Q&A with Hachette’s Damian Horner

By   John Bond 2 min read

We spoke to Damian Horner, Brand Development Manager at Hachette, about his ‘beyond the book’ projects, transitioning from advertising to publishing and why Hachette’s new app New Star Soccer G-story is worth checking out.

Image result for Damian Horner1. Tell us a bit about your role at Hachette.

My job is to work with brands to find new ways of telling stories and sharing content. Often that means going beyond the book and working in areas as diverse as gaming, virtual reality, episodic downloads and video.

2. How can established publishers best work with brands? Isn’t there sometimes a danger of having conflicting objectives?

First of all publishers have to stop obsessing about their books and think more about the consumer. It’s another mental leap but once publishers start with the consumer in mind then it is very easy to work with brands and to find common ground.

3. You originally came into publishing from advertising. Do you think publishers are getting better at attracting and retaining creatives from other industries?

Absolutely not. Publishing is a shockingly inbred industry and there are very few people hired from ‘outside’. Those that do, usually struggle with the processes, the budgets, the mindset and the traditions of publishing. It’s changing a bit  – but mostly around the edges of the core business in areas such as Consumer Insight or Digital.

4. You’ve recently been involved in the launch of the New Star Soccer G-story app. We thought publishers had fallen out of love with apps. What makes this project different? 

Most publisher’s apps fail because they start with a successful book and then try to squeeze more revenue out of it by creating an app version. Usually these apps fail to exploit the advantages of being digital and rarely offer more than the book itself.

New Star Soccer G-Story will never appear in book form. It has always been an app-only concept that plays to the strengths of the digital format. That’s why it is special and why it is doing so well .

5. Do you think publishers are getting better at engaging with innovative external digital developers? How does Hachette manage the process of skilling up internally whilst working with the right mix of external suppliers?

Publishers still tend to outsource the big innovations within digital and I think that makes sense. It is not our core skill and we are still learning.

For my part I’m trying to push the boundaries within digital so I feel much more comfortable doing that with world-class developers than doing it ourselves and learning on the job.

John Bond
John Bond
John has been involved in publishing for more than thirty years. He held senior positions at Penguin and at HarperCollins, where he was on the main board for nine years, running sales, marketing and publishing divisions including the 4th Estate imprint and their stable of award-winning authors such as Hilary Mantel, Jonathan Franzen and Nigel Slater. He co-founded Whitefox in 2012 on the principle that the future of successful publishing would be based upon external managed services and agile, creative collaboration with the highest quality specialists. Nothing that has happened since has dissuaded him of this view.