A book fair is always a good time to take stock - as a constant in an ever-changing world - and for Head of Zeus this London Book Fair marks an important moment. Our first full calendar year of trading ended at the turn of the calendar year 13/14 and we are now in a good position to share our progress against our founding principles and where we go next in pursuit of our strategic aims.
The company was founded on the belief that great stories - real or imagined - don't date but can be brought to readers in different formats at the most appropriate times. All stories are new to those who haven't yet read them. E-publishing is an enormously important part of the realisation of this principle - we have already sold over 1.6 million ebooks and had three number ones in the kindle chart plus four others that have spent many weeks in the top three.
Our commitment to new talent - as a new company - is an energizing and obvious principle and we are genuinely welcoming and nurturing fresh voices. We have started to build three new fiction brands over the past year - Amanda Prowse, Lesley Thomson and Jonathan Holt and we look forward to launching James Naughtie and Nadine Dorries as brands over 2014. As testament to the calibre of our first year of publishing in the crime genre, HoZ received CWA Dagger shortlisting for two debuts, for Mark Oldfield’s The Sentinel and Hanna Jameson’s Something You Are. Our Fiction Publishing Director Laura Palmer has been acquiring some of the most exciting new fiction from around the world for us to publish in 2014 – The Swimmer by Joakim Zander (a sophisticated thriller whose winter denouement takes place in an atmospheric Swedish archipelago published in July); Black Dog Summer by Miranda Sherry (a powerful tale of loss from South Africa reminiscent of Lovely Bones published in August) and Tiger Milk by Stephanie de Velasco (a brilliant edgy coming-of-age novel set in the tough streets of Berlin out in September). Details of which are up online at headofzeus.com/newvoices.
We are also working hard to bring established writers to new readers either by partnering with them to take a new direction such as Graham Masterton with his new Katie Maguire crime series or by bringing new audiences to great writers in e format. In 2014 much of Fay Weldon's greatest work and the entire Cadfael Chronicles series by Ellis Peters will be published by HoZ for the first time in eBook for a new generation of readers.
Another fundamental determinant of our editorial strategy is our own ability to match great authors with interesting and sometimes unexpected subjects. Victoria Hislop's selection of the best short stories by women writers in The Story anthology published as a glorious object was a 2013 autumn bestseller. Our non-fiction list due to launch in Autumn 2014 will be built around six major series - from miscellanies of intelligent trivia to complex subjects made accessible by great authorities in the Ten Chapter Series. Highlights for this year include The Wisdom of Trees by Max Adams (a quirky but incisive miscellany on all matters arborial landing in October) and the launch of our Milestone series with Magna Carta, The Making and Legacy of the Great Charter by Dan Jones (December). The great majority of these series will be developed to our specification with authors of own choosing and will be brought to a global audience by a network of international publishing partners.
Running through the company's DNA from its foundation is a commitment to quality not only in the excellence of its content but also in its production values across all its outings - whether it be an attractive keenly-priced fiction hardback; a glorious non-fiction gift with all the bells and whistles or an ebook with the most robust metadata and smart formatting.
All the founding principles from when Head of Zeus was set up as a new independent publishing company are of course underpinned by a culture that is nimble, flexible, innovative and energetic. Unafraid to take risks, we are committed to be self-determining early in the company's life. To that end there are seventeen of us in leafy Clerkenwell controlling our own and our authors' destiny across all the key publishing functions and from where we can reach the world. And the London Book Fair is the perfect time to do it. So over the next few days and beyond we look forward to seeing anyone interested in trading ideas, in building partnerships and in being part of the next chapter of our exciting venture.
CEO and Publisher, Head of Zeus