BookBrunch | ‘One country at a time, one book at a time’: An interview with Bibi Bakare-Yusuf from Cassava Republic Press

This week for the BookBrunch interview, I chatted with Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, one of the founders of Cassava Republic Press, a leading African trade publisher who has just expanded to the UK. Read the full article over on BookBrunch.Bibi_Bakare_Yusuf.jpg

Bibi Bakare-Yusuf is one of those infectiously inspirational women who leave you feeling very hopeful about the future of publishing. She has a cast-iron confidence in the lists of her publishing house, Cassava Republic Press, which she co-founded ten years ago in Nigeria, and her positivity about their recent move to the UK shines through. Here, we discuss Cassava Republic’s beginnings, UK expansion and how African writing fits into the wider world.

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BookBrunch Interviews: Double-Whammy

A fortnight’s worth of BookBrunch interviews for you, one with the marvellous and truly friendly Vivian French from Picturehooks, the other with the busiest man in town, Unbound’s Scott Pack

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“It’s really embarrassing because the answer is I don’t know how many books I’ve published! It’s more than 250 – in fact, it’s probably crawling up towards really rather ridiculous numbers – but I always excuse myself by saying I have been around a rather long time. My first books were published in 1990!”

Vivian French on the Picturehooks Conference and being a children’s author. Read the full article here.

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BookMachine | Collaboration Nation: On the art of thinking ‘bananas’

BookMachine_logoThis fortnight on Bookmachine, I went a bit bananas…

Collaboration is the rage at the moment, yet the misleadingly straightforward word can hide a minefield of possible pitfalls: how do you reach out to others to start collaborating? And once you’ve formed a partnership, how do you maintain your needs and vision whilst still allowing for those of others? Collaboration can be pretty scary if you haven’t tried it before and if you’ve had a bad experience, it can be even more intimidating.

So what’s the answer? According to workshop leader Jamie Catto, the key is to think bananas!

Unrealistic expectations

According to Catto, and numerous psychological studies, we have reached a state of business in recent years where we all expect ourselves to be perfect but, not only is this perfect ideal unattainable, it actually harms our ability to reach our full potential.

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BookMachine | Malleable Models: The real effects of the digital revolution on business

BookMachine_logoThis fortnight’s BookMachine article is up! This time, it’s on the effects of the digital revolution on business. Read it over on the Bookmachine blog, or get started right here:

World-famous travel and maps bookshop Stanfords has announced that, alongside books, they will now be offering horse-drawn omnibus tours of London to their customers. While this idea fits well with their brand, it definitely breaks the mould of what we have come to expect from a bookshop. And Stanfords aren’t the only ones employing lateral thinking to revamp their brand: it’s a phenomena happening across the board and it’s results are as exciting as they are intriguing.

Why digital forced us to adapt

The last decade has seen a revolution in the way we use technology. It has become unimaginably mobile, instant, easy and relatively cheap. Smartphones were released in 2000 but the iPhone, which really lit the smart-phone fire in line with the roll-out of 3G internet access, was launched as recently as 29 June 2007. The iPad only followed in 1 April 2010. The first mainstream eReaders, the Sony Reader and Kindle, were only released in 2006 and 2007 respectively.

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Bookmachine | Towing the Line: Banned books & YA fiction

BookMachine_logoThis fortnight’s Bookmachine article, sponsored by Getty images, has gone live! It’s all about the fine line between honest enough and too much in YA literature. Read it over on the Bookmachine blog, or get started right here:

The Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF), an arm of the American Library Association (ALA), recently released the list of the most banned books in the US during 2014. It’s an annual report, but what’s surprising is that, year upon year, these lists increasingly contain YA and Children’s titles.

These challenges seem to be part of a wider movement debating the appropriateness and necessity of more mature themes cropping up in literature aimed at younger audiences. More importantly, it brings up the question, once you leave the parents out: what do young people really want to read about?

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Report from the London Short Story Festival

6a00d83451b01369e201b8d1245a87970c-piIt’s a strange thing, but as a publisher and an author, I find I have to very strict about when I wear my work hat and when I wear my writer’s hat, and it’s very rare that I feel comfortable letting those two things overlap. This weekend’s London Short Story Festival was one of those occasions.

