Startup of the week: RedDoor

Startup of the week: RedDoor

RedDoor combines the resources of a traditional publisher with self-pub's collaborative approach - and its founder believes that it's the perfect model to sit within a big publishing house.


The pitch

Bridging the gap between traditional and self-publishing, RedDoor Publishing aims to provide a credible platform for authors who are "slipping through the net as traditional publishers become increasingly (and understandably) risk averse." It operates in the same way as a traditional publishing house, except its authors pay for pre-production and first print run of their book. 

Who's behind it

RedDoor was founded by Clare Christian, co-founder of HarperCollins' experimental imprint The Friday Project and past winner of UK Young Publisher of the Year. She has a breadth of experience across the publishing industry, having developed and managed lists for Hodder, HarperCollins, Orion and Pearson, and run a publishing consultancy business before starting RedDoor in 2014.  

Heather Boisseau, who worked with Clare at both Hodder and later at The Friday Project, is RedDoor’s publishing manager, helped by publishing assistant Anna Burtt, Josh Wright as social media manager, Adrian Weston as rights manager, Signature Books on sales and Central Books on distribution.

What's the gap in the market?

When Christian worked as a consultant, many authors came to her for advice on how to self-publish as they hadn’t been able to secure a traditional publishing deal. "Some of the books were very strong and it became clear that the feedback the authors were getting was that the books weren’t really fitting into the particular boxes that traditional publishers wanted to fill at that time," she explains. 

"Although there are self-publishing services out there that do a very good job of packaging books we felt there was a gap in the market for a curated list of self-published titles – those that probably would have secured a traditional deal not so many years ago. By commissioning in exactly the same way that we did when working for traditional publishers and by applying the same production values, and providing sales, distribution and rights management we felt we could offer talented authors the ability to self-publish in a way that would be credible in the publishing industry."

Success so far?

Beneath the Surface by Heidi Perks, their first book of 2016, achieved 5000 ebook sales and 800 print sales in its first couple of weeks. Heat Magazine made it one of their top five reads and over 100 Amazon reviews are averaging at 4.6/5. Other highlights from the 2016 frontlist include a beautiful coffee table book of animal portraits by award-winning photographer Robert Bahou and an authorised biography of Clive James with a foreword from Stephen Fry.

Backlist titles are also doing well: Andy Rumbold’s debut novel The Last Fiesta was longlisted for the bath Novel Award and has just been shortlisted for the People’s Book Prize.

"In terms of overall business success, we have just been lucky enough to have two highly experienced publishing professionals join us as both investors and advisors and we are planning significant growth over the next three years," Christian says. "Although we initially felt that RedDoor would be primarily an incubator for undiscovered talent, we are finding that more and more authors are coming to us via their agents or are opting to go with us after having a traditional deal because they value the collaborative approach."

Biggest challenges?

RedDoor faces a challenge common to many startups: maintaining momentum without compromising on leanness and intimacy.  "We are a small team at present but we work in a very collaborative way with our authors," Christian explains. "We do not want to lose this personalised team approach as we grow so we will need to manage our resources carefully."

Ultimate ambition?

Acquisition - Christian believes that RedDoor would operate most successfully as a division of a big traditional publishing house. "The RedDoor model would allow them to road test new talent at absolutely no risk while making money from sales," she says. "The authors benefit from the support of a larger traditional infrastructure, and the economies of scale presented by a larger business would enable the model to become even more profitable. I believe this offers a win-win option for both author and publisher.”

One piece of advice you’d give to other publishing startups/entrepreneurs?

"Cashflow, cashflow, cashflow."