London Book Fair Part 2: Industry Trends and Takeaways

By Corinne Moulder, VP of Business Development

London Book Fair for authors, publishers, and book marketers. Trade show season is back! It’s been an exciting 2023 for Smith Publicity, having attended Digital Book World, the London Book Fair, the annual BISG meeting and, even this week, speaking at IBPA’s Publishing University in San Diego. Soaking in industry trends and forecasts, making new connections while reinforcing bonds with those who’ve come before, and engaging in real-time conversation around books, marketing, and technology has reinforced several industry trends that we’ve already been monitoring and unearthed new, exciting opportunities to come.

Independent Publishing—An Unstoppable Force

“Publishing is no longer a career; it’s a business.” Orna Ross, Alliance of Independent Authors
This was a quote that I took in at the London Book Fair during a session on the average gross profit of self-published authors. At the London Book Fair, the energy around the Author HQ—the speaker stage devoted to panelists and professionals sharing insights and data around independent publishing—was palpable. With individuals sitting on the floor and lining the outside of the stage for nearly every presentation in the Author HQ, it was clear that education around independent/self-publishing remains in high demand. In previous years, I understood London, like many other trade shows, was mostly geared towards traditional publishers and the vendors who support them; however, as independent publishing continues to rise in demand and is seemingly becoming more widely accepted on a global level—or, if not accepted, at least recognized as a force that can’t be stopped—I have little doubt LBF’s Author HQ will only grow in size.

Authors are approaching their publishing endeavors with a business mindset and, the truth is, many have been doing so for years. Now, in today’s landscape, it’s even more critical to tackle independent publishing wearing a business hat: how will you monetize attention for your book/brand once people have caught on?; how are you activating your network to rally early sales?; what partners are you bringing in to execute your marketing plan?. Considering Smith Publicity’s unique start in the book world—primarily serving independent and self-published authors from the very beginning nearly 26 years ago—our team has long embraced the business mentality of indie publishing and upheld the author-centric dynamic within our campaigns for decades. To see the refinement around how self-publishing is being discussed and, further, the recognition of the great impact it can bring to an author/expert brand is something to celebrate!

Formalization of Data/Reporting within the Industry

This was the theme of the opening keynote, delivered by IPA President Karine Pansa, at Digital Book World—a presentation that touched on setbacks caused by the lack of data, and has been an underlying theme in many of the presentations and panels Smith has been fortunate to join this year, including the annual BISG meeting just last week—the focus almost exclusively on data as it relates to supply chain/distribution. There is a major push towards further transparency in data/reporting as, it seems, for far too long data has been siloed based on each publisher or publishing partners’ own best practices—in the United States and around the globe—making accessibility, rights, metadata, distribution, and the electronification of publishing, among many other areas, difficult to track trends. This, in turn, makes it difficult for all to effectively navigate the future. These inconsistencies and setbacks yield great opportunity for software and technology vendors to step in and offer solutions.

Technology & AI

Attendant at London Book Fair for authors, writers, publishers, and book publicists. We’re told that ChatGPT and AI will not replace humans and after hearing more about available technologies, it seems what AI and technology will bring to publishing and marketing is efficiency, connectedness (particularly as it relates to data sharing and standardization), and accessibility, among other opportunities.

By using AI and other technological tools, publishers can automate many of the time-consuming tasks involved in the publishing process, such as proofreading, editing, formatting, and even getting a leg up on translation. This can help publishers save time and resources, allowing them to focus on more important aspects of their work, such as content creation and marketing. Technology can help publishers make their books more accessible to readers with disabilities, making the art of publishing and reading more inclusive. And with advances in data analysis and AI, publishers are able to analyze large amounts of data to gain insight to reader behaviors which can help them make more informed decisions about their books and marketing plans.

Covid, in many ways, gave the publishing industry the push it might have needed to break into new spaces with technology, to lean into author-centric marketing opportunities, and to grow together through shared data and solutions for accessibility. With shows open and attendance growing once again, it’s exciting to think of how the possibilities that lie ahead will further shape the industry!