Westchester Words: Education, Ed-Tech, and Publishing

Publishing Now ’21 Audio Excerpts - What’s Next for the Industry?

May 06, 2021 Westchester Publishing and guests Season 1 Episode 11
Westchester Words: Education, Ed-Tech, and Publishing
Publishing Now ’21 Audio Excerpts - What’s Next for the Industry?
Show Notes Transcript

In this final audio excerpt from the Publishing Now ’21: Looking Forward  webinar, co-hosted by Westchester Publishing Services and Publishers Weekly on April 6, you’ll hear from Dominique Raccah, CEO & Publishers Sourcebooks, Cathy Felgar, Publishing Operations Director at Princeton University Press, Tom Chalmers, Managing Director, Legend Times and Lorraine Shanley, President of MPI (Market Partners International) as moderator Jim Milliot, VP and Editorial Director of Publishers Weekly asks questions submitted by webinar attendees about What’s Next for the Industry, as publishers assess what the changes of the past year will mean as the industry continues to move forward.


In addition to the audio excerpt series, you can watch the entire webinar on Westchester Publishing Services’ YouTube Channel, and visit our website westchesterpublishingservices.com for additional content related to the Publishing Now ’21 webinar. 

Nicole Tomassi:

Welcome to Westchester Words , Education , Ed tech and Publishing. In this final audio excerpt of the Publishing Now 21 Looking Forward webinar co-hosted by Westchester Publishing Services and Publishers Weekly on April 6th. You'll hear from Dominique Raccah, CEO and Publisher of Sourcebooks, Cathy Felgar, Publishing Operations Director at Princeton University Press, Tom Chalmers, Managing Director of Legend Times and Lorraine Shanley, president of MPI, Market Partners International as moderator Jim Milliot, Vice President and Editorial Director of Publishers Weekly asks them questions that were submitted by webinar attenees about what's next for the publishing industry as publishers assess what the changes of the past year will mean as the publishing industry continues to move forward. In addition to the audio excerpt series, you can watch the entire webinar on Westchester Publishing Services, YouTube channel, and visit our website WestchesterPublishingServices.com for additional content related to the Publishing Now 21 webinar. I hope you've enjoyed this audio excerpt series and thank you for listening.

Jim Milliot:

We've gotten lots of, lots of questions that were pre-submitted. One I'm gonna start off with, and then we'll open up to some others. We have a question here is the informal learning every, you know , one with longterm growth?And I think we're talking here just about workbooks, activity books and not fiction, basically children's , um, children's nonfiction, you know, and that was, you know, one of the big winners last year. And I think that had the highest unit sales growth of all the major categories that BookScan , um, tracks. But interestingly , um, it was also one of the first ones to benefit from if you will benefit from the lockdowns last year and the school closings in particular, when parents out there were panicked about how, what are they going to do at home ? So , uh, that went way up. But in the last couple of weeks , um, based on the Bookscan data , uh, sales have actually gone down in , uh, 2021 compared to , to 2020 at this time. And while it's still higher than it was in 2019, and I think that market will continue to stay robust, I don't think we're going to see the type of growth we saw last year in that category. And I think it does point out to some of those other , um, challenges that some of the publishers are looking at, you know, how can we replicate what happened last year? Um, and we'll see how that plays out over the course of the year. Um, Lorraine, you and I both know there's not tremendous amount of great data, what consumers are going to do, but if you had to take , uh , I guess in terms of, you know, well, the reading habits stay, stay ingrained or will, you know, start to lose , um, lose some of its traction now than that other things start to reopen. Do you think that's a , um, a realistic possibility and howso how, how impactful, but will it be?

Lorraine Shanley:

Just reading habits in general?

Jim Milliot:

Right, exactly.

Lorraine Shanley:

Yeah, I actually do. I mean, all the, all the , um, stats seemed to point to that and even McKinsey did a study where they said that at least 11% of online reading and ebook purchasing will continue going forward. So I think as people get used to buying online , um, get used to downloading from their libraries, there will be a continuation. Now, whether there is a continuation in particularly, the children's market, the workbook market , um, you know, everybody has their theories. I think , uh, actually BookScan thinks that market will continue. It's hard to imagine that, well, by the same token, you know, cookbooks may have peaked. Um, certainly fitness has peaked. We've all been through that and moved on. Um, but I think a lot of it is, is anybody's guess I would say generally though, the market in 2021 will be strong. I said it. There you go.

