Simon Juden, Chief Executive of the Publishers Association, is to launch an advocacy drive to demystify publishing and increase awareness of issues such as copyright. The drive aims to underline the value of the book business and counter a growing impression in some sectors of the population that, in the digital age, books are pass . Juden chaired a preliminary lunch meeting with a number of key industry figures, and a follow-up will take place later this year or early next to formulate specific approaches to a number of issues.
It is felt that various messages need to be formulated for different audiences, not least politicians who, beyond the pension provided by a lucrative advance for their memoirs, have little idea about what publishing a key creative driver in the economy, with $13bn-worth of film deals from British fiction over the last five years - actually entails. MPs and MEPs, as well as the public, are to be targeted.
The perception, driven by the internet and the explosion of user-generated content, that copyright is little more than a protection racket needs to be countered. But with media coverage of authors often focusing on large advances, the image of fat-cat writers must first be dispelled surveys repeatedly demonstrate that few can write wihout other income. It was suggested that teachers needed to demonstrate to children that the use of poems and artwork without permission is theft, an approach that the film industry has used to some success.
Misconceptions over the nature of the book business mean that recruitment is still largely from among the white middle classes, a disproportionate number of whom have been educated at public school and Oxbridge. The diversity efforts of recent years amount to little more than tokenism. Furthermore, careers advisors in schools and universities must be taught that the industry needs more than English graduates with editorial aspirations: linguists for international sales, for example; accountants for contracts and royalty departments; subject specialists for STM publishing.
Key to all this will be a database of industry facts and figures, a one-stop-shop for journalists writing about publishing who currently have to gather information, often at considerable expense, from numerous bodies the PA, the Booksellers Association, the National Literacy Trust and so forth and for those considering careers in the industry.