Publishing News: Issue 18
The Reading Agency Announces New Campaign to Combat Loneliness
By Lucy Downer
The Reading Agency has unveiled a new campaign titled Read, Talk, Share, with the aim of combatting loneliness and improving people’s wellbeing through reading. As the COVID-19 outbreak has shown, reading has the power to provide escapism and friendship, not only through the characters readers engage with, but with the connections to others they make through the shared experience of reading.
This new initiative has been made possible through a £3.5 million award from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS). This funding will provide a huge investment in library services and signals the government’s recognition of the positive mental benefits of bibliotherapy. The campaign will build upon the Reading Agency’s successful programmes Reading Well and Reading Friends that have already been established.
Karen Napier, CEO of The Reading Agency, said:
“Tackling loneliness and supporting mental health and wellbeing across the country has always been a priority for The Reading Agency…Our mission remains to help people tackle life's challenges through the proven power of reading, and to bring people together, ease our burdens, and foster wellbeing and understanding. We are immensely grateful to DCMS for their support – this feels like a real vote of continued confidence in the role of public libraries and their important contribution to society.”
The Reading Well initiative makes self-help books recommended by mental health experts more easily accessible to readers from all backgrounds and ages. It works closely with library services across England on books that cover a range of topics including: mindfulness, anxiety, grief, OCD, and stress. An incredible 90% of Reading Well users said they found their book helpful for understanding and managing their conditions.
The Reading Friends campaign tackles isolation by bringing people together to share stories and meet new friends. This new grant from DCMS will enable the expansion of the programme to seventy-five library authorities in England. The programme is delivered by volunteers and participants and will take place in a socially-distanced manner and over telephone and video call. After taking part in ‘Reading Friends’, 83% of participants and 95% of volunteers reported feeling more connected to other people.
There is no doubt that the ongoing COVID-19 crisis has had a huge impact on the country’s mental and emotional wellbeing. Hopefully government-backed initiatives like this can go some way to healing, supporting and reconnecting people through the power of reading.
New Cue: Former Q Magazine Editors Launch Weekly Online Newsletter
By Carmel Jordan
In July of last year Bauer Media were forced to end their famous monthly music magazine, Q. Once an important part of the British music press, the magazine folded as a result of the pressures of publishing during the pandemic. Now, the former editors of Q have launched a weekly direct-to-inbox online newsletter called The New Cue that will be edited by the former Q editor, Ted Kessler, and staff members Chris Catchpole and Niall Doherty.
The newsletter launched on 26 February and will continue to distribute a new e-publication every Friday morning. So far, the first edition contained new interviews from artists including St Vincent, Arlo Parks and Tony Visconti, along with playlists and recommendations.
The first few editions of The New Cue are set to be free followed by a monthly subscription fee of £5 or an annual fee of £55, with occasional free weeks. According to The Guardian, more than 1,200 readers had signed up in the weeks prior to launch.
So what does this mean for print publication? According to the magazine distributor Seymour, only 113 print magazines entered the market last year, which is the lowest number on record. Meanwhile, the number of magazines ceasing print has risen by 16% year on year.
With the competition from digital media and plenty of free online publications, it’s not hard to see why so many print magazines are struggling in the current climate, but this is, perhaps, nothing new. Over the past ten to twenty years our reading habits have changed. We now live in a world where we want to consume information instantaneously.
Despite this, Hearst, who publish more than 300 magazines around the world, say subscriptions have leapt 233% during lockdown, with supermarkets selling just 10% fewer magazines.
While some more niche magazines seem to be on the decline, there are plenty still thriving – an indication that newsletters won’t completely overtake print publications. It’s also worth noting that magazines don’t just exist in their print format and usually have a number of online articles, some of which attract revenue through paywalls.
Ultimately, it’s great to see journalism surviving in new, versatile platforms. Kessler has said that he hoped The New Cue would not only be a new music publication, but would also be about “collaboration, being part of a team, getting a rhythm going on a publication.”
You can subscribe to The New Cue here.
