Publishing is a business. Sometimes it can be easy to forget, as the creative side may take centre stage in our minds. However there is a balance between literature, culture and economics. Examining how the business side affects creatives and what they require from their publishers was the topic for the panel discussion chaired by Molly Ker Hawn (The Bent Agency) during The Bookseller Children’s Conference this year. She asked what new creators, established creators and ethnic minorities needed in 2021.
Catherine Coe (Founder of All Stories) stated that new creators needed clarity and explanation of jargon such as POS. She highlighted the importance of transparency, keeping creators informed and being honest with them regarding promotional expectations. Giving practical tips and advice about using social media such as when to tweet would benefit creators. Providing information such as selling figures and print runs would also be of help. Jasmine Richards (Founder of Storymix) agreed adding that every creator is different and should be empowered, not treated as a delicate flower. The reality of the business should be shown to new creators with support but also honesty.
When considering established creators, Coe said they needed more support in their strategy for the future, and maximising the backlist should be considered in strategy. Rashmi Sirdeshpande (Author) pointed out how authors often felt vulnerable, not part of the team and that partnership must be created. Creators do not always know what success looks like to a publisher, so more clarity is needed. Discussing what ethnic minority creators need, Richards said publishers should be supportive and sensitive to how it can be intimidating for new creators of colour to speak up. She mentioned hearing coded language used by publishers, to ”make the book more urban”. Coe added that the pressure creators feel to represent their group should be acknowledged. Perhaps more publishers would benefit from equality training, such as that provided by Justine King (Education Co-ordinator, Show Racism the Red Card) who spoke earlier in the talk ”Explaining racism to young children” about running workshops on anti-discrimination and empowerment.
Jodie Lancet-Grant (Bluebird) highlighted the need for promotional direction, for publishers to consider how to best support each individual creator, and to make best use of the creator’s time with events of value. Ker Hawn suggested the need for editors starting out to be informed and helped in broaching difficult conversations with authors. Richards added that authors should be empowered with information from the publishers (regarding print runs etc.).
What is needed for all creatives, new and established, from their publishers in 2021 is clarity and honesty. In spending the time to develop supportive relationships with their authors, by treating creators with respect, and being clear in their expectations and the amount of promotional support available, publishers may learn that honesty is the best policy.