SYP Conference 2009: Making an ImPRESSion

Posted on November 22, 2009 in Uncategorized

Given what the weather conditions were like on the weekend of the SYP conference, it was a sure-fire bet a lot of young (and not-so-young) publishers would be blowing about at this year’s conference at Oxford Brookes University. ‘Making an ImPRESSion’ was this year’s theme and impressions were clearly made on the 200 who came together for the event.

When you gather together like-minded people you’re bound to agree on most things, disagree on a few and offer varying opinions, but have a good time overall. That was clearly witnessed by something of a new, and hopefully continuing, trend at this year’s proceedings: jonny-on-the-spot Twitter coverage! Pardon the pun.

In case you’re not familiar with it, Twitter is the micro-blogging site that challenges you to say what you are doing in 140 characters or less. This was a challenge taken up by many at the conference as witnessed by the ever-constant stream (some might say waterfall) of consciousness under the hash tag #sypconf09.

Many young publishers have embraced this form of social networking and put it to good use. The benefits of such a medium allowed those in attendance to virtually enjoy every seminar on offer without having to attend each one on its own. Of course, in a perfect world you would attend each one, but that wasn’t going to happen. If you then spread this out to the publishing community-at-large, your audience just went international! That was clearly the case judging by the 40 pages worth of ‘tweets’ the #sypconf09 hash tag held by the end of the day. That’s over 350 tweets!

Getting the event started with an opening debate on the ‘Paradigms of Modern Publishing’, the SYP secured something of a coup by having Penguin’s out-going Managing Director, Helen Fraser; Faber and Faber’s Sales & Marketing Director, Will Atkinson; and Borders UK’s Category Manager, Michael Jones, present their thoughts on commerce, culture and the critical balancing game between the two. It was a great topic to get the ball rolling and minds fired-up with several thought-provoking points being made. Fraser spoke to the fact that books do not merely furnish your shelves, but furnish your lives, and Atkinson supplemented her argument by saying that publishers are still just businesses that must report good results to their board of directors, whilst also being the drivers of culture. Some books come and go, but others do make a lasting impact (I need not mention a certain boy wizard here and his effect on publishing!).

Over the course of the day, seminars revolving around the Economics of Publishing, Digital Developments, Design, CV clinics, Entrepreneurial Publishing and taking hold of your career were all on tap to take in, soak up and enjoy. Here’s a brief overview of what this member attended:

Economics of Publishing
Richard Hart, MD of Hart Publishing (Oxford), came with a single message for the seminar he lead: ‘speculate to accumulate’. In doing so, he offered some insight and experience on what it takes to build a successful list, the mistakes to avoid in commissioning and the importance of investing in your staff’s development, interests and skills. In addition, you must ensure that a steady editorial hand is holding the tiller of your company. His advice above all else: learn how to read the balance sheet and sales reports!

Digital Developments
Continual changes in the marketplace and delivery of content is, without a doubt, influencing the way publishers are packaging their content. The effect of the Internet has been substantial and will only continue to affect the change. This was the platform that Chris Meade (Head of the Institute for the Future of the Book) and David Atwoll (Atwoll Associates) directed their seminar from.

The future will be shaped by the people who can see things afresh…like the book was one of the messages extolled to those listening (and tweeting). The book is becoming more of an experience rather than just paper glued together. Technology allows new and interesting ways to develop content; readers have changed the way that they read, so making sure you have compelling content is crucial. Meade said that “writers have been broke all along, so the possibility to make some money in new ways is good”.


Joining the Conversation on Twitter

Throughout the day, about half-a-dozen members continually tweeted the insights being presented and their own on the micro-blogging website. It was a great way to stay up-to-date on the seminars not attended in place of the ones you did, and created a substantial amount of facts, figures and web-links.

You can see the full conversation from the conference on Twitter here.

Particular thanks go to: @sashers, @LindsJacks, @JonSlack, @JulieJolie and, of course, @SYP_UK for all their Twitter coverage!

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inPrint Society of Young Publishers Conference Report by Jonathan Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.