Running from Friday 18 to Sunday 21 June, this was only the Festival’s second year running. Despite this, it boasted a jam-packed programme of events and all its Masterclass workshops sold out well before it started. Events featured authors from around the world, from established masters like Ben Okri, Helen Simpson and Toby Litt to new guns like Kirsty Logan and SJ Naude. The Festival is sponsored by Spread the Word, who are keen to represent the diversity of the short story form, and this showed in the programming.

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BookMachine | Authorship versus content representation: What’s the way forward for equality?

BookMachine_logoThis fortnight for BookMachine, I just had to jump on the Kamila Shamsie train, and because I believe that content is king (call me naive!) I had to put in my pennyworth about female protagonists. Read the full article on the BookMachine blog, or get started right here:

Just over a week ago, author Kamila Shamsie spoke out publically, including in The Guardian and The Bookseller, proposing that 2018 should become the Year of Publishing Women (YPM), in order to help counterbalance the prevalent gender bias in Publishing towards male authors.

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The One Big Book Launch with BookMachine & CompletelyNovel


OBBL-authors-logo_400_267Every year, self-publishing platform and book community, CompletelyNovel, offers ten writers the chance to launch their books collaboratively at the One Big Book Launch. The author selection process means that the opportunity is given to both traditionally and self-published authors to launch for their book with an event, when they might not otherwise be able to.

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BookMachine | Ahead of the Curve: What RPG publishers have to teach the mainstream

BookMachine_logoIn light of the fantastic time I had at the UK Games Expo this weekend, I thought I’d give a shout out to all those gorgeous RPG publishers out there in this fortnight’s BookMachine article. It’s a pit-stop tour of a diverse and lovely niche in our industry, so please forgive any generalisations: I did my best with a little word count! Read the whole thing over on the BookMachine blog, or get started right here:

This weekend saw one of Britain’s largest annual meetings of leisure games enthusiasts at the 2015 UK Games Expo in Birmingham. Amongst the 14,000 attendees (up 20% from last year) were some were some of the most successful Roleplaying Game (RPG) publishers in the industry, showing that this niche, with its many curious quirks, has a lot to teach the mainstream about publishing in the digital age.

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BookMachine | WYSIWYG: The growing importance of visual branding

BookMachine_logoThis fortnight’s BookMachine article, sponsored by Getty Images, is all about the growing importance of visual branding, in Publishing and beyond! Check out the full column here, or read this taster to get you started:

Having a recognizable iconography associated with a brand has always been a crucial marketing techniques to draw in consumers. Yet, in a world where we are bombarded by an increasing number of advertisements every day, standing out and having a consistent visual brand is becoming harder, and more important, than ever before.

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BookMachine | Imaginative Space: The role of the faceless model on fiction book covers

BookMachine_logoAnother fortnight, another BookMachine column! This time, it’s all about the faceless model on bookcovers and how marketing with imaginative space separates Publishing from other industries. Read the full article over on the BookMachine blog – but here’s a taster to get you started:

There is a growing tradition in book publishing to use faceless models on book covers. Tried and tested, models whose faces are hidden are good at selling books. But what’s the psychological process behind this trend? What are the consequences of this marketing method for the reader and should we be keeping an eye on them?

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Report on the #ipgsc for SYP Press Forward

My final report from the IPG Annual Spring Conference is now officially live on the Society of Young Publishers’ Press Forward blog!  Here’s an excerpt, but head over to Press Forward if you want to keep reading.

It’s emerging that one of my favourite things about working in Publishing are the conferences. There’s a great sense of community around them, most particularly, perhaps, at the Independent Publishers Guild (IPG) Spring Annual Conference. The Conference, which took place on the 4th-6th of March just outside Oxford, was a place for Independent Publishers across the UK – and for some internationally – to come together and discuss the state of the industry from our point of view.

Kicked off by a talk from Amazon’s Russell Jones, with what is becoming the company’s signature social media ban and delicate handling of question time, there ensued three days of sessions, talks and round-table events on everything Independent. From Facebook and handling online followings to the latest legal legislation that will impact publishers in 2015, few stones were left unturned as we were whipped through every aspect of the industry at top speed… [READ MORE]

BookMachine | Corporate Social Responsibility: Not just for hippies

BookMachine_logoHere’s the latest instalment from my fortnightly column over on Bookmachine.  To read the rest of the article, visit the Bookmachine blog!

