HarperCollins UK c.e.o. Charlie Redmayne used his keynote speech at yesterday’s The Markets Conference in Frankfurt to robustly defend HC’s global publishing policy, call on publishers to ramp up consumer insight and urge publishers to work better with existing retail channels.
Part of his speech was a response to Andrew Wylie, founder of The Wylie Agency, who delivered the keynote at The Markets last year. In that address, the super-agent said that HC and other conglomerates’ models of acquiring world rights to publish in all territories were "bewildering", and not in the best interests of authors. Yesterday Redmayne said he disagreed with Wylie’s "excellent" speech, arguing that publishing across the world meant HC could "exploit the global reach of new and social media, engage with global communities of fans and readers, support global author brands and optimise sales, pick trends up and look at different ways of publishing, and share lessons globally that we learn locally".
Redmayne added: "This is not a threat to authors and agents. It is just a choice. And we believe it is an opportunity to do things better, more effectively and, subsequently, more profitably for our authors."
He also argued that those who theorised a decade ago that the physical book was dead were wrong. But Redmayne underscored that the industry should not be overly celebrating: "Yes, the physical book never did go away but, equally, I am not seeing any great resurgence across the market in physical book sales. The truth is that we have arrested decline and we are maybe seeing some small gains in the past couple of years, but I believe much of this has to do with some exceptional publishing."
Consumers may be looking into other new digital media, Redmayne said, but "that’s OK, because it can help drive people back to books". To facilitate that, however, publishers must "create content in the form that fits with what consumers are looking for", after harnessing consumer insight to inform publishing choices and aid editors’ instincts, the HarperCollins UK c.e.o. said.
Content must be made available through as many digital channels as possible, Redmayne added, highlighting the explosion of audiobooks and podcasts as an example: "We must constantly create new opportunities for audio products, whether that be audio-first or audio originals. I’m fine with bringing out audio [editions] earlier than the book [editions]: it is a different product, targeting a different market."
But traditional retailers play a crucial part of the puzzle too, Redmayne said. "We need to work better with traditional retail channels by continuing to invest in the independent [bookselling] sector, as well as the chain bricks-and-mortar stores, supporting them however we can."