Hachette and Simon&Schuster Announce Record Sales
By Molly Anna Chell
Over the last year, there has been widespread concern across the industry about how the repeated closures of bookstores would affect sales. For two of the country’s big five publishers, the recent announcement that they both enjoyed a record year of sales in 2020 suggests that the closure of stores has not been as detrimental as was first feared. ViacomCBS reported worldwide sales of $901m last year, marking an 11% increase on 2019’s figures. Meanwhile, Hachette’s revenue increased by 9.9%.
At first glance, these figures would seem to suggest that overall the pandemic has not prevented the growth of the industry. However, if we explore some of the reasons for Hachette and Simon and Schuster’s record year in sales, this isn’t the whole picture. A significant reason behind Hachette’s success was the increase in the number of bestsellers appearing in The Sunday Times bestseller list, including Midnight Sun, Where The Crawdads Sing, Hamnet and A Time For Mercy. Previously at The Publishing Post we have touched on whether publishers are becoming more reliant on big titles and names. This latest news seems to add further support to this argument.
Whilst print still makes up most of a publisher’s revenue, Lagardere’s annual financial report also revealed that there was a significant increase in sales from ebooks and audio. Ebooks constituted 9.5% of their revenue, an increase from 7.7% in 2019. Jonathan Karp, Publisher and CEO of S&S UK told Publisher’s Lunch that they had also experienced a rise in audio revenue, with digital sales amounting to 28.5% of the total. It is to be expected that publishers with larger ebook and audiobook programmes will have found it easier to offset their losses from physical sales than publishers with small digital offerings.
This opens a debate over the extent to which the big five have had it easier than the indies, although every publisher regardless of size has been faced with a unique set of challenges over the last year. Undoubtedly the profile of the titles published by the key players has helped them to weather the pandemic in a way not open to indie publishers, who will rely more heavily on bookstores to distribute their books. Considering the resources of a publisher like Hachette, the closure of stores would not have seemed as disastrous as it would for smaller businesses. For indies, bookstores are an important source of discovery, as unlike publishers like Hachette and Simon and Schuster public awareness of their titles may be limited.
Whilst industry records being made despite the pandemic is fantastic news, it does raise the question of whether this will make it even harder for smaller presses to compete with the big five in the future.
Good news for bookshops as online platform hits £1m and high street reopens in April
By Katie Gough
After a gruelling twelve months for bookshops, The Publishing Post is happy to bring an uplifting story for bookselling.
In less than four months after the announcement of the UK branch of bookshop.org, the platform has hit the milestone figure of raising £1m for independent bookshops around the UK.
From a sale made on the site, 30% of the cover price goes to the independent bookshop and 50% goes to the publisher. Of this 50%, 10% then goes into the pool for participating bookshops. So, on 1 March, when £1 million was hit, £633,000 came from bookshops making sales through the site. Other huge figures for bookshop.org include more than 400 participating bookshops and 6,000 affiliates.
Nicole Vanderbilt, MD of bookshop.org UK, offered The Publishing Post a direct comment on their success, "We are thrilled that the platform has received so much support from readers, publishers, authors and affiliates here in the UK. This £1m has made a big difference to independent bookshops across the country, but it's also just the beginning. There's an enormous online book buying market out there, and we aim to help the independents get an even bigger share of it."
Hailed upon its opening as the ethically alternative that could compete with Amazon, bookshop.org is clearly beating the pandemic and allowing our independent bookshops to survive too. @SReadBooks of Sam Read Bookseller, Grasmere tweeted how pleased they were:
“Here in Grasmere, we're proud to be one of the 410 indie bookshops sharing the £1m profit generated on bookshop.org since November 2020. Wherever you've been buying books, thank you to all customers of indie bookshops!”
@Ofmooseandmen, twitter account for Bluemoose Books, kept it simple in their reply: “Yes, been a lifeline for bookshops.”
In other bookshop news, in his roadmap out of lockdown, Boris Johnson has announced that all non-essential shops will be allowed to reopen from 12 April. This comes with a “cautious approach” as sufficient time and case-analysis are required between each “stage” to ensure a safe move out of lockdown. In Scotland, non-essential shops will not open until 26 April, and this will act as a ‘no sooner than’ guideline. In Wales, non-essential shops could begin to reopen from 15 March, but more detail may be revealed in the next review due on 12 March. Northern Ireland will see an update on their exit strategy on 18 March.