Westchester Words: Education, Ed-Tech, and Publishing

Publishing Now ’21 Audio Excerpts: Publishing Industry in Transition

May 05, 2021 Westchester Publishing Services and guests Season 1 Episode 9
Westchester Words: Education, Ed-Tech, and Publishing
Publishing Now ’21 Audio Excerpts: Publishing Industry in Transition
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Westchester Words: Education, Ed-Tech, and Publishing
Publishing Now ’21 Audio Excerpts: Publishing Industry in Transition
May 05, 2021 Season 1 Episode 9
Westchester Publishing Services and guests

Featuring  audio excerpts from the Publishing Now ’21: Looking Forward webinar, which was cohosted by Westchester Publishing Services and Publishers Weekly on April 6.  Each of the excerpts focuses on specific topic areas that were discussed during the webinar.

In this episode, you’ll hear from Dominique Raccah, CEO & Publisher of Sourcebooks,  Lorraine Shanley, President, (MPI) Market Partners International, and Cathy Felgar, Publishing Operations Director for Princeton University Press, about the Publishing Industry in Transition. Dominique and Lorraine each share their perspectives about how the publishing industry responded to the sweeping changes that occured in 2020 and how businesses continue to adapt and remain resilient. 

Show Notes Transcript

Featuring  audio excerpts from the Publishing Now ’21: Looking Forward webinar, which was cohosted by Westchester Publishing Services and Publishers Weekly on April 6.  Each of the excerpts focuses on specific topic areas that were discussed during the webinar.

In this episode, you’ll hear from Dominique Raccah, CEO & Publisher of Sourcebooks,  Lorraine Shanley, President, (MPI) Market Partners International, and Cathy Felgar, Publishing Operations Director for Princeton University Press, about the Publishing Industry in Transition. Dominique and Lorraine each share their perspectives about how the publishing industry responded to the sweeping changes that occured in 2020 and how businesses continue to adapt and remain resilient. 

Nicole Tomassi:

Welcome to Westchester words, education, ed-tech and publishing. We've decided to do something a little bit different for the next three episodes. Instead of conducting an interview with a guest , we will be featuring audio excerpts from the Publishing Now 21 Looking forward webinar, which was co-hosted by Westchester publishing services and Publishers Weekly on April 6th. Each of the excerpts will focus on a specific topic area that was discussed during the webinar. In this episode, you'll hear from Dominique Raccah, CEO and publisher of Sourcebooks, Lorraine Shanley, President of MPI , Market Partners International and Cathy Felgar, Publishing Operations Director at Princeton University Press about the publishing industry in transition. The panelists will discuss their perspectives about how the publishing industry responded to the sweeping changes that occurred in 2020 and how businesses are continuing to adapt and remain resilient. The next excerpt in the series will focus on international publishing and Brexit. There have been continued challenges for publishers with sourcing materials, importing finished products, and the impacts that have been caused as a result of Brexit, particularly within the UK and the European union. The Publishing now 21 excerpt series will conclude with all of the webinar panelists looking ahead to what's next for the industry, taking into consideration what the changes of the past year will mean for publishing as it continues to move forward. In addition to these audio excerpts, you can watch the entire webinar on Westchester Publishing Services, YouTube channel, and visit our website Westchester Publishing Services.com for additional content related to the Publishing. Now, 21 webinar. I hope you enjoy this audio excerpt and thank you for listening.

Dominique Raccah:

