1 What's your company called?
Edward Everett Root. It is named after my [John Spiers] maternal grandfather, who was a volunteer in the Great War in 1914 but killed at Hooge near Ypres in July 1916.
2 What do you publish?
Trade and academic books. Our trade titles are a series called The Street-wise Popular Practical Guides, which we began with The Street-wise Guide to Surviving Cancer by Karol Sikora. Academic books are mainly in history and literature. We also publish some fiction, including the new paperback edition of Numunwari: A Novel of Aboriginal 'Dreaming', Crocodiles And Cultural Conflict by Grahame Webb, the world's leading authority in this field.
3 What's the story of the company?
My wife Leigh and I founded it three years ago, and we have published 32 titles so far. Next year we will publish 40. I am now 76, so perhaps the country’s oldest ‘new’ publisher, but I was a successful publisher before. In 1969, as a graduate I founded The Harvester Press, which published some 2,000 titles over 20 years, including JL Carr’s classic novel A Month in the Country, a Booker Prize runner-up. We won the Queen’s Award for Export Achievement in 1988—then only the third UK publisher to have done so. When the firm was sold to Simon & Schuster I went back to being an academic and wrote 11 books myself. It has been an interesting challenge to come back into a world so changed by digital structures.
4 How's business?
Very encouraging. We have signed up well-known, saleable authors, including Asa Briggs, who left us his last two books, Peter Burke and John Sutherland, and are introducing some new ones. Global agencies have been signed, and sales are good. In 2018 the Street-wise series will publish as paperback originals Raj Persaud and Peter Bruggen’s The Street-wise Guide to Getting The Best Mental Health Care and Robert Lefever’s The Street-wise Guide to Coping With and Recovering From Addiction.
5 What do you enjoy about being independent?
Innovating with new books. Getting the first copy in our hands from the printers, and getting the rest of the stock out of the warehouse! Making our own decisions. Testing out ideas. Publishing worthwhile titles, well designed and promoted—we hope!
6 What do you think is the biggest single issue in publishing right now?
The digital challenge—and finding book buyers.
7 What one piece of advice would you give to a fellow independent just starting out?
Be lucky. And join the IPG!
8 What do you get out of belonging to the IPG?
Invaluable advice, meetings with colleagues, the Annual Conference and discounts from providers. And being interviewed like this!