Publishers urged to share backroom secrets

Publishers urged to share backroom secrets

Publishers should engage more with consumers by exposing the publishing process, delegates at the Bookseller's Creativity Day conference on design and marketing heard yesterday (21st June).

Hodder sales and trade marketing director James Spackman (pictured), speaking as part of the marketing morning segment of the conference, said a key way to engage readers was to involve them in the publishing process.

He said: "We publishers feel an oppressive need to demonstrate to the world what we do. My suggestion is that we allow the public to see more of what we do, rather than do more of what we do."

He praised Penguin, saying the company does "creative transparency well", praising the way the publisher's online videos of members of the design team "avoid slickness" and instead puts the emphasis on "integrity". He pointed to Hodder's Lindsey Davis newsletter, written by the author and talking about the design process behind her latest cover, as a relatively straightforward example of directly communicating with readers. He also suggested ideas such as creating making-of trailers for covers, and filming authors recording the audiobook. More ideas included blogging blurbs as a work in progress, posting a version each day, and even posting unedited manuscripts online, showcasing the editorial process.

He added: "Keen readers tend to be interested in the creative process behind the books." He said there were benefits to exposing the publishing process to fans, saying: "It's not about shouting about your results, it's about revealing your expertise."

Other speakers included Search Engine Optimisation expert Chris McVeigh, who urged publishers to catch-up and focus on the value of SEO. He said 50,000 people searched for "crime fiction" last month, but the first publisher to appear in the search results was Constable & Robinson, at number 74 in the list of results. Meanwhile, Polydor head of digital Aaron Bogucki stated the importance of engaging consumers in a constant dialogue, with more value in consumers contributing content to the creative process. During the design afternoon, Pentagram founder Angus Hyland said he could see books shifting to "a much more gift-orientated product", with Puccino's designer Jim Smith demonstrating the value in letting a designer have more of a free rein.

The design and marketing conference day, which hosted 15 sessions, was held at the British Library's conference centre in north London, and chaired by marketing strategist and Mustoes founder Damian Horner. It was attended by 250 people throughout the day.