At Frankfurt: Can books find true fans?

At Frankfurt: Can books find true fans?

Fanning the flames

When asking Pan Macmillan's Naomi Bacon to join us at Frankfurt Book Fair's Business Club for a discussion of "hardcore fandom" and books in our "Hug the Alien" series of events, I hadn't counted on getting video in the bargain. But we got it, and it's good stuff.


Bacon, with the support of PanMac communications director Sara Lloyd—both of whom will be with us for Author Day on 30th November, by the way—is leading the company's charge on finding the Millennial and Generation Z readers that the book industry simply has to have to get itself into the next generations' catalog of entertainment.

And Bacon has made quite a name for herself in a short amount of time, not only for her understanding of the sisterly/brotherly/BFF-ish relationship that fans of YouTube and booktubers share but also for how that can translate into something approaching the fervor and intensity of actual fandom for a sector, books, that isn't always associated with screaming devotion.

That's PanMac's own Leena Normington you see in this video, describing at Bacon's request, the way fandom works in these realms and what it means to translate it (boy are we saying "translate" a lot this week) to books.

That's our #FutureChat topic for today, and I hope you'll join us: Can books do it? When Normington in her video lays out the elements of  non-mainstream, peer-to-peer transmission of fan-strength loyalty, can you see it attaching in the book world, at least beyond the Alfie Deyes/Zoella crowd? 

This article was written as the walkup to the #FutureChat of 16th October 2015. Join us each Friday live on Twitter at:

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A few bits here for you of the good info Bacon brought to our presentation, which also featured the intrepid Michael Bhaskar, publisher at the new digital Canelo in London.

From Bacon's preso:

  • Girl Online, Pointless Book 1 and 2, and Love Tanya, all by YouTubersare all in the overall top 100  in the UK, year to date.
  • So far this year, books by the top YouTubers have already made more than 6 million in sales; double what we saw last year.
  • Also interesting: their books aren’t genre specific. The Pointless Book is a scrapbook, Zoella had a ghost writer which hasn’t damaged her sales figures in the slightest, and Joe Suggs has published a graphic novel, something we wouldn’t expect to see in the Top 10.

What Bacon stresses is the relationship. The power of YouTube stars over their generations' fancy lies in communication, networking. Celebrities in ivory towers need not apply, these audiences want to feel known by their icons and interaction is a big key to success on this. She told us:

The experience of watching these channels is like hanging out with a friend. Many YouTubers spend 10-20 minutes speaking directly to a camera set up in their bedrooms. The content isn’t produced in the traditional sense – the footage is raw, there’s no fancy edits which only lends to the feeling of intimacy.

This kind of informality in the person of a booktuber who recommends new reads to fans is where the gold is thought to lie in this approach. As I pointed out in our discussion, it's a question of a new intermediary, the on-cam personality as the hand-seller of a book.

And can this really work on a wide scale, say beyond the YouTube pantheon, for the industry in its quest for new audience and eyeballs? 

Tell us in #FutureChat today. See you there.

Join us each Friday live on Twitter at 4:00 p.m. London (BST), 3:00 p.m. GMT, 5:00 p.m. Rome (CEST), 11:00 a.m. New York (ET), 10:00 a.m. Chicago (CT), 9:00 a.m. Denver (MT), 8:00 a.m. Los Angeles (PT), 5:00 a.m. Honolulu (HAST).

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Main image - iStockphoto: DWPHotos