On Tuesday we attended the annual autumn Independent Publishers’ Guild conference, which is a great chance for us to find out more about the latest developments in the industry, get some ideas and inspiration for our own practices, and catch up with old friends. Here are our highlights from the day!

The conference opened with a keynote speech from serial entrepreneur Sam Conniff Allende, the author of self-help book Be More Pirate. He shared his thoughts on the importance of rule-breaking: challenging systems and taking risks to effect positive change and drive success. Sam also compared Golden Age pirates with modern entrepreneurs – in terms of their powerful branding and shrewd tactics!

Booksellers Peter Saxton, Phil Henderson and Tamara Macfarlane

A talk on the importance of fresh branding and operations was led by Stephen Page of Faber and Faber, Nicola Usborne of Usborne Publishing, and Chris Bennett of Cambridge University Press. Each showed how developing modern-looking visual marketing campaigns, analysing previous successes and failures, and maximising the potential of their backlists keep their businesses moving forward.

A trio of trade and children’s retailers – Peter Saxton of Waterstones, Phil Henderson of Blackwell’s and Tamara Macfarlane of Tales on Moon Lane – brought us up to date on the latest trends in bookselling. A particularly welcome development is a surge in the popularity of books celebrating women in non-gender-stereotypical roles and inspirational stories for young girls.

Jeremy Yates-Round of Haynes Publishing showed how he keeps his business agile in a tough climate. Techniques included humorous and imaginative marketing campaigns, both licensing and being licensed by external brands, and offering customers different platforms to access content (e.g. via online apps).

Josie Dobrin of Creative Access

Josie Dobrin of Creative Access and Rik Ubhi of Zed Books led an important discussion on how publishers can attract, welcome and maintain a diverse workforce. Practical tips for recruiters included undertaking unconscious bias training, checking recruitment data to see at what point in the selection process BAME candidates are excluded (and working to fix the filtering systems so that this happens less frequently), avoiding the ‘quick hire’, removing unnecessarily high barriers for entry-level jobs, and making existing BAME hires feel safe, listened to and valued.

Claire Farrell, Extinction Rebellion co-founder

Clare Farrell, the co-founder of Extinction Rebellion (XR) – a climate change mitigation movement – gave a rousing speech on the realities of the climate emergency and the ways in which XR is putting pressure on governments to instigate action on a wider scale. She also explained how the publishing sector can take its own stand via actions as simple as using recycled paper for all books.

The conference wrapped up with a surprise singing lesson from author and musician James Sills – good fun for all!

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