1 What's your company called?
2 What do you publish?
A broad range of modern non-fiction—politics, history, crime, nature, popular science and technology.
3 What's the story of the company?
After a career on The Independent, I [Martin Hickman] wanted to publish challenging and serious long stories. I was strong editorially, but I didn’t have a clue about the other 70% of the business. I had to learn quick, and I have.
4 How's business?
In general, fantastic. As a small publisher you have to pit your wits against a welter of things daily and budgets are tight. But the business is cantering along. One of our titles, Brexit: What the Hell Happens Now? by Ian Dunt, was a bestseller last year and we’ve sold an OCD memoir out this month, Because We Are Bad, to publishers around the world. We are moving into audiobooks and illustrated books. We have signed up some more terrific authors and the line-up for 2019 is—and I’m trying not to be hyperbolic—world-class. At some point next year we may seek some crowdfunding or an industry partnership to supercharge growth.
5 What do you enjoy about being independent?
Complete editorial freedom. Obviously we need to publish books that are commercially appealing—and we do—but within that we have the capacity to tackle serious topics, expose hidden truths and tell breathtakingly strong stories that have been ignored or marginalised by others. We don’t have any proprietors or City investors to please. If we like something, we publish it. It’s rock and roll publishing (without the sex, drugs or rock and roll).
6 What do you think is the biggest single issue in publishing right now?
The proliferation of other leisure pursuits, whether it’s XBox, Netflix, podcasts, eating out, going to the gym, home-brewing, whatever: there are so many things other people could be doing rather than settling down with a book. That said, the bang you get for a book is phenomenal; an immersive story with a rollicking plot and sharp prose can still lick allcomers.
7 What one piece of advice would you give to a fellow independent just starting out?
Get yourself a reputation for quality, then get some sales and distribution.
8 What do you get out of belonging to the IPG?
Practical support and a sense of solidarity. I’ve learnt a lot from the sessions at the IPG conferences (and I’m not just saying that because this is an IPG Q&A!). And it’s a handy resource. Last year I didn’t know how to do an audiobook so I asked the IPG, who put us in touch with a consultant, Jo Forshaw. We hired Jo and made the audiobooks. Lovely.