Icon celebrates 25 years

Icon celebrates 25 years

The Library club on St Martin’s Lane was the chic venue for Icon Books’ celebration of “25 Years of Big Ideas”. While it was still “dry” January, the booze flowed steadily, book people having clearly fallen off the wagon, or perhaps had never been on it.

Andrew Franklin, one of several Independent Alliance publishers who turned out, confessed his January had been merely “damp”. Given the state of the world and a US president who can’t quite decide between “Nuke” and “Tweet”, we all need to  seize the day – or as best-selling Icon author Mark Forsyth would say, carpe diem.

Stephen Page and Susie Nicklin

Team Icon was out in force and welcomed many of their authors, among them Ed Howker, Martin Bell, Barry Turner, Meg-John Barker and Justin Hancock, and the aforementioned Forsyth, whose The Etymologican was the Christmas sensation that really put Icon on the map when the company was still in its teens. Simon Flynn, who was m.d at the time and gave it all up to teach science, was also there – as the author of The Science Magpie. Agents included Michael Alcock, Susie Nicklin, Charlie Campbell and Julia Kingsford. 

A shortlisting for Trade Publisher of the Year at the IPG Awards made for a happy birthday and both founder and chairman Peter Pugh and m.d Philip Cotterell were chipper. Pugh, who writes corporate histories (Icon has sold 70,000 copies of the one on Rolls-Royce, which must tell us something), recalled how the company debuted at Frankfurt with just four titles, all in the Beginners series, which now runs to some 90 books.

Peter Pugh, Jonathan Nowell and Philip Cotterell

Few chairman begin their party speeches by namechecking their bank manager and accountant but since Pugh used the family home as collateral to get started he probably needed their services. Cotterell paid tribute to the staff, including long-servers Duncan Heath, editorial director for 23 years, and Andrew Furlow, sales and marketing director for 18 years, and said Icon took pride in developing nascent talent.

With turnover impressively up they’re obviously doing something right. And of course he praised the authors. The spring list features a memoir by Charlotte Rampling, which caused Cotterell a particular frisson of delight: as a blushing teenager attending his very first publishing party, he had been excited to meet the actress, along with Twiggy and other stars in what was then Swinging London. “With great political incorrectness, the book was called Birds of Britain,” he recalled with some relish. The book was such a sensation it reprinted 20 times and was last year the subject of an exhibition.

The Icon team