Book Summit 2015 – The Story at the Centre: Making, Marketing and Managing our Content


On June 25th at beautiful Harbourfront Centre in downtown Toronto, professionals from across the publishing industry gathered for Book Summit 2015—throughout the day, we shared a round of engaging conversations about contemporary trends in book publishing. Our conference hashtag, #bksummit15, started trending early on, garnering some nice shout-outs (thanks Quill and Quire!).


    Presented by Humber College and the Book and Periodical Council, in association with the International Festival of Authors, Book Summit 2015 explored “The Story at the Centre: Making, Marketing and Managing Our Content.” The idea of story—how it’s generated, marketed, experienced, analyzed—has been challenging the distinctions between writers, readers and publishers. In her introductory remarks to start the day, Humber College Creative Book Publishing Director Emeritus Cynthia Good noted how these distinctions have been blurring—a theme that would resurface in many of the day’s presentations.   No matter how often platforms and media change, people continue to respond to authenticity and both seek out and pay for information they value. So argued our popular keynote speaker, former CBC executive and Wikimedia Foundation President, now Special Advisor, Sue Gardner.    


Gardner gave a brief history of her own career and argued that Wikipedians’ passionate engagement with technology and information resources offers a hopeful model for publishing. Algorithms, review sites, self-publishing and fan fiction marketplaces—all have made market research more readily available and nuanced, but Gardner emphasized this key takeaway:


  Next up, participants enjoyed a vibrant multimedia panel discussion. Their core topic: how does the idea of story play out in video games, animation, immersive journalism and other new media? Being immersed in a narrative’s flow is central to gaming. As the panel’s first speaker, gaming designer Athomas Goldberg reminded us, “It’s not the story you tell; it’s the story people remember.” More and more, he said, game writers are “narrative designers.” Along the way he noted of a slew of changes in the industry and how it is engaging with the idea of story:      

Innovate by Day’s Deborah Day outlined for us how new modes of market research on the platforms where fans live can offer publishers insight into finding, and keeping, “superfans”:      

    Derrick Schultz of Atavist, encouraged writers to invert the model of making their websites echo the book design; instead, make your book (look like) a website!  


This year, Book Summit expanded from two to three breakout sessions. Our first breakout session saw a rich cross-section of topics, including Consumer insight, The Experimental Story, Marketing Adventures and Social Media as Market Research.



We fueled up with a phenomenal lunch before heading into the first afternoon breakout—Alternative Publishing, The Reading Story, The Story the Numbers Tell and a repeat of Marketing Adventures.



The third breakout session was preceded by a refreshing summer treat—ice cream! This kept us going in the last round of sessions on Children’s Publishing, Presses Small and Mighty, and repeats of Consumer Insight and Social Media as Market Research.

  Our final panel, Now Trending, reconvened everyone in Harbourfront Centre Theatre. Moderator Jackie Kaiser led a great conversation between Dan Kieran of Unbound, Iris Tupholme of HarperCollins Canada and Daniel Wells of Biblioasis, who made us all want to move to Windsor with this hopeful rallying cry:  


Overall, the presenters at Book Summit 2015 revealed that any story exists within a wider web of players. It becomes the “story at the centre” because that’s what connects us all—writers, readers, agents, publicists, designers, publishers, booksellers, data analysts, marketers and librarians.


Together, we’re all reworking who tells, sells and reads stories. As people stay and play on ever-shifting social networks, platforms and devices, the act of writing and reading become far more collaborative.


Given how connected we are in publishing, it makes sense that Book Summit 2016 will kick off a four-day writers’ “superconference.” The Writers’ Union of Canada Executive Director John Degen gave us a tantalizing sneak peek to whet our appetites. Book Summit will join forces with several national and international writing organizations for a four-day extravaganza at Harbourfront Centre.


You can already mark your calendars for Book Summit 2016: Thursday, June 16! Stay tuned for updates by following us on Twitter, @BPCCanada, and subscribing to our newsletter. And many thanks to everyone who participated in Book Summit 2015!


Leave a Comment