30th September, 2023
3 min read
Independent Publishers’ Guild Autumn Conference 2023
On September 20th, 2023, Sales and Marketing Manager, Jonathan White and Operations Director, Jane Rowland, attended the IPG Autumn Conference. A chance to learn and network with other indie publishers, of all sizes.
The main focus of the 2023 Autumn Conference was the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on publishing but throughout the day there were over 20 other sessions from topics such as selling more books via Amazon to distribution, environment, and geo-political influences of publishing.
As always, it was a fantastically useful day and the discussion points we bring back to the office for future discussion with the senior team here are:
AI is the future: AI is something that publishers and authors are going to need to grapple with and understand. Publisher opinions at the conference varied from those (like us) who are carefully and mindfully experimenting with AI in different departments to get a perspective of what AI means for publishing and writing, to those publishers who currently have a zero AI policy. Publishers are going to have to accept that authors and staff will start using AI tools to help with writing and repetitive task performance at work. AI policies around use in both contexts therefore become crucial.
AI’s impact on content. There was a lot of discussion on how to identify/manage the use of generative AI in the creation of books (by writers). Amazon is already limiting the number of books that can be uploaded via the KDP platform in one day and asking for confirmation whether AI was used in the creation of a book. Other retailers are likely to follow, so publishers and writers need to understand this.
What are the implications of copyright and generative AI? What materials are/were used to train the Large Language Models (LLMs) and how can the publisher and author protect their work? Can we trust content created with generative AI is not infringing other’s copyrights?
What are the ethics of AI? Illustrators in particular are highly concerned about generative AI illustration platforms like Dall-e. Similarly, voice-over artists are concerned about AI voices being used for audiobooks. Will AI cause job losses and talent losses in the industry? In the self-publishing sector, will authors have the knowledge to make informed choices about AI use – especially when they are funding their own work and the cost is a primary concern?
Reducing readers' range: AI learns what readers like and shows them more of the same. Does this restrict readers, limit worldview and what’s the impact on discoverability for books?
Some big questions posed by the 2023 IPG Conference – and some interesting discussions to be had with the team here at Troubador moving forward.
Another interesting snippet from the 2023 conference was about distribution. Jonathan White reports back: ‘The Conference session ‘What to Look For In A Distributior’, looked at the difficulties publishers were now facing in finding a distributor for their books. The two distributors speaking both stressed that distribution was becoming more and more expensive and they were really only looking at publishers with a higher than £4 million stock threshold, and also high turnover for the books. The increased distribution charges are one of the factors leading to a general increase in the price of books at the moment. The recent closure of distribution service, GBS, has meant that there are a large number of publishers looking for a new home - plus Amazon is also becoming a more and more difficult retailer to supply into.’
This discussion is of interest to us as back in 2021-2022 we took the decision to stop using third-party distributors and take back our own distribution. We consolidated the warehouse and built and moved to a new distribution hub in Market Harborough. Having our own distribution in our own hands has been a huge benefit to us – giving us better control of stock, costs, and overall management.
We already offer distribution to other publishers and authors and this is an area that our business development manager Alex Thompson will be progressing further in 2024.