What The Pandemic Has Meant For Us

In this post Tommi reflects on the unprecedented events of 2020 and how they have affected us as a business and as a team.

Well, what a strange year this has been! As England starts its new month-long series of restrictions, it’s a good time to look back on how this year has been for Multilingual Matters and Channel View Publications.

At the beginning of 2020, Multilingual Matters and Channel View Publications were looking at a good year of publications and a very healthy production pipeline of new materials. Following on from a year where sales had been quite depressed, we were seeing really good financial figures and the business was looking very healthy. We had two members of staff away on parental leave, but we were looking forward to welcoming them back in the summer and to really forging bravely into the future. Brexit loomed as a potential difficulty, and we were thinking about what steps we could take to make the business more environmentally friendly.

During a February vacation taking some friends to visit my home in Finland we had started to see an increased number of reports of coronavirus spreading, and the seemingly drastic measures taken in Wuhan to contain the virus as much as possible. It seemed like a sad situation, but such a long way away from us. I returned to my desk in early March and discussed with Anna Roderick whether we should start to consider our work-related travel to conferences, not really so much from a health perspective, but more because we felt it might just not be worth flying to the conferences if few people would attend. Then slowly the conference cancellations started coming in, and before long there was talk of what would happen if the UK government announced a lockdown. Every day brought different announcements, and it was getting very difficult to believe that anyone had any sensible plan at all. I found it almost impossible to concentrate on actual work, and we all speculated on when we might be told to work from home.

One evening while giving blood at my local blood donor centre, I sat and watched the news on the TV. Since our national government clearly wasn’t going to make a decision anytime soon, I typed a message out with one hand to my colleagues saying that “from tomorrow, we’ll work from home”. We all took our laptops home, and that was it. I expected it to be six weeks, or maybe two months. I did not expect that in November, eight months later, I would still be working from home and that I would have only seen my colleagues face-to-face a handful of times during that period. Had I known it would last this long, I would probably have suggested that we work in the office one last day, all have lunch together, and then go home, but at the time it seemed more sensible to break as many chains of contact as quickly as possible.

Fortunately, over the years our systems have been designed to allow homeworking and remote working while travelling, so the switch to working from home was technically not too difficult, and our team was pretty quickly coming up with strategies to make home working seem less lonely, including a shared 2.30pm break to listen to the same song, with each member of staff choosing the song on rotating days. We definitely have an eclectic taste in music across the whole team! Some of us had been working from home for a long time already, and so Sarah Williams and Anna Roderick were able to give us “newcomers” some tips and advice on how to organise ourselves, and enjoyed a more social atmosphere than before, now that us office workers began to understand the importance of regular contact!

About 10 days after we had decided to work from home, the government made a national announcement that we should all work from home and not leave our houses unless shopping for food, or for essential exercise once per day. All non-essential shops were to close, as were all workplaces that could not operate in a COVID-safe manner. Amazon stopped ordering books to focus on other product lines, and our two biggest wholesale customers closed their doors for an indefinite period. It was clear that this was not going to be a short, sharp shock and then back to business as usual. Together with the senior management team at Multilingual Matters and Channel View Publications, we took the decision that the two most important things that we could do were to focus on staff wellbeing, and to conserve as much cash as possible. We immediately stopped all longer print runs and switched to digital printing, and decided that we would delay sending the usual complimentary copies of the books. We also wrote to all of our authors asking for patience with our annual royalties payments. We asked that authors who were either self-employed, in precarious employment or otherwise in a financial situation where the money would make a difference to their daily lives identify themselves to us so that we could prioritise payments to them, and that otherwise we would delay payments to a time when cashflow would allow. Our authors and editors responded with such warm and supportive messages. Many people wrote to offer words of encouragement and support, to insist that others were prioritised, and a good number even offered to donate their royalties to us this year. To all of you, I would like to extend a very heartfelt thank you from the whole Multilingual Matters and Channel View Publications team. The financial breathing room that this gave us was vital. But even more vital was the psychological boost that we got from feeling that we were genuinely valued as part of the community.

