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Everything you need to know from the IPG Spring Conference

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IPGSC-books-and-iPadEarlier this month, the Independent Publishers’ Guild spring conference(#IPGSC) took place in the heart of the Oxfordshire countryside. The popular three-day event allows people from across the “indie” book business to share experiences and expertise, put faces to names and generate future business. Naturally, the OOH team was there – here’s the lowdown.

The IPG is the leading trade association representing independent publishers in the UK. The burgeoning community is made up of 560 members of all shapes and sizes, from big-name brands such as Faber & Faber and Bloomsbury to dozens of smaller enterprises, including one-man bands, startups and packagers.

Known for the excellent “advice, benefits and information” it offers its members, the IPG helps businesses to navigate the publishing industry, with its endless challenges and opportunities, not least in the digital space. One of the best membership perks is the annual conference, which typically features more than 25 sessions, including talks and break-out discussions.

At this year’s conference, which took place in the first week of March, speakers included everyone from data specialists to marketers, retailers and publishers.

Here’s everything you need to know:

Shifting power

The running theme of the event was that digital technologies have transformed the publishing business, giving content creators and users more power than ever before. Phil Ollila, Chief Content Officer at Ingram, summed it up perfectly when he said: “There’s a power shift – from publishers and retailers to authors and readers”.

A similar idea came from Sandy Grant of non-fiction publisher Hardie Grant, who explained: “We need to transform our relationship with authors – we have to justify our existence. Self-publishing can look a lot more attractive if we don’t bring enough to the table.”

Books and Facebook

Georgina Atwell, formerly of Apple iBooks and founder of Toppsta, the new review and recommendations community for children’s books, explored the role of Facebook as a discovery and promotion tool – particularly among non-traditional book-buyers. Atwell also reminded publishers of the benefits of well-written, regular posts on the social-media site.

Linked to this were more general discussions about the wealth of online opportunities for indie booksellers.

The power of video

When it comes to getting the most out of your content, video came up time and time again as a great way to repurpose and promote books. “Video is causing the greatest disruption for… books than any other digital change,” said James Woollam of F+W Media. “This isn’t something that is unattainable… Producing TV can be pretty low cost, and you can turn it into sales quite quickly.”

Other opportunities for slicing and dicing content for online platforms were discussed at the event. In fact, it was agreed that this type of forethought should be built into any publishing strategy from the outset, though Bloomsbury’s Eela Devani had a word of warning: “It’s not about using technology for the sake of it – it’s got to be about the content.”

A boost for bookshops

James Daunt and David Prescott, CEOs of Waterstones and Blackwells, respectively, both discussed the gathering momentum of high-street bookshops: Waterstone’s has bounced back from several challenging years and Blackwells aims to grow sales of its trade and academic titles. Also, more power is being devolved to individual stores, which can only be a good thing for indie publishers.

Daunt also discussed the success of current children’s publishing, which has driven the growth of Waterstones recently. Children’s titles now represent nearly 30 percent of all books bought, with picture books doing particularly well.

Words of wisdom

We’d like to end this blog with the words of Peter Usborne, founder of the renowned children’s publisher that shares his name, who closed proceedings with some pearls of wisdom on the indie-book industry as a whole.

“Aren’t we lucky?”, he said. “There are millions of people doing things not a tenth as interesting as publishing… it’s given me years and years of unalloyed fun and pleasure”. We couldn’t agree more!

Did you go to the IPG conference this year? Let us know below, or onFacebook or Twitter.

Thanks to Owni /-) for the image.