We are joined by Kobo’s Siobhan Padgett on the podcast this week. Siobhan is the Senior Vendor Manager for the US and Canada, working with hundreds of publishers across both territories, and she talks to us about her role at Kobo, what factors successful titles have in common, and what indie publishers and traditional publishers can learn from one another. Siobhan has worked in the publishing industry for over two decades and she shares what changes she has seen within the industry, where she hopes the industry will be in the next decade, and she shares some fun insider stories with us.
- Siobhan tells us about her career so far, which has included roles at Pantheon, Random House, and Hachette, and she tells us how a chance meeting at a poetry event led to her career in publishing
- She explains what her role as Senior Vendor Manager for the US and Canada at Kobo entails, and she talks to us about her role in the launch of Kobo Plus in Canada and why indie authors should take advantage of the subscription service
- Siobhan talks about what traditional publishers can learn from their indie counterparts, especially when it comes to the more flexible indie mindset and willingness to learn about and experiment with new things
- She discusses what factors into a successful title, from a great cover to editorial, and how indies should be looking to the standards set by the traditional publishing industry when it comes to design
- As someone who has been on the forefront of the evolution of digital publishing, Siobhan talks to us about what changes she has seen throughout her career, including the increasing demand and reliance on data, and she tells us what she hopes the industry looks like in the future
- Siobhan shares some fun publishing stories with us, from authors she’s had the pleasure of working with, to speaking Italian with Michael Bolton, to her experience at the legendary Kobo parties
If you’re like us and are going to miss hearing Steph’s voice every week, be sure to check out her other podcast, Everyone and Their Sister
Siobhan Padgett is the Senior Vendor Manager at Rakuten Kobo. She is responsible for content acquisition and publisher relations for North America. She has worked in publishing for over 20 years, holding positions at Hachette and Penguin Random House in NYC.
Transcription provided by SpeechPad
Joni: Hey, writers, you’re listening to the “Kobo Writing Life” podcast, where we bring you insights and inspiration for growing your self-publishing business. We’re your hosts, I’m Joni…
Stephanie: And I’m Stephanie.
Joni: Before we get into today’s episode, we do have some housekeeping to announce. This will be Steph’s last intro episode, because she’s leaving us for a new opportunity. And she has been the podcast host for two years now, I believe, and it’s really been her baby, and she’s done an amazing job on it, and I’m going to miss recording with you, Steph.
Stephanie: I’m going to miss you, too. I mean, I feel like I’ve been here for so long, but it’s…I’m looking now, it’s like, 142 episodes so far. But I just want to say that I’ve had so much fun interviewing authors on the podcast, I’ve learned so much, I’ve gotten to talk to some authors that I admire, and be introduced to new authors that I had never even heard of. But I’m going to leave this in capable hands. Joni is going to be a fantastic host, and…
Joni: Big shoes to fill.
Stephanie: You’re going to hear me on this podcast in 2029, when Joni interviews me about my debut romance novel, so keep that on your calendars for however many years that is in the future.
Joni: And in the meantime, where can listeners find you online still?
Stephanie: Oh, and if you truly miss me, and you want to hear me on my not-suitable-for-work podcast, I have one with my friends, it’s called “Everyone and Their Sister,” and I review books, movies, TV shows. So basically, you’re hearing me talk about other books, and how much I love them…still. So if you truly miss me, check me out over there. It’s a little different than this podcast, but I think it’s entertaining.
Joni: So Steph, for your very last episode, can I please turn around your very favorite question back on you, and can you please tell our listeners what you’ve been loving lately?
Stephanie: I’m loving, currently, “The Other Black Girl,” which is a new release. And then Joni actually talked to the author, Zakiya, in an upcoming episode.
Joni: Awesome. It was a great episode. She was super, super lovely, and I think her book is going to be incredibly popular when it comes out. Yeah, and with that said, let’s move on to our guest today. We interviewed our co-worker, Siobhan Padgett, who is the only Kobo employee who lives out of the U.S. She is based in…I believe she was based in New York, and is now in Vermont. She has worked in publishing for many years, and so she had a lot of insights about traditional publishing, what Indies can learn from trad publishers, and what trad publishers could be doing better that indies are doing very well. And she also talked about Kobo Plus, she was a huge part of launching the Kobo Plus Canada program. And she was a lot of fun, she had some behind-the-scenes publishing gossip for us.
Stephanie: I never knew what her background was before we started, so it’s been interesting to hear where she came from. So without further ado, here is Siobhan’s interview.
