1 What's your company called?
We’re called Fragile Books. The name came about due to us already owning a company called Fragile Media. A friend pointed out that books that are fragile might not prove a selling point!
2 What do you publish?
For the time being our focus is on science fiction. We published our first eight titles, in David Wingrove’s epic Chung Kuo sci fi series, in June, with the ninth—of 20—to follow in mid-October.
3 What's the story of the company?
David’s series was originally published as eight large volumes back in the 1980s and 90s, but it went out of print after Hodder was taken over by Headline. In 2011 his agent secured a deal to republish the series with Corvus, only this time as 20 titles: each of the original eight were cut in half and re-worked, with two prequels and two sequels added to the package. After the first book was published the editor left and there wasn’t an appetite for it from elsewhere in the company. So, once a break clause came into play after volume eight, the agent got the rights reverted to David and we made the decision to set up a company and publish Chung Kuo as our first titles.
I [Susan Oudot] have a background in publishing, at Faber & Faber, Times Books and as a literary agent, and have also worked as a journalist, novelist (with four books with Simon & Schuster) and scriptwriter (of serials on BBC and ITV, and as a regular writer on Coronation Street)—so I felt in a reasonable position to give it a go.
4 How's business?
It’s early days because the first eight titles in the series have been published before. With the publication of book nine we hope to really kick off. But the books look fabulous and we couldn’t be happier, especially as the series is in development with Headline Pictures, makers of Philip K Dick’s Man in the High Castle.
5 What do you enjoy about being independent?
Obviously the freedom to do what I want. But just returning to the publishing fold has been great. You forget how lovely the people are.
6 What do you think is the biggest single issue in publishing right now?
In my own limited experience as an independent, the things I’ve found difficult are the high discounts, which are tough. As is the competition for shelf space as a lowly independent.
7 What one piece of advice would you give to a fellow independent just starting out?
It helps to have a go-to person. Mine was my old mate from Faber and fellow IPG member Anne Dolamore, who now runs Grub Street with John Davies. Whenever I didn’t understand something, or wasn’t sure about a decision, I’d run it past Annie. It was like having staff but only having to buy them dinner occasionally.
8 What do you get out of belonging to the IPG?
The IPG puts me in touch with people who can answer questions and provides all sorts of information on different aspects of business. They also linked me up with our sales and marketing advisor, Sam Shone, so they’re a kind of matchmaker. We’re not getting married but we have a great relationship.