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Ten things we learned at the IPG Autumn Conference
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IPG
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Just some of the many insights from our Autumn Conference on Tuesday 18 September

1 Independent publishers succeed on teamwork

“Independent publishers are absolutely thriving,” said keynote speaker David Hieatt—and they flourish because of teamwork and an underdog-style spirit. “Don’t think you have to have a ton of money [to succeed]… you need brilliant people and a clear focus—and then you can go and have a lot of fun.” Be “radically honest” with your team, clear out egos and aim to get 1% better every day: “if you do that, you’ll be 40 times better by the end of the year.” And don’t be afraid to make mistakes: “You have to create a culture where you are almost required to fail.”

2 Find partnerships, focus on your niche—and be lucky

Finding and nurturing the right people was also a theme of three fascinating case studies from flourishing trade, academic and educational publishers. Partnerships, with authors, universities, think tanks and others, are crucial too, said Oliver Gadsby of Rowman & Littlefield International. Use your mishaps and misfires to get better, advised Rebecca Nicolson of Short Books, which had a series of failures before hitting the top of the bestseller lists with The Fast Diet: “Learn from your failures, and trust your expertise.” “Plough your own furrow… know what you’re good at and what you’re not,” added Martin Casimir of Maths – No Problem! A slice of good fortune helps too: “We’re modest enough to realise that a fair amount of luck is involved [in success].”

3 Waterstones hopes to open more shops and go firm sale

The visit of Waterstones’ James Daunt, a regular speaker at IPG conferences, could hardly have been better timed. Close behind its acquisition by Elliott Partners, and even hotter on the heels of its own acquisition of Foyles, he gave an honest appraisal of the chain’s performance and targets, including plans to open more shops, sell more non-book products and ultimately move to a firm-sale model. There is extensive reporting on James Daunt’s Conference session from the Bookseller and BookBrunch.

4 Data analytics unlock sales

Analysing web data was one of the big themes of the Conference. Peter McCarthy of Ingram Content Group explored trends like the rise of mobile commerce and suggested various tools that can increase insights and convert browsers into buyers—like Soovle, Google Trends, FollowerWonk and Hashtagify. Later in the day, SearchStar’s Sian Miller gave tips for better online campaigns, like profiling and segmenting audiences and testing and measuring results. SearchStar is partnering with the IPG on a special Google Analytics training day on 13 November.

5 Audio is booming…

Audiobook sales have risen in double digits for several years in a row now, and a session bringing together five experts suggested all publishers should explore the possibilities in audio. “If you’re not yet in audio, there’s never been a better time to get started,” said Findaway’s Colleen Prendergast. “Audio was the original way of telling stories before we had the printed word… and now it’s become this new revolution in publishing,” said Bookwire’s Videl Bar-Kar. Other speakers advised exploring streaming and subscription models.

6 … And podcasts offer huge potential

With one in ten UK adults now listening to adults—up by half in just three years—podcasts can be very effective in engaging with book buyers, said Mark Leruste, founder of the Unconventionalists podcast. They’re easier to produce than you might think, but publishers need to have a good hook for their show and a clear sense of their audience. Find a good title, be consistent in your schedules and get the quality of audio as high as you can, he advised. Don’t expect big audiences straight away, but build them by encouraging listeners to spread the word and subscribe and review episodes on iTunes.

7 Reviews and festivals can boost sales

Several Conference break-out sessions looked at new ways for trade publishers to reach potential readers. Syima Aslam of the Bradford Literature Festival explained the benefits of live events, and the role they play in improving public access to diverse voices. Nicolette Jones of the Sunday Times later shared tips for pitching books to newspapers and magazines, emphasising the need to stand out from the huge piles of submissions that reviewers receive.

8 Asia is a growing market for academic publishers

A couple more break-outs explored the landscape in academic publishing at the moment. Professor Roger Kain discussed big issues in universities and the Open Access monograph model in particular, and pointed publisher to a new project investigating how future OA policy might be formed. Barry Clarke of Taylor & Francis shared advice for increasing sales in Asia, stressing the need to appreciate the family-focused and Confucian-inspired nature of doing business in many markets.

9 Beware Brexit and copyright

The Conference closed with some thoughts on two huge issues looming for publishers: Brexit and copyright. Annie Lydford of the Creative Industries Federation said it would be vital for publishers to retain access to global talent after Brexit, and suggested they think about what a no-deal Brexit might mean for their business. Sarah Faulder of Publishers’ Licensing Services followed with an update on developments in copyright, and encouraged publishers to stay alert to threats, manage their rights carefully and champion their role and the value they add to content.

10 This was the biggest ever Autumn Conference!

More than 350 members attended the 2018 Autumn Conference, along with 22 speakers and 20 publishing suppliers and service providers in the Exhibitors Zone. Thank you to everyone who made it such an inspiring day. The next big IPG Conference for your diary is the Annual Spring Conference, to be held slightly later than usual in 2019, from 1 to 3 May. Join us there!
The IPG Autumn Conference was supported by gold sponsors Ingram Content Group and PLS, silver sponsor HighWire and tech sponsor Entropy
Read more insights from the day via the #ipgac hashtage on Twitter
View photos from the Autumn Conference on our Facebook page

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