The Group c.e.o of Hachette UK, Tim Hely Hutchinson, has told authors that substantial new website developments will soon enable the publisher to sell their books in ways "revolutionary in publishing."
In his annual newsletter sent out to authors yesterday (29th March), Hely Hutchinson emphasised the importance of the publisher's role in a time of digital change in the industry, calling the last year a “transformational” one for the company. While "a sea change can be unsettling…we are very well placed to capitalise on all the opportunities this new world brings us,” he said, announcing that e-books sales were 250% up in February year-on-year with March looking “even better.”
Hely Hutchinson predicted that the "10-12%" digital share of business that Hachette UK saw in 2011 would "more than double in 2012", saying: "The rate of our growth is so fast that it is taking us into uncharted territory. It is not at all hard to foresee that fiction and narrative non-fiction sales could be 50% digital within just one or two years." Digital sales are currently running at 20% of total business in 2012, and over 30% of fiction business, he said.
The Hachette chief said that important new website architecture was coming soon which would lead to the roll-out of “new websites for the group, for all our publishing companies, and, ultimately, for imprints, authors, genres and specialist and niche areas of publishing.” He added: “I can tell you in advance that what we are developing is state of the art, affording us opportunities to talk to readers and markets and sell your books in ways that are revolutionary in publishing.”
Hachette will be putting renewed sales and marketing focus in Europe, he said, “with the aim of becoming the number one publisher of English-language books on the continent”, while underlining that Asia was an “increasingly important” market for the company.
On the subject of Digital Rights Management, Hely-Hutchinson said he thought the advantages outweighed the disadvantages of this form of protection and said that the company does not think copyright and royalty issues were the “battleground” of publishers and authors but rather “we should be able to work out what is far amongst ourselves in a collegiate way.”
The Hachette chief defended the company’s use of the agency agreement on e-books and said it “continues to make its case” to challenges from the USA and European competition authorities.
He ended his letter by seeking to defend the role of publishers against the opportunity to self-publish by outlining how Hachette adds value, saying the company nurtures talent, invests in the form of advances, edits work, ensures specialist sales and distribution and defends copyright.