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Meet the Member: UIT Cambridge / Green Books
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Posted by IPG

1 What's your company called?

UIT Cambridge / Green Books.

2 What do you publish?

We publish non-fiction books under two imprints. UIT Cambridge focuses on making important topics accessible, especially science and sustainability. Green Books focuses on environmental topics, including gardening, sustainable building, economics, ecology, climate change and spirituality.

3 What's the story of the company?

UIT Cambridge started publishing in 2003. People in the company had already written books for other publishers, and that has informed how we have always worked—we really do know about the blood, sweat and tears that authors put into producing the superb books they want. In 2009 we published Sustainable Energy—Without the Hot Air by David MacKay, for which we are probably best known. The book was a roaring success and started a series of books that make important topics accessible to a general audience. We trademarked Without the Hot Air and went on to publish Drugs—Without the Hot Air by the controversial Professor David Nutt, and two new books in 2015: Urban Transport—Without the Hot Air and Sustainable Materials—Without the Hot Air.
In February 2013 we bought the business of Green Books, now an imprint within UIT, and the two imprints are complementary. They share core values of sustainability and environmental awareness but viewed from different angles: UIT is more evidence-based and Green Books focuses on more practical issues.

4 How's business?

The first year of Green Books was hard going because commissioning had been put on hold prior to the sale. We also had to introduce UIT’s commercial awareness and more rigorous IT procedures, which paid off in 2014 and 2015—all our books are now produced on time, are fully metadata-ed and publicized long before they are published, and come out simultaneously in paper and ebook. We changed our distribution to improve our overseas sales in 2013, and that has led to North America, Australia and New Zealand making much bigger contributions. We are delighted to be expanding the UIT and Green Books lists with both veteran and debut authors, which has really boosted our backlist sales, and we are also developing our professional list.

5 What do you enjoy about being independent?

We have the flexibility to work on whatever we want, which means that we can publish interesting and occasionally controversial or risky books that other publishers might not consider. For example, we’ve sold 70,000 copies of Sustainable Energy, which several other publishers declined—probably because the author wanted the full PDF to be free online.

6 What is the biggest single issue in publishing right now?

The perception that ebooks cost nothing. If by pricing ebooks very cheaply we publishers give the message that books are almost worthless, we have only ourselves to blame if people don’t value the rigorous commissioning, editorial and marketing skills that are the real worth of good publishers.

7 What one piece of advice would you give to a fellow independent just starting out?

One, be careful with the money: you can’t change the world if you go bust. Two, you don’t need a lot of books, just good ones. And three, use Nielsen BookData’s Enhanced Service to get your metadata out.

8 What do you get out of belonging to the IPG?

A network of endlessly helpful people willing to share their wisdom and experience. The generosity and kindness of people who have been happy to help over the years, both through the IPG’s mentoring scheme and informally, is amazing and humbling.

Visit the UIT Cambridge / Green Books website.

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