Oxford Publishing Society (OPuS) Evening - The Future of Illustrated Publishing

by Franziska Boeswald, MA Publishing student

On the Evening of the 2nd November 2017 we had the chance to get a detailed insight into an underrepresented area within the publishing industry: illustrated publishing. David Graham, MD at Pavilion Books and Greg Hill, MD at Atlantic Publishing gave professionals and aspiring publishers the chance to get a better picture of the current state of this particular branch of publishing.

Graham explained that within the illustrated publishing sector they are often fortunate enough to be able to commission a piece of work they are passionate about rather than to focus only on the profitability of the product. Four out of five of Pavilion‘s commissions tend to be direct rather than via agents. This enables much more personal contact and often allows a more creative developing process of a book. 

He further evaluated that illustrated publishing has the structural advantage of targeting a wider audience due to broader sales channels. For example, Pavilion is the officialpublishing partner of the National Trust and can thus sell their books through National Trust bookshops. 

Due to the long production cycles of illustrated books, often several years, the financial aspect poses an increased risk. To produce high quality illustrated books the publishing house needs to ensure a constant income stream to be able to pay production costs. In the case of Pavilion, they can rely on a large backlist as a backup. 

Greg Hill demonstrated a different model that left the audience stunned. He showed a very detailed, highly illustrated book about The Beatles, which the publisher has adapted in several alternative formats to suit different audiences and different sales channels to generate income for projects as big as the original book. Individual chapters from the original book can be adapted for versions to be sold in WHSmith or be part of a Christmas range at Marks & Spencer. 

His advice for pitching an illustrated book included being passionate about the idea and being open about creating several versions of the product to hit different markets. Both speakers gave advice to those considering joining the illustrated publishing sector; be curious about the industry trends, show interest in other people’s work and most importantly to love books. 

David Graham’s last piece of advice was to pay attention to all the little decisions you make along the way rather than only focusing on the big ones. Greg Hill closed his presentation saying that the industry needs more people who can piece together all the little snippets and see the bigger picture. 

An amazing talk with two great speakers that has most certainly given us an insight into a cherished, yet often forgotten, sector of the industry. As Greg Hill stated, illustrated books tell us the stories that no other type of book can.

Edited by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 04 Dec 2017 around 11am

Last edited: 04 12 2017