Emma Barnes has spent ten years at the helm of an award-winning independent trade publisher, Snowbooks. Nowadays she uses her understanding of the realities of modern publishing to build publishing management software, Bibliocloud. Emma is our speaker at BookMachine Oxford on 25th September, and will be sharing her thoughts on how to publish profitably without the benefit of a warehouse full of cash – using technology, data and pride. Charly Ford interviews Emma for BookMachine.
1) In 2003 you co-founded the independent publisher Snowbooks. What has been the most memorable moment in the company’s history?
Depends whether that’s good-memorable, bad-memorable or adrenaline-memorable. Winning our first Nibbie was very cool. Being invited to meet the Queen was weird. Flying to New York with my 14-month-old to speak at TOC was, in hindsight, odd. Getting more than 70% returns after what seemed at first to be one very decent Christmas was pretty awful. Writing a cheque for £60,000 to pay for a massive print run will forever be etched on my memory — I didn’t sleep much that month, waiting for news of sales.
2) Do you have any predictions for the future of publishing?
The range of publisher types is vast, and who knows how journal publishers, companies who produce white papers, self-publishers, children’s book publishers or societies who produce membership manuals will fare. Snowbooks is a trade publisher, so my most informed predictions are to do with that. We’re betting that ebooks will almost entirely replace the middle-ground of A and B format paperbacks, and printed books will continue their shift towards being artefacts. Publishers such as Unbound are producing some really exquisite collector’s items. Our own efforts to make books ever-more beautiful continue apace, in preparation for this market shift.
3) What’s been the most satisfying aspect of creating your data management system Bibliocloud?
Oh, so many things. Some are noble, some less so. It’s wonderful to find something that I can lose myself in — time slips past so quickly when I’m absolutely absorbed in work, writing code into the small hours. The shimmering pride I feel when I’m demo-ing Bibliocloud just doesn’t get old. The fact that it makes it possible to run Snowbooks on a shoestring is delicious. Hearing from people that ours is the best software on the market tickles me, too.
4) Is there one piece of advice you’d give to publishing entrepreneurs?
If you’re not going to aim for perfection, and pride, and heightened self-esteem then you may as well carry on working for the man.
5) Do you have a soundtrack that you listen to while working on code?
No. I’m the sort who can’t concentrate with any music on at all — not even instrumental. My brain seems to find the patterns far too interesting.