Jim Milliot:

And we're going to print it, so we'll see how that works out. Um, and this is a question that we've received ahead of time and I see it's up here now. Um, maybe Dominique, maybe Cathy could address it or Tom over in the UK. So have frontlist books received fewer ad promotional dollars opportunities due to the pandemic and is that one reason readers might be turning to backlist books? Dom, you want to go first?

Dominique Raccah:

Sure. Um, no. Uh, so there have been, I think obviously there have been certain kinds of promotions that have have disappeared. Um, and the most notable of those would be at least in my mind trade shows, which I saw Cevin posted a question about, and I have to admit, I never thought I'd say this out loud, but I honestly missed the Frankfurt Book Fair, I miss, I, yeah , I know Jim like, I'm shocked myself. Um, I , and uh, and I miss seeing Lorraine at BookExpo and I miss, I mean, it's just like really trade shows, ALA it's all, this is definitely a thing that we're missing right now, but in terms of advertising dollars, I think we're actually spending more, the online platforms require a certain , um, I would say amount of, of , uh, advertising spend and , uh, and we're watching a lot of different kinds of digital dollars , uh, digital players evolving and we're certainly engaged with, I think everyone. So, so I think actually we're spending quite a lot on front list. My guess would be that the cost per front list launch dollar has probably increased. That would be my bet that that's true. Um, and what we're seeing is just that retail brick and mortar retail is a, a, an easier, and we've known this all along is an easier and more appropriate discovery mechanism .

Jim Milliot:

Tom, how's that playing out in the UK?

Tom Chalmers:

It's interesting. We actually, as Dominique says, we actually spend , um, we actually spend more on , um, frontlist titles than we have been doing. I think where the big shift is, is actually online sales give much more of the power to the customer rather than the curator. So what we're actually seeing is where titles are building momentum, which is driven by that ad spend building up customer reviews and word of mouth and that side of stuff, which happens online. We're seeing the growth in sales. So I think it's actually, it's actually not, not a move in advertising spend. It's, it's a move in, who's making the decisions on buying the books and what's, what's popular and not. And I think while that sits more with the customer, you know, particularly via all the online platforms and, you know, and outside of them review sites, peer review sites, I think that's generating the growth in backlist sales it's , um, created a pure cycle of review, word of mouth and purchase so about . So yeah, not that that's where the backlist growth is coming from, not so much in the, in the ad spend. We from our side, we feel now we need to make the ad spend in order to get the snowball rolling into that next stage rather than selling what it is.

Dominique Raccah:

Yeah. I agree with Tom. And the other thing that we haven't mentioned yet, I, I do that I do want to mention is TikTok. So unbelievably um , if you have not seen , uh, the , the TikTok , um, effect on YA for example, young adult titles, it's significant and, and making a huge difference.

Jim Milliot:

All right , cool. Cathy, anything on the Princeton perspective, ad dollars for the frontlist?

Cathy Felgar:

It's not something I study , um, at work, but , um , my sense is that we spend just as much advertising frontlist and , um, I was thinking maybe it has to do with buying behavior around author events. You know, like if you're going in person to see an author, maybe you're more likely to buy the book there and then, then you are on an online event.

Jim Milliot:

Okay, great. Well, while we have you, here's another question that appeared , um, both on , um, on some of the pre, the pre questions, as well as what we're getting now and , uh , Cathy. So we'll start there in terms of domestic printing, are you seeng, are you trying to bring back more printing from overseas and how do you assess the health of the domestic market for the time being?

Cathy Felgar:

Well, I think that quite a few printers closed in the last, I don't know, 10 years in the us . And we're finally seeing the risk that was inherent in that all along. I think that printers have been forced to get bigger for the most part to survive. Because as a printer, you have to keep investing in the technology to stay up to date. And some of the smaller ones just couldn't. I hope the capacity grows. PUP is definitely doing a lot of simultaneous US, UK printings, so we can maintain a global pub date. And we're , we're doing more POD. We're trying to find more printers, to be honest with you and looking more in Canada and in Mexico. And , um, it's , it's definitely a problem.

Jim Milliot:

Dominique, what's your view of that?

