HarperCollins CEO Brian Murray on Acquisitions, Industry Change & Importance of Choice
Next, Shatzkin inquired how HarperCollins is managing change and whether bringing in skillsets that the book business hasn't traditionally traded in was a challenge. Murray responded that bringing in such outsiders and leading change is much easier today than 5 to 10 years ago - staff that has come up through the book industry have been witness for the need to change and understand, helping to hasten the pace of change. "That said, it's important that you bring in the right people. Not every Silicon Valley or consultant can parachute into the book business and survive." Murray added that outsiders have to appreciate the history of the book business but also be able to look at new ideas -- and fortunately the industry is much more receptive to new ideas now.
Subscription, Self-Publishing, Indies & Choice
Finally Shatzkin and Murray addressed how the Big 5 publisher is responding to the emergence of self-publishing and subscription platforms in recent years. In this context, Murray stressed the importance of entertaining new ideas and experimenting with new pilot programs. "We don't jump at every opportunity, but you can't stand still... We're willing to learn."
Underlying Murray's thinking on both subscription and self-publishing is the sense that there are positive effects connected to having more choices available - more choices for authors to publish their work and more choices for readers to access that work. Subscription is one channel for expanding reader choice. Independent bookstores also play an important role in this, said Murray. "Having local bookstores is critical to us. We want there to be as much choice for readers as possible."
Self-publishing also presents an opportunity to expand choices within the industry, said Murray. While HarperCollins isn't in the self-publishing business, Murray said the company will apply its core competencies -- editorial, finance, marketing -- to the self-publishing phenomenon, with such things as HarperCollins Publishers Services and by building relationships with authors earlier in their careers.
Denis Wilson was previously content director for Target Marketing, Publishing Executive, and Book Business, as well as the FUSE Media and BRAND United summits. In this role, he analyzed and reported on the fundamental changes affecting the media and marketing industries and aimed to serve content-driven businesses with practical and strategic insight. As a writer, Denis’ work has been published by Fast Company, Rolling Stone, Fortune, and The New York Times.