Inpress Conference: digital power, brands, and diversity

Zayani Bhatt
Opinion - Publishing 08 February 2017

Zayani Bhatt of the Writing Squad reports on the recent Inpress Conference in London


This year's Inpress Conference, "Helping independent publishers know their worth and make the most of their assets", took place in late January at the Free Word Centre in London.

In its fifth year now, the conference offered a day of talks, panel discussions and presentations from industry game changers and up-and-comers. The aim was to help independent publishers learn to maximise their talent and output and share the methods by which they have achieved success.

The event began with an eye-opening panel talk about harnessing the power of digital to expand the reach of fiction and poetry. Ben Styles, the digital editor at Arc Publications, shared his experience of creating the beautiful poetry app Translator. It invites users to translate foreign language poems in any way they wish, thereby bringing poetry to individuals who might not otherwise have access to it. Harry Man, author of Finders Keepers and designer of the website of the same name, spoke about the fascinating process by which he coded a program to let him analyse when people become interested in a poem, how long they stay on his website, and at what point they drop off.

There were also discussions and presentations on how to maximise the chances of success with excellent jacket design, even on a tight budget, and the idea behind the first "author boot camp", set to happen this year. Organised by Dead Ink head Nathan Connolly, the boot camp is designed to teach authors how to market themselves better. Darragh Deering of Ingram joined the day to talk about its new service, Are.io, which enables publishers to create bespoke sales channels for individual audiences, from across multiple platforms.

One of the most notable parts of the day was a presentation on how to build a recognisable brand, and one that matches your audience’s preferences, by the brand director of Mills & Boon, Joanna Rose. Rose spoke humorously about how Mills & Boon provided its readers with exactly what they want: reassurance that there is a happy ending, a fantasy world, and a story that will help them escape. She also explained the variety of ways in which publishers could maintain solid and enduring relationships with their readers through incentives and rewards.

The day concluded with an eloquent and inspiring panel discussion between performance poet and publisher Anthony Anaxagorou, Emma Wright from the Emma Press, and Jane Commane from Nine Arches Press about the importance and need for diversity. It is no longer enough just to just to talk about giving opportunties to writers of colour, or representing the distinct voices in our society; the industry had to take active steps to find this talent and support it in contributing to a more vibrant literary landscape.

Photos: (top) Zayani Bhatt; (above) Inpress MD Sophie O'Neill (left) with Writing Squad members Warda Yassin, Sian Hughes, Zayani Bhatt and Louise Essex.

The Writing Squad is creating the next generation of writers in the North by providing workshops, 1-1 support and investment for young writers and literature activists. The initial programme is for writers aged 16-21 who live, work or study in the North of England with continuing professional development as they begin their careers, helping them establish themselves as individual artists, collectives and new start up companies.

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