I am delighted to welcome today’s interviewee, a former colleague of mine at Award Publications. Richard Carman has now moved on to pastures new and his new company is an exciting new children’s publisher which is set to do big things. Read on to find out more about Richard, Fourth Wall Books, and the role of International Rights Manager within publishing…
Please can you introduce yourself and give a brief overview of your career?
My name is Richard Carman, and I am International Rights Manager at Fourth Wall Publishing. I started in the book trade aged about 6, when I started sticking labels into the fronts of my Enid Blyton books and lending them to my friends as a library. I had my own duodecimal system of numbering. No-one was interested! I dropped out of a Master’s degree and got a job in WH Willshaw booksellers in Manchester, and from there joined David & Charles as a rep. I was headhunted by Hodder to join them in the same role, and went on to my first managerial role, aged 31, at Omnibus Press. From there I was UK Sales Manager for Penguin, then South Africa Sales Manager for Dorling Kindersley, which let to five very happy years as Head of Export. Made redundant when DK went bust, I was a freelance for nearly ten years in Africa working for people like Orion, Walker Books, Kingfisher and Kogan Page, and I joined Award Publications in 2010. I joined Fourth Wall in March of this year.
Can you tell us a little bit more about Fourth Wall Books? How did it come about?
Fourth Wall Publishing was originally conceived a few years ago, but the owners’ background led them to found a very successful branding and marketing agency first. We work with some very well-known high street brands as well as a lot of the Premier League football clubs. Fourth Wall Publishing was launched at London Book Fair 2015, and the first ten titles published in the autumn of that year. Our pace picked up this spring, and we’ll be publishing around 50 books a year.
What is the most challenging part of your role as International Rights Manager?
A lot of the companies I worked with in the past publish different kinds of books to those that we specialise in, so finding new customers and establishing relationships with them from scratch is probably the most challenging element.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I like people, I like being in a busy team and in a creative environment. Because the majority of my colleagues are designers, it’s good to be involved in every book from day one of its creation, and to be able to look up from my desk and see books being developed just across the room. And I love book fairs (anyone in publishing who tells you they don’t are liars), and travelling.
What trends are you currently seeing in the children’s book market?
YA fiction continues to be a big pull I think, but really good, contemporary, international-feel illustrations seem to be increasing in popularity. There’ll always be the pull of Disney and big-branded products, but underneath that it’s a healthy market too I think.
What upcoming Fourth Wall books are you most excited about?
My favourite of the next batch is “When The Sky Was Too Low” by Adam Bestwick, which is based on an old Native American myth. In ancient times, the sky was very close to the ground. Adults couldn’t walk upright, elephants were as big as dogs, and giraffe’s necks pointed sideways, not upwards. The children can’t fly their kites or kick their footballs high, so they get together and – after some false starts – find they can push the sky up high if they join up all their sticks and push together. When night comes they see the stars for the first time, because the light shines through the holes they made with their sticks. It’s a beautiful story about kids being able to solve problems that adults can’t, and about working together being the best way to work.
How do you go about marketing yourself as a brand new book publisher?
With a lot of hard work. Networking, visiting customers, social media, distinctive and memorable stands at book fairs, joining in everything we can really – getting our name seen and included. One has to be realistic and realise Rome wasn’t built in a day. But by the time it was finished, Rome was a beautiful place and people are still going there. So I want us to be a beautiful, successful publisher to whom people are still coming many years in the future.
You are based up in the North of England – how do you feel this will both benefit you and hinder you?
You can get a decent coffee anywhere in Cheshire now, so that’s the first thing. I think companies based outside of London obviously benefit from being immune to the costs of being in the South East. There’s a whole wealth of untapped talent in the North West, and we have access to fabulous illustrators and designers, writers, and people looking to work in marketing and production are welcome to contact us too. There are lots of people not based in London who want to work in “proper” book publishing. We can’t give a job to everyone, but we’re not short of options. We can be in London in a couple of hours maximum if we need to be. If you work in Hammersmith and live in Brockley, that’s going to take you the best part of an hour. I can’t actually think of any downsides!
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