Joni: We’re here today with our co-worker, Siobhan Padgett, who is the Senior Vendor Manager for the U.S. and Canada. Thanks so much for joining us, Siobhan.
Siobhan: Thank you, guys. Thanks for having me.
Joni: Can you start by telling our listeners a little bit about what you do for Kobo? We have your title, but what does that mean?
Siobhan: Yeah, my title actually should also say the only person in U.S. and Canada. No, I’m joking. I handle all publisher relations for U.S. and Canada, so I sign all the new agreements for audiobooks, ebooks and Kobo Plus, our subscription program, traditional what you guys do, with everybody else.
Joni: Exactly. Can you tell us how you started out in the publishing industry?
Siobhan: Oh, you really want to know that one? It’s a long story. I met my husband in Italy, I was there for five years teaching English. And as you can gather, and you guys very well know, I’m from Ireland, just like your colleague, Tara. We moved to America, and it couldn’t work for the first bit. So when I did get a temporary green card, I actually worked in an Italian headhunters’, downtown in the financial district. And I was dying to get out of there. The financial district in New York City is Wall Street types, you know, you’ve met them. And so I went to an event at the Academy of American Poets. My father in law is Ron Padgett, a well-known American poet, and he recently received an award. And I sat beside an amazing lady called Tracey Cabanice, she was the director of Knopf Operations at Random House. And she told me…we chatted, and she wanted to know what I wanted to do, and etc., and I said all I wanted to do was work in books. I didn’t care if it was a bookstore, if it was…anywhere, I wanted to work with books, and that’s my biggest love in life, was books. And she gave me her card, and I went in the next day and met with her. There were two jobs, a managing editorial assistant, one in Knopf and one in Pantheon, and I ended up with the one in Pantheon.
I worked for this amazing lady, she trained me so much. But again, I was not detailed-oriented for managing editorial, and I suffer slightly from dyslexia, so it wasn’t the ideal place for me. So there was a job opening in corporate Random House under the reprint department, and I moved…and I had an interview with them. One of the interview questions was, “How good are you at computers,” and I said, “I haven’t broken one yet,” and I got the job. I still haven’t broken a computer. I might have wanted to throw one…
Stephanie: Good answer.
Siobhan: …across a wall a few times, or against the wall, but I haven’t broken one yet. And in that department, I was a reprint archivist. And that is basically correcting every single file, when there is a correction to a book. So each time there’s a correction, the file is corrected. So you can move that file from printer to printer, and it’s kept in the archive, internally at Random House. Now, that’s done in most houses, publishers now, but at the time, Random House was new to that. You’re talking years ago now, like, you’re talking 1998 at this stage. In that group I ended up being the senior manager of that group, handling reprint archiving. Print-on-demand was brand new at the time, I handled print-on-demand, and then ebooks, ebook operations fell under me. I was given loads of opportunity in that position, and I learned tons. I definitely had doors slammed in my face just because we were bring new processes, and you know, nobody wanted ebooks, and what was reprint archiving? It just meant so much work for everybody. Long-term of course it doesn’t, but when you initially do it, it does.
And I stayed there about seven years, and there was a change, and I ended up looking for a new job, and I moved on to Hachette. And at Hachette, which was a great job, I worked at…I started up their ebook department, using…getting books converted and everything, and then I moved into this mostly account relations part. And I was there seven years, and I worked with all the big ebook accounts, selling books all over the place, mostly to Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. These are jobs…it was new, digital was so new, and I got to be very creative. I was probably one of the first people doing promotions out there, I had so much fun doing buy-one-get-one-free… And like, you have to remember this is 15 years ago, and I was doing this with Sony… Sony put a big billboard at LAX for Michael Connelly, he sent me a picture. He was walking through, and he sent me a picture. At Hachette, I got to meet such amazing authors, and that’s something I actually still miss, is working closely with the authors. Some of my favorites were Michael Connelley, he used to give me big bear hugs I still miss, and always sent Christmas presents to us all. Emma Donoghue, such an amazing, actually, Irish-Canadian, she wanted to call her daughter Siobhan, but…
Siobhan: …but the Canadian friends told her not to because it was too difficult of a name. I got drunk with Donna Tartt. You know, Donna Tartt is amazing. Such a lovely, lovely woman, I had so much fun. Holly Black had me in stitches laughing about 1:00 in the morning one night. Malala, of course. I remember her birthday, she was…after speaking to the U.N., we gave her a birthday cake afterwards. Brad Meltzer, just a lovely author. David Sedaris, he was best friends with my boss. Michael Robotham from Australia, he was releasing his books in America, what a wonderful man. David Baldacci, Kevan Harris, Ellen Hillenbrand, Ellen I met at Book Expo, [inaudible 00:08:39] and stand on top of the desks, and signed books, and she was just a character. I mean, I always felt so lucky to be part of this digital innovation, and been allowed access to so many people because they wanted to learn about digital. So, it was just incredible.
