1 What's your company called?
We are the Belgravia Books Collective, the home of publishing imprints Gallic Books and Aardvark Bureau and independent bookshop Belgravia Books
on Ebury Street in London.
2 What do you publish?
At our Gallic Books imprint we publish French fiction in translation, and at Aardvark Bureau we publish an eclectic selection of innovative and entertaining fiction from around the world.
3 What's the story of the company?
I [Jane Aitken] founded Gallic Books in 2006 with Pilar Webb. At the time there was only a limited selection of French fiction published in the UK, and we wanted to fill that gap. We now have 65 Gallic titles in print, of which a quarter have been translated in-house.
We expanded into bookselling in 2011 when we opened Belgravia Books. We operate our publishing out of offices at the back of the bookshop, and our books are prominent in the shop. We also stock many other independent publishers’ books, with a focus on translated fiction. But overall we have 4,000 titles across fiction, history, children’s, biography, cookery and art. In 2015 we wanted to expand our fiction publishing beyond French, and opened Aardvark Bureau, where we publish glorious fiction by Australian, New Zealand and English authors.
4 How's business?
Our print sales are flat this year against 2015—but ebook sales are up by 25%, and we are 20% up in the bookshop.
5 What do you enjoy about being independent?
Being able to move quickly to acquire and publish a book. We also enjoy taking decisions without having to get approval from layers of management.
6 What do you think is the biggest single issue in publishing right now?
I think the biggest single issue is the sheer number of books being published. It is harder now to get individual books noticed. But it is also what makes the trade dynamic and interesting.
7 What one piece of advice would you give to a fellow independent just starting out?
Have realistic expectations of what each of your books can achieve. And if any book starts to take off, put everything behind that book to propel it into the limelight. One big success—in our case The Elegance of the Hedgehog—opens doors.
8 What do you get out of belonging to the IPG?
We enjoy the newsletters and always take a table or panel on the IPG’s stand at The London Book Fair, where the prominent position is very helpful.