I like this article from today’s Guardian, in which Tom Weldon, the UK head of Penguin Random House insists his industry has coped with the digital revolution better than any other. It’s timely, coming ahead of London Book Fair this week, but he does give some hope to us stragglers fighting to get our works out to the masses through whatever means possible.
Oh, that’s not their real logo by the way. Just found that amusing. It was always my dream to be published by Penguin some day, but I’m not sure it’s the same anymore.
Anyway, one of the most interesting things in this article is when Weldon explains how publishers are having to become more like broadcasters.
“Inevitably, this means social media. Penguin UK already has 700,000 followers on Twitter, while every month 2,500 subscribers open an email from the company. But it also means thinking beyond the book: “We might tell our stories many different ways, whether that is books or ebooks, or apps, or toys, or clothes. We are developing a much broader range of intellectual property and exploiting it.”
He goes on to mention how Peter Rabbit, the childhood classic is being re-vamped and shipped out to countries all over the world:
“The company has spent almost £10m creating a Peter Rabbit animated series, which it has exported to 15 countries with a wide-range of merchandise tie-ins. In Japan, where Peter Rabbit is a hit among women aged 20 to 40, the radish-stealing rabbit is helping to sell Toyota’s latest family hybrid and adorns Mitsubishi Bank’s cash machines.”
I had a bowl with Peter Rabbit on it when I was little, so I could eat my Sugar Puffs watching him and his little blue coat going “round and round the garden”. I’m not so sure I’d believe him trying to sell me a car, or egging me on from the corner of a cash machine – “Go on, take another fifty, you know you want to!” That seems a little weird to me. Some things are sacred. Must we “cash in” on everything these days, so to speak? Can’t we leave innocent bunny rabbits out of this?
Well, no, we can’t, because people believe in brands. And when you have a good one, you should flaunt it. And you should flaunt yourself. It does seem a shame though, that as writers our words are no longer being viewed merely as words. Our carefully crafted works of art are scanned between the lines these days for mass marketing opportunity; as content that can be bent, twisted, re-moulded into social-media driven campaigns to raise money, usually for mainstream publishers who are still… no matter what Weldon claims… struggling to stay on top.
It’s all about making the most of market shares for these people. If you have a book in you, or at least a love of Peter Rabbit, keep on going, no matter what. We don’t necessarily need Random Penguins or Houses of Commercially Speared and Poached Rabbits to help, no matter what they tell us.
I am an ex HarperCollins author now switching to self-publishing. My latest book is listed here and is coming soon! (No bunny rabbits were harmed in the making of this book either)