DBW 2015: Data and Direct-to-Consumer Engagement

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.

Launch Kids 2015 Recap: Data, Communities, Storytelling

Launch Kids celebrated its 4th year on the first day of Digital Book World on January 13th, 2015 at the Midtown Hilton. The morning sessions were data-rich and the rest of the afternoon showed attendees how digital for kids grows through community and storytelling.


One of the most shocking pieces of data came from Jonathan Nowell from BookScan’s presentation: 80% of YA titles are purchased by adults for themselves, which brings up some interesting questions about audience and genre:

Nowell’s presentation had plenty of heartening news about the children’s book market too. 2014 saw a significant boost in sales in children’s books.


Nielsen book market

But David Kleeman from PlayCollective showed us the stiff competition that children’s books face every single day: tablets and smartphones.

tablet usage David Kleeman

A big take away from the morning is that digital efforts can boost print sales significantly.

Eric Huang from Made in Me explained that some important sales from their company have come from print rights from some of Made in Me’s popular digital-only books.


And some of the digital-to-print success of course comes from online marketing. Director of Marketing at Random House Children’s, Kim Lauber talked about the big success of We Were Liars, due in large part to their marketing efforts on Tumblr.

we were liars tumblr

Morgan Baden at Scholastic echoed the same sentiment saying “You know a book is going to be a big deal if we launch a Tumblr for it.”

Tumblr is an attractive place for marketing because of the communities within Tumblr that can make campaigns exist without the marketers. Lauber said, once their images hit Tumblr and the book came out lots of fan art and original posts about the book blossomed all over the site.

Another community heavy area of the internet is the fanfiction community. Lots of young people spend time reading and writing there to be a part of a group that loves the same thing Lanie Taylor from Alloy Entertainment admitted that she came to fanfiction as an outsider but what she sees is that “The object is what gets you, but the community is what sustains you.” Wattpad’s Ashleigh Gardner talked about how celebrity fanfiction is on the rise, and cited One Direction fanfiction being one of the most popular fanfics on their site, mentioning the success of Anna Todd’s After.


Helping a story come to life doesn’t always begin with an author. Co-owners of Paper Lantern Lit, Lauren Oliver and Lexa Hillyer discussed stories built from intellectual property, or IP, with  President and Publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Susan Katz. Katz said that HarperCollins’ use of IP came from a desire to have “full creative rights” of a story, but maintained that flexibility with the author is essential.

2014 seemed like the year of ebook subscription services and children weren’t left out of this trend, but catering to kids creates its own set of challenges. As Neal Shenoy from Speakaboos stated, the person buying the subscription isn’t the person reading the story.

Each of the panelists from this segment came from three different subscription services Speakaboos, MeeGenius, and SmartyPAL (which will officially launch this month) feature ebooks unique to them. Speakaboos and MeeGenius also have licensed content from partners like Thomas the Tank Engine and Sesame Street, respectively.

Barbara Marcus, President and Publisher of Random House Children’s wrapped up the day very well responding to Mike Shatzkin’s question: What really is the difference between children’s publishing and adult? “We don’t publish for a 6 week cycle. We publish for backlist…We’re on another planet.”

Top 5 Publishing Articles/Blog Posts of the Week 1/5-1/9

number_5_redEvery week, we recommend 5 publishing articles/blog posts that supplement the major news for the week. Whether data or industry commentary, we hope these 5 links will be a simple way to keep you in the know.

Is calling a book “difficult” subjective, making the concept of readability a myth?

Overdrive announced a 32% increase in ebook lending in 2014.

Does reading aloud to older children help their reading comprehension skills?

In a survey from PEN American Centerwriters said they self-censor due to worries about government surveillance.

New study from PlayCollective and Digital Book World shows that more kids are using devices for e-reading.

People Round-Up, Early January 2015


Geoff Shandler joined William Morrow as VP, Editorial Director at its new unnamed imprint, handling the nonfiction side of the list, which will also feature literary fiction.  He was most recently Editorial Director of Adult Trade at Little, Brown.

Bob Spizer is leaving his position as Group Director of Domestic Rights at HarperCollins at the end of January after 31 years. He can be reached at [email protected].

W. Ralph Eubanks is leaving his position as Editor-in-Chief at the Virginia Quarterly Review in June. He may be reached at [email protected].

Brant Rumble joined Blue Rider Press as Senior Editor after leaving a position with the same title at Scribner.

Hilary Teeman joined Crown as Senior Editor.  She was previously Editor at St. Martin’s Press.

