I love start-ups - which, if you look back over my publishing career, is just as well.  Futura in 1973, Century in 1982, Orion in 1992, Preface in 2007 - and now Head of Zeus. Admittedly I wasn't quite in on the ground floor at HofZ, but I think we can stretch a point.

There is something exhilarating about the blank sheet of paper, the empty schedule.  You haven't had any successes yet, but then neither have you had any failures.  You are in a position to be very light on your feet and to move with great speed if necessary.  You enjoy the favour of agents and authors, because you are offering contracts, but the pressure of managing expectations, of delivering slightly disappointing news, of trying to analyse why things haven't quite gone to plan, none of this is yet upon you.  In short, it is all still to play for.

And that metaphor brings me to another reason for my love of start-ups.  Publishing is first and foremost a game of chance.  I had not realised, until I had a year out as editorial consultant to a literary agent, how much I would miss the gambling aspect of my publishing life.  Working closely with authors and dreaming up ideas together is extremely rewarding.  But for me, neck and neck with the thrill of successful teamwork, is the sheer fun of taking the punt - of throwing the dice.

Forty years ago, when - as a baby editor - I was going through a patch where everything I did seemed to turn to gold, I found myself like a terrified deer in the headlights.  It was plainly obvious that from these dizzy heights there was only one way forward - and this was down.  But Anthony said something to me then, which I have never forgotten. 'Publishing', he said, is a game of percentages.  'You will not - indeed you cannot - be right all the time.  You just have to be more right than wrong, even if it is only by one per cent.'

So now, as I contemplate a fifth start-up, this is my mantra.  And I have been overwhelmed by the support from agents and authors - gamblers, it would seem, just like me.

Fiona Mountain, author of LADY OF THE BUTTERFLIES (the best novel about the English Civil Wars since Daphne du Maurier's THE KING'S GENERAL) has come with me from Random House on a three-book world rights contract, negotiated by Broo Doherty.  THE SECRET PASSION OF MISTRESS FAWKES takes the story of the Gunpowder Plot in a completely new direction.  If anyone can match the richly deserved success of Philippa Gregory in the field of historical fiction, it is Fiona.

Mary Gibson (for nine years Production Manager at Chatto and Windus) and her agent Anne Williams allowed me to pre-empt their auction for the marvellous, heart-warming saga, CUSTARD TARTS AND BROKEN HEARTS, set in Bermondsey in the years before and during World War I, as a girl who works in the Pearce Duff custard factory tries to hold her family together after the death of her mother.

And finally, Felicity Bryan has entrusted the editing and publishing of James Naughtie's beautifully written first novel, THE MADNESS OF JULY, to me in a world rights deal.  Set at the end of the Cold War, this sophisticated political spy thriller interweaves the stories of three brothers - two of them spies.  Working with a writer as observant and intellectually stimulating as Jim, a household name and hero to so many people, is not only a huge privilege, but also immense fun.

Start-ups!  No wonder I love them.