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Damian Horner (Brand Development Director, Hachette Publishers UK)

About Him

Damian Horner began in advertising. Set up an agency and won a load of awards. Sold the agency and went travelling. He freelanced for ten years as a marketing strategist for top brands, likes of Microsoft. Came back to the UK to work with Hachette on Innovation projects.

  • 1.
    Share with us your unique role at Hachette.
    I am the Brand Development Director which means my job is to find ways of connecting readers with authors and content in ways that go beyond the pages of a conventional book. It means I get involved in everything from Apps to Brand Partnerships to Virtual Reality to Gaming to You Tube.
  • 2.
    Since you do stuff  ‘around the edges’ of books to find new ways of connecting readers with authors, share some exciting things that you are working on?
    This year we launched an entirely new concept aimed at young male reluctant readers. It’s an mobile app that fuses a story about a footballer with gameplay.  How you perform in the games embedded in each chatpter completely defines what happens next in the story. It went to Number One in the app store and is being embraced by boys, teachers and parents alike.

    We also acquired Neon Play last year which is a mobile game developer and are working on some interesting interactive story concepts with them.

    And we’ve also just run a test with You Tube that hit over a million views for a series of picture book videos.

    Then there’s all the other cool stuff that I’m afraid I can’t tell you about because it’s confidential!

  • 3.
    What do you see the world of books morphing into in the next 5-7 years?
    There is all the obvious stuff like more consumer insight, more reader communities (as publishers try to get direct access to readers) and more reliance on big data in marketing.

    But if you want a more dramatic insight into what might happen then I think we should recognize that mobiles will redefine the book reading experience and in particular the amount of control a reader has over the plot.

    Hooked, Lifeline, Her Story, Episodes…there are already lots of players in this space and they are completely redefining how stories can be told. What is slightly depressing is that none of them have been developed by a ‘conventional’ book publisher.

  • 4.
    You came into Publishing from Advertising, what skills of Advertising have helped you sustain and excel in Publishing industry, an inbred industry?
    There are three core skills that I have bought from advertising into publishing and they are still as potent today as ever.

    - The first is the crucial importance of starting with your target audience and understanding what they want, think, need and feel.

    - The second is to keep things simple. Less is always more.

    - Thirdly, try to do things differently. Go out of your way to find a fresh approach.

  • 5.
    Most publishers today expect Authors to have their own platform ready when they approach the publishers, in your opinion, should writers focus on their writing or focus on creating a strong platform?
    The sad truth is that too many books are published each year.

    Consumers just can’t keep up with the flood of books that hit the market.

    So discoverability is the problem that is killing the industry and the algorithm world we live in nowadays is making it even harder for new books to stand out.

    So very often - a great story just isn’t enough any more.

    The more an author has done to build a profile and a following the greater their chances of success.

  • 6.
    In your opinion, should the writer write for an audience in mind or write what he wants to and think of the target of their work later?
    I think it is crucial for authors to write the story they believe in – but at some point in the process (an ideally early on) they have to know whom they are aiming it at.

    If they don’t do this they will never get it published because at the end of the day, agents and retailers need to know there is an audience for that book.

    And that audience  definition needs to be pretty precise. Saying ‘women of all ages’ for example is simply not good enough.

    My tip would be to start by thinking about a specific age (all that goes with that) or a particular moment in life - rather than a broad demographic group

  • 7.
     We have read on your website: ‘Cutting through clutter, Thinking unusually, You make things happen,’ that’s impressive!  Share with us some moments that were the most difficult to cut through, even with your unusual thinking, made things impossible to happen!
    I designed a series of covers for Ian Rankin’s backlist that were aimed at people who had never read his books.

    I am still immensely proud of them but they never saw the light of day because they break just about every convention when it comes to book cover design.

    (And that is exactly why I think they would have worked in terms of engaging an audience that had shown no previous interest in the novels)

  • 8.
    What is a weekend to ‘Damian’?
    Three kids.

    A dog.

    An old wooden boat.

    A classic car.

    A lovely wife.

    A movie

  • 9.
    One question I ask all my guests – what is your favourite non-alcoholic drink?
    Dandelion and Burdock
  • 10.
    Advice to the writers of ‘Write Scene’ who are looking to get their work published.
    Be different.


    If you want to know more about our guest, please visit their website below:

    Website: Damian Horner

Damian Horner (Brand Development Director, Hachette Publishers UK)