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A few thoughts from our week

Overall, the 2016 London Book Fair was a resounding success. The vibe was positive, the speakers were knowledgable, and the exhibitors mostly enjoyed themselves and made some contacts in the process. The Ribbonfish team was milling around for most of the week, watching talks and bumping into old friends and colleagues along the way. We’ve got some great interviews lined up for the next few weeks, so watch this space.

In the meantime, here’s a brief overview of some themes from this year’s Book Fair.

Digital:
Whilst the publishing world is definitely getting to grips with digital, the popularity of talks and seminars on digital topics highlighted the remaining unease for many. The Quantum conference on Monday had some superb speakers, yet much of what they were saying could well be instilled into the minds of publishers already.

Diversification:
One consistent theme was that of diversifying content into apps, interactive games, video, and more. Expert panellists at the Quantum conference insisted on the need for a solid publishing strategy on these platforms, rather than going in half-hearted. It’s about realising the value of great ideas in different markets, and making them work harder for you in the long-term.

Direct-to-market:
There was much talk about improvements that need to be made in eCommerce and mCommerce in the publishing world. Publishers no longer need to rely on the book stores to sell their products, they can cut out the middle man if they do it right. In order to do this, systems have to be efficient and data has to be seamless. User experience in the order process is paramount.

Social:
It seems that authors and publishers can still often struggle with how social media should be used to market books, authors, and themselves as a business. The emphasis this year was to be human, interact and engage with existing communities, and harness the power of influencers when promoting books. The effectiveness of closely targeted social media advertising was also mentioned more than once.

Shops will survive:
Two individuals that battle hard to promote the magic of the book store are James Daunt of Waterstones and Kieron Smith of Blackwell. Both talked about how online experiences will never replace the feeling of walking into a bookstore, but digital provides amazing new opportunities to reach an audience. The high street bookstore will survive, but must up its game to provide an unrivalled personal experience that cannot be matched.

No clear path:
The route to publishing success is rocky and full of risks. For authors, their journey to publication rarely goes as they imagine, and is prone to disruption at any time. For publishers, the route to sure-fire success is littered with obstacles, and the constantly changing consumer habits are not to be underestimated.

Thanks to everyone that took the time to chat to us this year. It was good to catch up with a few friends and reacquaint ourselves with the guys and girls of the ever-vibrant publishing industry.

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