Meet the member: UCLan Publishing

1 What's your company called?

UCLan Publishing.

2 What do you publish?

Children’s books.

3 What's the story of the company?

We are the only independent children’s specialist publisher in the north of England. We are also the only student-led publishing house in the world, operating out of the University of Central Lancashire in Preston. To the outside world we are the same as any other publisher. We compete against the biggest publishers and have bestselling authors such as AJ Hartley, and work with celebrities including Chris Packham and Christopher Eccleston. However, we are actually led by students on the MA and BA Publishing programmes. They decide what we publish, help to lay out, design, market and sell our books, and gain assessment credit for their work. They essentially undertake an apprenticeship in publishing when they join us. We love to partner with unusual people and are currently working on books with NASA, the British Interplanetary Society, MaaChild and other organisations. We also run festivals, prizes and events. We set up the first Northern Young Adult Literary Festival, which is Arts Council funded and sees thousands of youngsters, bestselling authors and publishers come together in Preston. We also established the first STEAM Prize for children’s books.

4 How's business?

In our current guise we have been going about a year, but what a year! We have had a Waterstones number one, sold film rights, made audiobooks with actors including Christopher Eccleston, set up our own in-house audiobook studios, started an undergraduate training programme and won the Times Higher Award for Innovation. The icing on the cake was winning the Nick Robinson Newcomer Award at the recent IPG Independent Publishing Awards, as it meant that the industry was taking us seriously.

5 What do you enjoy about being independent?

The freedom to make decisions on every level so that we can innovate and move quickly.

6 What do you think is the biggest single issue in publishing right now?

It’s hard to choose one that affects all publishers, but there is a lot of research to show that many children are not being read to at all. If they don’t catch the reading bug early they won’t be readers or book consumers in the future, and that is very worrying for the whole industry.

7 What one piece of advice would you give to a fellow independent just starting out?

Join the IPG straight away! Then start seeking advice from fellow independent publishers and founders. They will tell you all the mistakes that they made and how to avoid them. Also, curate your titles carefully, make the quality as high as you can, and market them innovatively. Don’t underestimate how much hard work it will be.

8 What do you get out of belonging to the IPG?

So much fantastic support and advice. The IPG are brilliant at organising events and opening up opportunities for smaller publishers. You also learn such a lot from fellow members who feel like a family. Setting up and running a small publisher can feel very lonely, so belonging to the IPG is important. We highly recommend it.