Welcome to Saturday business chat. Today we’re talking to Bob Fowke from YouCaxton. Bob set up YouCaxton in the summer of 2011 to help fellow writers self-publish their work. It works on a Print On Demand basis, which saves people from ending up with boxes of books in their garage. Bob is a writer himself, with over sixty books to his name, most of them published by major British publishers, so as he says, he should know something about the industry. In addition, he contributes articles to the Guardian Online.
I often talk about the importance of having experience in the line of work you want to go in to before you start, and Bob’s gone one further than that, using his writing and publishing expertise to set up a service for writers like himself. I should think it would be reassuring for writers to know there’s some fellow-feeling and empathy there – I do get concerned about some of the self-publishing companies which aren’t perhaps so understanding.
So let’s say hello to Bob!
What’s your business called? When did you set it up?
My business is called YouCaxton, after William Caxton, the first English publisher (and self-publisher). The company was launched in May/June 2011.
What made you decide to set up your own business?
I’ve been interested in self-publishing for several years. Between writing for Hodder Headline, I self-published a series of short history books, Amazingly Short Histories (of Spain, France, Turkey and Greece). Spain in particular has sold very well, through Carrefour Supermarkets. I’ve also packaged (designed, edited, produced) a large number of titles for various UK national publishers so I know quite a bit about book production as well as about writing. It was while I was publishing the short histories that I became aware that there are companies out there which sell self-publishing services which are not entirely scrupulous and, as a writer myself, I know how vulnerable you are when your own work is in question. By combining my own expertise with that of my partner, Steve Edwards, I can offer expert, trustworthy help to writers wishing to self-publish their work. Our motto is: ‘by writers, for writers’.
What made you decide to go into this particular business area?
Books are unique. I have yet to come across a writer with a piece of work which they want to publish which has not been a labour of love and deeply felt. Books have been my life ever since I was a horror/fantasy commercial artist back in the 70s and 80s when I specialised in paperback covers.
Had you run your own business before?
I ran a company together with two friends called Lazy Summer Books Ltd. which was based in Oxford. This was the company which did the book packaging.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started?
Make sure you are fully up to speed with the technology. We have to learn as we go.
What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?
Be prepared to enjoy yourself – I never expected to feel so warmly towards the writers.
What do you wish you’d done differently?
We’ve begun to specialise in memoirs and local and family histories – although we still tackle all the genres when asked to. I suspect that as a small company it might have been wise to do this straight away.
What are you glad you did?
I’m glad I met Steve. It’s a really fruitful relationship because we bring such different strengths to the business.
What’s your top business tip?
You think you’re working hard – work harder!
How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?
We’re taking on business steadily, which is for the best. If we grow too fast our standards will fall and we want to avoid that at all costs.
Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?
I hope that we will be starting to become an established, reputable name. I’m much more concerned with quality than quantity, although we have no intention of turning business away.
This all sounds exciting and I hope we’ll see a growing business when we come back to Bob next year to see how he’s doing. New – see how he’s doing in 2013!
The YouCaxton website is at http://www.youcaxton.co.uk/ and you can find all the requisite contact details there.
Note: I should say that I am set up to receive a referral fee upon referral of a writer who ends up being published by YouCaxton. This hasn’t happened yet, and this is not the reason I am publishing this interview.