MEET THE COMMISSIONERS: The Digital Revolution in Publishing

Posted on: Saturday 09 July 2011 12:52pm

Francesca Morosi  blogs from the commissioners’ (publishing) session.

Stephanie Barton, Consultant
Gill Evans, Fiction Publisher, Walker Books
Eric Huang, Publishing Director, Penguin Children’s Media & Entertainment division
Fiona Macmillan, Publisher Colour & Licensing, Random House Children’s Books & Random House Screen Entertainment
Mike Richards, Head of Marketing, Egmont Press
Produced by:
Reeta Bhatiani, Communications Director, Egmont UK

Winning more readers in a digital world: can the publishing industry fight back?

In a world of fast paced changes and increasing media platforms, publishing has to deal with the “slow gratification” typical of the reading process, while the “instant gratification” offered by the new formats is tempting kids away from reading.

The power of stories remains central of course, but publishers recognise the necessity of building new partnerships and making book content available in a broad array of digital formats in order to attract and retain readership.

In this session we heard the views of four publishing industry’s executives on the way new media is changing the publishing landscape, the challenges ahead and how publishing can attract new readers by “playing the digital game.”

From Harry Potter to Charlie & Lola, we can see it: publishers are continually looking for opportunities to see their books on screen, be it movies, TV series, cartoons or videogames. Building new partnerships is at the heart of the process as new and different professional/creative skills are required to make a book’s transition into digital or movie format successful. There is also the new requirement of making available your published books in eBooks or Kindle format;  “Amazon represents 70% of our market,” says Gill Evans (Walker books)

Here are some of the main points highlighted by the speakers:

 “To meet the challenges ahead with the digital revolution we need to develop new platforms: with this scope we established “Walkers Productions”, with many people coming from TV, games and publishing background, we work with lots of young editors who are very excited about the opportunity of digital. The notion is to put a team together to make things happen, with a very broad background, different expertise and of course massive enthusiasm!”

 “Our eBooks’ venture started quite recently, we have published 60 eBooks in 2010 and from now on every book will be published as print and eBook simultaneously. We have now a massive presence online and we started using the QR (quick response code) to link to website and offer information about other books, snips previews, marketing trailers and everything else related to a particular book.” (Walker Books).

 “We want to engage the non-enthusiastic reader with a very charismatic content (on mobile phone and twitter). We are very excited about the opportunity on screen so we want to produce something for everybody and make projects financial viable.” (Random House).

“The plan is to make most of our books available in DS, iPad format, eBook and audio books.” (Egmont Press).

“The most lucrative deals are writing deals, but the experimentation with digital and partnerships with other media will pay off in the longer term……We like to see books integrated – not merely adapted – into the digital world: for this reason writers are highly engaged in the production, tightly collaborating with the screen players and animators.” (Penguin)

Some of the projects presented:

Walker Books:  Pride and Premiership (from wags to riches ) aimed at 15 year-old-girls, with a mobile phone episode based on it and apparently more to come (which btw I would rename “How to brainwash girls with the myth of finding the rich guy”);  Hello Tilly (from the same author of “That’s how much I love you”) with a TV deal in progress ; Fleabag Monkeyface – for boys , with the shift from art to screen already in progress, they’ll become TV characters and authors are heavily engaged with script writing; Anna Hibiscus, Hank Zipzer – the World’s Greatest Underachiever,  and Catastrophe Calling (in comic strip style about a superpower girl).

Random House : Fish Head Steve (the book has been made it into a fantastic animation); Princess Poppy (a 3d animation from it); Mortal Kiss (like a daily soap opera, huge success with 20 million online viewers, 110K fans online, and published eBook)

Penguin: Club Penguin and Moshi Monsters (two sensations, who doesn’t know them?)

So, the bottom line seems clear:  kids still love to read, publishers just need to get the content into a variety of media, as there is a huge untapped potential for storytelling and bringing books to multiple platforms.

Well…sounds to me like the publishing industry is really fighting back and at this point I am only eager to see what ‘s coming next!