Katie Espiner is the latest keynote speaker to be announced at FutureBook Live 2019. In an on-stage interview, the managing director of Orion will reflect on her four years at the Hachette-owned publishing business, how her plan to modernise the publisher has developed and what it means to be one of the highest profile female leaders in the book sector.
Espiner joined Orion in 2015, from the HarperCollins imprint Borough Press, the task to revitalise a business that had become overly reliant on brand-publishing. In 2016 Espiner told The Bookseller: "[Orion] went from almost nothing changing ever, to almost everything changing at the same time. But if everything changes around you and you stay the same, then you become Kodak."
One of the busiest managing directors in the business, her arrival was followed by a series of changes including the departures of high profile staff such as Kirsty Dunseath, Jon Wood, Mark Rusher and Helen Richardson, and most recently Amanda Harris and Malcolm Edwards.
But key appointments have signalled a shift in momentum, including Sarah Benton, who joined as marketing director but is now deputy m.d., Lee Brackstone, whose new list White Rabbit was unveiled last week, Maura Wilding as communications director, and audio and podcast publisher Alice Lloyd. Just this week Orion announced the appointment of HQ’s Charlotte Mursell as editorial director, with Blake Friedmann agent Tom Witcomb joining in a commissioning editor role.
Espiner has also sparked a series of new initiatives including the launch of the highly successful Trapeze imprint under executive publishing director Anna Valentine, and most recently the digital imprint Dash. Meanwhile, Lloyd has been brought on board to develop a new audio programme, including podcasts and originals, while Brackstone’s White Rabbit imprint will focus on music publishing.
In 2018 the publisher reported an 8.9% increase in its Nielsen TCM sales, thanks to Ian Rankin, the memoir of the super-vet Noel Fitzpatrick, and The Ordnance Survey Puzzle Book. Significantly, it has managed to grow its key brands, while refocusing on new areas.
Philip Jones, editor of The Bookseller, said: "Publishing conferences often ask speakers to imagine the future of this business, but actually it is what happens at the coal-face that is most important. In taking over at Orion Katie faced that most difficult question: how do you change the culture and momentum of a business without destroying its DNA? Her response will be fascinating. Of particular importance is Espiner’s high profile, with female leadership in publishing a particular focus of the conference this year."
Espiner joins an incredible line up of keynotes for FutureBook Live 2019, including Waterstones m.d. James Daunt, the brand strategist behind #Merky Books Akua Agyemfra, AI specialist Chris Duffey, and data analyst Paul Abbassi, a.k.a. Data Guy.
A limited number of tickets are now available to buy at Early Bird rates until 11th October. There is also a 3 for 2 offer available on standard tickets.
The coveted FutureBook Awards are now open for submissions, including BookTech Company of the Year, Podcast of the Year, and the FutureBook Person of the Year, who will once again deliver the closing keynote. For writers, there is also an opportunity to submit to the audio originals competition, launched earlier this month.
As well as attending the conference, for the first time delegates can apply to attend Day of Code, a training event hosted by Consonance on 22nd November. Only 40 places are up for grabs, so book early to avoid disappointment.