1 What's your company called?
Lawrence and Wishart.
2 What do you publish?
Books and journals focused mostly on politics, history and cultural theory.
3 What's the story of the company?
Lawrence & Wishart was first formed in 1936, as the result of a merger between Martin Lawrence, the Communist Party press, and Wishart Limited, a family-owned liberal and anti-fascist publisher. Over the course of the 20th century we have worked on many important projects, from translating the work of Antonio Gramsci to participating in the early developments of cultural studies, which brought a new dimension to critical political theory. Since the 1990s we have established our reputation as a journals publisher while continuing to publish books in the fields of cultural studies, politics and history.
Our current journals are Soundings, New Formations, Renewal, Anarchist Studies, Twentieth Century Communism and Socialist History, all of which, in their different ways, engage critically with contemporary political culture. Popular books in the last few years have included Women Against Fundamentalism: Stories of Dissent and Solidarity, After Neoliberalism: The Kilburn Manifesto, The Green London Way, Stuart Hall: Selected Political Writings and Podemos: In the Name of the People.
4 How's business?
We’ve had some big successes this year—in particular with our book on Jeremy Corbyn, The Corbyn Effect, which we turned around between the General Election and the Labour Party Conference. It was a mammoth effort, but it’s been popular with readers and reviewers and was worth the work that we put into it. More generally we’ve had a strong year, with an overall rise in book sales, thanks partly to changing reading cultures and partly to our new website. Things in the journals market are more challenging and unpredictable as journal reading habits change, but we’re working to match those shifts.
5 What do you enjoy about being independent?
Being independent gives us the freedom to publish books and journals that accord with our political mission. We’re not entirely driven by sales targets and can think strategically about how our publications participate in wider conversations.
As a very small, independent organisation we also have a very collaborative culture, in which staff work together on projects to produce works of which we are collectively very proud. For me [Katharine Harris] personally, as managing editor of the books section, our independence has allowed me to experience many different aspects of the company and to learn a lot about the organisation as a whole, rather than just working in one department.
6 What do you think is the biggest single issue in publishing right now?
From our perspective, changes in how people read and access journals are having a big impact. Open Access is already influencing reading habits, and that is only going to increase in the future. Figuring out how small, independent publishers can match that demand without losing essential subscriptions revenue is a big challenge for the future.
7 What one piece of advice would you give to a fellow independent just starting out?
Days will never quite go how you expect them to. You can have a clear plan in your mind for the work you are going to do, but you need to be prepared to roll with unexpected developments—and that means leaving heaps of extra time in deadlines etc!
8 What do you get out of belonging to the IPG?
The IPG has been a really useful organisation for Lawrence & Wishart. From conferences to the Skills Hub it has given us an opportunity to see what other independent publishers are doing and to share that knowledge. It has also helped us more directly by offering advice and guidance when we’ve had to deal with tricky issues.