Dominique Raccah:

Cathy said that so wisely. I have to say, you know , uh , we are paying for some short-sightedness that we , uh, that we are, that we had in the past. And I am really hoping that we are going to see people invest and grow printing businesses, hopefully in the United States, as well as overseas. So , um, so that is certainly a hope of mine because this constraint that we are all operating under, look, you can't do the amount of growth that we're projecting as an industry, and then cut back on the supply side. I mean, just the math doesn't work. So we're going to have to make these things balance out.

Jim Milliot:

Right, right. And before we leave trade shows altogether , I'm just going to do a quick poll. Whoever has whoever's not muted right now. Um, so Dominique, I'll start with you. Will you be sending anybody in person, do you think to any trade shows for in 2021, either domestically or overseas?

Dominique Raccah:

No, I don't . I don't. It's a little bit early to commit to this, so thanks Jim for asking. Um, but my, my point of view at this point is, is, you know, we, we will keep every single person safe, so probably not. And I , I have trouble imagining it.

Jim Milliot:

Okay. All right , Tom, what do you think over in the UK?

Tom Chalmers:

Yeah, similarly, I mean, for us, if London happens and it's, you know, it's pretty much just down the road from us and if staff wants to go for it, then, you know, want to go for it, we'll kind of leave it up to their choice, then, you know , some people that internationally, not at the moment, I don't think, I mean , I mean, even aside from, you know , anything else, the quality and the restrictions and different stuff, it's like everything in a pandemic, it kind of changes quickly, but not, not at this point. I think we'll probably revisit it towards the end of the year.

Jim Milliot:

And Cathy has Princeton issued any guidelines on what travel might be?

Cathy Felgar:

Not expecting any travel for the rest of the calendar year, to my knowledge.

Jim Milliot:

Lorraine, are you going anywhere. And what have you heard from , uh, people here?

Lorraine Shanley:

I've basically heard the same thing, nobody's going anywhere, unless it's on vacation. And part of the problem, I would think with trade shows, I mean it's certainly been the case with Bologna and Frankfurt over the last year is if you can't get a critical mass, it's not worth going. I mean, if you're, if you're going to be sitting in your booth alone in a vast expanse, it's not that attractive. So you really have to have everybody come together or not do it.

Jim Milliot:

Right. And I think that's a great point. And Lorraine, while we have you , um, you had mentioned HR and you had that great , um, uh, post about the different things they're doing. Have you gleaned anything on what people are actually doing to try to , uh , maintain company culture and build morale? I mean, I know PW, we have zoom Fridays and other things, things like that. Is there anything more sophisticated than that going on?

Lorraine Shanley:

Most of the stuff I've heard is basically either , um, holidays or, you know, no email days, basically trying to keep people from working too hard. There was a study done by Harvard business school at the beginning, in the first few months of the pandemic that people were working, I think eight and a half percent more a day than they had previously. And you think about that without vacations, over 14 months. And you realize that burnout is you understand why mental health and mental, physical health are the top of everyone's list of issues that have to be resolved.

Jim Milliot:

All right, okay. Dominique, I mean, anything in particular, you've done?

Dominique Raccah:

Totally in agreement with Lorraine. And I think we , we need to have more fun. And I know that this platform is not perfect for fun. Um, but we've got to create it. Um, so we , um, we, for example, this, this week we'll be giving out a set of wacky awards, which I have no idea what they are, because nobody has told me what they are. So I will just, But , but I do think that that we're missing connection and that you can feel it in, in people that we, we really yearn for it. And so creating mechanisms for that , um, whether we're, we're doing it, however you want to do it , um, we need to create that.

Jim Milliot:

Um, okay. So , um , also , uh, Dominique, can I pick on you one more time? Do you have any , uh, sense of when, you know , book tours might go , um, back to in-person and how, how has virtual actually work? Do you think these virtual book tours? I mean, I know it generates a lot more people usually attending an author event, but does that translate into sales? Would you be happy with that?

