John Blake and Rosie Virgo leave John Blake Publishing

John Blake and Rosie Virgo leave John Blake Publishing

Founder John Blake and m.d. Rosie Virgo are stepping down from their roles at John Blake Publishing. 

After selling John Blake Publishing to Bonnier Publishing in 2016, the eight staff currently located at the John Blake Publishing offices on Bramber Road will now relocate to Bonnier Publishing’s Chelsea offices, where they will join Kings Road Publishing’s adult non-fiction imprints Blink Publishing, Lagom and 535.

The imprint will continue its focus on mass-market paperback, genre non-fiction, including True Crime, Misery and Nostalgia as well as self-generated and "fast to market" publications, while focusing on its backlist and maintaining its strong e-book sales.

Blake, a former journalist who set up the eponymous company in 1991, ran John Blake Publishing for over 28 years. He sold it to Bonnier Publishing for an undisclosed sum in May 2016 and, during his handover period, it experienced year-on-year growth of more than 60% according to Bonnier Publishing. Notable successes included Being Jordan, which sold 1.3 million copies, and Talking With Serial Killers, which has sold more than 150,000 copies.

Rosie Virgo (née Ries), formerly a show business reporter and columnist, teamed up with Blake in 1991 to set up the "tabloid publishing" outfit. Aside from commissioning and negotiating national newspaper serialisations, Virgo took over the role of foreign rights and export director for the company.

In wake of Blake and Virgo's departures, Kelly Ellis has been promoted to publishing director with immediate effect and will run the John Blake Publishing list, alongside her commissioning responsibilities for Blink, reporting into Kings Road Publishing m.d., Ben Dunn.

Ellis, formerly a commissioning editor at Ebury Press, has published bestsellers including Katie Piper’s Beautiful, Running with the Firm, Secret Slave and, more recently, Dynamo’s The Book of Secrets, and has particular expertise in inspirational memoir and true crime.

Blake said: “It has been fun working with Bonnier Publishing, but I have a bestseller I am itching to write and the time has come for some new adventures.”

Virgo said: “Thanks to John Blake and latterly Bonnier Publishing – I have been fortunate enough to have had the most wonderful and exciting career in publishing. Whilst working, few people are given the chance to forge lasting friendships in every corner of the world and, of course, at home. I am so proud to have been a part of this exciting and creative industry for so long and I wish Bonnier Publishing every success for the future”.

Dunn paid tribute to Blake as "truly a one-off in modern British publishing; a ground-breaker with a never-say-die attitude" and thanked both him and Virgo for leaving the list in "fantastic shape". 

"During [John Blake's] extraordinary run, he has published some incredible best sellers; from Katie Price’s first autobiography (that went on to sell more than a million copies) to his focus on mass-appeal genres, such as inspirational and true crime; genres that have since been aped by every major house in the UK," he said. "John published books that helped to change UK publishing forever, while schooling many an editor along the way: including Michael Joseph’s Daniel Bunyard, Transworld’s Michele Signore and our very own Joel Simons. I have enjoyed my time working with both Rosie and John enormously; we owe them a huge debt of thanks as they leave behind a hugely innovative and profitable list in fantastic shape for Kelly Ellis and the John Blake commissioning team to continue to build upon.”

Ellis said: "As a former journalist I’ve long been a great admirer of John with the utmost respect for everything he has achieved, and we will be working hard to protect the journalistic legacy he leaves behind. With a focus on what John Blake Publishing does best, we are set upon establishing the imprint as a destination publisher for the most exciting, newsworthy and hard-hitting books in the market as well as growing its rich heritage list and developing fresh revenue streams. We will be a nimble, pro-active publisher that moves with the times and I’m very excited to be joining the highly talented team already in place there."