This was a seminar with Chantal Restivo-Alessi, Chief Digital Officer, HarperCollins Publishers, Simon Lipskar, President, Writers House, Michael Cader of Publishers Lunch, and Rebecca Smart CEO, Osprey Group. Concentrating on what to expect in the coming year, all the participants agreed that 2012 was “Act 1” in the reorganization of the publishing industry. How many more acts are to come, nobody could say.
One of the most interesting comments was made by Simon Lipskar, who is a literary agent. He feels that the Penguin/Random House merger will lead to the new company’s serious entry into the book retail market—both online and in store. He can see them opening brick and mortar stores, and Lipskar said that he would be very surprised if this didn’t happen. Rebecca Smart said that she would expect the new Penguin/Random House to make serious use of the Penguin brand in future marketing, as the Penguin brand is the only brand name in the industry that means, exclusively, books.
The moderator raised the possibility of using the subscription model to sell ebooks in the future. All of the participants except Lipskar agreed this might be a good idea. Lipskar, as an agent, said that, while subscriptions are very consumer friendly, he doesn’t think that it could work from an author perspective. He can’t think of a financial or contractual model that would be acceptable to authors. (Talking to a number of literary agents at a panel later in the day, they all agreed with Lipskar about the difficulty of making a subscription model work.)
All parties agreed that in 2013, we will see more targeted marketing efforts and further change. However, we have come to the point, Restivo-Alessi said, that a lot of change is taking place internally in the publishers’ organizations and will not be very visible to the outside.