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The new challenge for major UK publishers

by | Jan 26, 2020 | News

There is a new and surprising challenge for the major publishing houses in the UK: geography. HarperCollins is the latest big group to announce the opening of an editorial office, a new division in fact, outside London – in Manchester in the north west, some 200 miles from the capital– as publishers seek to embrace the north, just as the famous Angel of the North sculpture does in Gateshead in the north east. The major, London-based publishers, are beginning to address the stranglehold that London and the south east has on the industry.

The new division will be called Harper North and will publish up to 20 titles a year across adult fiction and non-fiction. Oli Malcolm, who oversees HarperNonFiction and Avon, will now add Harper North to his portfolio, becoming Executive Publisher.

“I am delighted to share the news that Harper North will be open for business very soon, based in one of the UK’s fastest-growing cultural hubs, and increasing access for authors outside of London,” Malcolm said. “We are looking forward to publishing innovative, fantastic books with regional, national and international appeal, and I can’t wait to hear from passionate publishing talent that wants to help shape this exciting new division.’

The move follows Hachette’s announcement last November that its children’s division is to open an office in Manchester this year too, the first of a number of regional offices. David Shelley, Hachette UK (HUK) CEO said: “Hachette UK is committed to expanding its regional publishing activity and helping to discover new voices and new audiences around the country. So, I’m thrilled Hachette Children’s Group is developing its picture book list from the North of England. HUK already has several bases outside London, and both growing these and establishing new publishing centres in other areas of the country is a significant priority for us.”

Penguin Random House is also looking at opening regional offices outside London as the industry wrestles with how to reach beyond its familiar white, middle class audience. The issue of geography now takes its place alongside a wider recalibration of publishing’s standing in UK society, a recalibration that began, and continues, with BAME (black, Asian, minority ethnic) issues – how many staff are BAME, how many BAME authors are published?; class – how many people from working class, non-private school backgrounds work in the industry?;gender – how many women are in top management positions?; disability; gender identity; sexuality; and religion. The entire industry has been looking at itself in the last five years to see how it sits in these areas. Geography and class are now added to this list, as the industry seeks to address its London/south/middle class bias.

The London Book Fair began an ‘inclusivity’ conference in 2016 and last December Hachette held its first ‘Changing the Story Day’ day celebrating the work of its diversity and inclusion network and the publishing that underpins it. The industry has begun the long process of addressing sensitive areas – and geography is the latest issue that is being tackled.

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