Episode 97 – Publishing from all sides with David Roche

David RocheDavid Roche has seen publishing from pretty much every angle: publisher, bookseller, author, reader, mentor, consultant and industry maven. He’s been on the boards of HarperCollins, Waterstones and HMV, was CEO of Borders and Books Etc, he’s the chair of New Writing North, non-exec chair of the London Book Fair, and executive chair of the publishing industry’s online magazine, BookBrunch. And he’s just published a crowdfunded book of poems.

So today’s conversation is a look at where the industry’s going from someone with unrivalled insights, plus a very personal – and very funny – view of what happens when the gamekeeper turns poacher.

Audio, crowdfunding, subscription models, marketing, book events: bring yourself up to speed with what’s happening in the industry in the company of publishing’s most entertaining expert.

Alison Jones:                        Hello, and welcome to the Extraordinary Business Book Club. Today with me is titan of publishing David Roche, who has worked in retailing and publishing for over 25 years, and been on the boards of HarperCollins, Waterstones, and HMV, and was CEO of Borders and Books Etc. He’s heavily involved with publishing and writers. He’s the chair of New Writing North, non-exec chairman of the London Book Fair, and executive chair of the publishing industry’s online magazine, BookBrunch. And he’s just published a book of poems, Just Where You Left It, through Unbound. So welcome to the show, David.

David Roche:                        Hello. Thank you for having me.

Alison Jones:                        Very good to have you here. Now, we’re going to start off with the publishing industry, because you know it inside out, and you have a broader perspective than most. In 30 seconds, where’s publishing going?

David Roche:                        Well, I think if anyone knew that, definitively, they’d be sitting in the Bahamas probably. But having worked at HMV, and seen the industry reasonably closely up until 2000, certainly the effect that digital’s had on publishing, digital and streaming so far, you’d have to say the publishing industry’s fared better to date, and I think that’s partly because we’re a long tail industry, so immediate access to almost infinite range is a game changer. It’s also brought a huge amount of new writers into the game as self-published authors. It’s also provided almost everyone with a platform that can give anyone access to putting their book online. I think for the future what that means is there’s potentially a danger of complacency amongst trade publishers if they really think that eBooks have plateaued and a physical book revival has seen off the eBooks domination that everyone was so worried about a few years ago. It’s certainly not the case in the magazine and newspaper industry. It’s certainly not the case in academic publishing either, so this levelling off of ebook sales and the return of growth on physical books, this is just a moment in time that we’re at.

I don’t think it means this is an indication of where the end game is necessarily going to be. I also think there’s a potential vacancy for someone to, I don’t know, almost redefine storytelling in a new, exciting way that we probably can’t even imagine at this point. Certainly the area between various media, between books and games, for instance, is getting greyer, and the question is, will it be the publishers who break new ground in developing new products, or will it be a corporate or even a start-up from outside the industry?

Alison Jones:                        Yeah, I think that point about the digital disruption and the fact that … I mean, you and I were both at Frankfurt just a couple of weeks back, and there’s a real … I wouldn’t call it complacency exactly, I think that’s too strong a word, but there is a real sense of, “Phew, we dodged that bullet.” Print sales have held up and ebooks have gone away, and it does seem a very short term view, because, looking forward, you can’t imagine that that is going to be the status quo for much longer.

David Roche:                        No, and some companies are buying lots of subsidiary start-ups who are in exciting areas of technology, but it’s very few at the very top of the industry that can afford to do that, and it’s how you integrate that, how you also let them plough their own furrow without dragging them into adding trinkets to publications you’re already doing, which will be very interesting.

Alison Jones:                        Yeah, and I think that’s really … I mean, it’s a couple of things there, isn’t it? One is that publishing is really low margin, so only a very few people have got the pockets that the tech giants have got, the revenue that they can just spend on innovation that might or might now work. Most publishers just can’t afford that. And the other thing is those bells and whistles so often distract from the very reason that people read books in the first place.

David Roche:                        Yes, absolutely. I mean, I think, certainly, the video industry went through it by adding all sorts of director’s cuts and extra bits and pieces to DVDs, and I think a lot of people just wanted to see the movie. And, certainly, within publishing, a few years ago, every children’s book had to have an app attached to it, and most of them were rubbish. I’m not sure that was the way to go. I think it’ll be very interesting to see how apps do develop. Podcasts, certainly, have become huge across media, and, certainly, publishing podcasts are starting to get some traction, but a model where everything’s free is sitting alongside an audio book business that’s trying to commercial is going to be interesting.

Alison Jones:                        Yes, it’s so interesting, isn’t it? Because there’s such an obviously hook up between podcasts and audio, as you say, but podcasts are primarily content marketing and audio books are primarily product, and I’m not quite sure how those two are going to … Yeah, really interesting. And the app thing too. It’s a great vindication of that thing that my granny used to say, “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.”

David Roche:                        Wise woman your granny.

Alison Jones:                        She was, I tell you. And there’s another aspect as well, isn’t there, that I think’s really interesting at the moment, and you have, again, that kind of perspective that’s unusual, I think, in the industry, because you’ve seen it from both sides: What do you think is happening to that relationship between authors and publishers? Which has always been a very close relationship, but, also, quite a strained one, sometimes, too.

David Roche:                        Yeah, I mean, I think, well, publishers are certainly have been talking. I joined HarperCollins, it was 2008 or something, and, at that point, HarperCollins were saying, as were most publishers, they wanted a commercial and direct-to-consumer angle, but certainly back then, I don’t think publishing really lived and breathed it. They understood that the customers were no longer going to be the book sellers, if you like, in the retail chains. They had to think of readers as customers. But I think readers and authors is a really interesting one. Publishers to a certain extent, and agents as well, just have to be able to justify the cut that they take based on the value that they add, and the days of gatekeepers, and barriers to entry are no longer here in the same way, I don’t think, and the number of published titles has gone up as a result, obviously, because of sale published authors.

