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FEATURE IMPRINTS MAKING AN IMPRESSION


21 WIRED FOR SUCCESS


A start-up mentality and a will to build conversations are among the founding principles of Orion’s nascent list Trapeze, as publisher Anna Valentine explains


Eleanor Morgan’s Anxiety for Beginners, which we published a few months ago. In both cases, I’m not sure we would have won their books, both at auction, without that stamp and precedent. Those authors wanted to be part of the Bluebird family of authors and we are very lucky to have them.” This is where the question of “voice”


comes into play. Harrington says: “I think it’s important for an imprint to have a distinct identity, to mean something within the industry—at least to writers and to agents.” Suzie Dooré, who became publishing


director of The Borough Press at HarperCollins a year ago, agrees: “I’d say it’s very important both within the trade and externally—we are always looking for ways to make our books the ones everyone is talking about, and our strong personalised presence on Twitter and Instagram is invaluable for this.” But what happens when that voice


is bound up very strongly with an individual? Tonkinson, for example, has a personal interest in mind, body and spirit and has very much made her mark with the imprint. What happens when these people move on? Dooré says: “In the case of Borough, I think it will gradually alter the shape of the list because I inevitably have slightly different taste and ideas to my predecessor [Katie Espiner, who left to become m.d. of Orion]. But in terms of how we bring books to market, this has always been a team effort, with


real enthusiasm and creativity from the wider division. So in this respect the spirit of the list remains unaltered.” Harrington adds: “When any key


Pictured above is Suzie Dooré (second from left) alongside her colleagues at HarperCollins imprint The Borough Press


Tom Tivnan Can you explain why Trapeze was set up? Anna Valentine I think David [Shelley, Orion and Little, Brown c.e.o.], Katie [Espiner, Orion m.d.] and Jon [Wood, Orion publisher] were all very much used to working with smaller imprints and viewed [the model] as a base for Orion to grow. Having worked in a non-fiction background, I was keen to be on a list that encompassed both non- fiction and fiction, especially since the existing framework of Orion sort of separates the two. The rationale was to do something new;


player leaves—not just an editor—and someone new comes on board, there would inevitably be a shift in emphasis, an evolution. But there could very well be positives from that as well.” Interestingly, although editors admit


that publishers and imprint names (beyond the obvious ones, such as Penguin, and perhaps Faber, Virago and Picador) mean little to the public, they do think that having an imprint with a particular identity is seen as a good way of developing community. “We have 45,000 people who receive our Bluebird newsletter,” says Tonkinson. “Having an imprint helps us communicate directly with a relevant and interested readership.”


PERFECTLY FORMED In large houses, having small teams working on an imprint is seen as a distinct advantage, concentrating the list’s focus. Editors also say it helps with staff retention and recruitment, that it can give those involved a greater sense of worth; staffers may feel that they are not disappearing in the proverbial corporate monolith. Riley believes that riverrun has


there hadn’t been a new imprint for some time at Orion. And I think this is a return to Orion’s start-up mentality, to doing things differently and challenging the ways we had been working, and coming up with something exciting and dynamic.


TT Can you define what Trapeze is about? AV Starting conversations. We [Valentine, editorial director Sam Eades and commissioning editor Emma Smith] are noisy human beings and we want to publish noisy books, books that people are talking about—the book you want to foist upon friends as soon as you stop reading it. We’re an outward-looking imprint—we are obsessed with conversations and books that start conversations, or that tap into conversations, or start a debate. This is the spirit of Trapeze. When we are looking to acquire a book we are hard on ourselves, we ask: “What is the conversation that will start around this book?” If we can’t define it, we won’t buy it.


TT What is the main focus of the list? AV This is a bit cliché, but it is about making a home for authors and building brands long- term. We are in the midst of concluding a deal with an author for non-fiction and fiction in one contract—one title is high-end non-fiction, the other a commercial novel. I think this is rare. At my previous employer we had a huge talent


who sold over three million books worldwide and he wanted to write a children’s book, but we couldn’t make it work because of the internal structures and accounting systems.








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