Sending messages from one conference to another
On Friday at FutureBook 2015, I’ll present a distillation of the concerns we encountered when our Author Day delegates—both authors and publishers—took us up on the offer to put rancor and blame aside and simply to speak truthfully about what they’re encountering, both from the writerly side of the industry and from the business centers.
As FutureBook approaches, there’s news that Simon & Schuster’s Atria Publishing Group expects to launch its all-new Crave app for what publisher Judith Curr calls “the new reader” on Wednesday. That means this author-centered, mobile serial-subscription innovation developed with New York City’s Paragraph studios will be going live just in time for Curr’s appearance Friday on the 12:10 p.m. panel I’ll chair, “Writing the Future: Author-Centric Publishing.”
Our profile of Curr and her Crave-ing, if you will, is here. In it, you can read her saying something I’d love for our Author Day attendees on Monday to have heard: she and her colleagues for years now have been actively seeking out self-publishing authors they wanted to work with in the trade-publishing environment, most particularly for the company’s digital developments.
Notice Curr’s use of the word “trust”:
Unless your authors trust you and understand that you’re doing everything to get them more readers, it won’t matter how many ideas you have. Because self-published authors are aware that they’re self-sufficient…they’re more open. They haven’t been in the traditional system and there aren’t obstacles in the way. These authors are pioneers and have grown up in the digital space. We can use those tools quickly.
Trust. This may be the core term of Author Day, once we’ve all looked back at Monday’s inaugural staging of that issues-driven event. Unlike many standard author-based conference events, Author Day, by design, was configured as:
- A discussion of conditions and challenges in which our authors find themselves, not a how-to or an inspirational conference, and
- An inclusive event deliberately bringing publishing professionals into the mix along with both independent authors and trade-publishing authors: a chance to speak and listen together.
Thanks to my colleagues at The Bookseller—a team that was unfailingly supportive of this unusual effort (and they brought off the day at 30 Euston Square with style and efficiency)—we were able to arrange for many authors to speak with agents and publishing house editors during the course of the day. And with the help of Jo Ellis and Eloise Wales of The Writing Platform, we captured a range of comments.
- The state of the author (Storify) by Sarah Shaffi
- Authors need to ‘engage’ in the publishing process by Tom Tivnan
- Industry should be ‘less defensive’ about diversity by Natasha Onwuemezi
- Kamila Shamsie: Publishers not investing in author careers’ by Tom Tivnan
- Rebecca Smart: ‘Publishers do invest long-term in authors’ by Tom Tivnan
- Jane Steen: Writers are ‘divided into two camps’ by Natasha Onwuemezi
- Nicola Solomon: ‘Once well-known authors now struggling’ by Benedicte Page
And a part of our creation of Author Day as the opening event of FutureBook Week has been the plan to deliver a kind of message to FutureBook 2015 when it sits on Friday. At our “Author-Centric Publishing” panel, I’ll present some of the concerns we encountered,.
A quick smattering of phrases gives you a good clue to some of the observations of the day:
- “Fantastic to keep the debates going and the two worlds talking – this is *essential* for progress.”
- “Writers are leaving industry in droves – aren’t there loads ready to take their place?”
- “Here’s an idea: want to promote diversity? Employ diverse, publish diverse, get authors to talk about their work, not diversity”
- “Worth noting that when Amazon drops prices to consumers author still gets royalty based on full retail price – on that basis they are on the side of both authors and consumers.”
- “It’s up to the individual author per book project which way they want to go IMHO #authorempowerment.”
- “It’s not a myth that many writers w big pub houses do not get edited”
- “Assisted publishing” between self and trad publishing… Yes yes yes great route to getting on shelves and on smartphones”
- “There’s a difference between having a marketing plan and having an effective marketing plan.”
- “Gender bias can be combatted only if those at decision-making level are better attuned & conscious. Redress the balance”
- “The final panel does seem to be saying that writing itself needs to change in the digital age”
- “I’ve had experience of publishers at the top wanting to work in new ways, whereas staff lower down haven’t been enabled to do it. They do not have the training, they are working outside of their comfort zones and under time and deadline constraints.”
Overall, trust was the key element of what was being said, debated, discussed, sometimes challenged with real verve—the day was punctuated at times with rounds of applause. An express understanding was put into place that, inasmuch as possible, we’d like to avoid the us-vs.-them argument axis so familiar in recent years. Sometimes we achieved this. At other times, the depths of what author Jane Steen called “a profession divided” simply seemed too deep.
There’s more: Read on
By Porter Anderson Follow @Porter_Anderson
The Bookseller: Looking for trust: Author Day to FutureBpook 2015
Read the full post at: TheBookseller.com/FutureBook
Info on the conference. The FutureBook 2015