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  • Infinite Ideas

    Tue, 09 Dec 2008 11:40

    Book Depository: What/who do you see as your primary market?

    Katherine Hieronymus: We’ve always pitched our books at intelligent consumers who are already engaged in some way with the subject matter. We don’t aim to publish A to Z definitive references to a subject - we’re looking to provide insider tips and techniques that will help people really improve their lives. So, our books are unlikely to be the first book on a subject that someone will buy.

    Our readers, from the feedback we receive, seem to greatly enjoy the tone of voice our writers use. We make sure that this voice is consistent across the range, and our market research suggests that when a reader has bought one book in the series, they become avid consumers of other titles too. We’re absolutely delighted to have built such a loyal fan-base in such a short period of time.

    BD: What are the principal challenges/opportunities you see at the moment in the business of publishing books?

    KH: Our biggest challenge is in building a brand through high street booksellers. We do receive fantastic support from the big retail groups, but our books in the 52 Brilliant Ideas series do tend to sit in splendid isolation on shelves within subject areas - this means that we have to look at other methods to attract customers to the series as a whole. We’re using the web extensively in partnerships with major brands, and our titles are even available though the Tesco Clubcard loyalty scheme! There are a lot of books published every year and we’re aware as a new business that we need to be innovative and creative in our marketing to get noticed by consumers.

    BD: What brings you to the decision to publish a particular title/author?

    KH: We have a target list of key books in specific areas - the big subjects that any self-respecting consumer publisher should not be without. We follow trends within popular culture, especially around the “hot” subjects favoured by the monthly magazines, because we are a small publisher we can move incredibly quickly to maximise on trends. An example of this was a couple of years back at the start of the Sudoku craze, we decided to publish a book on solving the puzzle, an identified gap in the market. How to Solve Sudoku took just three weeks from conception to marketplace and has sold over half a million copies in 30 or so different languages.

    We’re also blessed with a band of loyal writers, many of them journalists, and we will listen when they suggest new books. They seem to have enjoyed the experience of writing for Infinite Ideas, and they are keen to do more, so some authors are on their forth or fifth book. They too have mates who approach us with ideas - some admittedly bonkers (the ideas, not the mates), but we do consider all submissions.

    And like anyone else, we do get caught out by books that we anticipate will do OK but actually perform brilliantly. An example is Inspired Creative Writing. This book is a constant bestseller, so I commissioned Writing Best Selling Children’s Books from the author. It’s just out and doing extremely well!

    We also consult our friends in the book trade about new ideas, and they are always willing to offer their opinions.

    BD: What books are you most proud of having published?

    KH: I think we’re all very proud of establishing the series so quickly in such a crowded market place, so it’s difficult to pick just a few books. But ones that stand out are:

    • Defeat depression - we were a little concerned how our lightness of tone could be applied to such a difficult subject. The book was picked up by Saga magazine and became a bestseller on their website and continues to sell consistently well.
    • Re-energise your sex life is a great read - a genuinely funny but useful sex guide. And a special edition for Ann Summers has meant big unit sales.
    • Goddess - at 512 pages is our first “big” book. It was a bestseller last Christmas in hardback, with great reviews and customer feedback, and we can’t keep up with demand for the recently published paperback edition.
    • Stress proof your life - a brilliant, brilliant book that has old some thirty thousand copies.

    BD: What books are you working on right now?

    KH: We’ve signed up a roster of exciting titles for 2008 (well – we would say that wouldn’t we?!). In the first half of 2008, in the 52 Brilliant Ideas series, we’ve got Decorate to Speculate coming in January. Giles Kime, deputy editor of Homes & Gardens, explores every aspect of a house, from the exterior to the last very last light switch, and identifies what is – and what isn’t – worth spending money on. Two titles which hone in on quite important and relevant subject matter in today’s society – Calm your hyperactive child: 52 Brilliant ideas for coping with ADHD releases in February 2008 and Banish the bullies: 52 brilliant ideas for keeping your child safe and secure releases in June 2008. Other exciting titles include Have it your way: 52 brilliant ideas for getting everything you want, Crafting creativity: 52 brilliant ideas for awakening the artistic genius within, Live organic: 52 brilliant ideas for an altogether natural lifestyle, Play great guitar: 52 brilliant ideas for getting more out of your six string and many more!