As the weeks went by, the news was mixed. One of our biggest wholesale customers declared bankruptcy, leaving us with a considerable bad debt. Fortunately, around that time the other wholesale customer started to re-open their warehouse, and orders began to come in, albeit at a much reduced volume. At the same time we started to see the sales of ebooks to libraries increase, which gave us some confidence that we weren’t going to be facing a complete halt in income. We were able to start sending out complimentary copies again, and we started to pay royalties. By the end of July we had caught up and paid all outstanding royalties where we knew we had payment preferences recorded. We also saw an increase in the number of manuscript submissions and so we felt that the decision to keep working rather than to go on furlough was definitely the right one. We have been innovative, arranging webinars and events on Zoom to promote the books from authors who have not been able to show off their work at conferences. Expect to see more of this over the coming months as we plan to introduce more of our publications in this manner.

Our “summer” pub lunch together

We arranged a few social events, including the ubiquitous Zoom “pub quiz” that has been a lockdown experience for most Brits, afternoon drinks, and even a shared Devon cream tea, which Sarah Williams organised for us one week. In the summer we managed to meet face-to-face on one occasion, with seven of us sitting around a large pub table at a time when social restrictions had been lifted temporarily. I still hold onto that lunch as one of my favourite lunches of the year! Although I certainly miss seeing my colleagues every day in the office, I think we have managed as well as is possible to keep a sense of togetherness going, which will prove vital as we now head towards a more difficult winter lockdown.

What will the coming months bring? I think February 2020 shows that we cannot take anything for granted, but equally so does March, April and May. It has been a much tougher year so far than I could ever have imagined when it started, but it has not been as bleak as we thought it would be at some times during April and May. We still expect that Brexit will cause some headaches for us as trade regulations and rules around exporting change. We do not yet know how bad the winter spread of coronavirus will be, or when we might be able to have more normal interactions with each other. Conference travel and bookfair travel seem a very long way away still. We can only imagine that with the levels of financial intervention that many countries have had to take over the past year, budgets of all publicly funded institutions will be strained, and this will no doubt have an impact on us in the future. But we are financially much more stable today than we were in February, and I believe that we are also more resilient as a team.

I could not be prouder of how my colleagues have responded to the difficulties and challenges this year has produced, and how we have still managed to find positives and celebrate successes. I strongly believe that this year has shown that we can overcome some really difficult situations when we, both in-house and as a wider community, work together to make sure that we look after each other’s interests.

Tommi

Travelling to Frankfurt Book Fair

The Frankfurt Book Fair is one of our most important events each year to promote our publications, meet with our bookselling and distribution contacts, learn about the future trends in publishing, and generally take the pulse of the industry for the next year. It is always an exhausting week, with back-to-back meetings set every 30 minutes for three days, and socialising and networking opportunities in the evenings.

With such a punishing schedule at the fair, we have always felt that we should make the travel as pleasant and as relaxing as possible, and so in recent years we have taken a scenic drive with an overnight ferry trip and lunch stops in the beautiful Rhine valley to enjoy. Following a car accident that left my car unusable just weeks before the fair this year, we were left with a decision to make. Should we fly to the fair? In the 22 years that I’ve been visiting the fair, I have only flown twice, and the memory of Frankfurt airport full of tens of thousands of book trade contacts trying to leave the city after the fair is firmly etched on my memory, so we decided to return to travelling by train. In the five years since I last travelled by train, connections and frequency of trains along the route have improved, and as such we were easily able to leave Bristol in the early morning, and with just one cross-London underground trip and a change of trains in Brussels, we arrived in Frankfurt by the mid-afternoon to set up our stand. During this time we were able to sit back and relax, eat at our seats in the train, and spread our work out and prepare for our meetings in a very civilised manner. We were even lucky enough to have our own compartment on the Brussels-Frankfurt leg of the journey, which felt very like a step back to the age of Agatha Christie. Thankfully though there were no mysteries to be solved!

Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof

After three days of successful meetings at the fair, we again boarded the train at Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, and were able to write up all of our post-book fair reports during the first leg of the journey, before a quick lunch at Brussels Midi. The train connections worked seamlessly, and we were back in Bristol in time for dinner on the Saturday evening.

We may have saved a few hours had we travelled by air, but by taking the train we saved ourselves the trouble of first travelling to the airport, then the hassle of check-in, security, and then waiting in departures, before a cramped flight and another wait for bags. Coupled with the environmental benefit of travelling by train, it really wasn’t a difficult choice and it’s one that we will most likely choose to make again in the future!

Tommi

Ever wondered what the Frankfurt Book Fair is like? In 2017 Laura and Tommi filmed every aisle of every hall! You can watch the video here.

Welcome Back Alice!

Last month we welcomed Alice back to the MM/CVP team after more than a year away! In this blog post we find out how she’s spent the last 12 months…

What have you been up to for the past year?

Alice and her friend with Fuego, an active volcano in Guatemala, in the background. It erupted a week later!

So, I left the office last February and flew to Colombia in March. I then spent the next few months travelling through Central America up to Mexico, enjoying the people, wildlife and different cultures along the way. From there I took a long flight to Vietnam, where I stayed for a month before visiting Cambodia, the Philippines and Malaysia, and then unwillingly flying back to the UK in August.

Wow! Which was your favourite place you visited and why?

The wax palms in Colombia’s Cocora Valley

Colombia! I think the people made it special, who were all really welcoming and keen for conversation. But also the amazing jungles and wildlife, beaches and cities, they seem to have it all. We also managed to do a lot of trekking, which I really enjoyed.

What have you been doing since you got back?

Since then I’ve started studying for a part-time Masters in Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law, which I really love! I’ve just completed my first year, so I have a couple of months to settle back into life at Channel View and enjoy the sun, before I start again in September.

Alice back at her desk

How have you found it coming back to Channel View? Has anything changed?

It’s been strange trying to dig things up from my memory that I’d let slip, but it’s generally really great to be back! The office is largely the same but there have been a few tweaks here and there, and small improvements to how we do things. Otherwise, I’ve been working with Rose and Ellie for the first time, which is really lovely!

It’s great to have you back! One last question – what are you reading at the moment?

I’ve just finished reading Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham – loved it. Now I’m looking for something new to start!

Brexit Update: What are we Doing to Prepare?

On the 29th September 2016, exactly 18 months before the UK was due to leave the European Union, I wrote in a blog post entitled Brexit and its Implications for Channel View Publications & Multilingual Matters: Since the UK referendum result to leave the European Union, I have often been asked what effect this will have on our business. These questions have come from authors, colleagues, interested friends and my mother. The honest answer to all has been “I really do not know”.

We are now only five and a half weeks away from the “Brexit date” of 29th March, and I am afraid to say that my answer has not changed very much. I have had more sleepless nights than normal and lost countless hours of productive work time in the past three months as I’ve tried to gain some understanding of what sort of impact the various different versions of Brexit will have. Many different options are still being talked about and have gained traction, lost popularity, been proposed, negotiated and discarded, but what will actually happen, we still do not know.

Immediately after the Brexit vote in June 2016, I was relatively confident that Brexit would not happen as there was just a very slim chance of the various different factions agreeing what kind of Brexit they wanted. Unfortunately I had not predicted that our government would launch down the road of negotiating a Brexit deal with the European Union before knowing what kind of a deal the UK parliament would accept. The past few months of political intrigue and inaction at Westminster have been entertaining, dispiriting and terrifying in equal measures.

Given that we are now facing a potentially very disruptive no-deal Brexit, we at Channel View Publications have had to take steps to plan for the future. We are actively talking to our European trade customers suggesting that we will support them with a small extra discount and longer payment terms should they feel able to stock up on our titles before the 29th March. We are looking to work with printers outside the UK in order to print directly in our major markets like the USA and Japan. We are talking to our printers and distributors to make sure that we understand the likelihood and scale of any serious delays at the EU/UK customs border, and whether this will have a knock-on effect at our airports. We are making sure that our UK distributor has all of the agreements and IT systems in place to provide efficient information to Customs should they need to. We are tightening our belts and building up an emergency fund so that in the event of a drop in sales, or an increase in production costs, or most likely both, we are able to work through this. Whatever happens, we will do our utmost to ensure that our authors and customers continue to receive the same level of support from us as always.

