebookseller.com/blogs/44593-publishing-needs-to-shout-loude... needs to shout louder</a>) comes at a timely moment for many of us preparing for Frankfurt. It's a good opportunity to stand back and assess the industry's success in exporting intellectual property to the rest of the world and to bear witness to the energy and innovation that characterises our sector. However, if you think this is confined to the large encampments of the PLCs: think again. Frankfurt provides an opportunity to see the cut and thrust of UK publishing at its best and much of this activity is to be found on the stands of the independents.<br />
<br />
Why should this be? With a difficult home retail market one might expect a down-beat mood amongst the independents. They are, after all, faced with a market where UK retail space is contracting each month and where the competition to occupy that space is fiercer than ever. However, independent publishers share a genetic coding which combines the 'bloody-minded' gene, and the 'let's look at it another way' gene, with the &lsquo;I'm not going to lose my house over this' gene thrown in for good measure.<br />
<br />
Innovation is the life-blood of independent publishing and so whilst the home retail trade presents its own unique sets of problems it has also created the momentum that has driven so many independent publishers to find other ways to find new markets and to develop their intellectual property. Frankfurt and the London Book Fair offer up a myriad of opportunities for the light-footed and agile independent sector.<br />
<br />
For example, at Kogan Page we have a thriving export sales ledger (including a growing US presence), sell foreign and digital rights, are actively involved in the creation of digital products (including the recent launch of our first audio books on iTunes), have publishing relationships with professional associations such as the Institute of Directors, agency deals with US imprints such as Bloomberg, co-publishing agreements with the likes of Kellogg School of Management and German publishers Redline Wirstschaft and lastly, and less orthodox, sell advertising and sponsorship in some of our publications. Many of these relationships were forged at the London Book Fair and Frankfurt with chance meetings in the aisles or over a glass of wine at a party. Indeed, the figures quoted in the Small Publishers league table, based on NBS figures of home retail trade sales, represents only 40% of our actual turnover. Don't get me wrong &ndash; our relationship with home booksellers is still our key preoccupation and lies at the core of our activity &ndash; but given the opportunity we will always run with a new idea. <br />
<br />
And we are not alone.&nbsp; Many other independent publishers have also recognised the fantastic opportunities offered by the digital economy to reach both trade and niche markets, improve the information flow to retailers, create co-publishing relationships and partnerships and offer intellectual property for both foreign and electronic rights sales that, pre-internet, could only have been within the reach of the large companies. Of course, the complexities and costs of running such diverse activities under one roof can't be underestimated and much of trying to create a bottom line out of these different revenue streams requires the delicate balancing act of relocating resources and recasting the profit and account sheet. However, this is also a prerequisite skill for independent publishers and those that have come to terms with this are well set to survive. <br />
<br />
So whilst it's certainly time to shout loud about the industry's success, don't just confine it to the larger PLCs &ndash; if you've got time take a stroll around the outer aisles and witness the energy and determination of the independents.</p>