The SYP Conference 2014 Keynote Address; First Instalment of the Conference Summary Series

We had an absolutely fantastic time at the SYP Conference 2014 on Saturday at the London College of Communication.

As platinum sponsors of the event, Inspired Selection were involved with every aspect of Saturday’s conference; from giving away the official goodie bags (which were very popular) to sitting in on every seminar, tweeting non-stop to snapping lots of great photos and, of course, running a wonderful competition with Waterstone’s vouchers and a Kindle on offer.

Over this week we will be blogging about the day and filling you all in on who said what and add some hints and tips on what the top dogs are really focussing on, especially when trying to be a “Perfect Publisher”. There was so much to learn and talk about we have decided to blog every day so you don’t miss out on a thing…  

The day opened with Ursula Mackenzie’s keynote speech in the main seminar hall. Packed to the rafters, the room listened attentively to Ursula’s overview of the perfect publisher through her examination of where the industry is at now. “Change is exciting, dynamic, it keeps us all on our toes”, she said in relation to the digital revolution in publishing, and went on to discuss, more traditionally, the investment that readers make when they pick up a book, “the biggest investment we make when we read is time”. A lack of time is the main cause for people’s failure to pick up or complete a book. Reading a book is an emotional investment and because of this, a publisher’s and a bookseller’s work is more important now.  

The online world is “awash with unmediated content”, so what can be offered to authors now to help them produce better material? Publishers need to be conscious of what they can do for their authors and they need to stand strong amidst this wash of new digital media. This is not a time for complacency if you are a publisher; the key points to consider are efficiency, clarity of communication and access to sales data. All of these points were echoed throughout the seminars and in our series of blogposts throughout this week, we will examine these in more detail.

Ursula also mentioned how the role of the publisher was meant to be an invisible one; the real relationship is between writer and reader. How, then, do we prevent the publisher being seen as the “unnecessary middle man”, what value can the perfect publisher add for writers? In summary, this is what the perfect publisher can contribute – financial support, editorial experience and help in identifying the potential market for the book and how to reach them. They can also help to forge partnerships for the author, sometimes outside of the industry. Above all, though, a publisher can offer an author a “home” – a comfortable place where they can come together in a group full of peers. Writing can be a lonely business and publishers end up being the colleague, being the “team”.  

Whether deliberate or not, Ursula’s keynote speech was littered with water and tidal references, alluding, perhaps, to the ebb and flow of the publisher’s role in the industry, sometimes deemed as needed and sometimes deemed as not, but always there, regardless.  

Towards the end of her seminar, she spoke about how easy it is to steal digital content and the need that exists to stem that tide of pirated content. She spoke highly of PIPCU and of their contribution to aiding the perfect publisher by prosecuting intellectual property crimes. She concluded with her belief that the young generation of publishers, “you, the audience”, will make the industry even more original, creative and commercially successful. To a building round of applause, she wished everyone a good and informative day at the conference and the crowd dispersed and milled out to the first round of seminars.