Nine Years of Evolution

By   Hannah Bickerton 3 min read

whitefox: helping brands, thought leaders and writers create beautiful bespoke books

When we started whitefox, the clue as to what we thought we should be was in our choice of name. We explicitly knew we did not want to follow the route of advertising agencies who seem to mysteriously abandon all creativity when christening their own businesses, either choosing to give a nod to ego by placing the founders’ names or initials above the door or skewing to the wild and wacky and WTF, as if to say: Who really cares what we’re called as long as it’s memorably out there? No, we wanted a name that worked for B2B, to feel a little bit like white label, to function below the radar, smart, stealthy and camouflaged. An invisible, expert, trusted partner. The affectation of the lower-case w bothers me to this day. No, it isn’t a typo (so please don’t point that out when applying for a job). But does it actually help us? Well… best not to ask our Head of Marketing.

And so it has come to pass on our journey. (I’ve tried to resist. But I have failed. No one in publishing likes a journey. Just like no one in football likes a manager who embraces a chairman’s project.) Our most strategic, longest-running publisher partnership cannot be found on our website. There are bestselling books that make no mention at all of whitefox, or at the very least offer a one-line simple shout-out to our project management services. And as the Bookseller magazine suggested in a feature about our fledgeling business many years ago, operating behind the scenes represents its own marketing challenges. How do you sell your services if no one can see what you’re doing? Even when our publishing collaborators are happy to share some credit with us for creating a book, how do we clarify our role for prospective future clients? No, we didn’t commission that book. Yes, we worked with the publisher over a number of months to help produce it. No, we are not a packager. Lack of accurate positioning can be deadly.

So whitefox has evolved. In recent years we’ve grown the self-publishing side of our business and risked the perception of any conflict of interest with our traditional rights-owning publisher partners. We rationalise this as follows. For publishers, we say we are engineers. What matters is the efficiency and focus on process. For self-publishing clients, we like to think of ourselves as creative magicians. With your text we will recreate the best-possible publishing experience – only quicker and with you, the author/creator, at the centre of the decision-making process. Our model seems to work for an increasing number of people who like an open, transparent facilitation of the publishing process. Who like and understand a cycle that says it will take six months for your book to be in the market rather than a year to eighteen months.

The whitefox logo has started to appear on more spines. Of books we believe in. Books we will proudly enter for prizes and appearances at festivals. Books that probably could have found a traditional publisher but which don’t always fit into a neat enough box. In the last few weeks, authors with whom we have worked hand in hand from editorial through to PR, marketing, sales and distribution have seen reviews in the Mail on Sunday, the Spectator, the New Statesman and a lead solus review in the Sunday Times Culture section – for a £100, 2,000+ page, four-book boxed set about the First World War.

Actually, maybe that is a journey worth acknowledging after all. One that has taken nine years to reach a place where we believe we have product/market fit. And we know how our lean and agile model can grow and evolve further still. We’re just going to have to stick our head a little higher above the parapet with each passing year.

Hannah Bickerton
Hannah Bickerton
Hannah has worked in marketing for nine years, specialising in strategy development for start-ups and EdTech companies. Having recently jumped across industries to join the Whitefox team, Hannah isn’t a complete stranger to the publishing world with previous employment at Macmillan and TES Global. She is now dedicated to ensuring that anyone who has something interesting to say knows all about whitefox.