FINDING NEW VOICES
DEFINING NEW GENRES
I may have just done something monumentally daft. Or mad. Or beautifully crazy. Or some kind of wonderful. In fact I’m plumping for the last (with a soupçon of crazy). Because I’ve given up a respectable paid position in publishing to throw myself headlong into running my own business.
All this at a time when we read about the myriad challenges to the publishing industry, how tough and competitive it is out there, fewer bookshops, piracy, savvy self publishers, smart and demanding readers, the rise of digital, the domination of Amazon. But frankly that just thrills me. Because that spells opportunity. And it means I’ve finally been brave enough to take all the experience, enthusiasm, energy and cock ups of my 25 years in the industry, and bring them to bear on the two aspects I think matter more than any other – content and collaboration.
In theory I’m now an independent publisher. But not because I’m going it alone. Far from it. You see everything that matters to me about publishing is based on collaboration, of partnering with others to reach your goals, to pursue dreams. It might sound romanticised and idyllic, maybe even naïve. And goodness knows I’ve got to find some way to pay the bills, so please start buying some books and quickly. But this is where publishers have got to go. They’ve got to remember what matters not just to them, but more importantly to those who write and those who read. Otherwise what do we add? What do we offer? As a publisher I want to share my ideas, my experience, my creativity, but I don’t want to just impose it, it has to be part of the author’s vision as well. Everything shared, everything a collaboration, everything developed together. There’s a lot to be said for believing in what you do – if you both believe it then anything is possible.
It doesn’t guarantee success of course. Just because a book or a piece of content is developed in perfect publisher/author harmony doesn’t guarantee discoverability, profile, sales, commercial returns. But what it does mean is you can be honest, you can be agile, you can respond quickly and creatively to every challenge, you can treat every single project as the ‘everything’ and you can work together to find ways to make it happen.
Again, romanticised and unrealistic perhaps. And goodness knows there are going to be some tough days ahead. But having commissioned and published over 3,000 books what has always been key are the relationships, the trust between those working together on something very personal and vital. And it’s key not just to ensuring the success of a publication, but to creating the most valuable content possible in the first place. No standardised system, no factory process, no experience template. If any author has the courage and dedication to put their words to the page then I need to show that same dedication and strength of purpose in my response and the service I offer. They are individual, the words are unique. The service has to match that in terms of ideas, creativity and bespoke strategy.
The first three Urbane books were developed and produced with this care, with this joint-ownership of creation and goals. And they were all developed late at night or at the weekend, all in my own time, off the clock. Because they were a labour of love, where every new idea, every tiny piece of editorial discussion, every new marketing plan or strategy, were building the foundation stones of each project’s success. I’m still pushing hard on Remember to Breathe now because I worked on every single page, every single word, with the author. It matters to both of us. And when Influence publishes in 2 weeks time I’ll be more excited than the proverbial kid in a sweetshop, because I know that the content is top notch, the collaboration is working and the blood, sweat and smiles will all be worth it.
And now? Now I can do that full time. Now I can give every project that same force of ideas, creativity and support. Frankly I can’t wait to get started. And of course I can work at home in my underpants.
I look forward to sharing the journey with you and hope you all become fans of the Urbane list as it develops over the coming months. Because let’s be honest, you’re my ultimate collaborators and absolutely none of the content would have any value at all without your wonderful support.
It’s not what you take out, it’s what you put in. I really hope to prove that’s true.