London Book Fair Report: The Great Debate
Small is Better: Stephen Page & Scott Waxman
On the other side of the argument -- in the friendly sense of the word -- was Stephen Page, CEO of Faber & Faber. "Scale does not matter anymore in the digital age," says Page. Rather what matters most is taste and the ability to communicate with authors and readers on a human-to-human level.
Page believes that the publishing world has changed. Where the old world was all about control of distribution and access to mass market accounts, intimacy and taste are the heart of publishing and the true differentiators -- and the reason so many large publishers have "hoovered up" small publishers. They must import what they don't have. Page went so far as to say it's an "obsession" on the part of large publishers. "Big companies have so many imprints because they want to emulate being small," says Page.
For Page, the top-down, curatorial (dare, dictatorial) model of publishing is over -- mimicking the large publishers: "We don't want too much diversity in the market. We want them to like the voices we decide on."
The times-they-are-a-changing, argues Scott Waxman of Diversion Books: "Bigger is always slower and in a fast-changing industry, maneuverability is crucial. The little vessel reacts faster than the large one."
Waxman lamented the risk-aversion of corporate managers. Evidence of their turgid immobility is the fact that they are looking so much to learn from self-publishers and small-publishers. "What we have here is a model that is very attractive to authors," says Waxman.
Small publishers are flexible, innovative, and swift, serving audiences in a very direct way, says Waxman. On top of that, legacy publishing is a deteriorating market and the old whales are weighed down by a print model they struggle to detach themselves from, says Waxman.
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.