Our hoped-for outcome at the moment is that the government will come to their senses, realise the very real damage that is being done to our economy, and withdraw Article 50 until such a time as those planning for Brexit can achieve a majority for what sort of a future we want with the EU. If that is agreed, and if Brexit is still what the country wants in the full knowledge of how difficult it might be, then resubmit the letter and negotiate properly with the full backing of parliament. This, I suspect, is rather like hoping for Christmas in March…

Tommi

Another Busy Conference Season for CVP/MM

As January draws to a close we’re looking forward to the upcoming spring conference season, which is always the busiest time of year for both Channel View and Multilingual Matters.

It all kicks off for Channel View in February with Sarah’s annual trip to the other side of the world for CAUTHE, being held this year in Cairns, Australia. Then March brings the usual flurry of US conferences for the Multilingual Matters contingent – between them Laura, Tommi and Anna will be attending NABE in Florida and AAAL and TESOL in Atlanta, all in the space of a week! As April comes around we’ll be staying a bit closer to home, with Laura heading off again, this time to IATEFL in Liverpool, while Sarah makes her way down south to Bournemouth University for the TTRA Europe conference.

If you’re planning to be at any of these conferences, do make sure you pop by the stand to say hello to us. We love catching up with our authors, having the opportunity to put faces to names and are always very happy to discuss potential projects with you. We’ll also have plenty of interesting titles for you to browse, including a whole host of brand new ones, and they’ll all be on sale at a special conference discount, so you’re bound to find a bargain!

You can keep up with our whereabouts this conference season by following us on social media.

An Interview with Liss Kerstin Sylvén on her Research on CLIL

This month we published Investigating Content and Language Integrated Learning edited by Liss Kerstin Sylvén. In this post we ask her about her research on Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) and the process of putting together an edited volume.

How did you first become interested in studying CLIL?

The first time I ever encountered CLIL (which was at a time when I had never even heard of the concept) was when I substituted as an English teacher at a Swedish upper secondary school, and one of the teachers there told me that they were planning to start using English as the medium of instruction in some non-language subjects. I remember my reaction being a big Why? Why should Swedish teachers, at a Swedish school, with Swedish students use English as the medium of instruction? That was the starting point for my interest in studying effects of CLIL, and very soon after this first encounter with CLIL, I wrote my bachelor thesis on the topic.

Why did you feel this was an important book to write?

There are so many uninformed views on CLIL, and often it is seen as only good or only bad. In other words, many people see it as black or white. What is important with this book is that it describes a unique, longitudinal project which has resulted in a huge number of interesting findings. The most important of them are found in this collection, and together they show that CLIL is far from black or white, but rather represents a number of nuances that need to be taken into account in order to fully understand what CLIL is, can be, and can do, in a certain context.

Why is the Swedish context a particularly interesting one to research? What can policymakers in other countries learn from this example?

Every country is interesting in its own right from the perspective of effects of CLIL. Sweden is interesting not least due to the fact that English is so widespread in society and the level of English proficiency is generally high. An interesting question, then, has been what role CLIL can play in our society. The brief answer is that CLIL can play an important role, but it has to be done in the right circumstances. For instance, teachers need to be sufficiently prepared and trained for CLIL teaching, and focus should be on academic language, rather than the everyday language which students encounter in abundance outside of school. Sweden is also interesting as we have seen a significant increase in the number of students with a non-Swedish background in our schools during the last decades. A pertinent question is if CLIL can help bridge barriers between this group of students and those with a Swedish background.

Policymakers in other countries can tailor decisions based on our findings in the Swedish context that may be relevant for their own context. By reading the volume, they will hopefully become aware of the very important role the local context plays, and that decisions need to be based on them, not on results from contexts different from their own.