Joni: That’s really cool. So, you were really there at the start of digital publishing.
Siobhan: Yeah, I tested the first Kindle.
Stephanie: Oh, wow.
Siobhan: I actually knew the guys who created the MOBI format in France, and they sold to Kindle, Thierry…great guys. So yeah, I worked at Steve Potash back at the beginning, for OverDrive and digital. Like, there’s a whole gang of us who were there at the very beginning, and a lot of us are still in digital.
Joni: And what appealed to you about working for Kobo? Was it the digital aspect?
Siobhan: Canadians. Yeah, Canadian are so much…such a great group of people, to be honest, to work with. But also, were you going to really work…Amazon, you know, you don’t want to work with them. They were just…and it also meant to move to Seattle. I did get offered a job with them in Slough, in England, but I didn’t want to move. I never went for the…you know, I didn’t take the flight over to do the final interview, because I just couldn’t imagine myself there. And then the other companies, like, it was Apple, really nice crew over there in… But again, it was on the West Coast, and I lived in New York City. So, Kobo came to me when Amy left, and said, “Would you like to interview,” and I jumped at the chance. And I loved it, it’s a great team. Everybody’s so nice. And as I said, it’s Canadians.
Stephanie: We have a good rap now.
Siobhan: Yeah, you have a great rap.
Stephanie: I like that it’s…the question they asked you was like, “Are you good with computers,” and now you work at a tech company. You’ve come full circle, basically, at this point.
Siobhan: Oh, yeah. I didn’t even know how to use a computer before I moved in the headhunters, before that, basically. I knew how to game, but through Sims, and that was about it.
Joni: But 15 years ago, like…
Siobhan: You’re talking 21 years ago since [crosstalk 00:10:40.726]
Joni: Twenty-one years ago, yeah, it’s…I don’t know how good I was on a computer then. Not very. I mean, they were very different.
Siobhan: They were.
Stephanie: So, what year did you come to Kobo?
Siobhan: Seven-and-a-half years ago, so 23?
Stephanie: Okay. So, what were the kind of projects or big tasks that you had to do when you got to Kobo?
Siobhan: Oh, I think the one thing that…really was efficiency, trying to find more efficient ways to do things. I’m a big believer in answering people within 24 hours and getting back to them, and that isn’t everybody’s style, but that’s my style. It’s also teaching people what publishers really want at Kobo. So that was very, very important because I had history with other accounts, and things they could do, what they couldn’t do was very important to bring into Kobo. Here’s what publishers want to do, but other accounts can’t do it, how can we do it?
Joni: What are some of the biggest changes that you’ve seen since you started in publishing? Obviously, digital is the big one, but are there any other trends that you’ve noticed?
Siobhan: People working on data. People like to see data now, and they like to understand things a bit better Also, retailers are using that data, such as keywords, other things to encourage discoverability and search engines. So, that’s probably the biggest thing. Audiobooks, of course, in the last five, ten years has changed a lot, and… Well, I remember audiobooks, and they were still only on a hard drive sitting somewhere, on somebody’s desk. I mean, I’ll go to some publishers right now, and they can tell you they don’t know where some of the real backlist is. They’ll actually probably have to go and get it from OverDrive or somewhere else, because oh, who has a copy of it? They don’t have it internally. So, people really try and keep track of everything, metadata is huge, realizing that. And social, social media really changed everything for the way people market as well.
Stephanie: People often say, and like, I’m sure we’ve probably said it on the podcast before about, like, publishing is slow to try new things, and what’s kind of your perspective on that? Since you were at the beginning of, like, digital publishing, how have you seen publishing evolve? Or like, from your side, are they doing a good job? Where can publishers improve adapting to modern times?