In children’s publishing, Gillian Levinson is now Paperback Publishing Manager at Random House Children’s.  She was previously Editor at Razorbill. . . Kara Sargent joined Little, Brown Books for Young Readers as Executive Editorial Director for brand, licensed, and media tie-in publishing.  Formerly, she was Editorial Director at Simon & Schuster Children’s. . . Michael Petranek is now Senior Editor at Scholastic.  He was previously Associate Editor at Papercutz.

Nan Vermylen Thornton joined Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Agency as Agent.  Previously, she was practicing copyright law as In-House Counsel at Pearson Education.

In religious publishing, Shaun Tabatt is Nonfiction Publicist, Bethany House and Chosen at Baker Publishing Group.  Formerly, he was Community Development Manager at Fortress Press.

Amanda Diehl is now Publicity Manager at David R. Godine. Previously, she was Publicity Intern at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Pamela Sandstrom is now Reference Editor at Choice, the publishing unit of the Association of College & Research Libraries.

Rebekah Anderson is now Director of Marketing at Sasquatch Books. She previously was Supervisor of Customer Engagement at Puget Sound Energy.

Leon Wieseltier joined The Atlantic as Contributing Editor and Critic.  He was previously Literary Editor at The New Republic.

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Listen Up! The Audiobook Revolution

With audiobook sales numbers on the rise over the past two years, retailers have been searching for new ways to appeal to wider audiences. So far, the most common trends have been straight-to-audio publications, library digital downloads, abridged audiobooks, and an increase in subscription services.  However, speculation has begun to spread as to whether publishers should repackage audiobooks to be more similar to podcasts, given the format’s latest successes.

At the end of November, Audible published The Starling Project by thriller writer Jeffery Deaver.  This publication differs from other audiobooks in one major way: it has never appeared in print.  In The New York Times, Alexandra Alter wrote that the book will “test the appetite for an emerging art form that blends the immersive charm of old-time radio drama with digital technology” and points out that this initiative shows that audiobooks are “coming into their own as a creative medium” in the publishing industry.

Deaver, who has no plans to authorize publication in print or digitally, is the most recognizable name in Audible’s content creating program, which has produced 30 other audio-exclusive original works.

Audible is not alone.  According to the same New York Times article, audiobook producer GraphicAudio is planning on releasing two of its own original series in 2015.

These new audio-first programs aren’t surprising given the surge of popularity for audiobooks in the last two years.  According to The Digital Reader, the American Association of Publishers (AAP) released a new report in October that stated downloadable audiobooks are the fastest growing format with a +26.2% growth in 2013.  In 2014, the AAP reported that sales were up 28%.  Meanwhile, ebooks are the second fastest growing with +7.5% growth in 2013 and 6% in 2014.

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Top 5 Publishing Articles/Blog Posts of the Week 12/29-1/2

number_5_redEvery week, we recommend 5 publishing articles/blog posts that supplement the major news for the week. Whether data or industry commentary, we hope these 5 links will be a simple way to keep you in the know.

What will be the biggest digital trends for libraries this year?

How do professional bookbinders carry on in the digital age of books?

Will 2015 be a sluggish year for ebooks?

What can publishers do to make ebook subscription services worth their while?

What do publishers stand to gain from the trend of direct-to-consumer sales other than money?

Top 5 Publishing 2014 Reflections and 2015 Predictions

number_5_redEvery week, we recommend 5 publishing articles/blog posts that supplement the major news for the week. As we near the end of the year, we thought we would change things up and instead post 5 links to articles with predictions for the publishing industry in 2015.

Digiday outlined what we learned about publishing this year, focusing primarily on web and magazine publishing.

Publishers Weekly offers some ways we might improve diversity in book publishing like watching other industries and collaborating.

Publishing Perspectives asked publishing executives to contemplate the future of book pricing internationally while taking countries’ varying book cultures into consideration.

Harvard Magazine discussed some of the problems in academic publishing today and some possible solutions that should be explored.

Future of Publishing Founder Thad McIlroy compiled the Top 11 Trends and Opportunities for Digital Publishers in 2015 for the upcoming DBW 2015 conference. The complete compilation is only available for download from Digital Book World by submitting an email address.

International Bestsellers, December 2014

Every month, Publishing Trends runs fiction international bestsellers lists from four territories–France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. This month, our four regular territories are joined by two more: Brazil and Taiwan. (Admittedly, the translation for the Taiwan list is very rough, but we still felt it was worth sharing.)  Those books that have been published in English are listed with their official English-language title. All others are translated as literally as possible from the original. Where applicable, the US publisher is listed after the local publisher, separated by a “/”. The lists are taken from major newspapers or national retailers, which are noted at the bottom of each list.