As you compiled your book, did anything in the research particularly surprise or intrigue you?

What has surprised me throughout the work with the project, on which the book is based, is how positive everybody involved in CLIL seems to be about using English as the medium of instruction part of the time in school. Students, teachers, administrators – all have a very confident view of CLIL, and this, of course, is highly interesting from an educational viewpoint. With a positive mindset, teaching and learning is definitely facilitated.

Putting together any edited volume is a major undertaking. How did you find the process?

I would lie if I were to say that it was an easy process. It was not! Primarily I think the fact that we are as many as fourteen contributors to this volume, played a role in making it quite complicated at times – who had done what? Who needed a reminder? Who was waiting for feedback? Etc. However, the multitude of viewpoints presented by each and every one of us is, of course, also one of the strengths of this book. And, the support given to me as the editor of the book by Multilingual Matters throughout this entire process has been invaluable. I have learnt so much by working with this volume, knowledge that I do not want to be without!

What advice would you offer to an academic writing or editing their first book?

Make sure that the topic is one that you really, really care about! Find a good publisher who is enthusiastic about the idea! Once there is such a topic and such a publisher, just go for it. Yes, it entails a lot of work, but in the end, it is definitely worth it.

You painted the image on your book cover yourself. Have you been painting for long? What was the inspiration behind this piece?

To answer your first question, I have always painted! Some periods more, some less, but it’s always there as my favorite escape from stress and problems of any kind. When I paint, I think good thoughts, and I often unconsciously come up with new ways of looking at things. The motif for the cover of the book came to me very early on in the process. When I realized we were going to get the book published, I started seeing it as it would look on the bookshelf, and I saw it pretty much as it now looks. I have tried to illustrate the move from seeing CLIL as something that is either black or white, to something full of shades of various colors. I couldn’t have been happier than when you all agreed to actually use it for the cover of the book!

What books – either for work or for pleasure – are you reading at the moment?

For pleasure, I’m reading Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker (absolutely fascinating!), and Michelle Obama’s biography Becoming. For work, I am re-reading Identity and Language Learning by Bonny Norton (Multilingual Matters, 2013), and Miho Inaba’s very recent and interesting book on extramural Japanese, Second Language Literacy Practices and Language Learning Outside the Classroom (Multilingual Matters, 2019) – pure coincidence with two books from Multilingual Matters 🙂

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Conceptualising Integration in CLIL and Multilingual Education edited by Tarja Nikula, Emma Dafouz, Pat Moore and Ute Smit.

New Year, New Books!

Happy New Year! We’re starting 2019 as we mean to go on with a whole host of exciting new books coming out in January and February! Here are the new titles you can look forward to…

January

Early Instructed Second Language Acquisition

This book examines which factors lead to success in foreign language learning at an early age in instructional settings. The studies investigate learners aged between three and ten, their parents and teachers, and focus on the development of speaking and reading skills and how attitudes and motivation impact on the teaching and learning process.

Idiomatic Mastery in a First and Second Language

The comprehension, retention and production of idiomatic expressions is one of the most difficult areas of the lexicon for second language learners to master. This book investigates this under-researched and interesting aspect of language acquisition, shedding light on conventional uses of idiomatic expressions as well as creative variant forms.

Investigating Content and Language Integrated Learning

This book provides a unique longitudinal account of content and language integrated learning (CLIL). Giving voice to both learners and teachers, it offers insights into language learning outcomes, learner motivation among CLIL and non-CLIL students, effects of extramural exposure to English, issues in relation to assessment in CLIL and much more.

English-Medium Instruction and Pronunciation

This book offers new insights into the language gains of adult learners enrolled in an English-medium instruction degree programme. It provides longitudinal evidence of the phonological gains of the learners and investigates whether increased exposure to the target language leads to incidental learning of second language pronunciation.

Critical Reflections on Research Methods

This book explores the challenges involved in conducting research with members of minoritized communities. Through reflective accounts, contributors explore community-based collaborative work, and suggest important implications for applied linguistics, educational research and anthropological investigations of language, literacy and culture.