Dominique Raccah:

I don't think it translates into sales well. Um, and I think that's a consistent message that we have pretty much from everyone that I've talked to. And I don't know if Lorraine has different information, but it's, it's, it's pretty challenging. Um, and I think it's challenging for authors. I think they , um, I think, I think, look, we're all in the business. We're, we're all of us. We're in a service business. We take our job is to take care of our authors and our authors careers. So , um, so not in love with, with this methodology for book tours, I think we gotta come up with new ideas. We've got a really new idea that we're going to try out for , um, for EL James that you guys will hear about in May, sometime that , uh, that I'm wild about that I'm really excited about, but, but we've got to try, we've got to keep experimenting and doing new things because what we've got right now, I don't think is quite working as well as we had hoped. Lorraine , you may have a different, I don't know if you've got different intro.

Lorraine Shanley:

No, I've actually been hearing the same thing that where author tours, Zoom tours were very successful at the beginning. Now they've really petered out and the sales are minimal. I do think, and I'd be interested in your take on , um , the children's model of a group of authors touring schools, which they've now translated to zoom. Is there an adult author version of that that, you know, could, could kind of keep the dynamic going? So you're not, it's not just one author and an audience, but there's a conversation.

Dominique Raccah:

Yeah , we did one of them . We did a couple of those that again, early on worked really, really well. Like, so you had, you know, four or 500 people. That's not, it's not looking like that yet right now. Um, despite our best efforts, but I think there's more to try. I think this is really about continuing to innovate, right. And continuing to come up with new ideas and new ways of doing it. The format is a bit limiting. So I think platform will matter too .

Tom Chalmers:

You know, I think I'm just going to say from our side, I mean, I think that's one of the things that's always been frustrating about, or not frustrating, but at times in publishing ever since I started kind of, there's a lot of things that have always the way they've always been. And, you know, as, as, as Dominique said, you know, and she's someone I've always looked up to as being entrepreneurial and kind of new ideas is that, you know, this kind of crisis, although terrible for, you know, so there's so many challenges and things within it. It is a time for innovation and trying new things. And I think those who can try new things quickly, and I think things like book tours and that kind of thing, we're already not completely changing them in form from what they were originally. And I think there's going to be lots of different versions, whether there's some kind of, you know , hybrid events, you know, like, like, like we can have this event. And as you know , you know , hundreds of people on the line, you know, is it a mix between the physical and that. And I think there's going to be lots of interesting models. I think it's , it's a good time to try new stuff. And I think there will also be an appetite from all retailers and elsewhere to try new stuff. So I think it's going to be, I think if we talk again in a year, I think book publicity models will look very different from where we are in the meantime.

Jim Milliot:

Right. Um , I would like to try to squeeze in this last , uh, question from, from an author. And it says here, how should authors be shifting their own creative process and marketing efforts to align with the shifts publishers are experiencing on their own? So I'm wondering Dominque [inaudible] , have you had any changes in, you know , signing authors and you know , what what's expected of them going forward?

Dominique Raccah:

No, I think, I think if , if anything, so , so no, I don't see a big shift there, but what this author is pointing to is a really interesting question. Right? I think the question that, that this person is asking is, is there, do we need to rethink if , if the world that we've lived , we are living in, it has moved from 65% frontlist to 65% backlist, then fundament the fundamental infrastructure that we've all built into our businesses needs to shift to represent that. And that includes the , the efforts that we ask from our authors. We need to be talking to our authors in different ways and asking different things from them. So, so that's, that's the question I think that's fundamental. And I don't know whether we have data on that. I certainly don't. I don't know whether the shift that we're looking at is going to be an ongoing one, or whether we're going to go back to having the same frontlist momentum we've had in the past.

Jim Milliot:

So Cathy from an academic author standpoint, is anything changing that you can tell or that needs to change?

Cathy Felgar:

I would say to Dominique's point that keyword enrichment of the backlist is going to be important. And in terms of author behavior , um, you know, I have a lot of sympathy for authors trying to get their manuscripts in in the modern climate. And I would also say if you have a topic relevant to the pandemic about plagues , um,

Jim Milliot:

Hey , I think that's a , that's a nice pitch to end on. And once again, this is Jim Milliot editorial director for PW

Nicole Tomassi:

Thank you for listening to this audio excerpt from the Publishing Now, 21 webinar. The entire webinar is 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. Be sure to 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 guests on the podcast page of our website, which is accessible from our homepage Westchester publishing services.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 will be discussing another topic of importance to education ed-tech and publishing. Until then, stay safe, be well and stay tuned.