BestsellerDec2014 Italy







Top 5 Publishing Articles/Blog Posts of the Week 12/15-12/19

number_5_redEvery week, we recommend 5 publishing articles/blog posts that supplement the major news for the week. Whether data or industry commentary, we hope these 5 links will be a simple way to keep you in the know.

Should Barnes & Noble start focusing on how to beat Starbucks instead of trying to win the tablet market?

According to new research by Nielsenteens still prefer print books.

Should copyright laws be changed to better accommodate people with disabilities?

Are websites the best marketing tools for publishers even with social media marketing?

Should the Department of Justice overturn the ruling in Apple’s anti-trust case?


People Round-Up, Mid-December 2014


Meredith Greenhouse will join Perseus Book Group as VP, International Sales and Marketing.  She was Senior Director of International Sales at HarperCollins.

Susan Reich will retire as President of Publishers Group West in March 2015.  She has been president of the company for seven years.  Perseus President and CEO David Steinberger said of her “Susan has done an exemplary job leading PGW for the last seven years. She has a well-deserved reputation as a professional of high integrity and excellent judgment who guides PGW with an endearing combination of directness and wit.”

Kelly Leonard was named Director of Digital Marketing at Regan Arts. She was previously VP, Web Strategies at Hachette Book GroupTracy Brickman will also join Regan Arts as Publicist.  She was previously Associate Publicist at Hachette.

Mark Smith has been named CEO of Bonnier Publishing Fiction in London, merging his company Zaffre Publishing with Bonnier. Previously, he was Founder and CEO of Quercus.

Simon & Schuster VP and Associate Publisher Suzanne Donahue will be leaving the company after 27 years.  She can be reached at [email protected].

Christopher Cosgrove is now National Account Manager, Adult and Audio at Simon & Schuster.  He was previously Assistant Manager, Online Sales & Marketing at Penguin Random House.

Steve Bevis joined Bookmasters as Director of Information Technology.  He was most recently Owner and Chief Consultant at Almond Group Technologies.

In children’s publishing, Andrew Karre will join Dutton Children’s as Executive Editor.  Previously, he was Editorial Director at Lerner Publishing Group. . . Mary McCue joined Random House Children’s as Assistant Director of Publicity.  She was most recently Senior Publicity Manager at Simon & Schuster/Gallery/Threshold. . .  Rex Ogle joined Little, Brown Books for Young Readers as Senior Editor of Brand, Licensed, and Media Tie-In publishing.  He was most recently Senior Editor at Scholastic.

At literary agencies, Stephen Barbara is moving to Inkwell Management from Foundry Literary + Media, bringing his 50 clients with him. . . Cindy Whittemore rejoined Alive Literary Agency as Contracts Director.  She was Senior Director, Contracts at Harper Christian. . . Marietta B. Zacker was promoted to Senior Agent at Nancy Gallt Literary Agency.

Susan Murphy will join Harper Wave as Editor.  Previously, she was Associate Editor at Little, Brown.

Barbara Casey is now Partner at Strategic Media Books, where she will oversee acquisitions, company operations, and book production.  She will continue as President of the Barbara Casey Agency.

Kathryn Schulz will join the New Yorker as Staff Writer.  She will write book reviews, web pieces, and features.  Previously, she was Book Critic at New York Magazine.

Kristi Marchbanks is now Senior VP, Global Sales, Marketing, and Customer Experience at ProQuest.

Irv Myers will step down as President and CEO of New Leaf at the end of the year.  He will be opening Myers Associates, a consulting business.  He can be reached at [email protected].

Yelba Quinn joined Brookings Institution Press as Marketing Manager. She was previously Associate Director of Books and Electronic Products, Sales and Marketing at American Pharmacists Association.

In religious publishing, Lori Cloud joined HarperCollins Christian Publishing as VP of Marketing for W. Publishing.  She was previously Executive Director of Client Services at G7 Entertainment. . . . Andrew Stoddard joined WaterBrook Multnomah as Editor.  He was previously Acquisitions Editor at David C. Cook.

Darren Gillgrass joined Copyright Clearance Center as Director, Product Management, Rightsholder Products and Services.  He was formerly founder of publishing consulting company Healthcare Consulting Limited.

Molly Quinn will joining Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in January as Director of Public Programming. Previously, she was Production Coordinator for Literary Programs at Symphony Space.

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