1 What's your company called?
2 What do you publish?
We mainly publish children’s books, under our Belle Kids imprint and in two series. Tigeropolis
is a middle grade series about a family of vegetarian tigers running their own wildlife park in the foothills of the Himalayas. It’s a funny, beautifully illustrated series that also has an important underlying message about conservation. The third book in the series, Caught in the Trap
, has the tigers outsmarting a gang of poachers with a little help from burrowing pygmy hogs, elephant powered water cannon and bungee jumping monkeys, and is out in April.
The Adventures of Captain Bobo
is a picture book series for ages 4+ about a captain, his comic crew, his faithful wee dog, Salty, and a wonderful paddle steamer. The third book in the series is due out next year, when the crew visit London and discover Tower Bridge isn’t quite what they expected.
We also publish some specialist non-fiction titles, but our focus at the moment is mainly on children’s books.
3 What's the story of the company?
The company was founded by Kay Hutchison. We were originally set up to work on a range of creative industries projects and also to lead on the Legacy aspects of the London Olympics. The Here East
creative cluster is a direct result of our work. We entered publishing four years ago with a social history of the West of Scotland as told by one of the Clyde’s most famous captains, and have become real enthusiasts for the industry.
4 How's business?
Good. We are slowly building revenues and our catalogue and are really happy with the progress. It’s an industry in which you have to be patient in developing your knowledge and contacts and building a reputation. We launched a spin-off adventure game app about a year ago that has been well received, and it’s been great working with creative talent such as Richard E Grant, who does our audiobooks. We also developed a comic strip based on the Tigeropolis characters with Hull City Supporters Club; the club’s nickname is the Tigers. We are now looking to develop merchandise based on our 3D printed Bittu character, and to begin work on selling international rights.
5 What do you enjoy about being independent?
The key thing for us is being able to have full control of the process. We retain all rights in the work we do, which allows us to work across platforms. Last year we were in Cannes talking about a possible animation project. It’s early days, but we have a background in television and are working with a very well respected children’s television producer, so fingers crossed.
6 What do you think is the biggest single issue in publishing right now?
Probably the biggest issue is about how you get heard above all the ‘noise’ out there. We don’t have money for big marketing campaigns and we don’t work with celebrity authors, so it’s a constant challenge to generate a buzz for books. You have to be persistent to get space on shelves. That said, we were at the IPG’s event in Nottingham in early February and met up with a number of Independent booksellers, and it was great to see such passionate people at the forefront of the industry all talking so positively about their businesses.
7 What one piece of advice would you give to a fellow independent just starting out?
Recognise things will probably take longer than you first planned, and that costs might be a bit more than you budgeted for initially. But in the end things have a habit of working out well if you trust your instincts.
8 What do you get out of belonging to the IPG?
We’ve found the IPG to be a great way of connecting with others in the industry. Whatever your business challenge there is a member who has ‘seen that, done that’ and is more than willing to give you some advice. The Skills Hub
training courses can also be useful introductions to subjects you need to know more about. The IPG also provides a collective voice, which is useful when dealing with government and funding bodies such as the Arts Council.