By Hannah Johnson
“We’re actively trying to grow” internationally, said Carolyn Reidy, CEO of Simon & Schuster, as the 2015 Frankfurt Book Fair kicked off on Wednesday. “Particularly with the increase in digital, there are lots of new players, people to talk to, business to do.”
Reidy is constantly looking for the next opportunity, whether that’s the “old-fashioned selling of our physical books all around the world,” acquiring more rights to boost international sales of English titles, or “the new players who come up with the new business ideas.”
One model that Reidy has been pursuing is ebook subscription. “That’s a model we’re actively engaged in at the moment, and we’ve been expanding the number of people we do that with.” But, she says, there are still uncertainties with subscription sales: “If there is going to be subscription, what kind is it going to be and how is it going to be structured?”
Another hot topic on her agenda is data. For all the opportunities that come with having access to more data, there are challenges as well. The first challenge that Reidy sees is “to take all that data and put it into formats that are useful to people. You have all this daily sales information now from your major accounts, publicity and marketing information, other publishing data, and there’s no [single] place for it.”
Simon & Schuster has hired a data scientist to tackle the firehose of data and make sense of it. Part of his job is to create tests and analyze the results.
“It’s fascinating,” says Reidy. “The whole goal is to take all that information and find a way to actually make useful conclusions about it.”
While it is exciting to have access to information that can tell you why people like a particular author or how pricing can — in some cases, drastically — affect book sales, it still takes intuition to find a great book.
“It’s still there,” says Reidy, citing examples like Angela’s Ashes (“the writing was just so magical”) and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo as books that offered something new. “Data is great, it can give you a base. But, at the end of the day, intuition is still there.”