Strength in Numbers: The Importance of Partnerships
By Will Atkinson, Director, Independent Publishing Services, Faber & Faber
Over the past ten years Faber & Faber is proud to have developed an extensive series of partnerships with other independent publishers. In 2005 we set up the independent Alliance, a group of 8 publishers who came together to give us heft in the market, aggregated bargaining power and access to customers. This coming together has proved to be a great success, and now the Alliance is the fourth largest trade publishing group in the U.K. Its conspicuous success proved that independent publishers working together could benefit all those involved in terms of sales, recognition and multi-channel innovation.
We saw that there was an opportunity to bring our publisher expertise to an increasingly digital world and with this in mind, we set up Faber Factory in 2010 to focus on bringing the best services, infrastructure and expertise to the ebook market. We used the same principals of being in the Alliance – heft, aggregation, access and we’re proud to say that in just 3 years ‘Factory’ now represents around 7% of the UK ebook business.
Whilst it remains crucial to be excellent at the basics of file conversion, storage, distribution and retailer (account) management, we have become what we can genuinely call a publishing solution to all publishing needs. “For Publishers, by Publishers”. In 2011 we formed a joint venture with Perseus, the largest provider of services for independent publishers in the USA, and Factory now uses their platform and much of their technology – hence powered by Constellation. With them we are the largest provider of titles to Amazon.com, so the rules of aggregation and customer access remain.
Whilst providing excellent technology, the advantages of partnering with a US business speak for themselves. Much of the action in the ebook world comes from the US and their market is more mature than the UK. Armed with knowledge from the US market and the technology developments we have a width of view that would be impossible on our own. For us in the UK, we can indulge in a sort of futurology.
Furthermore, both Faber & Faber and Perseus give their publishing expertise and skills to the business. Currently the digital marketing tools coming from Perseus – particularly around social listening – are genuinely ground breaking. They also have simple off-the-peg online marketing tools such as a microsite and email builders which are ideal for small publishers with limited internal time and resources. Pricing analysis tools are also beginning to bear fruit which is vital for maximising success in the digital market. The expertise within Faber resides in text management, content consultancy, UK market analysis and pricing (bearing in mind competition legislation).
It is an exciting time in publishing and the opportunities for independent publishing right now are vast. Those companies that are intelligent and nimble will make the most of this chaotic environment. Being part of Factory is helping Faber & Faber be just that, and as a current publisher I hope you agree. If you are reading this and are not one of the 115 publishers in Factory, hopefully you will come on in. The water will be warmer than where you are now.
©Will Atkinson, September 2013