There has been much media speculation about the recent changes at Granta.
Authors and agents are understandably nervous about the future, because several senior people are leaving the company. Here is what we have done and what we are planning to do.
I have been publisher of Granta for some years now, with significant editorial input, and I am now taking on the day-to-day running of the company. Executive publisher Philip Gwyn Jones is, therefore, leaving Granta, though I am happy to say that he is joining our new editorial board, along with former Granta magazine editor, Ian Jack.
We have been working on an extended sales agreement with Faber, which will handle our global sales. We believe that Granta will have a more streamlined and efficient sales and distribution network as a result. Faber is already in charge of our UK sales, and has shown, through the Independent Alliance, that independent publishers can compete with the corporates in terms of sales.
Independently, John Freeman, editor of Granta magazine, has decided that it’s time for him to go. Deputy editor Ellah Allfrey, after thinking long and hard about it, sadly also decided to go. A few other people are leaving, some because of redundancies, others, coincidentally, to go to other jobs elsewhere.
It’s a big shake-up. Some of it was planned and some of it wasn’t, but the unexpected changes at the magazine have given me the opportunity to rethink the roles within the company, and to address the fundamental questions of who we are and where we are going.
Four years ago I wrote that excessive commerciality can potentially undermine independent publishing. It can lead to risk-avoidance, and a tendency to copy others. I haven’t changed my mind about that, but equally we had to address our losses, and build a leaner structure. That’s what we have now done. The literary focus, and the acquisitions budget, will remain the same. We have an experienced and enthusiastic editorial team. The prospective editor-in-chief (we are still looking) will bring books and magazine closer together, both editorially, and in terms of back office functions. The books add value to the magazine, and vice versa.
We are a small publishing house and we will make the most of our particular character; the relationship between magazine and books, our long-standing engagement with American writing, our literary taste, and our commitment to literature in translation. Our authors—prize-winning A M Homes and Katherine Boo, Colin McAdam, Eleanor Catton, Rupert Thomson, Cynan Jones, Patrick Barkham and others—reflect who we are, and who we want to be.
We are investing in a digital strategy, so that our readers can access content from a variety of platforms.We already have more than 100,000 followers on Twitter, and a steady and increasing traffic on the magazine website. Ted Hodgkinson, our online editor, is leaving, but we are very happy to welcome Rachael Allen, a poet in her own right, and the creator of the literary magazine Clinic, in his place.
There are now, thanks to John Freeman, 12 foreign-language Granta editions, created in partnership with publishers in other countries. That means access to new writers from all over the world, some of whom we hope to be publishing, or are already publishing—Alejandro Zambra, one of the Granta Best Young Spanish-language novelists, is one of them. Thanks to Ellah Allfrey we have a good relationship with the British Council, and Philip has cemented the bond with PEN UK; relationships which I hope will continue to thrive.
It hasn’t been an easy spring. Restructuring is always difficult, and we have had to take some difficult decisions. But I do feel confident about the future.