During the second day of the Digital Book World Conference, we attended two events about the future of publishing: Building the Trade Publishers of the Future: Trade Publishers Remaking Themselves and Gaming the Page: Book Publishing Meets Games. Both of these sessions noted how traditional publishing is using trend information discovered through data collection and reader feedback to make informed decisions on their publishing program.
During the Building the Trade Publishers of the Future session, moderator Carolyn Pittis from Welman Digital introduced the panelists by saying that “some of the people here might not describe themselves even as publishers anymore. I think what you’ll hear here are four leaders of businesses that are blending traditional publishing…with what is now required to sell content in all forms.”
According to Pittis, the way that the publishers can narrow down how to sell that content is through a utilization of data from readers (such as Bookscan numbers) to make informed decisions about acquisitions based on trends. F+W President Sara Domville said “The book doesn’t necessarily come first. The webonomics do.” It was also pointed out, however, that while publishers should look at the trends to make informed decisions, at no point should this data eclipse a publishing house’s instinct to take on the projects that make their company unique.
Toward the end of the session, Regan Arts Associate Publisher and Executive Editor Lucas Wittmann predicted that live events and unique experiences that accompany the books – instead of just the writing – will be important to the future of publishing.
The Gaming the Page sessions also mentioned how publishers can use games to collect information for their books and reach their audience in a different format.
Scholastic, for example, has launched games to accompany its series The 39 Clues and Spirit Animals, among other. Associate Producer Keith Fretz said of gathering feedback to improve the books, “We don’t always know the exact points that [readers] get confused, the exact points where they lose interest without asking them directly.” With games, publishers can answer these questions without asking, which makes the results more organic. From there, the game, and by extension the books can evolve to better engage the audience.
Full Fathom Five Editorial Director Greg Ferguson said that his company is using a game based on the James Frey Endgame series as a way “to bring in a different audience that might not necessarily want to pick up the book, but after playing the game, might go back for the book” as well as for the audience already reading the series. This sentiment was echoed by Fretz who said that the games are meant to be a social and gaming outlet for kids already interested in the original books, who are looking for more content that is familiar but not identical to the book so that both are standalone formats.
While the industry will always depend on publishers and game creators and other content developers to bring experience and intuition to the acquisition process, it is clear from this year’s DBW sessions that now that content creators have learned how to commune directly with their consumer, the wealth of analytical data that is available will be put to great use to ensure a receptive audience.