I didn’t know what to expect from the SYP Conference 2015. Having never been to a publishing conference my expectations were non-existent. On arriving, I was immediately greeted by a couple of Oxford SYP Committee members, who handed me a programme. I then signed in, and received my lanyard and, naturally, the wifi password for tweeting during the day (you can check out the #sypconf15 for a recap of the day for any talks that I didn’t attend).
While waiting for the keynote speech, delivered by Juliet Mabey of Oneworld Publications, I took a peek into my delightful bag of publishing goodies including Room by Emma Donoghue, How To Use Your Enemies by Baltasar Gracián and a recent copy of The Bookseller and lots more. Mabey introduced her journey through the industry, from publishing four books in 1986 to 100 books a year in 2015 including the Man Booker Prize winner 2015, A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James. Mabey emphasised the importance of building relationships and that “networking is the backbone of publishing”. She also announced Oneworld’s partnership with the London Book Fair on a new award for under 30s in the publishing industry - The Trailblazer Awards. Mabey finished by acknowledging that there is a problem with gender in publishing, pointing out that three of the main buyers at Waterstones are men.
After a short break, I joined the panel curated by Emma Barnes of Snowbooks and Bibliocloud. Having published over 354 books in her 12-15 years in publishing, she was both elated and bemused by Snowbooks recent bestseller - a colouring book. She began by challenging Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, stating “books aren’t pins”. Barnes then moved on to considering the “obligation [we have] to run publishing in a way that is more sustainable to its future”. Predicting a shift of culture in seven years concurrent with teenagers graduating with full coding proficiency, Barnes explains that it takes four years to become a competent coder. In other words, there’s still time. She also recommended Ruby on Rails as a good starting point for anyone wanting to get into coding.
In the afternoon, I attended 'Marketing and Social Media: What’s Next?', which gave an insight into how John Bond, founder of Whitefox, learned of “the business of publishing”, in which writers are also mini-entrepreneurs who make use of their personal platforms. These platforms in turn are advantageous in maintaining the attention of publishers. Bond then passed the floor to Alastair Horne of Cambridge University Press, who discussed how Facebook is the industry leader of social media. However, their use of paid-for marketing has changed the way it allows pages to interact with their audience. A successful business model for Facebook but a hindrance for pages, whose posts are only organically seen by less than 1% of their audience. Horne also stressed the importance of using social media as a gateway to engaging with audiences on your own platforms and giving your audience a voice. He said third-party platforms can no longer be trusted with your content, calling promoted tweets a “mixed blessing”.
My final chosen panel of the day was 'Living in a Blogger’s Paradise'. As a blogger myself I was keen to gain an insight into the experiences others have had working with the publishing industry. The panel was chaired by a member of SYP and questions directed to Eric Anderson, Lonesome Reader, and C A DuBois, Petite Britette. They discussed the use of bloggers as a marketing tool and how publishing professionals should take more care when choosing who they want to represent their book. If you take the time to look at a blogger/vlogger’s preferences you’re more likely to have them agreeing to read and review the book and relevant audiences reading/watching and therefore buying the book.
Overall, the conference was a great success and I came away not just laden with book swag but a sense of inspiration. The digital world has progressively become an integrated part of the reading experience, As such, publishers need to continually be on the mark when it comes to engaging with audiences across multiple platforms. I’m excited for the future of publishing and look forward to seeing further how it embraces the increasingly technological world.
Emma Petfield, is a business development and content outreach executive at Banc Media.