5 Questions with The Future of Publishing’s Thad McIlroy

Thad McIlroyThad McIlroy is an electronic publishing analyst and author, and the president of The Future of Publishing, where he provides in-depth coverage of the book publishing industry.

His most recent books are The Metadata Handbook (co-authored with Renée Register) and Mobile Strategies for Digital Publishing.

Thad is also a speaker at DBW 2017, where he will give publishers some secrets they’re missing out on and break down how publishers can remain in a position of power.

We spoke with Thad about his sessions at DBW, as well as what he thinks the biggest issues in publishing currently are.

You’re the president of The Future of Publishing. Can you tell us a little about what you do there?

I consult with book publishers on new technologies. The challenge is to gain competitive advantage by adopting proven technologies faster than your competitors can.

In your view, what are the most crucial issues in book publishing right now?

Going deep. Book publishing—like other forms of mass entertainment—was built for broad, not for deep. Scatter your message from the clouds and hope that some of it sticks—that doesn’t work anymore. Not enough is sticking. Yet at the same time, technology makes it possible to pinpoint readers with remarkable precision. Not just in the U.S. but abroad, where there are an order of magnitude more English speakers than in the U.S.

Unfortunately, none of this is easy. The technologies are challenging, and the implementation requires tremendous discipline.

You have a session at DBW 2017 titled “5 Tools You’ll Wonder How You Lived Without.” Without giving too much away, can you tell us what sort of areas these tools fit into?

I’m focusing on the space between editorial acquisitions and marketing. The place where books are assembled, from copy-editing, through design and composition, through simultaneous print and ebook production. There are some unsung software tools that can radically improve these processes, and I want to share a few secrets.

You’re part of another session titled “How to Thrive in an Era of Constant Change.” It’s a pretty self-explanatory title, but who in the industry does this session cater to?

I think of the audience as “the people in the middle.” They’ve got responsibilities, but they aren’t running the show. They’re mostly younger than their bosses and they’re committed to publishing for the long-term. They know the existing business is broken, and they want to explore new models and the impact of change.

What made you want to be involved in DBW 2017?

I’ve spoken at the conference in the past and greatly enjoy the focused audiences of dedicated publishing professionals. It’s a unique opportunity to network with many of the industry’s best in a relatively intimate setting.

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