Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
This blog is not to say that I have gone off the idea of books, the very object that pushed, or pulled, me into publishing in the first place. In fact, with the market segmenting into mass and boutique with little in between, there will be an increased demand for beautiful books and publishers would be wise to raise their production standards.
What I wanted to say was prompted by Digital Book Word 2014 (DBW14) in New York. With more sessions than at a fixed fee psychiatrist, there were few areas of the book industry that weren’t covered. However, from a glance around the audience, those from the larger companies generally worked in sales or in something digital first and possibly sales second. Where were the rights people, the contracts people, those looking for new business outside of selling digital and print copies of their publisher’s books?
Intellectual Property (IP) – it’s a very dry word. We come into publishing for lunches and launches, not something you might lock in a safety deposit box. But in an industry of few sellable traditional business assets, that is the publisher’s most valuable, it is what they own (and this is as relevant for authors going their own route with their work through self-publishing).
That printed book, as hard work to produce and as satisfying as an end product as it may be, is one creation from the IP. The epub file another. The mobi file another. The audiobook another. I won’t go on, but each one is just a small star in the universe of what that IP covers. And like a universe its spread is so vast it is hard to even conceptualise where it begins and ends.
Therefore, in an industry where we are trying to wind a path out of squeezed revenues, away from much documented struggles, why are the majority still wishing upon a star? Maybe a couple of stars?
The international market, with the advance of technology and lowering of some cultural obstacles, is more open than ever and the written word is produced in more forms that ever before. Publishers own this incredibly valuable property, or should do, and while I set out on this article refusing at any point to write the cliché ‘the world is your oyster’, the point is very clear.
At DBW14, I heard several mentions on stage of companies looking to sell more ebooks into new countries. Great, but that sounds like hard work and why restrict yourself to that one product from your IP? Why not look at other options, including licensing, and start producing revenue immediately?
If that sounds like fancy talk, but when I began my first publishing company, Legend Press, I realised the need for immediate cash (my credit card had a limit) and so contacted publishers around the world to sell the rights to the company’s second novel. It sold into four different languages and seven editions – that without really having a clue, or in fact a desk. That was also before the evolved technology we have available today.
Maybe the rights people weren’t at DBW14 because there is so much focus on their work at the traditional book fairs – Frankfurt, London, BEA etc. etc. These are all key events, but the message that needs to reach all departments is that everything has changed. Publishing is not what is has been.
When that last sentence is said, it is too often said in a negative way, party hats discarded into a tired old bin. But it’s an inspiring sentence – there is more opportunity than ever before and a chance to reshape this industry into the next chapter of its great history.
In conclusion I will use a horrible business acronym – recognise, plan, monetise. Recognise exactly what it is you own (less obvious that it sounds), plan for exactly how to use each identified star in that universe, and then monetise them. This doesn’t necessarily mean plan and then implement in 2016. It potentially means money in the bank today. And never mind IP, those words sound good.
Happy to hear your comments as always! @Tom_Chalmers