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Tue, 09 Dec 2008 11:40
Book Depository What/who do you see as your primary market?
Denise Bates: A broad-based audience for general non-fiction. As we publish everything from commercial TV tie-ins and high-profile cookbooks to narrative history and even specialist Natural History guides, our typical consumer varies accordingly. A lot of people know Collins as a brand from their school dictionaries and atlases, and from the Collins Gem series, but what they might not realise is that Collins also publishes highly commercial non-fiction such as the Dragons' Den tie-in, Rachel Allen's cookbooks, Kevin McCloud and even Neil Morrissey this autumn, on the joys of the Perfect Pint.
BD: What are the principal challenges/opportunities you see at the moment in the business of publishing books?
DB: As straight reference material moves - in fact, has moved - online, books need to have lots of personality and that added something to appeal. It means everything we publish has to have character, a real point of view and an appeal as an object - whether that's a gorgeous ribbon on a cookbook or an unusual format or cover finish. And of course digital competition is an opportunity as well as a challenge. We've recently signed up a series of parenting titles with quirky new website gurgle.com, for example, so the web is certainly creating brands that can successfully translate into books, as well as vice versa.
BD: What brings you to the decision to publish a particular title/author?
DB: Understanding clearly how, where and why it is going to be sold are the givens, and it needs to fit our publishing strategy for a particular category. Then it's down to excitement - is this a project or author that really creates a buzz and for whom we see a long-term future, ideally over more than one book? With some titles you can be remarkably close in predicting what they will sell - with others it's a case of betting on a dark horse, about which you have a gut feeling. And of course sales and marketing colleagues are very closely involved in the decision to acquire or not - we want to be investing in projects that we all, as a team, feel passionate about and that we can really get behind.
BD: What books are you most proud of having published?
DB: It's incredibly difficult to pick out any individual titles but in general I would say that the books for which we have had the idea are often the most satisfying. When you've spotted a trend, gone out and found an author and crafted a book that's right for the audience - and it performs - that's very pleasing. And taking an author to a new level is deeply exciting. When we took on the TV cook Rachel Allen, for example, she was a star in Ireland but not selling significantly in the UK. Now her books sell well in excess of 100,000 copies and she is as successful in the UK as she is in Ireland.
BD: What books are you working on right now?
DB:The lead times for illustrated books in particular are at least 18 months ahead of publication, so we're working on commissioning our list for autumn 2009 and beyond. Alongside that, we're putting the final touches to our autumn 08 list as retailers firm up their Christmas line-up and our PR plans start to take definite shape. The right book can always be slotted in very quickly, however, if really necessary - last week we signed up Kate and Gin, the dancing dog from Britain's Got Talent, to share the secrets of all those fantastic tricks in time for an October publication date. I think it's the first time we've pitched to a dog!
These are The Book Depository's 5 favourite Collins titles:
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