School of Life Press shifts its approach 
in order to leverage brand appeal

School of Life Press shifts its approach 
in order to leverage brand appeal

The School of Life Press is to publish a series of “realistic, reassuring guides”, as well as repackaging some core backlist, in moves geared towards leveraging the brand across the trade market.

Set up in 2016, the press is part of The School of Life (TSOL) organisation, a platform dedicated to fostering self-understanding, resilience and connection; it is the brainchild of author and philosopher Alain de Botton. Among its many courses, TSOL offers online psychotherapy sessions, and workshops in everything from learning to be confident to how to find love. However, the publishing activity of the brand—distributed by Duckworth and sold in the UK and Ireland by Pinnacle Book Sales—has perhaps been overlooked, until now.

Toby Marshall, head of publishing, is pushing for the press to be at the forefront of TSOL, as well as seeking to dispel the myth that its titles are “just self-help books”.

“People need our books more than ever,” he says. “If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that it is acceptable to talk about things—emotions, relationships—regardless of the social zeitgeist. I wouldn’t say that the pandemic is the reason we have started to make the TSOL brand more prominent on our books, but its effects have played a part in the decision.”

The 12 titles on the new publishing programme will be curated under TSOL’s six key themes, comprising Self-Knowledge, Relationships, Work, Calm, Sociability and Leisure & Culture, and will draw from the organisation’s programme of courses and workshops. Titles include On Failure, “a hopeful and consoling book” (March 2022); A More Loving World (May 2022); and Art Against Despair (June 2022), the first in a four-book series comprised of images of artwork accompanied by “uplifting” essays. The books are written by a group of specialists and the TSOL faculty, with the aim of crafting a “a kind, human and psychological tone” across titles.

March 2022 will also see the release of a new eight-title B-format paperback series of core backlist titles, specifically designed to be trade-focused and sold at a lower price point. Titles in the series include On Being Nice and How to Get Married.

The press also plans to give greater exposure to its merchandise, stationery and gift range in bookshops.“We are repackaging in a way that we hope will give us more visibility and accessibility in the trade,” Marshall explains. “In the past we have perhaps been too subtle on our books, so we have taken steps to reposition our branding, to make The School of Life more prominent as an author name, helping the consumer find us in stores, emphasising that each title is a work from The School of Life, and bringing a greater context to what we are doing.”

He adds: “If I was going to say one thing about TSOL’s approach it would probably be that we aim to provide realistic advice and practical ideas, while being aware that life is complicated. With this conversation now firmly in the public consciousness and no longer banished to the self-help section, we felt we needed to become more discoverable, to connect more people with the context of what we are doing, and to work towards our overall goal of helping people live more fulfilled lives.”