Publishers should make the most of the “golden age of opportunity” the industry is currently in, Dominique Raccah, publisher and c.e.o. of Sourcebooks has said, while urging publishers to use this opporuntity to redefine their roles.
Speaking at the London Book Fair’s Quantum Conference yesterday (13th March) in conversation with Nigel Newton, c.e.o. and founder of Bloomsbury, and LBF director Jacks Thomas, Raccah advised new publishers to consider their strategy and what they bring to market in an age where books have to compete with film, music and TV for the consumer's time.
“We are watching the collapse of entertainment in terms of formats", she said. "In terms of your time, you now have immediately available to you at all times not only a book, but music, TV, film. [A smartphone] has all the entertainment I could possibly want for the rest of my life. It puts books into the same competitive frame as TV, film, and music. Music is priced at 99 cents a cut, film has a Netflix model. [These models] are changing the dynamics of the monetary exchange between us and our customers. If you want to start a publishing company today, you have to think about what your model can be to allow you to survive as the intermediary between the content creator and the consumer."
She added: "We're now in the golden age of opportunity. There was a time when the publishers had the right to exist because we owned the printing presses. There was an immediate role for publishers; today that role is less immediate, so now you get to define it."
Newton said: “It's the greatest time to be alive on earth in any field. I can’t see any reason [not to start a publishing company]. There's a very low barrier to entry. For centuries, [the industry] has evolved with one man/woman bands developing a few books and growing. It's not like being in car manufacturing, you don’t have to build huge production lines. If you have an idea, there’s every reason to go out and start.”
The pair also lauded the benefits of film and TV adaptations on book sales. In the US, of every 20 films that are released, 12 are based on books, and in the UK, of every 20 films that are released, 18 are based on books, Thomas said.
Newton said film adaptations are the "most amazing commercials" for books. Discussing the release of the first Harry Potter film in 2001, Newton said that outlets who had never stocked the books before, such as supermarkets, started to buy them and as a result the books started to "cascade through the bestseller lists for a second time".
Raccah said: “We publish House of Cards [by Michael Dobbs]. Film and TV have enormous role sto play in getting books to new audiences. The hub of much of what we call entertainment today develops and expands from the imagination of our authors and from the work that we as publishers do - in fact, there has never been more opportunity for publishing today. It's an extraordinary time because you can work with an author to create a plot form that expands the globe and is amazing in its appeal together.”