London Book Fair Report: The Great Debate
My takeaway from The Great Debate is that both big and small publishers have much to learn from each other. Though small companies can't by mere will have greater resources or a massive distribution mechanism, as they grow they should strive to retain those characteristics that allowed them to thrive in the first place. Not always but often, as companies grow, agility is traded for momentum, depth for breadth, intimacy for anonymity, common sense for corporate policy.
The debaters on the side of small publishers maligned the large publishers for emulating small publishers with indie-looking imprints and for paying lip service to what it means to be small. And they're right: large publishers should aim to embody rather than just emulate.
Meanwhile, small publishers should seek the efficiencies and policies that make large publishers streamlined machines without losing their personalities. As publishers grow, eventually more emphasis is put on the mechanics of business. Corporate mission statements aside, they tend to serve the mechanism more than the product and the end-user, and that is not something readers can't identify with.
But like it or hate it, great small publishers don't remain so for long.
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.