2017 is a very special anniversary year for several IPG members. Turning 50 are Allison & Busby and Kogan Page, while Jessica Kingsley Publishers and Fox Williams Independent Publisher of the Year Edward Elgar Publishing have reached 30, and Birlinn 25. We asked some of them about their celebrations, achievements and what it means to be independent after all these years
What have you been doing to celebrate your anniversary?
A number of new initiatives including, this week, the launch
of Kogan Page Online Learning, and new co-publishing relationships with the CIPD and Chartered Bankers Institute to publish textbooks and professional development titles for their members. We’re also close to launching KP Knowledge and Resource, a B2B subscription platform offering ebooks, videos, blogs and case studies to member organisations and corporates, and allowing us to sell ebooks form our website. And we’ve launched a US B2C sales channel, which means for the first time we can fulfil direct sales in the US. So it’s been pretty busy so far this year, with much more to come before we enter our 51st
year. Helen Kogan, Kogan Page
In addition to our annual barbecue get together, we had a cake and champagne in each of our offices—always popular—and also gave staff a bottle of champagne to celebrate with family or friends. There has been much reminiscing and sharing of stories of mishaps and triumphs over the years. Tim Williams, Edward Elgar Publishing
We’ve commissioned 30 short pieces by our leading authors to assess what has changed in their subjects (including autism, adoption, music therapy and Chinese medicine) over 30 years, and we’ll be producing it as a book this autumn. And lots of the usual things—we had a very cheerful party at Stationer’s Hall in January, for example. Jessica Kingsley, Jessica Kingsley Publishers
We are running a promotion and will be having a party towards the end of the year. I always think too much of a fuss tempts fate! Hugh Andrew
What have been your proudest achievements since you started out?
Well, surviving and prospering for 50 years for a start! For the first 40 years of Kogan Page my father, Philip Kogan, ran the company and, speaking on his behalf, I know that he is extremely proud of publishing the first titles on robotics, way before anybody else had recognised their importance. We’ve had some standout titles and lists over the years, including cutting-edge marketing titles like BrandChild, our leading HR textbook Armstrong’s Handbook of Human Management Resource and Great Answers to Tough Interview Questions, which have stood the test of time. I’m particularly proud of our international business and the way in which we’ve built a brand in more than 90 territories, punching well above our weight alongside larger publishers. Helen Kogan, Kogan Page
Our greatest achievement over 30 years has been to build a global imprint with a reputation for author service and high quality research. I feel very proud when I meet customers in Asia or North America and they say how popular our titles are. A more recent achievement has been our transition to a modern digital publisher, and the growth in commissioning to cover the breadth of social sciences and law. Almost every job role has changed to meet recent challenges, and I'm proud of how staff have adapted and driven the business forward. Tim Williams, Edward Elgar Publishing
We are really proud to have changed the landscape in approaches and attitudes to autism, and to a lesser extent in a couple of other subjects. We’re also very proud to have an unbroken record over 30 years of growing our sales every year, and to have been profitable every year. And perhaps just quietly but deeply proud that our list is so well regarded. Jessica Kingsley, Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Survival is obviously one! It means a lot personally to have created a stable, viable and growing business that plays a large part in Scotland's cultural life. We are less prominent south of the border but within Scotland the turnover of Birlinn and our associated businesses places us next to the large corporates in terms of importance. And of course in some areas of Scotland, particularly rural ones, we are an overwhelmingly larger presence. I once heard a boatman on the island of Mingulay say "I never knew there was anything important about us until they published a book", and that sums up what we are about. We give silence a voice, and a voice on an equal footing: words as the ultimate defence of democracy. I'm also proud that we published the defence case of Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing; the two definitive books on the financial crisis, RBS and HBOS; and Andy Wightman's The Poor Have No Lawyers, the seminal book on land reform in Scotland, a huge and ongoing issue. On these issues it has been a publisher and not politicians who have grasped the nettle and given a platform to those who have suffered injustice or been betrayed by corporate and individual greed.
It is an unusual position to be in to be both a small to medium sized publisher in a UK context but also to be a national publisher—Scotland's publisher and voice. It is something in which I take a great pride. But when we publish for the UK market we publish at the highest level too. Our 101 Gins remains the UK's bestselling gin title, and we would not be where we are without the tremendous support of Sandy McCall Smith. We have a very strong music list and Polygon, and publish the standard book on Northern Soul. So we defy obvious categorisation! Hugh Andrew, Birlinn
What does it mean to you to remain independent after all these years?
It’s hugely important that we have a vibrant and dynamic independent sector in publishing, and we’re very proud to be part of it. It offers authors an opportunity to work with companies where they can have direct engagement with the processes and outcomes; it provides readers with diverse choices; and, importantly, it shows government how SMEs can develop global businesses. Helen Kogan, Kogan Page
Being independent gives us the freedom to make better trade-offs between the short and long term. Investing in author service to encourage repeat authors and having a greater focus on the quality of new projects rather than pure output are two examples. According to the citation indexes we are already one of the most cited book publishers in our disciplines, and I don't think that would have been possible without the flexibility and long term vision that independence allows. Tim Williams, Edward Elgar Publishing
Independence continues to give us the means to act quickly, to play with ideas, to take calculated risks and to look at ourselves in the mirror every morning without blenching. Jessica Kingsley, Jessica Kingsley Publishers
I cannot imagine anything else. It means the ability to think and act differently, and to speak without fear or favour. A good publisher is a company, yes, but it is also a mission, pride in what you do and a record that will speak to future generations. Edmund Burke spoke of society as being a contract not simply between those living but those dead, those living and those yet to be born. A publisher creates the bridge of words on which these generations walk. Hugh Andrew, Birlinn