The problems and the promise: Authority
As The Bookseller's c.e.o. and publisher Nigel Roby is saying this evening at our launch event in London, The FutureBook Conference is in its fifth anniversary. And, as Europe's largest publishing industry conference, it addresses a broad audience.
Roby: "So many dimensions to modern publishing, and so many groups who have a stake in the future of it, that one single conference wasn't enough."
He and our team have created a week of events leading up to the FutureBook Conference, itself, which is set for Friday 4th December at The Mermaid. Those events, Roby says, are aimed at, collectively, doing the "essential job of setting out what is happening in today’s modern book trade, what might happen, and then plotting the steps to delivering a sustainable, fulfilling, profitable, future."
And as befits the indispensable population of the bookish world—authors, with whom the foundational component, story, begins—the opening event in our FutureBook week will be the inaugural FutureBook Author Day (#AuthorDay) on Monday 30th November. We'd be glad to have you with us.
As we move forward with a growing roster of talented, skilled, well-placed speakers, we're stressing that Author Day extends a warm welcome to both independent authors and to traditionally publishing authors, as well as to figures in the industry who work with and around them. This is neither an "indie conference" nor a "trad event." We want and need everyone, as does the industry.
Our emphasis is on unity, even in exploring what may be divisive issues.
Our goal is common understanding and commitment, and more. As Roby is announcing it in his articulate rationale:
We aim to dissolve the gap between traditional and self publishing and focus instead on how the respective strengths of both ‘sides’ can be identified and shared. From that we want a series of plans to emerge that moves authors, and the book trade as a whole, from debate to action. Key points from Author Day will be presented at FutureBook later in the week.
To that end, here are three basic points about Author Day:
- This is an issues-oriented conference, and not a how-to event. There's nothing wrong with instructional conferences, quite the contrary. But our effort here is business-facing.
- We believe that it is possible to disagree without disrespect.
- And we think that in that context, the message sent to the FutureBook Conference seated in London on the Friday following Author Day can hold the seeds of freshly gathered perspective: a glimpse at a way forward.
Here is how we're approaching this.
The State of the Author
In a new article this week, the London-based self-publishing literary author Roz Morris writes with a candor that some in the author community shy from:
"There’s never been a better time to be a writer." I’ve seen this mantra frequently over the past few years...But from what I see right now, this time is also tougher for authors than ever. Indie authors feel it in their book sales. Hands up who is in a forum where the chief discussion is "what can I do about my dwindling sales?" "Anybody else had a dismal month?" "Should I drop my book’s price, put it on Kindle Unlimited, write something more popular, send out more emails, spend $$$ on a marketing course?’' The traditionally published authors I know are faring little better, with shrinking advances, ill-supported launches – even the authors who have awards to prove their worth.
Needless to say, everyone won't agree with the assessments of Morris and an author friend she quotes in her piece: "I’m beginning to think the biggest part of the indie movement is to smack the big machines into better behaviour. They have the money and power to do what we cannot do."
But that's the point. We want the disagreement, the varying views, the experienced perceptions of many angles on the complexities that the digital dynamic has wrought along with its enabling grace to authors.
The first half of our day is devised as a sequence of sessions opened by the lead organisations representing both traditionally publishing and independently publishing authors. We will hear from:
- Nicola Solomon of The Society of Authors
- Orna Ross of the Alliance of Independent Authors
- Chicago-based historical novelist Jane Steen
- London-based Bloomsbury novelist Kamila Shamsie
- Unbound's Dan Kieran who, with John Paul Flintoff, will report on their own explorations into the author experience
- Author Harry Bingham, whose "Do You Love Your Publisher?" survey with Jane Friedman this spring was first reported by The Bookseller
- Faber Academy's Ian K. Ellard
- Digital author, opera librettist, and Bath Spa University professor Kate Pullinger
- Technologist-publisher and FutureBook contributor Emma Barnes of Bibliocloud and Snowbooks
- Game designer, author, producer, and FutureBook contributor Dave Morris
- Andrew Lownie, the Lownie Agency
- Sheila Crowley, Curtis Brown
- Piers Blofeld, Sheil Land
And there are more coming as we add voices to help describe the field.
The Author Day afternoon then develops the conference's response to what is heard earlier in the day.
Here, for example, we will explore the power of authors’ voices in such “allied interests” as:
- Credit for illustrators, with author-artist Sarah McIntyre of #PicturesMeanBusiness, and for translators, with Louise Rogers Lalaurie on #NameTheTranslator
- Questions about publishing's output for boys, with Jonathan Emmett of the #CoolNotCute campaign
- Dogged problems of diversity in the workplace with Bristol-based Nikesh Shukla
And we'll look to some of the industry's most incisive actors for publishers' viewpoints and critical marketing perspective from, among others:
- Pan Macmillan's Naomi Bacon
- Canelo's Nick Barreto
- Midas PR's Daniel Freeman
- Communications specialist Katie Roden
And finally, we'll turn to our attendees, Author Day delegates, for their appraisals and reactions, recommendations and observations, in an interactive closing sequence that will inform the message ultimately sent to the FutureBook Conference.
Our team is close to a decision on a venue, and bookings for Author Day will open on 20th September.
In the interim, we'll have news of more participants, and invite you to follow along as we roll out a daily manifesto written by one of our FutureBook community members. The pieces published so far are here.
- Why FutureBook just got bigger | Nigel Roby
- Thomas, Page and Jurevics to headline FutureBook Conference | The Bookseller staff
- FutureBook 2015: Travelling further together | Philip Jones
- Introducing The FutureBook's BookTech Showcase 2015 | Molly Flatt
- Introducing The FutureBook's Author Day 2015 | Porter Anderson
- #FutureBook2015 Manifestos
- Conference bookings page
- The hashtag for The FutureBook 2015 activities: #FutureBook15
- The hashtag for Author Day: #AuthorDay
Image - iStockphoto: DanR13