Starting a new publishing company is a definitely a bi-polar experience. Highs of optimism and elation, followed by lows of doubt and apprehension.
Among the highs are the landmark events which mark the creation of a new entity which simply didn't exist before. At the start of 2012 we were four people huddled in a garret in Monmouth Street with a single telephone line, six pink plastic chairs and a publication schedule of two titles. Ten months later HoZ is a company of 12 with offices overlooking an 18th century churchyard in Clerkenwell, well stocked bookshelves, and an HR department of two cocker spaniels who visit each member of the team in turn to express their enthusiasm and affection. We have signed up 160 titles, issued two seasonal catalogues, initiated 24 different series, set up a global network of sales agencies, and totted up our first £1m in rights sales. The team is fully engaged, united, committed and cheerful: the serpents of bureaucratic entropy and office politics have yet to enter the garden. These first months form a set of unique experiences which we can try to preserve but not to repeat.
Yet it is the lows, and how we learn to deal with them, which are the more instructive half of the equation. HoZ is dedicated to the notion that readers will respond to new writers and new ideas. With the exception of our two founding godparents, Fay Weldon and Robert K Massie, our authors are almost all unknown. We operate in a trading environment increasingly dominated by a handful of fiction franchises and by the culture of non fiction celebrity. Our leading book chain, while it strives to reinvent itself, is prone to deliver subscription sales of less than one copy per store. Volume sales are crucially dependent on grocery chains more interested in footfall than in books. Our leading on-line retailer is ambivalent about whether to compete or collaborate with publishers. Major uncertainties cloud the economic horizon.
For all of us at HoZ the die is cast. We've done the groundwork and now we have to deliver the results. Time to jettison the twin impostors, the highs and the lows, and simply ask ourselves how we can do a better job tomorrow than we did today.