 

February

Early Language Learning and Teacher Education

This book investigates both the theoretical and practical aspects of teacher education for early language teachers. It focuses on the complexity of teacher learning, innovations in mentoring and teacher supervision, strategies in programme development and perceptions, and knowledge and assessment in early language learning teacher education.

Aspiring to be Global

This book makes a novel contribution to the sociolinguistics of globalization by examining language and social change in the tourism destination of West Street, Yangshuo, China. It explores the contingencies and tensions in the creation of a ‘global village’ and reveals ambivalent struggles inherent in this ongoing process of social change.

Critical Inquiries in the Sociolinguistics of Globalization

This book seeks to examine the notions of ‘linguistic diversity’ and ‘hybridity’ using new critical theoretical frameworks embedded within the broader discussion of the sociolinguistics of globalization. The research took place in contexts that include linguistic landscapes, schools, classrooms, neighborhoods and virtual spaces around the world.

Conversation Analytic Perspectives on English Language Learning, Teaching and Testing in Global Contexts

This book contains 10 empirical studies of English language learning, teaching and testing where English is an additional language. Focusing on English-as-a-Foreign-Language contexts, they involve varied learner populations, from children to young adults to adults, in different learning environments around the world.

Perspectives on Language as Action

This edited volume has been compiled in honour of Professor Merrill Swain who, for over four decades, has been one of the most prominent scholars in the field of second language acquisition and second language education. The range of topics covered in the book reflects the breadth and depth of Swain’s contributions, expertise and interests.

 

For more information about any of these titles or to place an order, please visit our website.

Publishing Workshop, Lund University, Sweden, November 2018

In this post Sarah talks about her recent visit to Lund University in Sweden where she co-facilitated a publishing workshop.

Planning, Preparing and Publishing a Book Manuscript
Department of Service Management, Lund University, 21st November 2018
Facilitators: Dianne Dredge, Johan Edelheim and Sarah Williams
Organiser: Erika Andersson Cederholm

At the TEFI conference in June, Dianne Dredge asked me if I’d be interested in taking part in an event she was putting together designed to encourage academics who are new to book publishing. Fast forward five months and I was on my way to the Helsingborg campus of Lund University to help facilitate a publishing workshop on preparing a book proposal and manuscript!

Dianne’s vision for the day centred around helping each of the 12 participants develop a book idea and we started the day by everyone sharing the titles of the book they would most like to write. The workshop was split into two parts – the morning focused on understanding the publishing process and looking at different writing strategies. Johan shared his experiences of adapting his PhD thesis into a book (the bestselling Tourist Attractions) and all it can entail – and the main points to focus on when you embark on the rewriting process. The afternoon was more interactive, when we went in-depth into developing a proposal. The ultimate outcomes for the workshop were:

  • Strategies, tips and advice.
  • Inspiration through shared experience.
  • Build your ‘keep me grounded’ network.
  • A basic template of your proposal.
  • Feedback on your ideas.
  • A plan to get you started.

 

It was great that each participant enthusiastically and openly shared their ideas, and their writing motivations and challenges. As well as explaining the publishing process to everyone, I certainly learned a lot about authors’ processes when it comes to writing – things that I will definitely bear in mind next time I’m chasing someone for a late manuscript!

For the afternoon session on developing a proposal, Dianne had prepared a Lean Book Concept Canvas (an adaptation of a business model canvas – see the beautifully-illustrated jpeg below!) The idea for this was so the participants could develop their ideas in a more organic way before starting on the proposal template guidelines.

Lean Book Concept Canvas A3 new
Lean Book Concept Canvas

The book ideas that were pitched were strong and it was useful to be there on the spot to provide guidance (for me it was like having one of our in-house editorial meetings but where authors were present for face-to-face feedback!) on things like really thinking about who your audience is and reworking the title so it gives a good idea of what the book is about.