Siobhan: Oh, God, I think publishers could really learn from the Indies as well, and be more flexible, speed to market…
Siobhan: …smarter, and flexible with their pricing, and how to promote themselves. I think indie authors do an amazing job of promoting themselves. I think trade can teach the Indies, as well, how to improve on production quality, using professional editors, ensuring your covers are of a certain standard. And editors are really important here, don’t let that drop you. Like, your writing can be great, but you should always have it checked. And having a system in place of processes. Trade publishers are amazing at selling print books and getting ebooks out there, Indies do a great job in keeping those ebooks…you know, everyone being aware of ebooks.
Joni: So, a lot of your time last year was taken up with launching Kobo Plus Canada, you had a huge role in that. Do you have any tips for authors, indie authors or publishers, on subscription services? How do you find that traditional publishers are responding to Kobo Plus?
Siobhan: Oh, good one. We do have the subscription program that launched last July… I think your books should be available everywhere, in every format, in every program. If you want to be found, the most important thing is getting your book discovered, and this is a great way to get your books discovered. And we’ve also found that the audiences are different. I think indie publishers have jumped on this bandwagon really quick, trade publishers, the more innovative trade publishers do, and are enjoying the revenue because of that. There are always publishers who are a bit hesitant, and they will wait and see what’s happening, and who’s doing it, and etc., they just won’t benefit at the start, they’ll benefit later. And there’s room for everything. And I just think the Indies will win right now on this, and then the trades will eventually come in.
Joni: On that note then, I’m curious to ask do you think that opting in now while the catalog’s relatively small, while the big publishers don’t have their books in, do you think there’s any advantage to putting your books in now, being an early adopter, and then being part of a much smaller catalog and maybe being a lot more visible?
Siobhan: The catalog isn’t that small…
Siobhan: It’s smaller than Kobo [inaudible 00:15:10] and we do have amazing trade publishers in there right now. So yes, it’s ideal time. The sooner you’re in, the easier it is to discover you, and the longer you’re in there, the better. Put your titles in, try it out. As I said, the audience is slightly different.
Stephanie: Can you explain further, like, what the difference is between the two kind of readers, the ones that are going to the store and buying a book for, like, $2.99, and then the people that have enrolled in Kobo Plus?
Siobhan: Yeah, still doing research on that to totally get a grasp in Canada, but it seems people are willing to try more authors within Kobo Plus, and willing to experiment with who they’re trying. So, that’s the difference. When they have to spend, you know, $2.99, $5.99 or $9.99 or $12.99, they have to think about every dollar. Within Kobo Plus you’re paying a set fee every month, and you can just try any one that’s in there. So, I think that’s the real difference.
Joni: Are there any books that you worked with when you were in New York that you didn’t expect to do as well as they did, that were like, runaway successes that maybe you didn’t expect?
Siobhan: You know, I can’t think of one right now, but I’m sure there were ones. There were…like, I’ve worked on so many great books, and so many…I just can’t think of one right now.
Joni: Fair enough. I put you on the spot.
Siobhan: Yeah, I mean…the one thing I found that publishers did was they pick a focus, often pick a focus title to promote internally, and sometimes you’re going, how are we going to make that into a bestseller? And they just…it’s kind of like everybody gets behind the book, the whole company gets behind it, and it gets this word of mouth out there, it gets all the push of the company, and it really makes a debuted author that number one.
Joni: Oh, that’s interesting. So it’s like building up…kind of building that word of mouth before it’s even out within the company?
Siobhan: Yeah, building that…everybody in the company buzz, you must read, and then so it gets the salespeople involved, it gets every…from down to the most junior person, people are buzzing about it. So, that automatically gets out in the world.
Joni: Okay. Are there any other factors that you think are important in really successful titles?
Siobhan: Oh, cover.
Siobhan: Yeah. I mean, if you’re going to have it, I would definitely say have a great, great cover. And as I said, editorial is so important. But without a compelling story, you’re not going anywhere, are you, really. You want to take that reader on that journey with you, if it’s fiction. If it’s nonfiction, you want to have your research done so well, and fact-checked. And then public marketing, you know, as I said, that buzz created internally to get people going out there. And the cover is your first thing people see, so you really want them to do something with it. And success comes from persistence, and keep on pushing and over time, and telling people about it. And don’t be afraid to fail. You are…you’re going to fail sometime, it’s okay. You’re going to learn from that experience.
Stephanie: And like, let’s say you do have a debut book and it doesn’t do as well as you hoped, but the idea is to get a second book out, or even, you can, like, reb-…you can do it again, you can rebrand, you can start a new strategy of the same book.
Stephanie: Because those readers, they’re always new, they’re always coming in.