Jim asked us to put together some thoughts about how our business is different today. And , um, and I think I want to point to five things that I think have been, have , uh, have really changed over the course of the last , uh, 15 months. Um, the first obviously is simply the way that we're working together. That's pretty obvious as we, as we sit here in a zoom call, work from home and remote working environments are in fact normative at this point throughout the industry. And, and I think everyone in , in our company and in companies throughout our industry prioritized , um , safety first and we , um, and we did a great job , um, uh, really creating infrastructures that we didn't have before so that we could actually communicate and work together , um, in this new way. Um, so I'm really proud of the work we did together , um, and really excited to be working this way. Um, the second, which Jim also pointed to , um, is the shift to online. Um, I think you've seen a shift in retailer partner dynamics that , uh, with online, more dominant and brick and mortar, in some cases that's still, still not back to pre COVID levels. Um, we've also seen a shift to direct to consumers, all, all of our retail partners that have on dot-coms have associated numbers that are up in the double to triple digits. So , um , so a lot of growth in that environment from all of our retail partners, not just Amazon. So I think it's very important to say that to one another, because I think that's, yeah , that's really interesting, including the growth of an entity that we didn't really talk about at the beginning of the year, last year, which is shop.org, right. Brand new brand new partner, doing some great work in the indie space, really excited to see and really exciting development , um , that shift to online and that shift to remote created a tremendous opportunity for innovation. It was really good for entrepreneurs like, you know, like Tom, like myself, like you're like, you know, all of us, many of us on this call , um , have exactly that background, which is that, that fluid, flexible agility that, that entrepreneurs are , uh , gifted with. Well, I don't think we're gifted with it, but I think that , um, that we all work in this way. And , um, and it has been a tremendous opportunity for us to discover new ways of working with a number of our selling partners, which I , um, which I find. So for example, at Sourcebooks we developed with Baker and Taylor, the Baker and Taylor book club , we develop new , um, author models, like the Bloom books model that we that we're working with , um, with ELL James. So a lot of new innovation in the space, which comes out of, you know, being in, in this, in this, in this situation. Some of the hardships of the past 15 months have been on the supply chain side. So I think , um, I think Cathy is going to talk to that. Um, and I suspect Lorraine may as well. Um, but yeah , there have been no question that on the manufacturing side, we are still dealing with longer print cycles, the need to book press time, to buy paper earlier. And just in general supply chain is just taking a lot longer. Um, and , and obviously the supply chain internationally and Tom will undoubtedly speak to this, you know, is also a , uh , a challenged environment. And we've seen , um, too , because of that, we have seen serious growth in POD. And I think Cathy will be speaking to that a little bit later. So , um, so all of those three things , um, clearly have occurred. The other thing that Jim pointed to which we have absolutely experienced , um , is, is the discoverability issue with respect to online and particularly that, And , um , I'm not sure that the data is strictly about online. I think that , um, that American readers, at least were taking less risks with new authors and new books. And so there has been a consistent front- list challenge and, and backlist is up. You know, whether you're looking at the industry or you're looking at source books , source of books' backlist is up 74% year to date. I mean, it's just, these numbers are very, very large. And I think that is about people looking for books that they know people looking for books that they're comfortable with, that they're , um, that they already are aware of. So a lot of growth in backlist, a lot of challenge in front list. And I don't think we can talk about the last 15 months without mentioning the Black Lives Matter movement that has had such a profound impact on us as a society. And out of that came a reckoning for publishers to examine what we were doing and to encourage and promote diversity both within our own lists as well, as our own staffs, diverse voices has always been an integral part of what we do at Sourcebooks . We're an indie press, we're an outsider press. So that's always been part of our, our mission, but we started building some new programs that I'm incredibly excited about. Like our 10 week paid apprenticeship program , um, a BIPOC editorial training program for BIPOC candidates. We're now in our third, on course of that, which starts in may applications for the fall will open this summer. The reviews from the first two groups, which again, this is an agile kind of model, right? So we're, we're testing, we're learning, we're changing , um, have been really positive and exciting. So, you know, we had had a person say the Sourcebooks editorial training program is the most comprehensive editing training I've ever had. It's a must for BIPOC professionals interested in getting invaluable hands-on editing experience from leading industry experts. So this summer we'll also be unveiling an education program that , that showcases all of the opportunities within the publishing industry. I think this time became at least for us an opportunity for us to make changes that we thought could really benefit our employees, our authors, and our bookselling partners. And , um, and so , um, point a lot has changed actually for us in the last 15 months. Um, and very much leaning into the agility and flexibility that, you know, is the hallmark of indies like Sourcebooks . Um, and I have to tell you , there were some really dark days and I bet that's true for every one of you. There were some really dark days in that 15 month period, and the fact that we got to work on books and that books mattered and that people cared about books and have books grew as an industry during this time was extraordinary and hugely inspirational. Um, and I'm, I'm really grateful that we get to talk about that. Thank you.

Cathy Felgar:

So Princeton University Press publishes about 270 books a year, roughly half trade. Our main office is in Princeton, New Jersey, but we have smaller offices in the UK near Oxford and one in Beijing. So I would say overall business has been doing well despite the pandemic. After the first two months of the pandemic where we saw a drop in sales, the levels came back up and they've been good since then. We, especially with eBooks, we hope to see this as a permanent increase. Uh, as Dominique mentioned, our front list has been slightly soft, but the backlist is doing very well. And again, eBooks are up and, and continue to stay up. As Dominique mentioned, there are severe strains in the supply chain, particularly around domestic print capacity. I really think it's critical to work closely with printers now and prescheduling titles has really never been more important, but it's almost gotten to the point where you have to preschedule them before they go into production , um, where you don't really know the page count. It's, it's tough, but we've seen shortages with some binding materials and paper types. So I'm trying to standardize wherever possible, even though we have an extremely diverse list, including a lot of four color with odd trim sizes and a lot of co-publications domestically, we're seeing some shortages of trucking. So sometimes it's hard to get the books just into the warehouse, even once they've been printed. As Dominique mentioned, we're trying to maximize POD as much as possible, especially for printing closer to market. But even one of the largest vendors for POD was showing signs of capacity strain in the fall and through Christmas. And we were having really extended schedules there, especially in the hardcover area. Authors and peer reviewers have been struggling with pandemic and work from home conditions. And I've especially heard that this is more so the case with women than men, which is concerning. Um, we have staff with children at home who've been facing strains, you know, caring for their children with remote schooling , um, we're really concentrating on moving all our files for work in process into the cloud, and also on updating all laptops and equipment for all staff who are working remotely. We've been discussing a possible return to the office perhaps for September. But I think , um , we'll see increased flexibility is probably permanent or here to stay in some form because we've managed to work so successfully for more than a year now, all remote. We're really emphasizing use of keywords for discoverability, like has already been mentioned. And we've had a couple of very successful website, sales, and we're really trying to increase digital marketing. That's what I'll say to start.

