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Tue, 09 Dec 2008 11:40
Book Depository: What/who do you see as your primary market?
Stephen Page (CEO, Faber and Faber): Anyone who reads. It might sound flippant but as passionate as we are about books and as proud as we are of our literary heritage, our biggest raison d’etre is to take our books to as wide an audience as possible. Popularity and quality should not be seen as mutually exclusive. That said, our most dedicated market are the readers who coalesce around our Literary Publishing, including the Poetry and Performing Arts lists – they are the people to whom Faber means the most.
BD: What are the principal challenges/opportunities you see at the moment in the business of publishing books?
SP: Margins are getting ever slimmer and that's a tough climate to operate in. Also, there is a polarisation occurring in the book industry today with bestsellers getting bigger, and the lower ranking titles getting smaller. It’s a real challenge to publish a spread of books successfully. The opportunity this presents is for the creation of a list of very high quality books along with exploration of niches and communities. We spend increasingly more time and effort engaging with our readers and bringing them into the Faber fold – we’re re-launching our website in April with the emphasis very much on connecting readers to authors and vice versa.
Developments in technology also raise a whole range of opportunities and risks. Copyright and territoriality are threatened as never before, but the opportunity to create new ways of publishing and reaching new people in new ways are terrifically exciting indeed.
BD: What brings you to the decision to publish a particular title/author?
SP: It is so hard to sum this up simply. As you might expect quality is hugely important – if a proposal or manuscript doesn’t pass our quality filter, it’s unlikely we’ll publish it. That said, we’re not interested in buying books we don’t feel have a readership, although we take a long view about some works and certainly of a writer’s long term career. We have different commercial criteria for different areas of our list. It’s quite clear that a debut playwright with a play on at the Bush theatre isn’t going to sell as many copies of their playscript as a new novel by Ishiguro - we’re banking on a few being the best writing talent in their field, on becoming the Golding or Stoppard of their generation.
BD: What books are you most proud of having published?
SP: That’s hard. In the last few months at Faber we published The Letters of Ted Hughes which is an extraordinary book. The luck of working at Faber is that the publishing feels so worthwhile. I suppose the professional pride comes from transforming a book’s life, feeling that your involvement as a company has played a great role in a book’s success. At Faber I’d cite Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go and Jenny Uglow’s two wonderful books, The Lunar Men and Nature’s Engraver as particularly strong experiences.
BD: What books are you working on right now?
SP: 2008 is lining up to be the most extraordinary year for us – we’ve got an embarrassment of riches and everyone is frantically busy getting everything lined up!
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