Byng tells Publishing Scotland: 'be passionate, but selective'

Byng tells Publishing Scotland: 'be passionate, but selective'

Be focused, passionate, careful and imaginative, and don't compromise, Canongate m.d. and publisher Jamie Byng told the Publishing Scotland conference today (March 4th).

Giving the keynote speech at the event in Glasgow, Byng also advocated collaboration, and said that publishers should not stop working at books after they are published.

Although he skirted over the issue of Scotland's vote on independence, Byng did say: "Canongate is an intrinsically Scottish publishing house, and independent, and will always be those things, at least as long as I'm around."

The Canongate chief said the publishing sector would look very different in five years, adding that he wanted to say a "sad farewell" to Mainstream, which publishes its final titles this month.

Byng also said publishers needed to publish fewer books, something he brought up at the Futurebook conference in 2013.

Referring to the increase in self-publishing, he said: "I think it is great there are opportunities for people to get their stories out. As that happens, the publishing houses should be more selective. I think if we publish half as many books we're be in a better state." Byng said publishers should be both more careful, and more spontaneous. "I think we have always tried to be adaptive and flexible with what the authors want to do," he said.

Publishers should only publish books they are passionate about, as being "passionate about something it is easy to be energetic". He also said publishers needed to consider "every reader as a bookseller".

Byng's final point was that publishing needed to have "fewer orgasms", a piece of advice given to a Dutch publisher friend of his. "As an industry we are totally fixated by publication date," Byng said. "Everything's a build-up and after that the publisher doesn't know what to do. They're listless.

"When you have got something that works you shouldn't stop working at it."