Siobhan: Yeah, and I think people also have unrealistic expectations, sometimes, on the first book. As you just said, you can rebrand it, put a new cover on it and new metadata… You’ve just learned so much from releasing the first time, maybe you decide that you didn’t distribute it wide enough, you should have changed that…there are so many elements involved in that.
Joni: Something that I think is really cool about indie publishing is that because there are fewer barriers to entry, and because anyone can kind of decide what they want to publish, I think it opens the doors for books that maybe…maybe traditional publishers, like there’s a lot of traditionally published romance, but there’s space for so much more, and that comes out in indie, right? Like, there’s room for so many romance novels.
Siobhan: Yeah, exactly.
Joni: Are there any other, like, gaps in the market that you think that maybe there’s an opportunity in indie publishing that they might not get in trad publishing?
Siobhan: You know, I always think of the sci-fi and the mystery. Like, there are so many people who love those particular areas, and publishers only release a certain amount of them. I think Indies could continue… Because similar to romance, the people who read mystery and sci-fi, they read so much, they just want another title in that series, keep it coming, you know? And you know, if you get a good series started, you can just keep on rolling with it.
Joni: Yeah, series are definitely king at Kobo.
Siobhan: Oh, they’re king anywhere. I mean, look at James Patterson, you know, the king of marketing, king of advertising, first author to do television ads for his books, ever.
Joni: Oh, Yeah.
Siobhan: Mm-hmm. He was in advertising before he started writing, just so you know.
Joni: Oh, that’s cool.
Stephanie: I didn’t know that, but that makes sense.
Joni: What do you think about book trailers, and like, other kinds of non-traditional ads? Do you think that they’re effective? Did you use them when you were…?
Siobhan: Yeah, I mean…you know, I wasn’t in marketing, I…it depends on the title, and if you have a good…have something intriguing to tell within that trailer. I’ve seen amazing ones, which I’m going, oh, my God, it looks like a movie. I want to see it now, I want to watch it. And that has caught me, and then you really want to read it. I don’t think it’s necessarily for every single book because they are very costly.
Joni: Yeah, but it’s fun to do something innovative.
Siobhan: Yeah, definitely.
Stephanie: Well, you mentioned it, and I kept thinking about how your kind of job is getting these publishers on board with these new programs that we’re trying to launch, what do you find is the hardest part of convincing a publisher to take a chance on a Kobo idea?
Siobhan: You know, I’m extremely lucky. I don’t know if it’s my accent or just that I’m just so open with everybody…
Joni: It’s the accent. Everyone just says yes.
Siobhan: The accent… Not everybody. But I have doors continuously open, kept open for me, because I’ve been so open with my accounts. For example, I’m like, “Okay, guys, it’s a great opportunity. I can’t guarantee how much sales, but it’s great exposure.” And I’m totally honest about that, and I think that helps publishers go, “Okay, Siobhan wouldn’t come to us if she thought it was useless, there must be something in it. So I think I’ve been lucky in that sense, that people actually trust me, and know that I’m not going to lie to them about something, you know? Some publishers are harder than others, and some…some, you know, some people I work with directly have the leeway to do whatever they want, others, you know, have to go to boards and get approval, and it takes six months. So you know, at this stage, I know who to go to, and who not to for certain things, and who’s going to take longer than others. So that’s part of it, just knowing who you’re working with.
Stephanie: And like, publishing is very small, so…
Siobhan: Yeah, but we have… I mean, in U.S. and Canada, I can’t even tell you, I have a couple…I have about 300 to 500 publishers that I work with in ebook and audiobook.
Joni: That’s crazy, isn’t it? Because you always think there are five publishers.
Stephanie: That’s true.
Siobhan: The five publishers probably own X-percent of the market, yes, but there are so many others out there. You have to think of the religious publisher, the academic, you know, publishers. It’s not just those big five, there are lots of great… And especially in the next few years, I think you’re going to watch more indie publishers come, break off from…because authors don’t want to go with these big, big publishers, because they’re starting to merge together.
Joni: Mm-hmm, that’s true. Without giving away anything too secret, do you have any wild New York publishing stories that you can publicly share?
Siobhan: Publicly share? Well, I was a…I have two stories. I was a fan of a big…I think he’s English author. He wrote a series that I always loved, and I read them all in Italy. And it was my first year in publishing, he was drunk after a lunch with his editor, and couldn’t get through our security doors.
Stephanie: Oh, no.
