Back to the future

I had an endearingly frank conversation with an ex-colleague who is close to announcing their own innovative publishing start-up. “The trouble is,” they said:

I worry I don’t have the ego for all of this. If it’s going to work, I’m going to have to try and get as much PR for me and the idea behind the business as I am for the books.”

True. And also true that some of the most valuable attributes of a successful acquiring editor – the nurturing, the ability to listen, the empathy and collaboration in the margins – are not always shared by some of the cults of the personality who tend to suck up the oxygen of publicity in and around our industry.

Then, behold, a few days later, yet more news of possible launches, this time from those who have occupied some of the most senior jobs in traditional legacy publishing, gathering themselves for one last public hurrah. And, in this instance, no shortage of ego, self-belief or (maybe most importantly) funding.

Both conversations lead me back to that entrepreneurial Bible, Eric Ries’s The Lean Start-Up. With the right vision and strategy, and a lean ethic, I don’t see that being slightly reserved and uncomfortable with the limelight has hindered too many of the engineers and programmers who have made money from their successful business ideas in recent years.

But I would beware those ex-corporates who will find it hard to be weaned off their expense accounts, Net-a-Porter office deliveries, need for ‘creative space’ and a massive supporting infrastructure. Smart investors can smell cash eaters, however charismatic, at thirty paces.

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