Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

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ABA Conference round-up

The 2013 Australian Booksellers Association (ABA) Conference was held at the Hilton Adelaide from 16-17 June.

Approximately 260 members of the industry attended the first day of the conference, which included a three-hour joint trade exhibition with Leading Edge Books, which held its annual conference at the Hilton from 14-16 June. More than 150 people, mainly booksellers, attended the second day of the conference.

ABA CEO Joel Becker told Books+Publishing that the ABA was ‘very pleased’ with the conference and that the feedback so far has been positive. Becker said that Jane Caro’s keynote address got the conference ‘off to a positive start’ and the influence of her speech, as well the speech given by author Christos Tsiolkas at the conference dinner, was evident throughout the following two days, with many speakers referencing their remarks.

Becker said that members of the ABA management committee also enjoyed a productive full-day meeting with members of the English Language Booksellers Association on the Tuesday following the conference. Lincoln Gould, CEO of Booksellers New Zealand, Tim Godfrey, CEO of the Booksellers Association of the UK and Ireland, and Oren Teicher, CEO of the American Booksellers Association, joined Becker in a panel on global bookselling on the Sunday afternoon.

Other sessions at the conference included a presentation on TitlePage Plus, panels on children’s bookselling and catering to local communities, and updates from Nielsen and the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

A number of changes to the ABA management committee were also announced during the conference, including the election of Patricia Genat, managing director of ALS Library Services, as the new ABA president. Genat formally closed the conference on Monday afternoon and said that the ABA will be surveying conference attendees and ABA members in coming weeks about the conference and asking for suggestions for a location for next year’s conference.

Caro, Pink: Selling ‘ideas’ with ‘attunement, buoyancy and clarity’
The conference featured keynote addresses from two authors, Jane Caro and Daniel Pink.

Opening the conference on Sunday morning, Jane Caro spoke of the two main motivations that change behaviour, hope and fear, and looked at the way these motivations shape the business world. She said that booksellers can take a number of lessons from the advertising industry, including the key point that retailers are not selling ‘things’, in this case books, but are instead selling ‘ideas’, and that there is an opportunity for booksellers to act as the conduit for readers to engage in emotional experiences. She added that there is a ‘romance’ between buyers and sellers, and that taking buyers for granted can leave them ‘open to better offers’.

Caro also likened the rise of digital publishing to the rise of past technologies such as radio and television, saying: ‘Books were the only medium once. We haven’t died. We’ve readjusted.’

On Sunday morning Daniel Pink, author of To Sell is Human (Text), delivered a pre-recorded keynote about the changing nature of selling. Pink said that we have reached a state of ‘information parity’, in which the buyer approaches a transaction with as much information as the seller, and that sellers need to use principles of ‘attunement, buoyancy and clarity’ to sell effectively.

Celebrating Bookselling
The ABA’s ‘Celebrating Bookselling’ gala dinner was held on Sunday evening. Hosted by actor and crime writer Jane Clifton, whose novels include Half Past Dead and A Hand in the Bush (both Text), the event included meals designed by author and TV presenter Adam Liaw, based on recipes from his forthcoming book Asian after Work (Hachette). Accompanying wines were selected by winemaker James Halliday, the author of several wine companions, including James Halliday Australian Wine Companion 2014 (Hardie Grant).

The gala honoured booksellers with a number of awards. Martin Shaw from Readings in Melbourne won the Text Publishing Bookseller of the Year Award and Louise Fay from Dymocks Adelaide won the Random House Young Bookseller of the Year Award. The Elizabeth Riley Fellowship for Children’s Bookselling was presented to Lindy Bennett from Gleebooks in Sydney. To read Shaw’s acceptance speech, visit the Readings website here.

Other announcements included the Nielsen BookData Booksellers Choice Award, which went to The Light between Oceans by M L Stedman (Vintage). A number of donations to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation were also recognised, including a $48,000 donation from the now-closed Independent Booksellers Network in Victoria, which was announced in January.

Author Christos Tsiolkas was the guest speaker at the gala. The author reflected on the process of writing his forthcoming book Barracuda (A&U) and implored writers to resist envy and competition, calling instead for ‘more kindness in the world’. Tsolkias received a standing ovation from the audience.

TitlePage, National Bookshop Day and ILF
On Sunday, Gary Pengelly from Thorpe-Bowker, owner of Books+Publishing, presented a session on the recently launched TitlePage Plus and Copia. The session included an online demonstration by Copia’s Mathew Barlow, who took the audience through the functions of the white-label stores offered by Copia. Members of the audience asked questions around the pricing of TitlePage Plus and how the product’s Customer Direct Fulfilment service and free freight will work.

The conference also included an update from the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF), featuring executive director Karen Williams, program manager Tina Raye and author Dylan Coleman. Williams thanked booksellers for their support and announced a new initiative, the Pamela Lofts Bequest for Literacy and Learning, which will be used to mentor children in remote communities in the Northern Territory and Western Australia. Coleman urged booksellers to stock Indigenous literature, telling the audience: ‘You don’t know whose life the books might change.’ This year’s Indigenous Literacy Day will be held on 4 September.

In another session, ABA staff outlined a number of new initiatives to promote this year’s National Bookshop Day, which will be held on 10 August. Initiatives include short videos featuring authors Markus Zusak and William McInnes that are designed to be distributed on social media, a national competition for people to vote for their favourite bookshop, and free mini-editions of books to be distributed on the day. Read more about the initiatives here.