Siobhan: And the cursing coming out of him, it was hilarious. And I was in such…you know, I loved this man’s writing so much, so that’s kind of a fun…and I was like, oh, my God, listen to him, he’s such a wreck. And the second one was probably more about me, but I got… Oh, maybe three. So, the second one is I was out for a sales conference, and we had Michael Bolton at the table.
Siobhan: I didn’t notice. But he actually speaks Italian, because he used to sing with Pavarotti.
Joni: Oh, cool.
Siobhan: Yeah. So, we spent half the mealtime speaking…ignoring all my colleagues, and speaking in Italian, which was hilarious. And then I got up and got a photo with him and Tom Wolfe.
Siobhan: So yeah, like, there’s been… I also had a boss who got in trouble at work, and things like that. So yeah, there’s loads of stories.
Stephanie: My question, were you at the Kobo party that had people getting tattoos?
Stephanie: Okay, what’s your best early Kobo party you attended, and the outrageous stuff that happened?
Siobhan: I think I was pregnant, guys.
Stephanie: Oh, no.
Joni: That means that you were soberly watching.
Stephanie: Oh, yeah, you were watching from the…
Siobhan: No, I actually…no, I only stopped drinking about seven years ago. Kobo parties were notorious. They were well known to be the best parties in the industry. I did attend a few odd ones. But during Book Expo, I was in meetings from 8:00 to 8:00 usually, every day. So if I went to one, I only went for half an hour. But there was always photo boxes in the corner…what do you call them, when it’s…
Joni: We still have them.
Siobhan: Photobooths, thank you. The tattoo one I did hear about, but I never attended it. I really missed it, but I’m probably lucky I missed it.
Stephanie: You would have had a bad tattoo.
Siobhan: Yeah, one on the shoulder right now.
Stephanie: So you briefly touched on this in a question earlier, but where do you hope to see publishing in five to ten years?
Siobhan: I would like to see them taking opportunities in everything they can do, I would like them to prove their metadata as much as possible. I think they could really, really change everything. They need to experiment with so much, but across the gamut. And I think a problem with a lot of trade publishers, a lot of the big publishers and publishing in general, they frequently forget their deep backlist, what they can do with it, review it. That’s one of my big things, you have this backlist, what more can we do with it, what more can we play with it? Changing prices, experimenting with new models…I mean, there’s plenty to do out there, I think. And distribute everywhere, in every country. And local pricing, that’s a general issue, metadata is an issue.
Joni: That’s interesting. Those are the things that we have issues with on KWL too, and I actually didn’t realize that the trad publishers also had issues with local pricing, because that’s a really common one that we push on our authors all the time. And if you’re listening, you should go and update all your prices right now.
Stephanie: You should make sure your series are all listed together…
Stephanie: Did you see the thing on Twitter, that someone was saying authors should give up their rights after 30 years, or like, their copyright after 30 years?
Siobhan: Oh, that’s very…well, isn’t public domain after 75, usually?
Siobhan: But even again, if it’s owned by…like, I think 75 isn’t that long anymore, if somebody wrote it when they were in their 20s, because they could be still alive.
Stephanie: And if they did, for it to be, like, a book that’s… Like you were saying, like, the backlist is, like, an underutilized part of someone’s, like, catalog, and that’s the kind of idea, like, people sell books that are 30 years old. Like, “Bridgerton,” for instance, came out in 2000-and something, and that’s now been on the New York Times bestseller list for the past three months. Like…
Siobhan: You know, topical…like, you have to know what’s topical, and also what is going going to get picked up by the TV stations, or streaming…? You never know what people will go back to. A film student may have read something while they were at college, and 20 years later they have the money to do that now, into a program. So I think no, 30 years is way too early. You own… I’m actually surprised 75 years hasn’t been extended to a longer, because people are living to much older.
Joni: This is, I think, an unpopular opinion within the publishing world, but I feel like before I started working in this industry, like, I did not realize how much emphasis publishing places on new releases. Because for me, like, sometimes it’ll take years of people saying, oh, you read this book, it’s so good, and then you hear it from enough people for years. And I’ll pick up, like, a title that’s 15 years old, and it’s fantastic because, you know, it was great, a great book. But I don’t really understand why we’re not paying more attention to older books, just because I feel like… Like, most people recommend books, right, most people hear about things through word of mouth, and the more years that a book has been in print…I’m just saying, I think there’s a lot of opportunity for backlist.
