Johnson, Blake and Freeman team up in new venture

Johnson, Blake and Freeman team up in new venture

Richard Johnson, John Blake and Derek Freeman are going into business together to launch a new web-based publishing start-up.

Described as "an original cyber publishing concept" from a trio of "revered, admired, and occasionally feared, publishing musketeers", Blake Freeman Johnson Media will specialise in mainly popular adult non-fiction while undertaking to offer authors "much higher royalties and faster publication dates".

Johnson, who abruptly stepped down from his role as group chief executive of Bonnier Publishing in February after nine years at the helm, promised the new company would be "no ordinary start-up". "[It] will be entirely web based and our editorial, production and sales teams will all work remotely. This will drive costs down and create a framework that the authors will benefit from through much higher royalties and faster publication dates," he said. "I have proved I can build a major publishing company and I am doing it again – but in a different and original way to suit the times."

Former journalist Blake set up John Blake Publishing in 1991, running the eponymous 'tabloid publishing' company for more than 25 years before selling to Bonnier Publishing in 2016 and subsequently leaving in 2018 for "new adventures". Of the new business, he called it "a truly exciting venture which will give us the freedom to publish who and when we choose".

"I have always been celebrity and popular culture focused and this is just what I want to be doing – a whole new buzz will come as a result of this new venture," he said.

Former Octopus group c.e.o. Freeman worked closely with Johnson for 12 years on the strategy for Bonnier Publishing, joining as a consultant in 2006 and becoming a board member in 2009, before retiring as executive chairman in June 2018. Of the Blake Freeman Johnson Media's approach, following what was his second retirement this summer, he said: "If we like it, it will be published by us. We won’t mess about, there will be no corporate bureaucracy to tackle in this company."

While announcements on the company's publishing list will come at a later date, in interview with The Bookseller in September Johnson said his new publishing venture would focus on social media talent and produce around 20 books a year.

The company from which all three of Blake Freeman Johnson Media's co-founders this year departed has since rebranded as Bonnier Books UK under Perminder Mann. It is currently being re-oriented by its parent, Swedish group Bonnier, away from mass market publishing towards more literary content in the UK, with Kate Parkin last month promoted to the role of managing director of Adult Trade. Bonnier Books UK group commercial director Julian Shaw left the business yesterday (31st October), marking the latest senior departure from the business following those of Sharon Parker, Mark Smith and Ben Dunn over the summer.