Editors "need digital vision" for their books

Editors "need digital vision" for their books

Editors need to have a "vision" of how content can be used beyond the traditional book, otherwise they risk losing control of the book to the "digital department", Publishers Launch London heard today.

During a discussion on "New Skill Sets: Capabilities Publishers Don't Have and How They're Developing Them", Charlie Redmayne, global executive vice-president for digital at HarperCollins, stressed editors needed to look beyond the book, or give it over to the best person who could "tell the story digitally". He said: "Editors need to become not just editors of books, but people with the content vision, and there are not enough editors in the industry who have those skills."

Redmayne warned if editors did not take these new skills they would lose control of the content when it moves into the digital world. He said: "The person who really understands how to tell that story in the app environment is the one who should take it forward, otherwise you end up with an app that is a book, and it should be different."

Pearson director of digital product and consumer technology Juan Lopez-Valcarel said book publishing was "the most insular industry I have ever worked in". He said: "We should cherish this, but every now and then you need to get off your island." Bringing outside talent into the business was positive since it could create "friction", he added. "If you have cultural friction, that means you are on to something, if everyone agrees you have an echo chamber, embrace friction." However, he stressed the best products still needed a singular champion. "If you have large groups of people coming up with products, you end up with a product without a soul."

Redmayne said the key was to make sure the new digital people were properly integrated within the traditional business. "If you bring new people in, you need to make sure they are integrated into the rest of the business, otherwise you end up with digital departments, and all the power stays with the imprints."

Jacks Thomas, chief executive of Midas PR, argued that this should go both ways. She said: "Often we recruit from the outside but then fail to explain what the industry does."