The Ultimate Library business development director contributes to our Q&A series
Describe your job
Having spent a lifetime in sales travelling the world for illustrated book publishers, I have crossed over to bookselling, and now head up sales for Ultimate Library - a group of bibliophiles who curate book collections for luxury hotels and resorts around the world, plus clubs, super yachts and private residences too.
What was your first job in the book industry?
Production assistant at Angus Hudson Ltd, which when I joined was owned by William Collins with offices in St James's Place. It was the early days of co-printing multiple language editions of books.
Who has been the most influential person in your career?
The late, great, Christopher Davis. One of the "Group of Four" who founded Dorling Kindersley, he was a dedicated publisher and a brilliant wordsmith too. He held the company together and always enjoyed a glass of wine with the sales and creative teams.
How has the industry changed since your first job?
Enormously! When I started, typesetters were still using hot metal - only just mind you! Desk-top publishing was in its infancy, but it wasn't long before we had computers on everyone's desks. Later the internet brought with it whole new ways of communicating and working. The retail market for booksellers has changed beyond recognition, and we've lost some gems for ever.
What's the biggest challenge in your job?
The size, complexity and fluidity of the global hospitality market. There is great potential for niche companies, but it takes time and effort to get to know your clients – particularly during a pandemic.
What's the best piece of book-related advice you've ever been given?
Listen to your clients. People like to talk about their businesses, whether it's publishing, bookselling, interior design, or hospitality. It's the best way to understand how you can work with them.
What are the most interesting things you're seeing in the industry?
Reading has become more desirable since lockdown and there is a greater demand for intelligent and beautiful books to inspire and entertain. Digital has its place, but physical books are here to stay.
What do you think might be the next big thing?
I have no crystal ball. Wellness, diversity and sustainability are such hot topics in all areas of life now, but I'm concerned about greenwashing. Everyone tries to say and do the right thing, but I hope we can regain the British sense of humour, irony and, most importantly, integrity.
How are you coping with working from home?
I've worked from home on and off for the last 7-8 years and have a study to work in, so I'm very comfortable with it. I do recognise that for younger people it may be more difficult.
How do you think the industry will come out of the Covid-19 crisis?
Stronger for some, but not all. Those business that can adapt to changes will survive. Lockdown has highlighted the importance of embracing local bookshops and businesses.
What do you most like doing when you're not working?
Talking to my cats, enjoying a glass of wine and thinking about the next DIY project. Sailing and skiing too.
What is the best book you've read in the last year?
The War Behind the Wire by John Lewis-Stempel. During lockdown I discovered that my grandfather was one of 24 prisoners who tunnelled their way out of a WWI POW camp. He never ever spoke about it. At a time when our own future was uncertain, it really opened my eyes to the conditions and suffering of all those young men 100 years ago.
What are you reading now?
The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel. I loved the first two.
How do you like to read: on screen, on paper, or do you listen to audiobooks?
Always on paper. Have listened to audio on long car journeys, but not for a while.