1 What is your job title and company? And roughly how many people work for your company?
I’m publisher at Mojo Risin’ Publisher. We’re a partnership, set up in 2015 between me and my long-term collaborator and business partner, Steve Wraith. It’s just us, bringing freelance designers, copyeditors etc in on a project by project basis. My role is pretty much ‘everything publishy’, but we each have our strengths that complement each other.
2 What are your qualifications and working background, and when and how did you take on your current job?
I have a degree and MA in creative writing. It wasn’t my qualifications that got me here, but I set up my first publishing company with a friend from the MA course. I’ve had several books published, which is where my interest came from, and it seemed like a natural progression as I’d always wanted to know how it all works. I used to write and produce short films, so writing and publishing books just seemed the thing to do. We set Mojo Risin’ up last year as I was itching to get back into it and I’ve always had a love of storytelling.
3 What does your average working day entail?
We’ve just been set up as a Waterstones supplier, rather than just supplying locally, so at the moment we are doing our best to promote our latest title and backlist and encourage them to place huge orders! It all takes time though. We place a lot of emphasis on PR and devote a lot of our time to that, too. We love social media and getting our titles mentioned in the press. We have a couple of new crime titles in development, so there’s a lot of legwork going into that—we never rest!
4 What do you enjoy most about your job?
All of it! I think because we’re not under any pressure we can plan properly as well as be agile and reactive in the promotion of titles. We’re growing organically, so getting behind the scenes aspects and relationships set up is our priority rather than turnover. And we’re starting to get submissions now—that’s always interesting!
5 What achievements are you most proud of?
Last year we got Pavel is a Geordie—a biography of ex-Newcastle United keeper, Pavel Srnicek—into the final of The People’s Book Prize. We didn’t win, but it meant so much to us as Pavel Srnicek died a week or so after publication of the book. We also sold the Czech rights, and it’s nice to know that it’s selling well over there. I’m also proud that Lee Clark’s autobiography, Black or White: No Grey Areas, is currently number one on the Amazon Kindle list of football biographies. It’s a credit to the hard work we’re putting into it.
6 What are your biggest challenges?
The biggest—as I’m sure everyone reading this will know—is being an indie. Growing and surviving is a lot to do with making a noise, getting mentions and pushing your social media, and there are a lot more prizes to gain recognition from now. As always, getting books into stores is just the first challenge—it’s then needing those stores to display, sell and re-order… that side hasn’t changed since I started 12 years ago! No publisher can survive without sales, which is why we constantly have our thinking hats on and push online sales too.
7 What have you experienced in your job and publishing that you didn’t expect?
Having worked in publishing a few years ago, then taken time away to write and work with publishers, nothing has surprised me really—other than being published by one or two unscrupulous publishers! What I’ve seen over the years is that independent publishers are a different breed—as are indie booksellers. It’s a great community to be a part of, and maybe I didn’t expect to still see that altruistic side of the industry. It’s nice.
8 What is the best thing about working for an independent publisher?
As it’s ours and not someone else’s company, the best thing is not being restricted in the way we think. We’re working with some talented writers and are in touch with other publishers, designers and copy editors, and I love that side of the business. At the moment, even keeping in touch with people and seeing relationships flourish ahead of even commissioning a title is a great position to be in. For all the daily challenges there is something about publishing that gets you out of bed every morning with a smile on your face. I just love bringing a story out for readers I know will be interested in it. It’s what keeps me going: an unknown story, a different angle, one that wouldn’t usually see the light of day. I ask: who would want to hear this, and how can we get it out there?
9 How do you switch off from your work?
If a publisher tells you they can fully switch off, it’s a lie! But I love planning: outlandish PR ideas, jotting down notes and generally being an ideas man. To fully switch off, either gazing into my girlfriend’s eyes, John Niven books, Marky Mark films or watching funny cat or raccoon videos.
10 What advice would you give anyone wanting to start or progress a career in publishing?
Never stop! There are different routes into it; try to get as much broad experience first. Or if you know what area interests you, go for experience in that. Get to know the right people and ask questions—people love being asked stuff!