The publishing road less travelled – author of Blah! Blah! Blah! Dave Buonaguidi talks publishing untraditionally

By   Hannah Bickerton 4 min read

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

Dave Buonaguidi has worked in advertising for over 35 years, co-founding St. Luke’s, Karmarama and most recently Unltd-Inc. In 2014, he rediscovered his love for screen printing and is also a well-respected artist. In 2003, he created the iconic MAKE TEA NOT WAR poster for the anti-war march, which is part of the collection at the V&A and hangs in the Trento museum of modern art. His debut book Blah! Blah! Blah! was published in 2019.

Dave will be speaking at the FutureBook Conference 2019 on the 25th of November alongside whitefox CEO John Bond, author and journalist James Silver and CEO & Literary Agent Caroline Michel. The event ‘The Upside-down: What are the alternatives to publishing traditionally’ will be chaired by Sam Missingham.

Back in the 80’s Barry Manilow once said: ‘Everyone has a book in them.’

I didn’t realise it at the time, but Barry was right.

A few years ago now, I was doing a talk to a bunch of employees at a big corporation about values, integrity and creativity in the workplace. I know, right!  Anyway, after the talk had ended, John Bond from whitefox publishing services came over and introduced himself.

He told me that he had enjoyed my presentation and then asked if I had ever considered writing a book. I laughed out loud. But he was being serious. At the time I was working in advertising, and had been for about thirty years, so I didn’t know the first thing about how to write a book, and even less about how to publish one.

After a bit more chit-chat, I felt that there might be something in it, so I said I would email a bunch of stuff that I had written for articles and see what he thought about them.

A couple of days later, John got back to me and said he liked it, and if I was interested, we could sit down and work on a plan.

Dave Buonaguidi

I come from a very unconventional background and the creative businesses that I have set up in advertising have always challenged the norms in the industry, so I didn’t want to write another book about HOW TO HAVE BETTER IDEAS. First, because I find those sorts of books a bit boring and second, there are already two very good ex-advertising guys who have cornered the market. Oh, and I’m also not very good at being someone’s bitch.

This perfect storm of personal issues led me to self-publish.

As I said, I come from advertising and part of that discipline is to create immediate communications and condense everything into simple and easy to understand messaging. So John suggested that we get all the content and then bring an editor on board to ‘stitch together’ the ingredients of disparate stories, articles and memoirs into a structure that might be borderline palatable.

We sent a few ‘chapters’ over to the editor Tom, and within a few days he returned something that was actually readable.

Throughout the editing process, there was weekly and sometimes daily contact from both John and Tom, asking for ‘a bit more here and a little less there’ and it was this management throughout the process that made me feel that I was in safe hands.

After a few months, we had a ‘finished’ book and we moved to the next stage of design.

I had a rough idea about the size and paper stock, and once we crunched the numbers, I did a little sick in my mouth and went for the cheaper option, and then handed the document over to the designer.

One thing I have always loved about the creative process, is the cumulative effect that different people have on a specific project, and I really wanted the designer to have pretty free reign over what she felt would work best. I shared some of the art that I create in my spare time, and a thought of how the chapters might be broken up, and then let her go.

A short time later she came back with three different approaches. I asked her which one she preferred. She said the second one and that’s the one we went with. It was very simple.

Overall, the whole process was clear and well organised and processed, and for the most part actually fun.  The feeling of exhilaration you experience when holding a box full of your own books is only countered by the feeling of fear of trying to work out how you are going to sell them all. But if you have that book inside you, and you want to retain some editorial control and create something that is different from the norm, I can’t recommend this process enough.

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.