We are impressed that Carmen Callil’s Virago Press, which started out on her kitchen table, made a profit from year one. But she, of course, brought her marketing background with her – and left-field women’s writing was a fine niche.
Our focus is on editing, and bringing out books that look striking. Quality will win in the end, is the hope.
So how have we done at the end of year one of actual trading?
Well, we’re not in profit … some thousands down in fact. But some thousands in in sales as well, so we’re better off than expected. We have set-up costs. And inventory. And there’s a great time lag for any income from non-digital book sales: sales income from the July to October period, for example, only made it into our account in mid-March. Distributors hold money back, pending returns.
We’re curiously buoyant. We need more sales for sure, and are buying in that publicity and marketing savvy that isn’t our main strength in-house. We’re developing a new commercial arm for the website, with a focus on direct sales and reaching for the overseas market. (It’s striking how many UK publishers achieve 75% of their sales outside the UK.)
We also have some very strong titles – with plenty of time to really plan production and marketing. The quality and range of the 2015 catalogue will win greater distribution, print deals etc.
The fun part is keeping everything manageable. Our authors are supportive and happy to work on a royalty rather than an advance basis – we thrive on their enthusiasm. We have brilliant design professionals who have bought into the Barbican Press vision and so don’t baulk at the rates we pay.
The key to all of this really connecting, of course, is you – the readers. Buying the books is a great help – but truly important just now is spreading the word. Reviews on booksites and write-ups in blogs are vital. We publish books that might be awkward fits for the mainstream, so it’s naïve to expect mass mainstream coverage for everything. So our wish for the new financial year – that more readers make Barbican Press their passion, and share that passion with friends and the world.
We’re doing our best – honest. We’re bringing you a fascinating range of titles. Go read!
Profit in year 2? We’ll let you know … and will try our hearts out in the meantime.