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become an increasingly important part of corporate identities during the last decade. Environmental and social concerns have become core, not just to forerunners such as The Body Shop and Timberland, but even huge corporations such as Starbucks, Unilever, and Walt Disney. The question remains, however: will a commitment to CSR add value to your business as a Publisher?

Defining CSR

In its simplest form, CSR focuses on a triple bottom line of social, environmental and financial responsibility. In an increasing number of countries there are laws stating that, to a greater or lesser degree, each business should be responsible for its actions. Many businesses are choosing to go beyond simple compliance, though, and are creating CSR guidelines and commitments of their own.

This leaves an enormous scope for discussion, but for this article I’m going to look at environmental responsibility, as the figures for Publishing in this area are pretty astonishing… [READ MORE]

Snapshots from Day 2 at the #ipgsc

186I1126_-7786_0_0Another day has passed at this year’s IPG Spring Annual Conference – and what a wonderful day it was!  So many engaging and insightful talks and sessions, with much live-Tweeting on my part for the Society of Young Publishers (@SYP_UK).  There’s also been much excitement whenever I mention that I’m working for a brand new imprint, Periscope (@periscopebooks), which has been just so lovely to experience – thank you everyone for being so supportive and interested.  I can’t wait to bring out this year’s books!

The second day has been chock-a-block with sessions, even more so than Wednesday as it’s been a full day of events, so there is definitely too much to cover in one post!  Nevertheless, here are some personal highlights from each of the sessions I attended:

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Thoughts from Day 1 of the #ipgsc

186I1126_-7786_0_0This year, I am attending my very first Independent Publishers Guild (@ipghq) Annual Spring Conference, live-Tweeting the whole event on behalf of the Society of Young Publishers (@SYP_UK) and representing Periscope (@periscopebooks), the new international literary fiction imprint I’ve just started as Editorial Assistant at.

With a welcome by IPG Chair Oliver Gadsby and hosted through an afternoon of events by IPG patron Jonathan Harris, Day 1 of the Conference has already been jam-packed.  With insightful sessions from Amazon’s Russell Jones, Toppsta’s Georgina Atwell (@magnocarta) and Nina Peregrine-Jones (@_bookrights_), George Banbury of Perseus Book Group and the gadget man Dean Johnson (@activrightbrain), there’s far too much to cover in one blog post.  These are just three the highlights and thoughts I’ve taken away so far.

1.  Publisher’s are fans of transparency

It is very rare that Amazon will speak publicly, so it was an unusual and thought-provoking privilege to have listened to Russell Jones at the #ipgsc today.  As is the Amazon way, however, there was a total lock-down on discussing the contents of the talk in the media.  This was really unfortunate because a few of us felt that what Jones was saying was not only incredibly positive, it could help to mend the breaches between the tech giant and the Publishing industry.

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Bookmachine | The Content Graveyard: How much is too much?

BookMachine_logoEver wondered when the content marketing bubble will pop?  Read this fortnight’s BookMachine article to find out.  For the full article, head over to the BookMachine blog.

‘Content is king’ is a familiar adage in publishing circles, but as content marketing begins its apparent decline, that seems unlikely to remain the case.

Content Shock: reaching critical mass

Loosely, content marketing is marketing that involves the creation and sharing of content to acquire and retain customers. For example, a company or organisation might use a blog to answer customer’s question relating to one or more of their products, in order to draw them into a sale. So far, a solid marketing theory.

However, partly fuelled by the content marketing craze, the amount of content on the internet has started to double every 9-24 months. This has major implications for the efficacy of content marketing in the long term because, while there is an infinite amount of content we can produce, there is only so much we can take in. Once we reach this point of critical mass, where there is more content out there than can be consumed, the content marketing model falls apart in a phenomenon being referred to as ‘Content Shock’. [READ MORE]

Bookmachine | AI Authors: Who owns the Rights to the future?