Industry forum
This year’s industry forum was chaired by ABA president Patricia Genat and included immediate past president of the ABA and general manager of Pages & Pages Booksellers Jon Page, ABA first vice president and co-owner of The Little Bookroom Leesa Lambert, Dymocks managing director Steve Cox, Simon & Schuster Australia managing director Lou Johnson, Hachette Australia CEO Matt Richell and Allen & Unwin sales and marketing director Jim Demetriou.

Genat kicked off the session with a question to Page and Johnson about the Book Industry Collaboration Council (BICC) and its progress. Page said that the council will be delivering a report to the industry on 1 July, which will present a ‘roadmap’ for the future of the industry. As previously reported by Books+Publishing, the report will include a proposal for a permanent, industry-wide council to continue the BICC’s work.

The panellists also tackled the topic of metadata. Demetriou, Richell and Johnson all agreed that high-quality metadata is ‘vitally important’ to the industry, especially in regard to online sales, and all acknowledged that there is room for improvement. Having good metadata ‘sounds simple’, said Johnson, but ‘it takes work and commitment, and publishers know that’. Johnson also acknowledged that there is still work to be done to improve speed-to-market for locally published books. She said publishers are getting better at supplying the ‘big titles’, but the ‘long tail’ is much harder.

Other topics covered included price discounting, with Richell saying that discounts are often determined by the loss-leading discount department stores such as Big W, and publishers selling directly to consumers from their websites. Demetriou said that Allen & Unwin sells a small amount of titles from its website and decided to offer online sales as a service to its authors who have fans overseas. Page said the ABA is not comfortable with publishers selling direct, but added that ‘bookshops can sell books better’.

Nielsen update
Following on from his session at the Leading Edge Books Conference on Saturday morning, general manager of Nielsen Book Australia Shaun Symonds provided an update on the local market in a session on Monday morning. Symonds was joined by the CEO of Nielsen Global Jonathon Nowell, who offered some insights into global sales trends.

Nowell began his presentation by offering an overview of consumer confidence in the regions monitored by Nielsen. Australia is on the higher end of the consumer confidence scale and European countries are on the lower end. Interestingly, the only region monitored by Nielsen that recorded growth in book sales in 2012 was India. In Australia, while books sales are still above 2005 levels, Nielsen data shows that sales peaked in 2009 and have declined since.

Nowell also offered insights into the merger of Penguin and Random House, which he said will have a combined market share in Australia of 27% once the merger is complete, and the local and international sales of Fifty Shades of Grey (E L James, Arrow). In 2012, sales of the ‘Fifty Shades’ books totalled $2.7 million in Australia, compared to $13.1 million in the US. However, Nowell declared the UK as the most ‘erotically charged’ region based on sales of ‘Fifty Shades’ on a per capita basis.

Nowell said 7.7 million people in the UK have now purchased an ebook, with ebooks accounting for approximately 7.7% of the UK book market. Fiction is the dominant genre in ebook sales in the UK. Responding to a question from the audience, Nowell said that Nielsen is talking to publishers about tracking ebook sales in Australia but said that he could not give a date for when this might begin.

Children’s bookselling
On Monday afternoon, The Little Bookroom’s Leesa Lambert chaired a panel on children’s bookselling and was joined by Deb Force, owner of the Sun Bookshop and the Younger Sun in Melbourne; Natasha Boyd, co-owner of Book Bonding in Niddre, Victoria; and Amelia Lush, specialist children’s bookseller from Better Read Than Dead in Sydney.

Lush spoke briefly about a guide to children’s bookselling that she is developing as part of her ABA Elizabeth Riley Fellowship. She hopes to have the guide finalised over the coming months. ABA members will be able to access the guide via the ABA website.

Boyd gave an overview of the schools program that she has developed at Book Bonding, which involves visiting local schools to give talks about new release books to students. The students then vote on their favourite books and the schools order the titles from Book Bonding.

Working with local communities, bookselling best practice
The conference concluded with two sessions about catering to your bookshop’s local community and best practice tips from a number of booksellers.

Jane Seaton, owner of Beaufort Street Books in Perth, inspired many booksellers in the room when she spoke about some of the marketing and events that she has recently introduced at her store. Among the favourites was Seaton’s idea to rent her bookstore to a local yoga studio after-hours, and her literary speed-dating initiative, which has attracted local media attention. Seaton said she always plans events with the primary purpose of getting people talking about her store.

Avenue Bookstore owner Chris Redfern also spoke on the panel, sharing his recent experience of opening a second bookstore in Elsternwick in Melbourne. Redfern borrowed Jane Caro’s words to describe the ‘hope and fear’ of opening the second store, which had strong ties to the local community. Co-op managing director Peter Knock also touched on fear in his presentation about how change occurs within organisations such as the Co-op, which rebranded earlier this year.

Pages & Pages Booksellers’ ‘Kindle Amnesty’ was one of the topics discussed during the best practice session. Pages & Pages general manager Jon Page used the amnesty as an example of how a bookstore can create a successful media campaign, telling the audience that media campaigns are about ‘building a story’.

Avid Reader’s Fiona Stager presented some dos and don’ts when it comes to running a successful events program, and shared her event motto: ‘Someone always pays.’ Dymocks Adelaide owner Mandy Macky also offered some practical advice in her presentation on minimising expenses. Macky said it is important to ‘shop around’ when paying for services, and said small savings, such as saving 40 cents on a range of postcards, can make a difference.



Category: Local news