Facebook was a focus of the first day of the IPG spring conference in Chipping Norton yesterday (4th March), which saw Perseus reveal the inside story on having a book selected for the Facebook Book Club, while publishers told they are "too nice" and need to develop more attitude if they are to compete with industries like film and music.
The conference began with a welcome from IPG chairman Oliver Gadsby, c.e.o. of Rowman and Littlefield.
Then Dean Johnson, s.v.p. of creative innovation at digital company Brandwidth, spoke about other industries and what publishers could learn from them, and addressed the future of the book. "What is the future of the book?" he asked. "There is no one future of the book. Anyone that tells you there is is frankly stupid."
He said that publishing was a fun industry, but warned: "That is essentially one of publishing's downfalls. You're just too nice." Industries such as film and music were more cut-throat, and future success was not "a product, service or platform, it's attitude: be nice but have the right attitude…"
Two sessions on Facebook were led by Georgina Atwell from Toppsta and George Banbury from Perseus Books.
Banbury talked about the effect being chosen for the Facebook Book Club had on Moses Naim's The End of Power (Basic Books). The company, of which Basic Books is a part, only found out the book had been selected by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as the first book for his new book club when the news was posted on Facebook.
At the time it had around 150 copies of The End of Power in its UK warehouse, with "not much more" in the US warehouse, said Banbury.
But the company quickly printed 28,000 copies of The End of Power, with 20,000 distributed in the US and the rest across the world. Banbury said in the two months since the book was announced as part of the book, Perseus had managed to make "42,000 copies worth of sale" in both physical and e-book.
Naim's social media following also went up, and there was a lot of media attention, mainly focused on Facebook.
But, said Banbury: "We had to encourage our author to get a little bit better at steering the conversation back to the book and its content [during interviews]."
The Facebook Book Club has "proved to be a fantastic global event", sad Banbury. While it is too early to say whether it will be the next Oprah Book Club, "it is fantastic to have a platform for more nerdy kind of non-fiction".
Atwell said setting up Toppsta on Facebook had been a successful strategy, as the company managed to reach a non-traditional book buying audience. "I really wanted to go where people were, rather than where books and book lovers were," she said. Toppsta works with publishers to run book giveaways, and also recommends books and encourages readers to post reviews. While the company makes no money at present, Atwell said she may at some point in the future start charging publishers for giveaways.
Atwell said companies who set up on Facebook should take advantage of the data the platform provided, and shared tips for success, which included not letting interns run Facebook pages and interacting regularly with consumers.
"I know enough of the community now that I can contact people and ask them [direct] why a giveaway hasn't worked," she said.
The conference opened with a session from Amazon's head of vendor management Russell Jones, which press, including The Bookseller, were not allowed to attend.
Jones asked delegates not to tweet from his talk, although a number of people did leak extracts on social media.
According to Twitter, delegates were told by Jones that Amazon was working with publishers to make their products more discoverable and that the online retailer gave direct suppliers lots of data.
He was asked about Amazon's pricing policy, according to Twitter, but said he could not talk about it.
Jones was also quizzed by a delegate on why, if Amazon ran out of stock on their books, it ordered more copies from a third party rather than from the publisher. In response, Jones said that those publishers registered with Amazon Advantage - a programme where publishers sell direct to the company - should be not subject to this, a statement greeted with some scepticism, according to a source.
Jones revealed all of the vendor management team at Amazon had been employed for a year or less, and that the department used to have 1,000 outstanding queries at a time, which it had got down to 200.