Siobhan: There’s a lot of books out there. There’s a huge catalog out there, and it’s our…it’s the author’s job, it’s the publishers, and it’s also some retailers to remind people of these books, to get those books back up in front of people. I mean, it’s hard to even get the frontlist, all the front lists that are coming every week in front of people. So I think that, the challenge, there are so many books, we… I mean, you look at my Kobo reader, and I have probably 2,000 books on it, I’ve probably only read about 200 of them. So yeah, like, we want to read, but just don’t get around to it. And I think the biggest thing is we’re competing for time with video games, TV, social media, you name it, with family life. And also with COVID right now, we’re all spent, you know? Some people, I know a lot of people say…who work even in the industry, say, “I haven’t read anything in six months. I just can’t.”
Stephanie: Yeah. I’ve read, last year and this year, I read…the only things I’ve been reading are stuff that I’ve already read, so there have been rereads. So, I’m only reading stuff I’ve already…
Joni: I’ve been doing the same thing, and I think it is just because we’re living in such a stressful time and we’re so distracted by the news, and it’s been this way for a full 12 months now.
Siobhan: You know they say that about kids, guys, they reread the same things so they feel comfort.
Stephanie: It makes sense. I need to know how it ends, I don’t want a surprise sad ending, or…I know I enjoyed this, so I’m going to try it again. But I’ve been…and it’s also, like, that has, like, happened in every asset, like TV shows I’m rewatching, that I watched in high school. I’m like, is this any good?
Joni: And they know it. They’re rebooting, like, things again and again, right, that isn’t…
Stephanie: So, I wonder what, like, that effect will have in future years, on reading patterns and things like that. Or like, will we hit a point where we’re just like, I only want new stuff?
Joni: When will it be too early, when will it be too, like, far gone enough for them to start publishing books set during the time of COVID? Do we need, like is it already happening?
Stephanie: I don’t want to read any of that.
Siobhan: We’re going to see it later this year, there’s books…there’s poetry books, there’s other types of…I’m sure there’s indie books coming in to you guys talking about COVID, and people’s experiences, or sci-fi…fiction, nonfiction, all talking about COVID right now. It’s just…we’re just probably avoiding it because we’re still going through it, but they’re definitely coming in. Yeah, and maybe people aren’t marketing it because we are going through it.
Stephanie: Yeah, nobody wants that.
Siobhan: I think there’s going to be space for every type of media, it’s just finding that space. And like, people thought when the radio…God, this sounds really old, when the radio came in, and the television…when television came in, radio would go away. Well, I spend my days, you know, listening to NPR. It’s not gone, it’s just in a different format, or… You know, we saw the surge of indie bookstores last year. People didn’t want them to disappear, they wanted people to stop buying from the biggest retailer, they wanted you to shop local. That will continue. I would love, in the next ten years, five, ten years, that we’re not all having just one retailer. We need to have…there needs to be room for all of us, and in all countries, in all languages. It just can’t be one large retailer taking the huge percentage of everything. And that’s up to the authors and the publishers to kind of, like, don’t do exclusives, or don’t make preferential deals with this large retailer. This is important. We will see a la carte continue to grow, there is…and subscriptions. You’ve seen it in the music world, vinyl came back because everybody’s listening to vinyl. We can do everything, it is possible, it’s just realizing our niches, and what works for everybody. Room for everybody, room for all kinds of content, in all formats.
Joni: That is a great note to end on. And we like to always finish by asking what have you been loving lately? It can be anything, book, movie, podcast…
Siobhan: I have a slew of books. So “Hamnet,” if you haven’t read, please read it. It’s Maggie O’Farrell.
Siobhan: No, “Hamlet.” Yeah, I don’t know if it’s made it out in Canada yet, check it out. It’s great. Joni, you were talking about “It’s a Sin,” so I think we were reading the same book at the same time, “The Great Believer.”
Joni: Oh, yeah. Okay.
Siobhan: Which, fantastic book. “Tokyo Ueno Station,” it’s about a ghost within a Japanese subway station, just the writing and translation work was so well done. I love Kristin Hannah. If you haven’t read Kristin Hannah, she just wrote “The Four Winds,” about the dust bowl in Oklahoma…or was it Texas? Where was she? I think she was out there. Anyway, really well written, and also talks about unions and right, which I hadn’t…I didn’t understand a lot about, when you got into the latter part of the book. And an Irish book that I really like was “Big Girl, Small Town,” about a young woman living on a border town, and a lot had changed since the peacetime, but a lot’s gone on since. Audiobooks, Joni, you’re going to hear me…you’ve heard me talk about this, “Everything is Figureoutable,” of that’s actually helped me through this year. And if you haven’t listened to this audiobook…it’s basically saying, you know what, you don’t know how to do it, maybe look on YouTube. There’s a way to do everything you want to do. It may not be you doing it, maybe you need to help, maybe you need to do something, but everything is figureoutable. And I thought it was very well done.
