Understanding local publishing terms, appreciating other perspectives and connecting with international colleagues are key to publishing across multiple territories, Lonely Planet publisher Hanna Otero revealed at this year’s The Bookseller Children’s Conference.
Otero, who delivered the opening keynote this morning (24th September), said when she joined Lonely Planet she found it a shock to suddenly be running publishing teams in the UK and the London, as well as managing sales in Australia and dealing with partners in countries such as China and Brazil.
“Often what one region wants or needs is in opposition to what another requires,” she said. “Whether it’s price, look, format, or title, there are always contradictory opinions. For, example our UK team often asks for lower price points… the US sales force asks for more photography while the UK and Australia prefer illustrations.”
Otero said she has had to learn what each region wants from their books, spending time visiting bookshops such as Waterstones and WH Smith.
One difference between British and American publishers is in the idea of ‘worthiness’, she added. “Sometimes the American editor and designers will suggest an idea that we think would do well in the States and the UK editors retort with, ‘That’s a bit schooly’.”
The US is also much more focused on diversity. “In the last five years or so there has been a long-overdue emphasis on representing all kinds of kids within our books… So I find that I am hypervigilant about diversity in a way that might seem overzealous to my colleagues."
For Otero, one of the best ways of working with partners in other countries is learning what they mean when they use publishing terminology. Each Lonely Planet region had a different understanding of words such as ‘dummies’ and ‘blads’ and the company is going to clarify how it uses those words at its global conference next month to help “every region get what they need”.
She also emphasised the importance of bringing international colleagues together, saying that in the early days there was “tension” between the teams in London and New York.
“Once the whole team was together, everything changed,” she said. “Petty differences melted away. Small problems that had slowly been festering into bigger ones could be addressed without the awkward encumbrance of technology.”