Hachette UK buys Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Hachette UK buys Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Thirty years after it was founded, Jessica Kingsley Publishers (JKP) has been bought by Hachette UK for an undisclosed sum.

The indie publisher specialising in social and mental health sciences is set to become an imprint of John Murray Press under Nick Davies. Its founder Jessica Kingsley will work with the company on a consultancy basis until mid-2018 when she will retire.

The shareholders of JKP and Hachette UK signed and completed the acquisition agreement on Thursday (29th November), transferring ownership with immediate effect.

JKP has 45 members of staff in the UK and five in the US, all of whom will continue to work for the publisher under its new ownership. Staff in the UK will continue to be based in London King’s Cross for the immediate future and US staff will continue to be based in Philadelphia.

The agreement has been structured as a purchase of 100% shareholding in the business and JKP will remain intact as a company. No further details of the deal were disclosed. 

According to Hachette, all contracts remain valid and there will be "no disruption" for authors. Meanwhile arrangements with customers, freelancers, distribution partners, suppliers and other contacts of the house will remain as they are. 

Jamie Hodder Williams, c.e.o. of Hodder, Headline, Quercus and John Murray Press, praised JKP as "a business of great significance, renowned for anticipating trends and identifying gaps in the market, publishing books that are essential for professionals in their specialist areas, and that serve the communities with which they work". 

Founded in 1987, JKP has achieved year-on-year revenue growth for the past 30 years, with turnover up 13% to £6.1m for the year ending December 2016. Specialising in social and mental health sciences, it has a particularly strong autism list and social justice agenda. New areas of commissioning meanwhile include gender diversity and Chinese medicine under the Singing Dragon imprint.

According to Nielsen BookScan, the publisher's top titles are Tony Attwood’s The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome, which has sold 21,315 copies, Luke Jackson’s Freaks, Geeks and Asperger’s Syndrome, which has shifted 12,597 copies sold and Kate Collins-Donnelly’s Starving the Anxiety Gremlin, selling 12,542 units. For the year to date JKP-published books have shifted 140,379 copies for £1.89m through Nielsen BookScan, representing a 18.4% jump in volume and a 17.9% boost in value on 2016.

Kingsley, 68, told The Bookseller that while she would “miss" her role "dreadfully”, it was time for her to quit while the company was trading "incredibly well".

She revealed JKP had approached Hachette UK to buy the company after appreciating its efforts to lead the way on diversity issues and had found it “incredibly welcoming”. Kingsley said she was flattered Hachette wanted to keep the company “going as it is” and that the “muscle” of the corporate would also help JKP extend its reach and provide additional opportunities for staff.

“I’m just so delighted it’s found such a good home to be honest,” said Kingsley. “I’m going to miss is dreadfully but at some point you have to make space for doing the things you have always wanted to do. I’m really looking forward to that. 

“[It’s the right time] I think because everything’s going so incredibly well, actually. I always thought the last thing I would want to do is to leave when it was going wrong. And we’ve grown so much in the last few years and everyone is so optimistic about the list we’ve got for next year and optimistic we will keep on growing, it just felt like a really good point to give another company the chance to take that forward and give the company the best possible chance to do well in future. And Hachette have been so incredibly welcoming, I think it’s got the best chance it possibly could have." 

She added: "I have always admired the Hachette ethos, and know that both our authors and our staff will thrive in this larger environment. All of us at JKP are proud of what we have done, and the lives we have helped to change over the years, and I am delighted to know this work will be carried on by the amazing JKP team.”

Davies, m.d. of John Murray Press, added: “Jessica and her deeply knowledgeable team have built a list of real depth and lasting purpose. We are excited to be welcoming the JKP team and their authors to John Murray Press where we share a common interest in social justice, category specialism and publishing books of the highest quality. We will be working hard to build on their impressive heritage and expertise in the years ahead.”

The purchase is the latest in Hachette UK's acquisitions spree. Hachette UK's Octopus Publishing Group acquired 27-year-old indie Summersdale and 28-year-old independent cookery publisher Kyle Cathie Ltd in October, following on from its acquisition of Lewes-based illustrated reference publisher Ilex in 2014. Hachette UK also bought Oliver Rhodes' independent e-book publisher Bookouture in March and mobile games company Neon Play in the summer of 2016.