    After our smashing success with Goddess last year we’ve stuck it in paperback and have also added two more Goddess-themed books simply overflowing with helpful and inspirational advice: Glow: The Goddess guide to a healthy life and Work it: The Goddess guide to career and finance.

    There are heaps more coming out in the Brilliant Little Idea series. We like the sound of Elderly schmerderly, The laid back wine guide and Rescue our world. These little tykes are chock full of essential information – all in a really pleasing (but dinky!) format.

    *****

    These are The Book Depository's 5 favourite Infinite Ideas titles:


  • Peter Owen

    Tue, 09 Dec 2008 11:40

    The Book Depository: What/who do you see as your primary market?

    Kit Maude (Peter Owen): Being a fairly idealistic bunch we'd like to think that all and especially sundry are potential Peterowenphiles but this is a cowardly answer. We find that those who most regularly come back to us are lovers of literary fiction and challenging non-fiction. Our emphasis on translated authors tends towards those 'international' in outlook and on challenging writing to those unafraid of terms like 'highbrow', both for want of better phrases.

    BD: What are the principal challenges/opportunities you see at the moment in the business of publishing books?

    KM: The book market has always been competitive but the last twenty years has seen a steady consolidation of the publishing industry into larger and larger conglomerates with frankly frightening marketing budgets. This increased ability to make the mediocre or adequate seem important makes it ever more difficult for smaller publishers to get noticed in their attempts to offer readers an alternative to some of the more pernicious pulp out there. But therein lies the opportunity, the advent of the internet is to an extent democratizing the book market and the reaction of booksellers is already fascinating. Spaces on bookshelves both wooden and virtual is appearing where it didn't before. The strange torpor on the part of some the large publishers i.e. an emphasis on celebrity biographies and not necessarily very good fiction can also be seen as a bonus to those who think differently ...

    BD: What brings you to the decision to publish a particular title/author?

    KM: The book's quality. Both in terms of the initial premise and its execution. Because we are a small office a strong personal reaction on the part of one of our staff goes a long way.

    BD: What books are you most proud of having published?

    KM: We are proud of all of our list. We are very proud to have been associated with authors like Shusaku Endo, Hermann Hesse, Yukio Mishima, Anna Kavan ... The list goes on.

    RW: What books are you working on right now?

    KM: We have an unusually strong Autumn/Winter schedule. About to be published is Sycorax by J.B. Aspinall, a tale of witchcraft and misogyny set in the medieval Yorkshire dales. A reading to officially launch the book will be held on Halloween at the legendary Parisian bookstore Shakespeare and Company. On September the 23rd we will publish the first ever biography of Margaret Fountaine, Wild and Fearless, the pioneering entomologist and author of Love Among the Butterflies. On October 3rd we are honored to be able to present Mervyn Peake: The Man and his Art, a new collection of paintings and illustrations by the great writer and artist. The volume also contains pieces by those who both knew and were inspired by Mervyn Peake including Michael Moorcock and Joanne Harris. We also have some great new fiction: There is the Hundred Yen Singer by a young Japanese author called Naomi Suenaga about the world of Enka singing, a little known aspect of Japanese culture, Bless'em All by Allen Saddler is a riotous novel about the Blitz, Loving Mephistopheles, by Miranda Miller which is a contemporary take on the Faust story and four new novellas by Ken Russell which continue his obsession with the lives of composers.

    *****

    These are The Book Depository's 5 favourite Peter Owen titles:


  • Debrett's

    Tue, 09 Dec 2008 11:40

    The Book Depository: What/who do you see as your primary market?

