Planning for success

<p>There are two types of people who are essential for the well-being of our industry. There are the architects who make sure that their organisations work to the advantage of their books, authors and staff, but who also have a vision of the future and build their businesses accordingly. And there are editors and other creative individuals who can recognise and act as advocates for talent, originality, fine writing and great story-telling. It is rare to find people who can build and sustain businesses who can also recognise the books and authors that will drive those businesses forward, so there usually needs to be a symbiosis between the two skills.</p>
<p>The history of publishing is a story of outstanding individuals such as Allen Lane and Billy Collins, Sonny Mehta and Liz Calder, Gail Rebuck and Tim Hely Hutchinson, who have created the landscape with which we are familiar today. But last year some of the major figures in that landscape retired or stepped back, like Helen Fraser, Martin Neild and Alison Samuel. On the plus side, theirs is the first generation for many years who have left their posts by choice (a sorry reflection of the ructions of recent years). In Tom Weldon, Jamie Hodder-Williams and Clara Farmer excellent successors have been found in each case. But it is now a challenge to the industry that so many of the movers and shakers are approaching or have passed their 60th birthday.</p>
<p>As well as a natural instinct for books or business, necessary skills are honed over years of experience and in part, we need to be more like America, where the contribution of outstanding publishers is maintained as they work on into their 70s and roles like &quot;editor-at-large&quot; and other elegant solutions are found to retain the valued contribution of those who don't lose their appetite for the business. The recent celebration of Susan Watt's many years in the industry or the success of Christopher MacLehose's publication of Stieg Larsson and his invaluable contribution to Quercus' success suggest that this may be happening at last. </p>
<p>But we also need to find a new generation of industry leaders to encompass those with a changing vision for the business without losing faith with the essential pleasures of reading, and the creative talent that will fuel those businesses with the writers of the future. Easier said than done, and I'm not sure succession planning is going to prove easy.&nbsp; <br />