Tech Tuesday is London Book Fair‘s event to showcase the most exciting new developments in the digital world of publishing. It was such a huge success at its launch in 2013 that it has since become a regular LBF feature. With a focus on how children’s brands can and should approach licensing, the latest Tech Tuesday took a fascinating look at merchandising, crossmedia training and, unexpectedly, the Clangers! The panel was hosted by Kelvyn Gardner (Managing Director of LIMA UK), Karen Lawler (Executive Manager of Licensing at Hachette Children’s Group) and Richard Haines (Acquisitions and New Business Manager at Penguin Random House Children’s). Alongside the attendees, the panellists discussed the most timely and important topics that surround book licensing today, and provided a compelling look into how these issues present challenges and opportunities for both publishers and authors. Below, we’ve compiled just a few of our favourite insights from the panel.
Tech Tuesday Tips and Insights
Licensing is not what it used to be
“Licensing was once the dark and dirty cousin of creative industries,” Kelvyn Gardner explained. That, however, is no longer true. More and more, licensing has become a highly creative area full of possibilities for authors and publishers to expand their brands. With a focus on delivering great content and staying true to the original product, publishers are expanding to areas they’ve never explored before. Increasingly, publishing is becoming more dedicated to giving their audiences engaging crossmedia experiences.
Authors are vital in creating successful merchandise
The Tech Tuesday panellists each stressed the importance of leaving digital product creation in the hands of the experts; neither publishers nor authors are likely to be experts at coding or app development! However, they also emphasised the important role the author plays in ensuring continuity across the brand. Author engagement is key, according to Richard Haines, because “nobody knows the book better than the author.” Then when the time is right, Kelvyn Gardner advises that authors need to “let go” when dealing across media.
In a digital world, rights can get complicated
With new ways for people to engage with their favourite brands being created every day, the already complicated world of rights has become increasingly murky. The panellists noted that older contracts will have no guidelines for digital releases at all. Even as little as five years ago, no guidelines for iPad apps would have existed because there was no such thing as an iPad app! Although it is tempting for authors or publishers to hang on to rights, Karen Lawler suggested that it isn’t always in their best interests to retain rights if they’re unable to use them effectively. “It’s not enough just to hold on to the rights. You have to be able to exploit them.”
Everyone’s a gamer!
“Everybody’s a gamer now,” says Richard Haines, “compared to 10 years ago; even if it’s casual gaming on your phone.” Although unlikely to compete with Angry Birds or Candy Crush, licensed apps can create a unique user experience for an audience that wants to explore beyond a single platform. It’s important to stay focused, however. Richard went on to emphasise that “when, as a publisher, you create an app, you need to know exactly what you want out of it.”
Bringing back old classics
The Tech Tuesday event ended on a high note, as panellists and attendees got stuck into the topic of 70s children’s TV remakes. With Thunderbirds, Danger Mouse and the Clangers all returning for new episodes this year, Tech Tuesday examined the value of nostalgia versus the danger of recycling, and came out firmly in favour of nostalgia. The panellists agreed that even these popular legacy brands were placing a focus on quality rather than relying on an inbuilt audience. “It’s not re-hashing,” Richard Haines argued, “but re-imagination of content.”
We hope that you’re as impressed as we are with the insights provided by the Tech Tuesday panellists, and that these ideas can help spark ideas for your own author brand management. Perhaps some of these points have inspired you to think about the licensing potential of your own books, from phone apps and games to feature films! You never know where your story might lead…