I spent a chunk of yesterday working on this post while, with one eye, I was watching the news about the volcanic eruption in Iceland that shut UK air traffic. As I post this on Friday morning with a flight scheduled to leave tomorrow night near midnight, I’d guess the chances of actually getting there might be as low as 50-50. In fact, the post has already been edited because two people from one client I was going to work with there — Copyright Clearance Center — already had to cancel because of the air travel disruption. I hope the post will be of interest no matter how this turns out.
It’s been a running joke between me and my oldest friends (none of whom are in the book business or digital space or anywhere near it, having chosen careers long ago as teachers, lawyers, engineers, TV directors, and other “normal” comprehensible things) that all of them wonder “what the hell does Mike do?”
It has occurred to me that readers of The Shatzkin Files might wonder very much the same thing. So while I’m thinking through my planning for what promises to be a very busy time next week at the London Book Fair, it seemed to me that writing about it would both help me think and spell out a bit about how a book business consultant adds some value and earns a living. And hey, maybe we’ll promote some clients and some of these activities of mine at the same time!
My principal mission next week is to talk to UK publishers, mostly to the digital strategists but also to some senior management, about the following initiatives:
1. I am just starting to organize the program for the second annual Digital Book World conference, which will take place in New York in January, 2011. I’ll be doing a post here sometime after London to enlist the help of all my readers in brainstorming and planning this, but what I’m going to do next week is tell publishers what I have in mind and get feedback and suggestions. It is an article of faith among the US publishing community that we’re “way ahead of them” and, indeed, I am not aware of conferences dedicated to publishers in the UK that are comparable to Digital Book World, O’Reilly’s Tools of Change, or the Book Business Conference and Expo. (There is London Online, but that is not a conference focused on book publishing.) Since it would seem that the world of digital would bring publishers of different nationalities closer together, not further apart, I’ll be looking for possible speakers as well as ideas, and probing whether it makes sense for our partners at F+W to really market our conference in the UK to look for paid attendees as well.
2. We’re also on the verge of formally announcing a new program in partnership with F+W Media: E2BU, Enhanced Ebook University. The White Paper, being written by Pete Meyers, is expected to go out for “peer review” next week. Kirk Biglione of Oxford Media Works, our CTO, has been leading our effort to craft a multi-track webinar program that will also be part of the initial E2BU offering. Since this effort is all virtual, we’ll definitely want to market it in the UK. I’m expecting UK participants in our webinar sessions (as “faculty”) and we’re recruiting peer reviewers from the UK for the White Paper as well.
3. As readers of this blog know, we’ve been working with Copia, a new ebook platform with social networking integrated in (and six ebook reader hardware offerings as well). Copia offers some unique marketing opportunities to publishers that are simply not a part of any competitive platform. So we’ll be using the London Book Fair to meet with the digital heads of UK houses to jump-start the awareness of this new platform and sales channel among non-US publishers. The response to the Copia presentation among publishers and agents in New York has been unanimously enthusiastic. Meanwhile, from the Copia side, we’ve been seeing that we need to engage with publishers well beyond their ebook departments; really taking advantage of Copia will require the involvement and creativity of editors and marketers. I’m looking forward to seeing how the UK publishers react to the opportunity.
4. London Book Fair ends this coming Wednesday, April 21. Exactly one week later, I’ll be addressing the AGM of the PA (which everybody in the UK knows is the “annual general meeting of the Publishers Association.”) My remarks are already thoroughly planned, of course. I’ll be talking about where the world of content and publishing will be in 20 years, predicting a world where owning IP won’t be of nearly as much commercial value as owning eyeballs. And I’ll be talking about a couple of publishers who are already getting ahead of that change. Then I’ll discuss where the US book marketplace is going in the next three years, which I think has very significant implications for UK publishers thinking about territoriality and global markets. But I’ll be using the book fair to get somewhat more acquainted with how UK publishers see their market today, hoping to find additional bits of relevant information to sprinkle into the talk.
The London Book Fair is not just about meeting publishers and publishing operatives from “across the pond” or around the world. Sometimes it is presenting an opportunity for us to work in person with US clients who are not based in New York, or to introduce clients to US publishers who are not based in New York, as with these:
5. I have also written on the blog about our “freight forwarder” client, SBS Worldwide and their eDC supply chain solution. Steve Walker, the Chairman of SBS, is speaking at the BIC (that’s Britain’s Book Industry Communication, their rough equivalent to our BISG) Supply Chain Meeting, an annual London Book Fair event. So, of course I’ll go see that. In addition, we’re using the London Book Fair to introduce Steve and eDC to a couple of US publishers from outside NYC.
6. In the same vein, we’ll use London Book Fair to meet with our clients at Bookmasters. They have a very broad suite of author- and publisher-support services, which have grown organically from their roots as a short-run printer. The range of their services really extends across the entire publishing value chain: literally from getting the book written (if necessary), getting it set up for printing or digital distribution with an XML workflow, content conversion, printing (POD, short run digital, or offset), and all sales and distribution services up to and including a toll-free number to take orders. And, unlike others that approach that range of services, they’re a willing on-ramp to publishing for individual authors and tiny publishers. Bookmasters is based in Ashland, OH and they’ve just created a new position called Business Development Manager for Integrated Solutions and put a new executive named Bob Kasher in place who is making their very complex set of solutions accessible to potential customers. LBF gives us a chance to meet and refine the way the propositions are being presented in light of real customer reactions and responses.
Oh, that’s not all, of course. I’ve been invited to speak in Ljubljana at a digital publishing event next year and the person who invited me will be available for a chat in London. I’m having dinner with the head of one of the big DADs (digital asset distributors) that I hadn’t yet had the opportunity to know personally. I’m seeing a Boston-based publisher with which I’ve had some conversations about digital change to see if there’s a potential engagement. I’m meeting with an Irish publisher to be interviewed for a thesis he’s writing. And I’m seeing lots of old friends before my wife comes in and we head off with two of those old friends (and their dog) to spend a weekend seeing Scotland from our base at The Pineapple in Dunmore.
I certainly won’t be bored at the London Book Fair and now you know why new posts from me might be sparse until I get back to the States on April 29.