by Tyler M. Carey, Chief Revenue Officer
Usually, the Autumn weeks leading up to Halloween and Thanksgiving have been times when Westchester’s clients were heads down on projects, aiming to hit end of year deadlines, and we found ourselves in a more transactional mode on projects. This Fall has been different though, with a lot of discussions between our clients and our sales, editorial, and production teams about changes to workflows and ways we can help address additional challenges our clients are having in getting their work on titles completed and getting their books to market.
The lunch meetings I’ve been having with clients during the past few months suggest that in some ways, we’re all finally settling into a bit of a more active ‘new normal’, and this also seems true about how we’re bringing our books to market. The seasonal rhythms in our businesses still continue to adapt and evolve as we move from a time of reactive behavior, where our clients were trying to adapt to the news of paper shortages and crowded windows at the printers. A year on, everyone is more cognizant of those challenges and better prepared for the schedules books are requiring now.
In another indicator of this more active normal, instead of focusing on supply chain challenges like we have in previous sessions, our recent Publishing Now webinar, in partnership with Publishers Weekly, looked at how publishers can pivot to better embrace industry trends for accessibility and sustainability. You can view the webinar here on YouTube, to see Kristen McLean (NPD Books), Bill Kasdorf (Publishing Technology Partners), and Rachel Martin (Elsevier) discuss these topics and share their insights.
Something else I’ve noticed in my recent in-person meetings with clients is how casual and ‘normal’ having in-person meetings is again. No one is being cavalier about the lingering risks of the pandemic, but declining infection numbers and the increased level of comfort many people have about conducting in-person meetings has made them a viable alternative for vendors and our clients to use to advance as many key topic areas as possible, rather than engaging in a series of Zoom meetings, countless cycles of emails, or Slack messages.
These recent discussions I have been having with clients have me feeling very upbeat and emboldened about the path the publishing industry is taking, with exploring new ways of doing things, doubling down on growth, and further embracing change. Here at Westchester, our teams are busy supporting clients in areas of their workflows that hadn’t been part of our “traditional” role in the past. Specific areas include the growth of our program for Ingram ebook distribution clients, through which we provide ebook conversion services for an affordable rate, to managing client assets in CoreSource and other platforms, and taking on more specific production and manufacturing tasks to free more time up for our clients’ staff. To me, that underscores how the industry is working together to find innovative ways to improve the speed with which books are being produced, and with less cost.
To make sure I wasn’t applying a Boston-New York-DC corridor perspective to the wider industry goings on, I reached out to Tim Davies, the CEO of Westchester’s UK operation, to see if he found the in-person uptick in activity was holding true for him – especially with his recent attendance at the Frankfurt Book Fair representing Westchester’s UK book and education units.
“From my perspective,” Tim shared regarding Frankfurt, “it was smaller and quieter than pre-pandemic but a ‘quiet’ Frankfurt is still busy and buzzy by the standards of any other trade event. Definitely fewer attendees, with several people commenting to me that they’d noticed US visitor numbers were well down. That said, it was great to spend time with old friends and colleagues and compare notes on our current experience of our respective publishing sectors, and international markets. Everyone I spoke to said they were really pleased that they’d come and that they expected next year’s numbers and vibe to be much more akin to how it used to be. I’ve already booked my hotel!”
This article in Publishers Weekly and this article in The Bookseller profile the scale of attendees at the Frankfurt Book Fair this year vs. prior to the pandemic, supporting Tim’s points above. PW also shared highlights of other recent regional conferences for booksellers, while Frankfurt was underway, demonstrating the uptick in interest in in-person events, and the opportunities that brings about for publishers and booksellers. It certainly feels like we’re returning to a time where more business may be done at places like the Javits Center in New York and the Olympia in London, as well as numerous smaller conferences around the country and the globe, where specialists meet to cover their products and areas of expertise. It’s invigorating to see this trend underway again.
So, let Westchester know what’s changing for you: What’s been keeping you busier than ever? What’s working well? What partners are helping save the day? What can US employee-owned Westchester be doing to help you? As we all continue adapting together, I welcome a conversation about ways your team is changing how you do your work, and exploring the additional ways our teams can help you.