It was a great event to be part of thanks to Dianne’s overall vision and preparation for the day and Johan’s openness in sharing his experiences and sage advice. And to Erika Andersson Cederholm’s efficient organisation – including the fika and AW – wholeheartedly appreciated!

I had time on my return via Copenhagen for a fun visit to Tivoli Gardens with Dianne and one of the workshop participants, Giang Phi – though we didn’t manage a visit to Santa Claus this time round!

 

Dianne and I would like to hold this event elsewhere in the future – so watch this space!

Welcoming Rose to the Team

In September we were very excited to welcome a new recruit to the team. Rose is our new Editorial Administrator and although she’s only been with us for a couple of months, she already feels like one of the family! In this blog post we learn a bit more about her…

What were you doing before you joined us?

Most recently I was working at The Cheltenham Literature Festival as their Programme Manager, but prior to Cheltenham, after graduating from Exeter Uni with an English Lit degree and a PGCE in Secondary English, I spent eight years in Publishing: the majority of that as an editor at HarperCollins Publishers… So, it’s really always been about the authors and their books!

What attracted you to the job?

Having had a few years ‘off’ (HA!) at home with my baby son, I couldn’t wait to return to the world of books. Being able to work in an industry I love, with like-minded people, but still be there to pick Theo up from nursery at the end of his day, feels like I’ve won the lottery.

What were your first impressions?

I was immediately struck by what a wonderfully friendly and supportive team you are; and how positive, passionate and knowledgeable you are! You seem to genuinely care hugely about the work you do, and for each other. That’s a very inspiring workplace to be in.

Do you prefer ebooks or print books? What are you reading at the moment?

Both have their place; I love the fact that I can get a book recommendation from a friend or read a review and think, ‘ooh, that sounds interesting’ and within 5 minutes it’s there on my Kindle. That is amazing. But, it’s not quite the same as, say, browsing a bookshop, the smell of ‘real’ pages, a piece of stunning cover art or lending a favourite to a friend…

I have some treasured books inscribed by authors with whom I’ve worked, and as a children’s book editor, I also worked with some incredibly talented illustrators, too. My three year old son would argue very much in favour of the printed book!

I’m currently re-reading, for the eleventy-billionth time, Flambards by KM Peyton for a hit of childhood nostalgia and Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.

Do you have a favourite book?

How can you ask me this Flo?! Absolutely impossible to pick only one, or even narrow it down to less than about 50!

But if you absolutely insist, The Little House novels by Laura Ingalls Wilder which I’ve probably re-read every year since I was seven, Remains of the Day as my ‘grown up’ choice and Polo by Jilly Cooper as my guilty secret (shhhhh).

What do you like to do when you’re not in the office?

Scuffling about in wellies, outdoors, with my husband (occasionally), our three-year-old son and our spaniel. Followed by a G&T. or 3. And a good book. Obvs.

Rose with her dog, Percy

Happy 20th Anniversary to Tommi!

This month Tommi had his 20 year anniversary working for the company. In this post we ask him a few questions about the past two decades(!) of loyal service…

What was your first role at the company and what did it involve?

My first role at the company was working in subscriptions processing. In 1998 the Y2K bug was on everyone’s mind, and it became apparent that the programme that my father had developed to process subscriptions and maintain our mailing list was not Y2K compliant, and so my job was to make sure that all addresses and subscriptions were transferred to the new system.

How has the company changed over the last 20 years?

An early photo of the original team in Clevedon

Wow, well it has changed and it hasn’t. The most obvious change perhaps is that we no longer publish journals, and we publish over twice as many books per year as we did in 1998. In 1998 we had only just started publishing our journals online, and although we were using email to communicate, it was through a dial up modem that only connected to the internet once per hour. Much of our correspondence was letters delivered by our local postman, and our filing was all in paper files in filing cabinets. In 2018 all of our books are published simultaneously in print and ebook formats, we are able to work from home and connect into our files online, and there are many days in which nobody has the need to go to the post office. Although the faces have changed and I no longer work with my parents, we are still very true to the original values of the company that they started. We are committed to being a supportive company, whether that is to new authors, established senior academics, or to ourselves and our colleagues. We still all fit around a restaurant table and we remain faithful to our goal of publishing high quality books, whether they be research monographs about language acquisition, edited volumes about sustainable tourism, or guidance for parents and teachers about bringing up their children multilingually.

