1 What's your company called?
2 What do you publish?
We currently have two imprints: one for general trade Christian interest and children’s books, the other for academic humanities, specialising in Christian theology but covering other humanities subjects too.
3 What's the story of the company?
We started up in 2015 after being approached by several academics looking to find an outlet for their titles. We had no previous involvement in the publishing industry, and have built the business from the ground up. Finding reps to work for us and making trade connections were without doubt very important in the early days. Although we continue to publish serious academic works, trade conditions are leading us to publish more popular titles, and we find ourselves leaving behind high ideals and increasingly focusing on what sells.
4 How's business?
Business continues to improve and recent sales, although still modest, have doubled every month and are not yet leveling off. We are already attracting new authors, but one of our main objectives is to find and grow talented authors who find they have a good fit with our brand. We are working towards exporting, chiefly to the US market, which is very challenging when, again, we are starting from nothing.
5 What do you enjoy about being independent?
When you have no one ‘above’ you, you can set your own targets. Personally, I [Mathew Bartlett] have had to learn about every area of the publishing industry, from author contracts, rights licensing and metadata to marketing, design, editing, project development and management. Consequently I feel I am in a good position to understand all areas of the business as it moves forward and takes on staff.
6 What do you think is the biggest single issue in publishing right now?
That’s a very difficult question, but for me the biggest problem is the pressure on retail prices. As costs go up and distributors, wholesalers, reps and sales outlets all want their cut of the RRP, publishers’ margins are under increasing pressure. The reading public still want the prices they had a decade ago, but this is not sustainable. Dare I suggest that a balance must be struck between the price we can achieve at market without losing sales, and the share of the pie our trade partners want—but I personally think we are a long way from such a re-adjustment.
7 What one piece of advice would you give to a fellow independent just starting out?
There are those who will view you with disdain and try to put you down. Don’t let them. Concentrate on consistent quality of product and your market will begin to accept you. However, be careful not to let early success blind you to the fact that you must continually develop more quality products for your list.
8 What do you get out of belonging to the IPG?
Joining the IPG is probably the single best thing we have done since launching the business. We have received support when dealing with giants such as Amazon and Nielsen, who might otherwise have ignored us. The IPG’s mentoring programme has paired me with an experienced industry professional who meets with me frequently to offer helpful advice. Smaller publishers within the IPG are treated on a level with bigger members, so everyone can get the advice they need and everyone can grow.