    Mark Mayhew: Debrett’s is in the “recognition” business; we recognise right people (via historic titles addressing birthright (Peerage & Baronetage) or achievement (People of Today)) AND right ways ... appropriate behaviour, for example. In the last year we have sought to address the need in society at large to know “how to” in many aspects of daily life; hence we have followed up Etiquette for Girls and republishing of Correct Form with Debrett’s Wedding Guide and the brand new Manners for Men titles. Anyone and everyone can consume these more accessible, contemporary titles ... and we have priced them competitively to reflect this.

    BD: What are the principal challenges/opportunities you see at the moment in the business of publishing books?

    MM: My background is not in publishing: that said I would believe as with most other products the key lies in securing distribution. There are very many publishers in the UK and very few Buyers determining which books are taken into their retail space. A great many great books “fail” because there is finite display opportunity and they do not get selected. The opportunity comes where something DOES get recognition, is supported by the buyer with insight ... and all parties benefit from the collaboration. Emerging new forms of distribution can only be good for the quick of thinking!

    BD: What brings you to the decision to publish a particular title/author?

    MM: This is more straightforward: two tests need be passed. First that the subject matter is “big” and relevant enough to fulfil simply commercial imperatives. Second (and somewhat uniquely for us) it needs be right to carry the Debrett’s brand marks.

    BD: What books are you most proud of having published?

    MM: For differing reasons: The impending 145th Peerage & Baronetage (because it’s five years since the last edition and under our own production for the first time); Etiquette for Girls because it pointed to a new “face” for Debrett’s (gaining very significant media focus too!); Manners for Men because it’s “my” first book.

    BD: What books are you working on right now?

    MM: Good question: as I write this we are well into a wholly new space for us (and we believe, the industry at large). It’s called Review 2007. The “Book of the Year” reflecting what made the news in Britain throughout 2007 ... covering just about everything you would expect something with the ambition we have, to do. Recognising its Ideal Christmas Gift positioning it will be a hardback, full colour, multi dimensional publication very attractively priced: the retail trade has been enthusiastic in its support ... which given the “one production run and that’s it” manufacturing approach has been helpful. If it works we’ll do it again, doubtless with improvements!

    *****

    These are The Book Depository's 5 favourite Debrett's titles:


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    Categories: publishers, Debrett's

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  • Kogan Page

    Tue, 09 Dec 2008 11:40

    Helen Kogan (Kogan Page): We straddle both trade and professional/academic markets but with a common emphasis on practical business books for professionals. This can be careers books for students entering the job market for the first time or – at the other end of the scale – professional books for specialist areas of practice.

    BD: What are the principal challenges/opportunities you see at the moment in the business of publishing books?

    HK: Where to start? I doubt if there has been quite such a time of change in publishing as now. We have Web 2.0 and open-source collaboration (a deep concern to those of us in factual publishing) the digitization of intellectual property with fantastic opportunities but with complicated issues to do with piracy, supply chain changes, developments in print technology and seismic changes in book retailing. Each of these changes presents both challenges and opportunities and it’s up to publishers to make it their business to find out how to respond to them. My own real concern is how in print we develop a viable business model in a Web 2 environment – particularly in specialist areas such as ours. With the free exchange of information we will have to ensure that what we offer provides a value beyond the soup of social networking and the wiki world. And, along with other independent publishers, I’m deeply concerned about the ability to ensure that our books are still seen on the high-street alongside the larger publishing houses.

    BD: What brings you to the decision to publish a particular title/author?

    HK:We look at the market first and foremost. We look to see how we can best optimize the title through home and export sales and foreign and electronic rights sales. We consider how it may fit into our existing list. We look at the profile and provenance of the author: and sometimes all of the aforementioned goes out of the window because we have that old-fashioned gut feeling that it’s going to be a cracking best seller.

    BD: What books are you most proud of having published?