Lorraine Shanley:

So I just wanted to go over some of the 2020 sales that haven't been touched on already. And , um, you know, the obvious one and actually PW, Jim just did an article on sales at the big five, which are really spectacular for 2020. Um, but overall trade sales were up about 10% ebook sales, about 13% audio book was up 17%, which is actually down from what it had been in the last couple of years, which was 25%. Um, but what's interesting in audio book is that the library usage has gone way up. Um , and one publisher actually told us that if you put ebook and audio book downloads together, it's about 50% of all downloads. So that's both on the sales side and the patron side , uh , which was an unusual observation. Um, but overall audio book in the library is up 20%. Um , so that's audio book sales to libraries. So , um, and also podcasts are way up, which some of us are more involved with than others. And I think increasingly in the same way that Spotify has gotten into audio books, publishers will do more and more with podcasts. Uh , and the blurring line between what, what is an audio book? A book of podcasts , uh, is constantly evolving. Um, so the big winners were children's nonfiction , YA fiction , uh , comic Manga , uh, graphic novels, way up. Um, and as , uh, Dominique and Cathy both mentioned, direct to consumer is way up , um, Google , uh, had, I think it was Google and Amazon had a 50% increase in search over the last year. What is also interesting is that there's this sort of rise in , um , book club and not just, you know, in your home book club or nowadays zoom book club, but there's , uh , a well-funded book club it's called book club is launching imminently. Book of the month club is doing extraordinarily well. Um , and lest you think that's the book of the month club of your parents or grandparents? The actual target is millennial women. So very different from what it used to be different mechanisms , uh, and very impressive sales. Um, and the other interesting area of clubs is Epic, which is I'm sure Dominique, you know, very well. It's a , um , direct to consumer , um , subscription model and their audience has increased to 50 million over the last year. So it's a real contender. One trend, yes, is direct to consumer book clubs. The other big trend is the change in human resource departments. They've gone from big personnel departments to human resources, and now they're really considered business partners , um, of C-suites. Um, and one of the interesting things is, you know, if you think about what they've been doing, they've been having to deal with virtual employee issues. They've had to deal with online training. They've had to do with virtually virtual onboarding, virtual recruiting and onboarding. They've had to deal with one of the big issues, you know, in a recent survey is employee wellbeing and mental health, which 80% of employees say is the most important thing they're dealing with in HR. Um, and you know, there are areas that are where this is becoming critical for any company. Um, and I think we should really appreciate. Actually part of my work is recruiting and I often work with HR people and I have to say it , it, they are so the unsung heroes of the business world at the moment. So , um, and they're also recruiting that I'm sorry, HR has become one of the hottest areas to go into because rather than being task-oriented , it's become a much more robust area with a lot more issues having to deal that it deals with, including of course , um, the recruiting, diverse recruiting in 2020 and 2021 has become immensely important. So , um, those are the, some of the trends that I see. And now I'm going to turn it back to Jim.

Nicole Tomassi:

Thank you for listening to this audio excerpt from the publishing now, 21 webinar, the entire webinars available to view it , both the Westchester publishing services, YouTube page, and our website Westchester publishing services.com, where you'll also find bonus content related to the webinar. You can follow us on your favorite streaming platform to be notified about new episodes when they become available or to find previous episodes you may have missed. You can also find all of the episodes plus additional bonus content that has been shared by some of our guests on the podcast page that's available on the homepage of our website a t westchesterpublishingservices. com. In the meantime, please share your thoughts or comments about today's discussion and tell us what topics you'd like Westchester to cover in future episodes. By emailing us at Westchester words at Westchester, E D S V C s.com. Join us next time when we'll be discussing another topic of importance to education at tech and publishing. Until then, stay safe, be well, and stay tuned.