The second in-person BookUp Conference was held on 9 June at the International Convention Centre in Sydney. Hosted by Michaela Kalowski, over 180 people engaged both in-person and via a live stream, as the industry discussed ‘What Next for Australian Publishing’.
The sessions on the day ranged from presentations on hot-button issues for the industry, through to panel discussions, and interviews with ABIA lifetime achievement award winners.
- Delivering Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives
- Opening and Reaching New Markets
- Interviews with Libby Hathorn AM, Pixie O’Harris award winner, and Sandy Grant, Lloyd O’Neil award winner
- Ask Me Anything: Publishing Leaders
- What Could Greener Publishing Look Like?
- Who’s Next in Publishing: Rising Stars panel discussion
Diversity and inclusion
Indigenous Literacy Foundation CEO Ben Bowen opened the day exploring the evolution of Indigenous language and storytelling. He stressed the importance of books in supporting and strengthening inclusivity around First Nations languages, and ultimately nurturing a love of reading across the country.
This was followed by author, journalist and media personality Antoinette Lattouf who steered a thought-provoking session on diversity and inclusion.
Melbourne University researchers provided an overview of the Australian publishing industry workforce survey on Diversity and Inclusion, before Antoinette explored the parallels with the Media Diversity Australia research 'Who Gets to Tell Australian Stories?'. Antoinette delved into the importance of representation, and explained why 85% of diversity and inclusion initiatives fail, before outlining how to hurdle these barriers.
Antoinette also spoke with Carrie Bloxson, Vice President – Chief Diversity Officer of Hachette Book Group, who provided insights into their public accountability in this space, and the programs they are implementing to ensure a more diverse and inclusive workforce.
While acknowledging that these programs and initiatives are a long term commitment, the relevancy to the bottom line was highlighted, while key to their success was ensuring changes are consistent, systemic and accountable.
Imagining a greener future for publishing
'What if you could 3D print books - as thin and as flexible as you like, in any language, with text and raised illustrations? The tech, micro-factories & recycled materials exist for this to be done.'
These words from Professor Veena Sahajwalla, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research at UNSW, invited attendees to think beyond paper in publishing. Veena urged us to think of materials and sustainability in new ways – not only Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, but Reform, as she spoke on the advancements made in reforming ‘waste’ materials.
Joined by Kathy Bail, CEO of UNSW Press, a variety of green initiatives were discussed along with how these could be relevant to Australian publishing. As chair of the APA’s Sustainability Working Group, Kathy also explained the work of the group and spoke of the Greener Publishing Guide which supports the industry in rethinking their environmental impact across all operational areas.
Industry nightmares and fresh thinking
Bravely answering the curly questions in Ask Me Anything were a panel of Mark O’Neil (Cambridge), Clair Hallifax (Walker Books), Martin Hughes (Affirm Press) and Jim Demetriou (HarperCollins). We gained insight into their industry related nightmares when they responded to ‘what keeps you up at night’, and were also privy to the considerations around hot topics as burnout and stress, hybrid working, workplace culture and inevitable price increases.
The panel session on Opening and Reaching New Markets explored understanding audiences and reader-centric engagement, tackling preconceived notions about markets, and ensuring publishers are curators rather than gatekeepers.
Interviews with the Pixie O’Harris and Lloyd O’Neil Award winners, author Libby Hathorn AM and Hardie Grant CEO Sandy Grant respectively, offered fascinating perspectives from their lifetime in books, with Sandy posing a question for the future around how we deepen Australian publishing culture to become a fully fledged publishing centre on the world stage.
The day was rounded out with three of the ABIA Rising Star nominees exploring topics as diverse as author care and metadata, as well as career challenges around burnout, salaries and staff retention.
The conference provided many opportunities to reevaluate current practices, not only in a post-COVID era, but to shape the future of the industry.
In summing up the day James Kellow, President of the Australian Publishers Association, spoke of the importance of coming together at events like BookUp to discuss meaningful industry change, but the value coming from taking these ideas away and sharing them:
‘I don’t believe we’ll get better as an industry if we don’t come together to discuss and debate issues… so today was really important. I’ve enjoyed the great diversity of thoughts and perspectives and experiences. But if there’s any value from today’s discussions, that value is amplified if each of us takes one thought or idea back to our offices and work life, and begins a conversation about how we might do things differently.’
In-person or online attendees of BookUp can now replay a recording from the day at www.publishers.asn.au/WatchBookUp2022, while those who missed out can purchase access to the recording here.
BookUp is made possible thanks to the continued support of the Copyright Agency's Cultural Fund.