Independent Publishers Guild Young Publisher of the Year Sam Hutchinson is only one of two members of staff at “kitchen-table micro-publisher” b small, though he also works closely with non-executive co-owner Cath Bruzzone. But its sales results—in its latest full-year results turnover rose 18%, while profit climbed a massive 700% — and its reputation in the children’s non-fiction and education market, suggest that Hutchinson has the list punching above its weight.
in 2017, he commissioned a series of science titles, STEM Starters for Kids, aimed at tapping into a growing market for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths activity books - both a hit at the tills and a rights triumph, ith the books selling into 10 territories, earning a combined six-figure sum for the deals.
1n 2018, Susan Martineau and Vicky Barker’s Real-Life Mysteries won the Blue Peter Book Award, sold 4,500 units—a considerable amount for a publisher of b small’s size—and was shortlisted for the School Library Association Awards too. No wonder Hutchinson was also named one of The Bookseller's 2018 Rising Stars.
Here, he shares five things inspiring him to think and work differently right now.
Hardware: I’ve worked on a laptop for years and only just a few months ago splashed out on a big monitor, laptop stand, bluetooth keyboard and mouse. The main difference I’ve noticed is that my back hurts less! As someone who works between home, coffee shops and a co-working space, I thought it was important to be mobile. But, I’ve realised over the years that I rarely do good work on my laptop when I’m out and about. So I have my snazzy accessories set up at my desk in the co-working space and get most of my computer-based work done there, even if I don’t spend all my time there. Then I’ll take a notebook and my phone with me to meetings - plus possibly even a print out (gasp!) of what we’re talking about. Retro!
Software: This isn’t particularly futuristic and doesn’t relate to a life-changing app, but one thing I did two years ago was remove my work email account from my phone. Running a micro publisher like b small, I have to do most of the admin that comes along with my decisions. Approved a big complex rights deal? Great! Now it’s my job to draft the contract, raise the invoice, prepare and send the files, record the sale in our system etc. Scrolling through emails on my phone means I absorb the weight of all these tasks that need doing but I’m not in a position to do anything about them. I’d rather wait until I’m at my desk before seeing what I’ve got to deal with because then I can deal with it there and then. If anyone needs me urgently, they can call me. Quite a good way to realise that nothing in book publishing is ever really that urgent!
Book: Flesh and Blood by Michael Cunningham, which I read for the first time over Christmas after my partner Rudi recommended it to me. I wanted to read more stories with good gay characters in and it felt like quite a radical act to insist on that, really. I’ve actually become fairly obnoxious with my reading habits and will discard a book very easily if it’s not feeding my soul! Do the same! And respect your bookshelf enough to only keep the books you love and will read again. It’s just anxious clutter otherwise.
Idea: There’s a feeling that you have to put the hours in every day to become a success. I only employ one person so I don’t know what it’s like to run a big team but neither of us works specific hours. If we’ve got something we want to do during the day we’ll just go and do it or if I’ve ticked everything off my to do list by midday then I won’t rush to invent new tasks. Equally if there’s a huge workload then we’ll work late to get it done. I’m sure there is a fancy management term for this style of working! But I don’t know what it is.
Person: In a professional capacity, the person I would single out is Cath Bruzzone, who set up b small publishing in the early 1990s. Cath took a huge risk hiring me to run b small when I was only three years out of university. I’ve had the best training over the last seven years learning all about different aspects of the business and Cath has been consistently supportive, through ups and downs! I’ll also say my partner Rudi as otherwise he’ll find this and ask me why I didn’t say him.