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23 ‘‘

TT Do publishers work best as smaller groups? AV I think so. The best publishing experiences I have had are when a small team sees a project through from beginning to end. That sort of “hub” working has been part of the biggest

successes of my career. I guess that’s why Hachette is keen to foster these imprints.

TT What does the next year or so hold? AV We’ve signed 31 books, ranging into 2018, but there are still some gaps next year. We have a sort of three-pillar strategy: getting that “category killer”, the big début or big non-fiction book; creating a list of multi-brand, repeating authors; and creating content in-house [in terms of] deciding what we want to publish and finding the best writers and agents to do that. We’re a small team, but it’s hard to know how big we could be. At the moment the list might be weighted towards non-fiction, so I think we might want to bolster our fiction side. Ideally, it’s about growing revenue and we can do that without adding to the head-count. It’s about building authors’ sales, not necessarily getting more people in. Whatever we do, we will keep that core, start-up identity.

TT You have commissioned a lot of celebrity books in the past; has the market changed?

AV For the right book, with an interesting story, the market is still there but the days of just being on TV or having a bestselling DVD and wanting to write a book have gone. Readers are more discerning. And the notion of what a celebrity is has changed. YouTubers are a new breed of celebs, and on that side the market is alive and kicking. And there is a market for the surprising celebrity book: Ruby Wax writing about mental health and Russell Brand’s Revolution weren’t conventional memoirs. I’m not looking for a celebrity who wants to write a book as a brand extension. It’s about having a great story and being willing to tell it all. Whitewash doesn’t wash anymore.

Anna Valentine is pictured (above, centre) alongside commissioning editor Emma Smith (left) and editorial director Sam Eades

TT Do you think about the legacy of Trapeze at all? Whether it will go on and on? AV I guess I am thinking more about how Trapeze relates to people. Few imprints have reader recognition, but to obsess about whether a reader knows your imprint is redundant because as long as you are producing the best books, readers will come to know about them. It would be nice for a customer to recognise the Trapeze logo and think it’s an imprint that produces books that resonate with them. But ultimately we know who our readers are, even if they don’t know we’re addressing them directly. 

I work much more closely with marketing and publicity and I don’t just ask myself whether I love a submission; I instinctively go into it with an eye to the publicity and marketing opportunities

Mary-Anne Harrington, Tinder Press

given its team “a renewed sense of identity”, with much closer relationships between editorial, marketing and publicity. Harrington notes that she thinks “in a much more 360° way since I’ve been working on Tinder Press. I work much more closely with marketing and publicity and I don’t just ask myself whether I love a submission; I instinctively go into it with an eye to the publicity and marketing opportunities it presents. So I hope I’ve developed into a more rounded and effective publisher.” As for the imprint names, aside

from The Borough Press, which uses the location of its parent company, the inspiration seems to be random. Tonkinson was on the Tube and saw an illustration of a blue bird on a white background on a friend’s Facebook posting; Rejt was walking to work, “wishing I had my raincoat, and that got me thinking about protecting authors, which led to Mantle”. Meanwhile, riverrun wanted something “with energy and poetry” and opted, seemingly out of nowhere, for the first word of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. The case for them all could be

answered likewise: If one asks, “What is a HarperCollins book? What is a Penguin Random House book? What is a Hachette book?”, the answers are so general as to be meaningless. But ask, “What is a Bluebird book? A book from The Borough Press? Or riverrun?”, and over time, as they embed themselves, the answers refer to a recognisable style or subject area, one that can be latched on to by booksellers and transmitted to consumers, too. 

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