Byte the Book – Breaking In: How do you build a successful publishing house?


Inspired Selection attended the March Byte the Book event last night which was all about how to build a successful publishing house. We heard from a fantastic panel chaired by Heather O’Connell (Director at Bluebird Consulting) which included: David Cadji-Newby (co-founder and author at Wonderbly, previously Lost My Name), Michael Bhaksar (Writer in Residence at Deepmind and Co-Founder of Canelo) and Kate Wilson (Founder and MD of Nosy Crow).

Interestingly the panel have come from a diverse background: David used to work in marketing and advertising before he and a friend came up with the idea for Lost My Name; Michael was working for an independent publisher and Kate was working for a corporate publisher before she was fired!

The idea of setting up something for which you’re totally in control, in your vision and your dream is extremely exciting but having the good idea is only part of the challenge. Cash-flow and the importance of money in setting up a successful independent publisher was a hot topic of the evening. The resounding answer was that yes, capital is important and it means you can achieve your ambitions in a shorter timescale. Nosy Crow have 5 independent shareholders and were able to publish within 11 months of announcing their existence – they published an incredible 20 books and 3 apps in their first year. David approached this slightly differently and went on Dragons Den to secure investment! Whilst Michael and his co-founder begged and borrowed enough capital to start up the business and did not go out to secure further investment.

Each option has its benefits and the take home message here is what is important to you and your business? This will determine which option will work best for you.  You will need to weigh up how quickly you want to be able to grow against whether you want to be answerable to shareholders, for example. Investors can influence your vision and be too focused on flipping the business but unless you have other access to a pot of gold, getting investment from a VC or otherwise may be the best way to make your business happen.

Once you’ve got the cash, you need to think about the operation of the business and in nearly all cases technology plays a big part in this. David talked about the impact of technology on his business – whilst it is a digital business it’s not something they shout about; ultimately they want to be a publisher who create beautiful personalised books for their customers. They don’t need their customers to know the in-depth tech and process their books go through as long as the interface works well and the customer can find the process really easy. You need to think about how technology fits with the message of your brand.

It was a fantastic evening with some truly inspiring and some very funny stories from these entrepreneurs. To round up the evening, we had some top tips from the panel and wanted to share them with you here:

  • Money: You’ll need more money than you think you will – plan a monthly cash-flow and add a bit. If you can plan a weekly cash-flow then even better!
  • Know your brand: The quicker you find a purpose, the better! Know what sets you apart from your competition and be able to summaries it clearly. Make this a mission that you believe in and don’t let money deflect you from that.
  • Grow: Be obsessed by growth! How will you scale up and what infrastructure do you need to be able to support that.

Dream big and another huge congratulations to the panel and all the other terrific indies out there for all that they do and all that they believe in!