Do you remember your first Frankfurt Book Fair?

Yes! I visited Frankfurt first in 1998. My immediate impression was sheer incredulity as we travelled down the never-ending “via mobile” from the main entrance to Halle 8.0 where the Anglophone publishers had their exhibits. I have now been to the bookfair 21 times, and whilst it has compacted a little since my first visit, I still remain awestruck by the sheer number and range of books that are published around the world, and enthused by the number of German teenagers that choose the bookfair as their place to come and hang out, dress up in outlandish costumes, and share their love of literature.

What has been your biggest achievement/success?

The whole team at Tommi’s 20th anniversary meal

There have been many achievements and successes over the years and it is hard to single them out, but amongst the many hundreds of books we have published I remember commissioning Kate Menken’s “English Learners Left Behind” on the spot as she talked to me about her fascinating thesis. But really the achievement I am most proud of is that in an age of consolidation where the larger corporate publishers are working to hoover up the lion’s share of library budgets with the effect of homogenising research outputs into somewhat stale prescriptive formats, we are still managing to carve out our own little niche where we can continue to publish interesting work in a nurturing manner. Whilst I sometimes wonder what problems I might have on my desk when I come into the office I have never had a day when I’ve woken up and thought “I wish I didn’t have to go to work today”. I’ve worked with some of my colleagues for well over 15 years, and we have a very low staff turnover, which says to me that together we’ve succeeded in creating an environment where people feel comfortable and happy to work, and if that isn’t an achievement to be proud of then I don’t know what is!

What’s your favourite part of the job?

Oddly, these days it could very well be paying royalties. Although our royalties bill to our authors is one of the larger expense items on our accounts, and I always complain loudly to friends, colleagues, and passers-by in the street before having to sit down and manually sign cheques, it was strangely satisfying to work through the list of 478 authors that we owed royalties to in 2018, ticking them off methodically as each one was paid. As I have taken more of a managerial and finance role in the business in the last few years I feel a bit more detached from the regular contact with series editors and authors that I used to have, so paying the royalties each year reminds me of projects that I worked on years ago!

What’s your favourite place you’ve travelled to for work?

I have been lucky to travel to a good number of wonderful places, but two stand out in my memory. In second place is the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado where I attended a publishers summit organised by NetLibrary in the early days of ebook publishing. This is the hotel that Stephen King took for his inspiration for the Overlook hotel in the Shining, and the hotel took great delight in dedicating one channel on the TV to 24hr looped broadcasting of the movie. The chairs and tables in the corridors were often found in different and strange places in the morning, although whether this was a shrewd marketing ploy of the staff or something more sinister, I never found out…..

Tommi with Elinor in Kyoto

But my stand out favourite place to travel has got to be Japan. I really enjoy the ease of moving around both the country and the major cities, the food is always outstanding, the countryside beautiful, and the cities of Tokyo and Kyoto which I visit most often are so different that the contrast itself is fascinating. Our contacts at the major booksellers and importers are both friendly and professional, and so meetings are always productive.

What’s your favourite memory?

Oh crikey, what to choose from? I have worked with so many nice people over the past 20 years, both inside and outside of our office, and have a great number of happy memories of all of those people. I can’t pin down what my favourite memory is in a moment, but generally the memory of working successfully and (mostly) harmoniously with both of my parents has got to be the favourite. They taught me most of what I now know, and gave me the space and time to learn the rest myself, letting me make my own mistakes when they felt that was necessary. If I had to pick a moment it might very well be the evening when I sat with Dad in a pub in London and he tentatively suggested that perhaps I should consider coming to work with him and Mum…

Mike, Tommi’s dad, handing over the MD title
Tommi and his mum, Marjukka, in Frankfurt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s to the next 20 years!