Are (were) your parents great readers? Tell us a bit about yourself.
My mother was a voracious reader: she kept a diary of everything she had read since age about thirty. I reckon at least a book a week for fifty years +! However love for books came equally from an inspired English teacher at Shrewsbury, F. McEachran who used to make us read T. S. Eliot out loud (as well as Goethe in German), and constantly wept with emotion when he read Shakespeare to us. Bless him.
Did you want to work in the publishing industry from the start?
If you define “start” as post university, then yes.
Has your vision from when you started Galileo ten years ago changed?
Not really. My interest has always been to make books which personally interest/inspire me rather than books which are just commercial. One hopes that one day the two will coincide. But I’ve been in trade book publishing (prior to Galileo) long enough time to know that for the vast majority of us, profitability is the elusive butterfly.
What was the book that made you fall in love with reading?
I suppose the first book that I remember as being truly influential was Wind in the Willows, though “falling in love” may be too strong a term.
Technology and the rise of Kindle and iPads etc have revolutionised the publishing industry. How well have publishers adapted to industry changes?
I would disagree that Kindles and iPads have revolutionized the industry. Book publishing differs from both the movie and the music industries, in that the enjoyment of a book lies partially in a bonding with a physical entity, even if one is not fully conscious of this at the time of consumption. Hence the book is most unlikely to be replaced by a different form of transmission. Augmented, yes, but not replaced. So to answer your question: I think publishers have done a pretty good job in providing a digital alternative to the book for those that want it.
Do you enjoy reading ebooks? Will the physical book die away eventually?
I have no problem with reading ebooks, even on an iPhone. But no I don’t think physical books will die away, any more than I think food will be replaced by lozenges/capsules!
Your views on marketing and distribution? And on social media?
Marketing: when one gives such high discounts to booksellers, Amazon etc, what’s left to spend on marketing? I wish there really was a margin left over to do what one would like to do, but there truly isn’t. But maybe Social Media is partly the solution to the problem I have just mentioned.
How important is funding for independent publishers?
Lovely if you can find it. You know where to find me!
Nearly 80% of the UK’s publishing industry wanted to remain in the EU. In the wake of Brexit, what are the implications for book publishing and translation in your view?
The implications of Brexit are horrendous for virtually every area of civilized life in the UK. I don’t see how the implications for book publishing and translation will be any different.
Your list includes translations. How and why is the role of the translator important as a UK editor engages in the acquisitions process?
Actually, our first book was a translation of an amazing postwar German novel The Island of Second Sight. It had been a real best seller in Europe but had never had an English translation, probably because it was long, literary and had too many made-up German words! A colleague of mine found a professor at Amherst, MA, who had spent over twenty years translating this masterpiece – as a labour of love – and low and behold we acquired the translation and the rights to publish. Which is a long way of saying: Translators? Of the utmost importance!
In your experience, how and why does winning a Literary or a Translation Prize make a difference?
Donald White won the PEN Translators prize for this book (above). Difficult to say whether this Translation prize made a whole lot of difference. I fear not.
Your favourite literary journals?
In the past, the wonderful Paris Review. But now, confession time, my only subscription is to the Scottish Review of Books (we do a lot of Scottish books). I should read more literary journals, but I don’t find the time.
Your heroes/heroine in fiction, and in real life?
“Hero” always sounds so Wagnerian! I like people with principles, preferably unpopular ones. For that reason I have a lot of time for the Guardian’s George Monbiot, who is a great contemporary original thinker. In fiction, hmm, Hornblower?
Your favourite qualities in a person?
The ability to listen.
For what faults do have you most tolerance?
Grumpy Old Men have a policy of zero tolerance.
Your bedside reading?
Currently, an Arnold Palmer golf manual and Dangerous Liaisons. Plus a whole pile of other books.
You are organizing a literary dinner party. Which five writers, dead or alive, would you invite?
Pass. I wouldn’t want to organize a literary dinner party. Let alone with 5 authors even if they were dead.
Your five favourite feature films?
Among my favourites would be Lawrence of Arabia, O Lucky Man, The Wanderer (Le Grand Meaulnes), The Hairdresser’s Husband, Clockwork Orange.
They suffer least who suffer what they choose.
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