    HK: A Handbook of Human Resource Management Practice by Michael Armstrong is about to go into its 11th edition and is still the best selling book in its field. Scoring Points by Hunt, Dunhumby and Philips, was the first book to look at the rise of Tesco and how it uses its customer loyalty card to build competitive advantage. The relaunch of our Sunday Times trade business series Creating Success (various authors) has been a fantastic success. The continued success of our best selling careers books such as Great Answers to Tough Interview Questions and our ‘Ultimate’ series including The Ultimate CV Book and The Ultimate Interview Book. Our testing series is still the market leader with classic books such as How to Pass Numeracy Tests.

    BD: What books are you working on right now?

    HK: Family Wars: Classic conflicts in family business and how to deal with them will be published in March 2008 and is an astonishing account of how family feuds and bust-ups have threatened some of the world’s greatest businesses. It’s also highly practical and offers advice for family-run businesses. Branded Male: Marketing to men a February publication that looks at the evolution of the male consumer. Big Money, Little Effort: Winning strategy for profitable long-term investment from Mark Shipman, our best selling author of The Next Big Investment Boom offers a simple investment system that ensures the greatest return from minimal effort. The relaunch our Sunday Times Business Enterprise series rolling out from February with classic titles such as How to Prepare a Business Plan and Starting a Successful Business.

    *****

    These are The Book Depository's 5 favourite Kogan Page titles:


  • bluechrome publishing

    Tue, 09 Dec 2008 11:40

    The Book Depository: What/who do you see as your primary market?

    Anthony Delgrado (Bluechrome Publishing): I don't think we have one, other than people who like to read interesting books. We've never stuck to a genre or tried to be high or low brow, just looked around and when a book made us go 'wow' published it, on the assumption that other people would go 'wow' too. Saying that, we tend to publish literary or experimental fiction - with the odd genre title thrown in to keep us on our toes - short stories, novellas and novels alongside a whole lot of poetry, where people probably know us best. But then there is the hot wire in the bluechrome head that burns through sometimes and we just go-off-on-one over something that is extraordinary but patently not going to be mainstream commercial. Two recent examples are the brilliant Messages by Lynne Rees and Sarah Salway, which is a fantastic, beautifully written collaborative work, and the poetry-art book TM: Corporate Brand Dream 69 by Nenko Joretsu, which is just totally off the wall, absurd and very funny. I guess, if bluechrome blows-up in our face, we don't want the epitaphs to read 'boring, predictable, safe & a bit more boring', which I think is the danger if you try to identify a particular group of readers and then shoehorn your books and authors into a jelly mould. I like the fact that if someone comes along with a good concept, our first thoughts tend to be 'how do we make that work ?' and 'what can we add to the idea?' rather than 'is it an earner.' Our readers seem to like it too.

    BD: What are the principal challenges/opportunities you see at the moment in the business of publishing books?

    AD: Challenges, in general all of the usual ones - digitisation, returns and everything else. On top of those, for us as a small but beautifully appointed independent press, selling enough books to keep going, getting reviews, talking book shops into stocking our books without sending them all back after a few weeks, and generally finding enough hours in the day to do ourselves and our authors justice, probably top the list.

    In terms of opportunities, that is a completely different kettle, as I think it is a really exciting time to be involved in publishing, as all of the new ways to talk to your customers are changing the rules, and for a short while that'll give the fleet-of-foot an opportunity to establish themselves. I think we've all seen with the MP3/music industry that technological change has recreated the mechanics of the industry, and for a while the people who can recognise the possibilities and exploit them can make a little hay. Naturally, the bigger companies catch-up with the innovations, have greater resources to exploit them and the balance returns, but by then there will be new players utilising new approaches, and taking advantage of the opportunities. As a small publisher, it is about recognising what is happening early and not being afraid to jump in there. The best examples of people who are doing this brilliantly at the moment are the likes of Snowbooks, Salt and The Friday Project who are carving their own niches and have the energy and nous to make it work for them. They are the three that you would hope to see breaking through, as they are bright enough to see the possibilities, but obviously strong on the management side too. I seriously think that each of them are a 'Booker' or a 'Rowling' away from the big-time, and good luck to them, they deserve it. For us, its on a different scale, but I think (hope) that we've got a few ideas of our own that will give us a fighting chance, and people seem to like what we're doing. All of which means that the word of mouth thing is starting to kick in, and we'll always have Paris, if not the Hilton.

