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5 years since launching whitefox: founder insight interview

In the run up to celebrating 5 years of whitefox at their birthday bash, we wanted to interview John Bond about his experience of setting up the popular publishing services agency for publishers, agents, authors and brands.

1) How did you get the idea for the whitefox model?

We came out of traditional publishing houses where we thought there was only going to be a greater drive to reduce fixed costs and an ever increasing need to rely on the diaspora of freelance specialist talent. We also thought that talent pool would be relevant to writers who wanted to take their own books to market, and to content owning brands. If I’d still been working in house, I’d want to work with a trusted, flexible partner to help me achieve my objectives more efficiently. And I knew that didn’t really exist.

2) Is whitefox today, anything like you anticipated it would be 5 years ago?

In many ways, it is exactly as we anticipated. It is just that it has taken five years for that to be the case ! Initially, we pitched our business to the people we knew, publishers and agents, large and small. Some got it immediately and others didn’t. So our strategy evolved to encompass brands and corporates, content marketing and more complex project management. Gradually, more and more publishers, content owning institutions and indie writers have chosen to work with experienced external creative partners. And we’ve been happy to help.

It is interesting looking back at what was preoccupying everyone in publishing five years ago. The big issues that were flying around were how the future was all about e rather than p. What would happen to bricks and mortar retailers? And would subscription services eventually take off ? Actually, there’s a greater than ever emphasis on making the most of physical books, the sales of which have seen consistent year on year growth. Even Amazon are opening bookstores and Waterstones is making a profit. Plus look what happened to Oyster.

3) What has been your biggest business lesson learned in 5 years of running whitefox?

That in the end, what matters is being synonymous with good creative work. I think you can easily get seduced in start-up land by press releases and mentions in Forbes. Investors love it, but better to have a growing, dynamic business where you are genuinely making a material difference. We were told when we set up that to create sufficient value, it was all about demonstrating the ability to scale. But we’d never compromise quality of service for the sake of size. No one wants a ‘quite good’ copy-edit or a ‘reasonable’ cover, whether you are traditionally or self-published.

4) What do you look for in whitefox employees?

We have a small (but growing) in-house team who share a vision for the business, who care passionately about the quality of their work and who thrive on the huge variety of projects we are involved with. And they have to laugh at my jokes ( ! ).

5) If you had one piece of advice to offer budding entrepreneurs; what would that be?

If you believe your idea is good enough, it is never, ever too late to start.

Join BookMachine and whitefox to celebrate 5 years of whitefox on May 9th in London. Tickets and info here.

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