Here’s an interview with Grub Street Publishing from the Frankfurt Buchmesse Countdown. Casemate IPM and Casemate Publishers are proud to distribute their cookery books and aviation titles.
It’s all about content: when cookery and aviation come together
As an exhibitor, Grub Street Publishing has witnessed many changes at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Now with the new hall layout, the publisher´s fair stand is moving from the outskirts of the fairground to the centre. In our interview, publisher Anne Dolamore tells us what she is looking forward to and how the business has transformed.
fbm: Anne, how long have you been in the publishing industry and when did you start working for Grub Street Publishing?
Anne Dolamore: I started in publishing in the 1970s at Faber and Faber after graduating from University. I then went on to work for André Deutsch and at the beginning of the 80s, I set up my own business doing marketing and sales promotion. During that time, I wrote a book for Grub Street Publishing and I got involved in the company. I have been with Grub Street for 25 years now. My business partner John Davies founded the company originally in the beginning of the 80s as a book packager with two other partners. Later John and I took over the business together.
fbm: Can you tell us something about the name “Grub Street”?
Anne Dolamore: Grub Street was actually the name of a real street that existed in London in the 16th and 17th century, today the street is named New Milton Street. Grub Street was a street full of coffee shops, where the journalists and hack writers of the period used to live. They used to be hired by the political parties of the time to write political tracks for a penny a line. So the name actually has a strong literary and journalistic connotation.
fbm: Your company specialises in cookery and military aviation history, two areas that don’t necessarily go together, or are we missing the connection?
Anne Dolamore: No, not really. The two areas emerged from the days when Grub Street was packaging books, so putting book ideas together for other companies. When the company started they did some cookery and military history, so when it moved into publishing it seemed practical to focus on those two areas of strength. Being a small independent publisher at the beginning of the 1980s when the publishing landscape was very different to what is now it seemed very sensible. With cookery and aviation we have two very strong brands and markets we got to know very well over the years.
fbm: How long has Grub Street Publishing been an exhibitor at the Book Fair and have you always been situated in Hall 8?
Anne Dolamore: Grub Street has been an exhibitor right from the outset. In fact, we’ve already had the famous chocolate cake for our 25 year anniversary. Our original position in the 1980s was actually in Hall 4 and later we were moved to Hall 8. Back then the move made great sense because we now had all the English-speaking exhibitors in one place, on one level. The market then was very much for foreign publishers looking for English-language products to buy and translate. But as the balance of language domination in the market has changed we have become very much at the end of the line being in Hall 8. Things have changed over the years. Especially in cookery I am probably buying more from foreign publishers now than I am selling rights. So I’m quite excited to be moving back to Hall 6 this year, back to the centre of activities. What we are looking forward to, and I’m hoping the relocation will perhaps stimulate, is new passing business with people we haven’t met before.
fbm: Are you planning anything special for this year, maybe to attract new contacts?
Anne Dolamore: No, not really. With the move it will be a whole different experience this year and we will use it so observe and learn. We’ve always been very proud of our products so we will be acting as usual and presenting our books at our stand. We hope we will be able to connect with people through our products.
fbm: Which big changes or challenges to you see happening in the future?
Anne Dolamore: Next year I will have been in the industry for 40 years. I’m pleased that the printed book is still around contrary to what some have predicted. The first 20 odd years, everything had been done as it had always been. With the whole arrival of the digital era and with online selling, the transformation has been huge. Obviously, what people discuss more today is content as much as the format, so content is really king. I think the whole business with subscription models is something people are trying more and more. This goes back to my point of content is king, in a way it never had been regarded of before. The number of ways that content can be reused is a very exciting prospect.
fbm: Do you use the Frankfurt Book Fair website for your research?
Anne Dolamore: I do use the website and I find it very user-friendly and a good way to be able to identify people. I usually try to take some time out at the Book Fair to go through the physical catalogue as well and see if there are people I don’t know yet and if I can actually make some new contacts.
fbm: How do you remain competitive with big publishing houses?
Anne Dolamore: Especially on the cookery side people always wonder how we manage to compete but the answer is we simply don’t attempt to. Instead, I try to find the cracks between the paving stones that they wouldn’t look for. The problem with big publishing houses is that they are answerable to their shareholders, but as a smaller independent publisher one will have a lower overhead, which is why we constantly see independent houses starting up. The great thing is we’re smaller and leaner, we can move faster and are more nimble. Also we connect very well with first time authors and we accept unsolicited admissions. We don’t close ourselves off of the possibility of people contacting us directly. But it is getting tougher, especially in the area of cookery because it is massively over-published already. On the aviation side we specialize in well-researched very detailed historical books. We have a following here which is getting stronger in many ways. What we see is that people want to reconnect with life situations and readers want to reconnect with books and authors. So instead of a virtual level they want to go back to a personal level.