2018 saw FutureBook launch the FutureBook 40, its annual list of exciting publishing innovators in the UK. It's a mix of publishers, agents, writers, booksellers, academics, events organisers, designers, illustrators, consultants and a good few hybrids - all focused on pushing boundaries and using fresh ideas to solve real book-related problems, rather than simply getting buzzwords in the press.
So how could we resist but ask our inaugural intake about their forecast for the coming year? More specifically, we wanted to know:
What's the biggest disruption coming up for the book trade in 2019?
Here's a selection of their answers.
Sara Lloyd, digital and communications director of Pan Macmillan
Voice tech. Which isn’t new. But I think it’s starting to be seriously significant now in its impact. Not because it’s going to immediately disrupt the supply chain so much, but because it will immediately begin to disrupt discovery. Just as some publishers have caught up with mobile-first and begun to understand the importance of search, including where video sits within that, along comes voice tech and everything we think we know about search changes; the days for optimising for Google only are well and truly over.
Voice search has been around for a while, but the big tech companies all beginning to build their own gateways to the web, plus increasing affordability of voice enabled tech in the home and even in cars, will be game-changers.
Rebecca Smart, managing director of Ebury
I think the political climate (with both a large and small p) will continue to be the biggest agent of change for the industry. Mostly I think it presents us with huge opportunities, but it also creates a lot of turbulence. In order to capitalise on the former and manage the latter we’ll need to be fast and flexible, and it has never been more important for us to have a deep and nuanced understanding of what audiences want.
Sarah McIntyre, author and illustrator
Better book data. Publishers will realise they're missing out on potential sales by not making their books more searchable, so they'll train their editors and data people to submit illustrator names with their books and Nielsen will then be able to compile illustrator sales charts, as they already do with authors. Charlotte Eyre pointed out that according to Nielsen stats right now, illustrator legend Helen Oxenbury, in her whole career, has only sold 6,353 books for £59,217.
Andrius Juknys, head of client services at Thames & Hudson
Blockchain and smart contracts have the power to transform the author-publisher-consumer relationship and open doors for effective management of IP. Will it take off next year? Probably not, unless there are robust legal structures that support this shift towards decentralised, multi-stakeholder management and power sharing.
Nathan Connolly, publishing director of Dead ink Books
In 2019 Dead Ink will look to expand by seeking investment through equity-crowdfunding – a first, I believe, for a literary press. This move seems like the next logical step for us after our use of Kickstarter and, by allowing readers to own part of a publishing house, we will see a shift in the way we place boundaries between publishers and readers.
Sophie Rochester, founder of Yodomo
Based on the 'standing room only' for the subscriptions model panel at FutureBook, I think there is an interesting shift in book publisher's attitudes toward subscription models. Once frowned upon as 'cannibalising' existing business models, I think more and more publishers are now starting to think about how they can play in this space: whether that's supplying stock to subscription box models such as Reading in Heels, or supplying content to digital content subscriptions models such as ckbk.
In the same vein, I believe we'll see more publishers look to existing streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music as powerful distribution platforms for audiobooks, as those already experimenting here (such as Bastei Lubbe in Germany) are reporting that these are contributing to new revenue streams for them.
Finally, I think that more illustrated book publishers will be looking at new ways to create revenue from digital formats of their titles, where these are not performing well in straight ebook format. This might include the repurposing content as 'online learning for the maker movement' or creating video format versions of titles - as we're seeing an increasing number of publishers doing on Yodomo.
Alice Revel, founder of Ampersand Co
A shake up in book-related events - see companies such as A Very Literary Affair, which organises book-themed weddings and special events.
Bec Evans, founder of Prolifiko
Inspired by Seth Godin’s keynote on the importance of nurturing small audiences, the BookTech startup of year being awarded to The Pound Project with its crowdfunded target for success set at 500 book buyers, and the announcement of a new Nibbie for best small press, I predict that 2019 will be the year that small beats big. I want an industry that encourages minority voices, that supports niche presses and independent publishers, that opens bookshops on high streets catering to local tastes, and startups that leverage committed audiences rather than big data.
Gersy Ifeanyi Ejimofo, director of Digitalback Books
It's fair (and obvious) to say in 2019 all departments will be feeling the repercussions of the Brexit decision in someway shape or form.
Michel LaFrance, founder of The Owl Field
In 2019, we’ll see a surge in interactive and non-linear audio stories, particularly exploring content with your voice. Chapter two need not follow chapter one.
Nick Coveney, publisher relations and content lead UK and ANZ at Rakuten Kobo
In 2018 it felt like the publishing industry began to truly recognise the growth areas which have been burgeoning over the past couple of years; audiobooks are now receiving more care and attention from the trade as an exciting narrative experience in its own right, not just as a subsidiary format from the “real book”. Crowdfunding initiatives such as @thegoodjournal and @TheKnightsOf’s pop-up-shop and @mystoryball show that disruptive players can make huge impact – particularly when they are nurtured and supported by partners in the wider industry.
The increasing drive of publishers to address under-represented cultures has resulted in more diverse hiring and commissioning of diverse content in order to reflect our modern society, which is hugely important. In 2019, I look forward to the continued positive change within the publishing industry as audio grows and new digital business models evolve. Also, subscription services are already an important part of the ecosystem, and publishers need to continue be active players in their own disruption of the market to remain competitive and diversify their offering.