    BD: What brings you to the decision to publish a particular title/author?

    AD: It really varies. I know at this point I should be saying market research, profiling, product development, test marketing and the earning potential of a particular title, but if we were going to be that bottom-line focussed we probably wouldn't be publishing short stories and poetry. On the poetry side we have an editorial board who read submissions and recommend what they think is worth publishing. That is purely based on whether they think it exceptionally good or not. On the fiction, I'm afraid I pick it all these days, and it is as simple as whether I like it or not, whether the ideas are strong, and the writing is of a high quality. Luckily I've got quite eclectic (and sometimes odd) tastes, so we get a good range, and I don't get too bored with the reading. One thing I have learned is that it is best to publish authors who I can get on with though, it makes life so much easier if they are sane. Though it can be interesting if they are not.

    BD: What books are you most proud of having published?

    AD: As we started bluechrome with ten pounds and a tip for a horse at 10:1 (which luckily came in) our first title was a source of pride and disbelief that we'd even managed to get it into print, even if I can't open it now as it just about broke every book design rule known to man. I am actually quite proud of most of our books, but when I got the first copies of Lynne Rees' The Oven House, there was a moment where I started to believe that bluechrome was a real publisher, it just raised the bar in so many ways. Other than that, there are lots; I got a buzz out of us publishing DM Thomas as I'd read his novels as a kid (he'll love me for saying that) and even more so as we'll also be publishing his next book; Sarah Salway's Leading The Dance is just as good as it gets; reissuing Erik Ryman's God's Game; Patricia Debney's novel Losing You; Patrick Osada's Rough Music is exceptional; Patrick Chapman's The Wow Signal I read over and over; David Ashbee is probably the most complete poet I've ever met - he can just do everything and make it look easy; Kevin Bailey would have won the TS Eliot for Surviving Love if the world had any justice; Mike Hogan is just so interesting and unlike any other English poet; James Kirkup is another I can't quite believe we've got to publish and Shaun Levin wrote the finest novella I've ever read (Seven Sweet Things); the first poetry collection series we did under the name The Hobo Poets, and there are too many poets to mention who's work I really love. Then there were the MS Society and Stroke Association Anthologies, The Review of Contemporary Poetry and The Book of Hopes & Dreams which were important to me in different ways. Then there are the unusual books like Nenko's TM, Lynne & Sarah's Messages, Robin Bell's How To Tell Lies... I don't know. Ask me about a specific book and I'll tell you why it is special, and why you should read it. We're not flipping burgers, its kind of personal.

    BD: What books are you working on right now?

    AD: Far too many is the honest answer. Immediately, there are novels from Gareth Calway, Sue Guiney, Deborah Rey all of which are excellent in quite different ways. Short story collections include some from Sally Spedding, Alexandra Kitty, Mo McAuley, Susan Wicks, David Gardiner, and then there are all sorts of poetry books, including collections from John Sewell, Harry Guest, Tom Phillips, Carolyn Oulton, an amazing collaboration between the poet Philip Gross and the photographer Simon Denison and I'm really looking forward to the debut collection from Adele Ward. There are also the Mono EPs which we are launching in the new year, which I'm really chuffed about and taking bets on which major publisher appropriates the format first. They are basically lovely little 3 story books in the shape of a CD which will sell for a couple of pounds. Short stories are so hot at the moment, and I think the EPs will prove to be very popular. Like we say on the website, they are a new way of reading, and don't require batteries. I'm looking forward to it. All of it.

    *****

    These are The Book Depository's 5 favourite bluechrome titles:


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