Stephanie: I haven’t heard of this before.
Joni: That is my life motto, “Look it up on YouTube.” The number of things that I have to look up on YouTube to do…
Siobhan: Well, it was just…you know, it wasn’t even that, it was just, you know, okay, I don’t know how to do it. Well, don’t stress about it, you can sit, and somebody knows how to do it. You can ask people, you can…everything is figureoutable, eventually. I think that really helped me out in a few cases recently. “Untamed,” that was great. And then movies-wise, guys, I’ve been watching old movies from the 1930s and ’40s, even some pre-COVID, with my husband and daughter, noir mysteries and dance musicals, like…
Stephanie: Ooh…what’s a good dance musical?
Siobhan: Oh, my God, the Fred Astaires. Come on, how can you go wrong with anything Fred Astaire, you know what I mean? With my 16-year-old, we’ve been doing all the Wes Anderson titles, movies like…you know, some of them my daughter can’t see, so one or two she’d watch and say, “These are boring,” you know? But… And it’s great to break down characters with a 16-year-old boy, “Why? Why would you do that?” Yeah, I love it, seeing it from his perspective.
Stephanie: These are great. I have my long list of things to check out now.
Siobhan: Oh, my God, yeah. Like, as I said, the backlist, look in the 1930, ’40s movies, there are so many amazing ones.
Siobhan: My daughter has friends who have never seen a black and white movie.
Joni: She’s only, what, 10? Like, I think that…
Siobhan: I know, but like…come on…
Joni: I think the first one I saw was maybe “Casablanca…” or no, “Some Like It Hot” I think I saw when I was pretty young.
Stephanie: What’s the one where it’s like a hotel, and… “White Christmas,” is that one right?
Siobhan: Yeah, there’s a “White Christmas,” and there’s also…yeah, “White Christmas” is a good one.
Joni: Yeah [crosstalk 00:35:15.220]
Stephanie: “Singing in the Rain,” that’s a…
Joni: …right now, yeah.
Siobhan: I mean, we were watching a Raymond Chandler old 1930 movie, pre-war…or not Raymond Chandler, sorry, Perry Mason. So, I didn’t even know there were Perry Mason movies that went back that far. And they’re so different, it’s not like Perry Mason’s a really nice guy, he’s a little bit of a shyster lawyer, you know? He’s…”You weren’t here,” like he’s seeing a witness, and she’s…”Here, go here. You weren’t here,” like he’s not being an honest lawyer in it a bit. So, it’s kind of fun. Not the Perry Mason we grew up with on television.
Joni: Okay, these are excellent recommendations, and I’m adding them to my ever-growing list. Every time I talk to somebody, my list gets longer.
Siobhan: I just want salt and vinegar crisps for lunch, guys. Can we have some?
Stephanie: I had some of that last night. And I’m going to tell you both something gross, but I saw it online, cookies and cream ice cream with salt and vinegar chips on top, it’s not bad.
Stephanie: It’s not bad.
Siobhan: I could…I could see that. I could see that.
Stephanie: It’s like salty, sweet, crunchy…
Siobhan: I could do salt and vinegar almonds…have you tried salt and vinegar almonds?
Siobhan: So yeah, it’s a thing here, my friend got me into them. It’s addictive. Like if you buy the packet, I eat them all day.
Joni: I can see that, yeah.
Stephanie: I’m going to try to go to Costco, and I’m sure they…
Siobhan: I’m sure they do.
Joni: Well, thank you so much, Siobhan, for chatting with us. This was great.
Stephanie: Thank you.
Siobhan: Thank you, guys.
Stephanie: Thank you for listening to the “Kobo Writing Life” podcast. If you’re interested in learning how to grow your sales, visit kobowritinglife.com, and make sure to stay tuned for future episodes, where we have a whole rotating roster of KWL co-hosts to join Joni.
Joni: This episode was produced by Stephanie McGrath, Joni Di Placido, and Rachel Wharton. Music was provided by Tear Jerker, and editing is by Kelly Rowbotham. Big thanks to Siobhan for being a guest today.
Stephanie: If you’re ready to start your self-publishing journey today, sign up for free at kobo.com/writing life. Until next time, happy writing.