IPG Autumn Conference 2022

This month Senior Consultants Rhiannon Griffiths and Alice Bidetti attended the IPG Autumn Conference. It was a fantastic event with lots of insights from across the industry, and we’ve picked out our top 10 highlights below!

  1. The conference opened with a Keynote from Dharshini David, BBC Broadcaster, Economist and Author, which was a very timely talk considering recent events in the UK! There are definitely some tough times ahead, however there are a few positives to keep in mind, one of them being that though unemployment was predicted to be at 12% around now (following the pandemic), the actual rate is at the lowest it’s been for 5 decades! We’re always happy to see a busy jobs market at Inspired!


  1. We then heard from Publishing Leaders Will Atkinson, MD & Publisher of Atlantic Books and Sanphy Thomas, MD of Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Will had some wise words in believing in what you do, providing meaning for your staff and getting the whole team on board – knowing your identity as an independent publisher, and keeping in mind why you publish what you publish. Sanphy gave a really inspirational overview on how JKP had responded to changes in the market: one example was referrals for eating disorders had doubled in the UK, with increased anxiety over death and dying, and practitioners needing to respond for online sessions, so JKP have commissioned books in all of these areas, which has been really well received and appreciated by the community. Books can make a profound difference to mental health and quality of life, and compared to other treatments they are quite cost effective, so this is a great opportunity for publishing.


  1. In the Break-out session ‘The Classroom of the Future’, Emily Guille-Marrett from Pickatale spoke about the impact the pandemic has had on learning. It looks like the digital classroom and hybrid learning are here to stay, but there are issues around children having access to equipment and internet, although there are opportunities for popular companies such as gaming companies to create educational editions and bring these to the schools market. There are definitely technologies within the classroom too, which can save teachers time while preserving the “human element,” such as speech technology assessing a child’s level so the teacher has the right data to work with. One great opportunity for publishers is smart partnerships – working with EdTechs who may already have the digital infrastructure, and providing the content – this is something that Pickatale do, licensing content from publishers and using their technology to improve the learning experience.


  1. In the ‘Global Trends in Academic and Professional Publishing’ Break-out session, we heard from James Waller and Lucy Robinson from SAGE Publishing, who emphasised that, although there is a big return to in-person teaching and on-campus life, faculty are feeling more positive and confident in the delivery of hybrid online/in person teaching. Student engagement remains a big challenge though but there is stronger support from institutions to provide free resources for students, and ebooks have seen a massive boost in demand. We’re also seeing a rise in student subscriptions instead of buying print books.


  1. For the ‘Systemising Growth’ Break-out session, Andrew Furlow from Icon Books gave a great insight into their adoption of Biblio, which answered their need for a system to handle all of their current data and also allowing for growth. This involved a huge amount of admin and data migration, and what they learned was that it’s worth spending a lot of time with data, or spend time with someone very confident on Excel! You also really need buy-in from the rest of the team, as the system is only as good as the people using them and the data being inputted, and on reflection they think it might have been better to spread out the staff training on this to ease everyone in a bit better. Graham Bell from EDItEUR also added how it’s important to quiz the vendor for this on how to not only import the data but export it, thinking ahead to needing a new system in 5-10 years or even when trying to sell. You want to know what you’ve got to sell, and you don’t want to be locked into a system!


  1. The last of the Break-out sessions was an exciting ‘TikTok in Publishing’ where we heard from Lauren Goldgrub a leading BookToker and Sophie Robinson, Marketing Director at Marconi Affiliates. TikTok is becoming more of a search engine, and is now Gen Z’s favourite place to search products and ideas. The BookTok community is huge, find them with hashtags such as #BookTok and #BookWorm, and don’t forget to cross-platform promotion, sharing TikTok content on other social media, although 70% of users feel a deeper connection to brands via TikTok than any other social media platform!


  1. After lunch we heard from IPG Chair Phil Turner of Meze Publishing with some of the highlights from the Independent Publishing Report from the IPG’S major survey which had some useful statistics:
  • £5.57 is the average selling price in all formats (academic sales only, £41.26)
  • 25.3% average ebook sales, £2.89 average selling price of ebooks
  • 38.8% average exports and right sales as a proportion of total sales
  • 15.6% proportion of new titles written by first time authors
  • Average of 69 new titles per publisher in 2021

In terms of staff training, most needed support in metadata, then marketing, rights and legal. 32% of publishers specified training budgets.


  1. We then heard all about The Book Journey’s Project. Project 1 was looking at the supply chain from print books to hands of consumers with targets on efficiency transportation, greening logistics and packaging, localising printers. Project 2 is now looking at the end of life for books, returning and pulping. The emissions are mainly seen in transport, high quality high priced hardbacks are most likely to go back into stock and return journeys are not always wasteful if the trucks already had the journeys planned for new books. Nigel Wyman from Gardners spoke about how they looked at reducing their packaging and pallets to make their process more efficient – they gave themselves a target in 2016 of reducing emissions by 20% and in 2020 they hit their target and achieved 22%. David Taylor at Ingram spoke about their Print-on-Demand business, which has tackled waste by only printing those as ordered, encouraging sales with a virtual inventory listing items as available.


  1. Meryl Halls from The Booksellers Association spoke about how publishers can sell smarter to booksellers and how booksellers can buy smart. The main plea to publishers it to trust the booksellers:  they know the market, they are embedded into the community, but can be pressured into overpurchasing as sales reps are incentivised to over sell. Empower the rep forces, equip them to work closely with the bookseller and trust the quantities recommended, thinking of reps as relationship managers rather than sales people. Invite booksellers into the business too to see, and communicate to marketing and publicity that unnecessary proofs or gimmicks might not always help them sell – they want information about the book, enthusiasm and ideally an author event!


  1. Finally we heard from David Taylor from Ingram for his popular overview of how publishing sectors and markets around the world have been performing. Since the pandemic, there’s been lots of growth, particularly in online sales, and we’ve seen independent bookshops do well, however the number of bookshops has declined, particularly in Europe. In 7 years, Italy lost 337 bookshops, but in India lots have come back and are making growth plans. Europe is not predicting growth, but Asia is along with South Africa and Brazil. Some challenges have included growing paper costs, difficulty in finding equipment and geopolitical costs. Inflation has been seen to be rising globally. In terms of trends, virtual warehouses with books that don’t physically exist yet are on the up with more Print-on-Demand production!

We learned lots and met lots of brilliant publishing professionals! There was an exciting finish to the conference also with the performance of Indie Hits from Landline, whose drummer is from Faber and Faber! We always have a fantastic time at the IPG Conference and very much enjoyed exhibiting. We’re looking forward to the next one already!