Who is the publisher who makes the best impression?
Market Leaders Pick Their Market Leader
Wednesday 05 May 1999
One man who has my admiration in the publishing industry is Vitek Tracz of Current Science Group because he builds rather than milks and is prepared to risk his own money on a venture or innovation. Also because he is a believer in high- quality design, editorial and production and, most importantly, because he respects the authors he publishes. Of course, you can be a decent publisher without any of these skills, but to be a market leader they are essential.
Anthony Forbes Watson
There are several qualities a successful publisher must combine. They should have a passion for books. They must have vision, imagination, team leadership and an ability to work with both creative and commercial acumen. The combination of all these aspects is the fundamental challenge of publishing. People who have gone some way in doing this are Peter Kindersley of Dorling Kindersley becausePeter had a big idea he transformed into reality. He created a look and a design that was successfully translated around the world. His triumph was that of successfully creating a brand identity. Then there's Paul Scherer who recently retired from Transworld. He is an awesome character and the successful builder of a top-quality team - thanks to him their success spanned two decades. And third, I am impressed by Tim Hely Hutchinson of Hodder Headline and his skilful advocacy of the importance to authors of territorial rights.
Headline Book Publishing
The first person who springs to mind as an impressive publishing figure is Anthony Forbes Watson for turning Penguin around. He with Helen Fraser managed to make the most potent brand in the world a success again. Victoria Barnsley of Fourth Estate is also an impressive figure. She has made a small company extremely successful in terms of publishing books and getting them on to best-sellers lists. She also helped to start and promote the current vogue for the quirky narrative non-fiction book such as Longitude and A Perfect Storm. She inspired the market. Victoria has an eye for quality and a determination to preserve that; Anthony had the toughness to turn a company around.
I admire Anthony Cheetham of Orion for his ability to start a publishing business, make a success of it, sell it and then do the same again. He has done this with the imprints Century and Orion and in doing so has shown remarkable entrepreneurial talent.
Dorling Kindersley Plc
It may seem a strange choice as the person I'm going to choose is chief executive of a media group but she is a publisher by trade and, in my opinion has shown great innovation in the way she has directed the publishing industry. My market leader is Marjorie Scardino of the Pearson Group. She's a risk-taker but it is risk-taking that builds business. She is building a knowledge business which is a rapidly expanding area of the publishing arena. And she's going global with the business - in fact, she's going for a Microsoft type of global lockout. It's an exciting idea and I admire her boldness of perspective.
Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
The challenge of whittling down any large list to a small one is exacerbated by the fact that I admire and have learnt a great deal from many people in this industry, past and present. I would certainly include my close colleague Liz Calder, editor- in-chief of Bloomsbury Publishing, among them with her tremendous style, flair and commitment in any list. I would also pick out Anthony Cheetham of Orion Books who has always been more of an inspiration to me than he could probably be aware His example with Century led to my feeling that starting a new publishing venture would be an exciting thing to do. I also admire Anthony's ability to spot publishing trends quickly and take full advantage of them by exploiting them before other people do. He is also a very agreeable person. William Armstrong of Macmillan was the Miss Jean Brodie of my publishing career. Not only was he mad enough to hire me at Sidgwick and Jackson in 1976 but also he showed me the vital skill in non-fiction publishing of putting a great author together with a great idea for a subject conceived by the publisher. He has an exceptional gift for this. He is also terribly well connected in world publishing and showed how you could make international networking (something Liz Calder is brilliant at as well) a huge strength of your approach to book publishing. Finally Craig Bartholomew of Microsoft is an American software publisher with a determination not to mimic the past but to create the works of the future. In the four years I have collaborated with him on Bloomsbury's biggest venture to date, the Encarta World English Dictionary, I have been impressed throughout by his combination of vision on the one hand, and huge efficiency in running his day-to-day business life and marshalling the large forces around him and reporting to him at Microsoft. He spends a lot of time in aeroplanes but things still get done and he manages to be a well-balanced and warm human being on top of that.
I thoroughly admire the work of Bloomsbury's chief executive, Nigel Newton. He took a small company and has built it up into a substantial publishing concern. He has established it as a player and doing that sort of thing in the UK is uncommon. I should also mention Victoria Barnsley of Fourth Estate. Her independent business is of a size not big in proportion to its actual size and this is thanks to her brilliant eye and feel for books.
John Murray (Publishers)
Book publishing is essentially a team business and the houses I particularly admire tend to be the independent ones. I admire publishers who have managed to run consistently successful independent publishing companies. The men who get my votes are Nigel Newton of Bloomsbury and Tim Hely Hutchinson of Hodder Headline. They have done terrific jobs for their respective companies in different ways. But not every company can be an independent and I also respect much of the work done by the offshoots of US or multinational companies. These include Philippa Harrison of Little, Brown, Simon Master of Random House and Mark Barty-King and the whole team at Transworld.
One chap in publishing who I thoroughly admire is Ernest Hecht. He runs a publishing company called Souvenir Press and is the last of the great publishers. He's an eccentric character who runs a very successful independent house, which can publish a book on cricket one minute and on diets the next. He has very broad-based experience in the industry, which is backed up with sound commercial acumen. He's a risk-taker and he loves his writers - certain publishers, of course, do not love their writers. Ernest does. And that you can't really do without.
It seems cheeky, but I'd really like to mention the team at Transworld which I think is surely one of the most effective in the business. Barry Hempstead and Patrick Janson-Smith have ensured that year after year we not only publish good books but also make a healthy profit doing so. Alan Giles is also a great man in publishing. He is now at HMV Media and was formerly at Waterstone's. I choose him because he brings clarity of purpose to everything he does and communicates it clearly. He's one of the people I most admire in the business. I'd also like to mention Christopher MacLehose of Harvill publishers because he's ploughing his own furrow in publishing, and he maintains his own extraordinarily high standards with great success.
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