Publishers must be proactive about change in the industry, according to HarperCollins UK c.e.o. Charlie Redmayne.
Speaking at The Bookseller’s FutureBook conference today (21st November), Redmayne said: “Publishers consistently face demands from their authors, from agents, from retailers and from consumers to do things differently, and to add more value. When those demands make sense we have to react, but we have to go further, we must set out to find what it means to be a publisher.
“How do we add value in a marketplace where value is always changing? How do we respond when authors are becoming publishers, when retailers are becoming publishers, when now even agents are becoming publishers? We must go out and do things before they are asked of us. We must stop being reactive and start being proactive.”
Redmayne insisted that great content, driven by strong editorial, must continue to be at the heart of the business. He said: “Great books come from great authors, and great authors must work with great editors. If you don’t have those you don’t have diddly squat. Everything else builds on that central platform.”
He described an early meeting at HarperCollins when he said that consumer insight should be at the heart of the business. He said: “I thought that everyone would agree, but an editor told me I didn’t understand publishing at all, and that the business isn’t about consumer insight, it’s about editorial instinct. She was right. But if we can support that instinct with consumer insight, you can make it better.”
Redmayne outlined what he described as key aspects of change, including expanding digital marketing and developing strong brands. He also urged publishers to make more of their backlist, and said: “Why is it that 90% of our attention is focused on our new titles, when 60% of our revenue comes from our backlist?”
He added: “Publishers also have to use data. We have always been good at collecting data, but we’ve also been rubbish at using it.”
Using data was key in building direct relationships with consumers, a process which he said was central. “We have been very supportive of Amazon MatchBook. It doesn’t take the brain of an archbishop to know that if someone has bought a hardback, they don’t want to buy the e-book too, unless it’s for a good price. It’s more revenue, it makes sense.”
He also urged publishers to look at pricing: “There are three ways to build revenue, sell more, cut costs, or increase prices. Publishers have always focused on the first one, done the second every 18 months, but ignored the third. But the data is there, we don’t have to do it on a hunch.”
Redmayne predicted there would be further mergers in the industry, between both publishers and agencies, and said the process was necessary “in a world of goliaths”.
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