Something exciting happened a few weeks ago. You might have heard of it: a little something called The Bookseller Children’s Conference. I was lucky enough to watch all the different conferences and I might have taken a few notes.
One of the panels that particularly interested me focused on the way libraries, book festivals and publishing companies still managed to earn money during and post lockdown. It was presented by Candy Gourlay, a middle-grade author. The three panelists were:
- Zoey Dixon, a librarian at Lambeth Libraries;
- Tom Bonnick, a senior commissioning editor and business development manager at Nosy Crow;
- Rachel Fox, a children and schools programme director at Edinburgh Book Festival.
If like me you’re very fond of your local library, lockdown must have been tough. I understand. But guess what? We got through it, and so did our libraries. Want to know how? They adapted. Librarians got out of their comfort zone and put themselves out there. If that’s not a testament of their love for us, I don’t know what it is. Because these librarians dedicated their time to hosting new and exciting online events, more people decided to become members and keep the library alive and well.
The same thing happened for book festivals and publishing companies. They had to decide if they would keep on working the same way or adapt so they could provide the best service possible. They reimagined themselves.
The Edinburgh Book Festival had to be inventive and find a way to go online without the quality of their events suffering from this change. You would think that the events being free wouldn’t exactly be a good idea if the ultimate goal is to earn money, but being online made it possible for people all around the world to join. Now think for a second: what do readers love above all else? Did someone say a personalised signed edition? Correct. Because more people could join the festival this year, it also meant that more people were able to buy books from the festival bookshop and join the online signings.
The people at Nosy Crow decided to move from a print publishing to a digital one. This choice made the most sense to them and allowed them not to let go of anyone. Well, it also made it possible for them to keep on making money, which, you know, is quite nice when you think of it. That being said, they found a way to make revenue while making a lot of their resources available for free online. Tom Bonnick explained that they managed to do that by tapping into their backlist, because making titles part of some series available encouraged readers to buy the rest. They also created a new illustrated non-fiction book about coronavirus for children, and put it for free on their website. The response was phenomenal. The book was downloaded 1.5 million times from their website only. They might not have gotten any money from it, but it allowed them to reach the whole world and connect with a new audience, a new potential market. In an article from May 22, 2020 for The Bookseller, they revealed that their sales were 15% up year on year.
In the end, if lockdown and its aftermath proved one thing, it’s that the bookish world is nothing if not resilient.