"More than 70 percent of Accent Press’ revenue comes from ebooks," writes Bethan James in her manifesto for us today on independent publishing. If such publishers are lighter and more nimble, as is frequently advertised, they need to act the part, she points out. Picking your battles, taking advantage of technology's potentials in less risk-averse settings than the majors might encounter, all play into the mix. Digital should find its fans in the indie sector, she tells us, for helping these publishers "punch well above our weight in an industry dominated by big players." — Porter Anderson
Size matters not
Small, independent publishing companies can still compete effectively with the big players. Size can be an advantage, allowing us to work more flexibly and adapt more nimbly to changing digital trends than larger competitors. Bigger doesn’t always mean better.
Accept that readers’ habits are evolving
Attention spans are decreasing among millennials, and mobile reading is on the rise. A survey of consumers by Publishing Technology revealed that 43 percent had read an ebook, or part of one, on their phone. Instead of ignoring or trying to change this, embrace it. Always ask yourself how platforms and products can meet new needs.
Think outside the books.
It’s easy to spend all our time looking at what other publishing competitors are doing digitally, so there’s a danger we’ll get left behind other sectors. The TV and film industry is being transformed by new monthly subscription services such as Netflix. Amazon Prime Music are shaking up the music business by offering hundreds of free playlists legally. Independent publishing companies often have the ability to experiment with new models without having to wade through layers of bureaucracy and risk-averse corporate cultures.
Quality, not quantity, is key
This old adage applies to the digital world as much as anything else. A multi-million pound fiction publisher may have about twenty social media platforms, from Instagram to Pinterest. But if you have fewer people in your entire marketing team than some companies devote just to updating their Twitter feed, it’s better to focus on running a few key platforms well.
Digital doesn’t just mean ebooks.
Audiobook downloads are the next big growth area for independent publishers to focus on. According to the Publishing Association, audio download sales for 2014 were up 24 percent on the previous year.
Experiment with new technology
Consider augmented reality – the experience of reading a book has the potential to tap into all our senses. Could your e-reader make your hands start to tremble during the tense moments of a thriller, for example? Make imagination your only limit.
Harness the fluidity of roles
In a small indie press, the production co-ordinator might be busy raving about a new release on their Facebook page. Authors can assist with publicity by hosting each other on blog tours. The entire company could, and should, be embracing digital. Everyone can be a marketer now and help spread the word, from the admin assistant to c.e.o. A finance manager could offer fresh and diverse input on a submission that editorial have been agonising over. Smaller organisations offer the advantage that it’s easier to have more crossover between departments.
Overall, we believe that independent publishers can be both small and mighty. More than 70 percent of Accent Press’ revenue comes from ebooks, and digital allows us to compete in global markets, with booksellers no longer the gatekeepers. So digital technology harnessed in the right way can help us to punch well above our weight in an industry dominated by big players.
We're interested in having your "Five-Minute Manifesto" for The Future of the Book Business. In his article, Those magnificent manifestos, The Bookseller editor Philip Jones renews his call for the FutureBook audience to reflect on five years of digital "to challenge the customs we have begun to adopt." The response is so robust that I've extended our deadline for submissions of manifestos to Monday (7th September). See below for details and a list of those published to date. Your statement, preferably no more than 500 words, should be sent to Porter.Anderson@theBookseller.com by 7th September. Please send along a headshot and short bio, as well.
And mark your diary for The FutureBook Conference, 4th December, The Mermaid, London. More details are coming Monday 7th September.
Main image - iStockphoto: Catalin Grigorlu