BookMachine_logoBookmachine time again!  This week, I’m discussing the possibility that robots might soon be writing our books and the effects that could have on the Publishing industry.  As ever, if you want to continue reading, head over to the Bookmachine blog.

We need to talk about AIs, algorithms and Rights. Over the next decade or two these issues are only going to become more prominent and will likely become major concerns for the Publishing industry.

AI authors – fact, not fiction!

On Thursday, Publishing Perspectives posted an article on possibility that AIs will soon writing our books for us.

This is not as far out as it first sounds. Major and minor news outlets across the web are already using AI-authored stories on their websites. These AIs are capable of compiling articles from raw data and, for the most part, they are indistinguishable from those written by humans. While these stories are still cleared by human editors and have certain flaws, such as not being able to include quotes, they can produce stories almost instantaneously, and in multiple languages. What’s more, they can create thousands of news stories in the time it takes a human journalist to produce only one.

Needless to say our friends in Silicon Valley are already working on the next generation of these AIs: ones which can write fiction novels. I scoffed a few years ago when I heard they were going to write news stories, I’m not fool enough to scoff again…  [READ MORE]

Bookmachine | Is a royalty-only system the way forward for author payment?

BookMachine_logoAnother fortnight, another Bookmachine article!  This time: how should authors be getting paid?   To read on, head over to the Bookmachine blog.

Last year, The 2014 Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest Author Survey revealed that of the traditionally published authors who took part in the survey, 59.3% earned less than £600 per year. A report from the Authors’ Licensing & Collection Society (ACLS), What Are Words Worth Now?, furthered that average author earnings were below £11,000 per year, down almost £3,500 from the previous report in 2005. Not enough to live on and well below the minimum wage.

The debate over how we pay our authors was hot all year, and it looks not less important as we enter 2015. Clearly, many authors are not making enough money to live on, but is this because we’re paying them unfairly or because their content isn’t selling?

How authors traditionally get paid

Authors generally receive payments for their books via a forward, with royalties thereafter. The forward is a lump sum paid to the author by the publisher when the book is first purchased. The author’s royalties are then taken by the publisher and kept until such time as the author has effectively paid back their forward. It is only at this point that they begin to receive royalties. This is termed ‘earn out’.

Most authors, however, will never achieve ‘earn out’… [READ MORE]

Diversity in Publishing: Report from the SYP AGM 2015

LOGO-SYPTwo days after the Society of Young Publishers (SYP) AGM on Diversity in Publishing, I am still mulling.  As the thoughts coalesce, I can’t help but conclude that there are some fundamental problems in our industry barring diversity.

When we talk about diversity, it has so many definitions.  Seonaid Mcleod has been working with EQUIP (Equality in Publishing) at the PA, which defines it as diversity of sexuality, gender, economic circumstance, ethnicity, geography, education, pregnancy, maternity – the list goes on for a long time!  Indeed, it’s such a broad topic, I hardly know where to begin.

The ‘Diversity in Publishing’ debate panel for the SYP AGM 2015 was composed of Abigail Barclay, Managing Consultant at Inspired Selection; Seonaid Mcleod, PR Executive at the Publisher’s Association (PA); Kyle Cathie, from Kyle Books, and Suzanne Collier, owner of Book Careers.  Despite the irony of a panel composed of four caucasian women, the variety of their viewpoints on the industry gave an insightful overall perspective on the issues at stake.  The points raised cut the industry to its quick.

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Bookmachine | The Future of Twitter in 2015: Panic Stations?

BookMachine_logoAs some of you may know, I have started up a weekly column over on the Bookmachine blog.  Here’s the second installment: should we be panicking about Twitter in 2015?

Tweeps are panicking about the future of Twitter as, in recent months, its famous reverse-chronological timeline, has come under threat. Discussions are now underway on the possibility of introducing algorithmically curated timelines to sort the Tweet from the chaff – but is this really a good thing?

The changing face of Twitter

On the 7th November 2014, Twitter celebrated its first year as a trading business. It’s been a tumultuous year, as the site has consistently failed to meet predicted user sign-up figures, throwing shareholders into fits of anxiety and confidence by turns. Still hoping to become one of the tech giants, Twitter’s had to look at why people aren’t signing up. [READ MORE]