The key, still, is getting your title to stand out. That Holy Grail, if you like, of discoverability is still the most important thing. And there’s levers of reach, I don’t know, awareness, engagement, as well as reach, I guess. Bookstores are brilliant for browsing, and the competition, the table space is fierce, even within a publisher’s own list. I mean, your publisher may give you, as an author, your moment in the sun around your publishing date, but the publicist will be moving swiftly onto the next wave of their releases, let alone promoting your back list on an ongoing basis. I interviewed an author called Rachel Abbot at a writer’s summit that New Writing North, who I chair, held up in Newcastle.

Rachel Abbot is the best-selling self-published author in the country. She’d sold 2.7 million copies of her books at that particular point in time, and, having done that, she realised … She had her own company, she sold, it wrote a crime thriller novel, had it self-published, and then realised … She got very thrilled when the first 12 copies sold, and then, after that, wasn’t quite so thrilled when it sold two copies in the next month, and wrote a marketing plan in the same way she would have done as a business, and actually worked full time to promote that book. It became number one in the US, and she now, 2.7 million books later, has not only got an agent, but her own publicist, and no intention of signing to a major publisher. Also, I think, the publishers, they’ve got … A couple of years ago, they were probably hiring more digital marketeers, data management and analyst teams, and building insight teams at the top end of publishing, doing that more than hiring anything in editorial, and I think that that link between the insight teams and commissioning editors is going to be really interesting.

Alison Jones:                        Yeah.

David Roche:                        It’s great to locate super fans and up sales for them, but is it as effective at picking up the next literary fiction debuts as an online celebrity blogger, or the next TV or sports personality, or a celebrity who fancies themselves as a children’s author?

Alison Jones:                        Yeah, that’s the problem with the data analysis stuff, it’s like driving looking in the rear view mirror all the time, isn’t it?

David Roche:                        Yeah, absolutely, and I think lookalike publishing and risk taking means that some of the most interesting publishings are coming out of smaller, indie presses. And the likes of Unbound, who are prepared to take more risks.

Alison Jones:                        Yeah, and we’ll come on to that in a minute, actually. Because you know we’ve talked to Scott Pack as well…

David Roche:                        Okay, right, yeah.

Alison Jones:                        But just going back, I loved Rachel Abbot’s point, actually, that it’s like, “Oh, I’ve written a book, and turns out that wasn’t enough,” and then almost made her next project the marketing offer, because it is, it’s like phase two of the book, isn’t it? You can’t just write it and put it out there to a waiting world, because the world isn’t waiting for you.

David Roche:                        Absolutely. And, I mean, she was clearly highly polished and skilled at doing that, but what occurred to me immediately was this was a self published author’s conference, but, actually, what she was doing was applicable to every single author, because no-one’s on your case 24/7 like you are. But, obviously, there are … The whole idea of advances in the traditional model was to allow authors to carry on writing and not have to do that, and there’s still a lot of authors who don’t want anything to do with that, both in fiction and non fiction, who enjoy doing their research, enjoy doing their writing. Solitary creatures that actually don’t want to have anything to do with their readers at all.

Alison Jones:                        It’s getting harder and harder, I imagine, to be that animal.

David Roche:                        Yeah, I would think so.

Alison Jones:                        And it’s interesting as well, when you talk about the self publishing thing and how massively successful that be. There’s an almost a horrid Catch-22 developing whereby, if you’re big enough for a publisher to be interested in you, you’re big enough not to need a publisher.

David Roche:                        Yeah, sure, and obviously the publishers will be swimming around like sharks, and the old days of getting an intern to rummage through the slush pile to try and find the next JK Rowling, why not look at authors who have already built a fan base, have shown they can sell books, and, even more importantly, have demonstrated that they are brilliant self publicists.

Alison Jones:                        Absolutely, because that just reduces the risk for publisher massively, doesn’t it? And there’s a parallel to do with music as well, isn’t there? Which I know is something from your background. The bands who are not just sitting around sending tracks off in the hope of being picked up by a label, but they’re actually doing their stuff, getting their followers, and that puts them in a very different position.

David Roche:                        As an ex retailer, I’m delighted that they’re doing it that way. I mean, the number of places you used to go where someone would try and slip a cassette in, all those years ago, or a CD into your pocket, going, “My son’s just recorded an album,” in the same way as, “I’ve just written a book.”

Alison Jones:                        “Here’s my manuscript.”

David Roche:                        I know, I know, I know, but I eventually hit on the best answer for that: “Look, if your granny kitted you a nice jumper, would you go into Marks and Spencer’s, and go, ‘Look, I think this is a really good idea for you to mass produce and try and sell in all your stores?'” I mean, the chances of that happening are quite slim. So self publishing, you’ve got to work hard to build your audience, because you’re unlikely to get into those retail areas. Music, I think, for me, the difference is in the content and nature of sampling across the two industries has made publishing more, I mean, certainly in the subscription model. Reading’s not the same as having some tunes on in the background, it’s a primary activity, and it’s certainly more difficult to tell after five seconds of sampling whether is the single bad, or a novel is for you or not.

Waterstones, a few years ago, I remember I was stunned when I joined to find that reading was defined as … A heavy reader was defined as someone who read more than six books a year or something. Six.

Alison Jones:                        Six books a week on the go, generally.

David Roche:                        I know, I know. I can’t remember what the percentage of the population have read … Even that was low. So this meant the vast majority of people read less than one book every two months, so the subscription model allowing you to read several books every month was always going to be difficult. I think even if you double this to 12 books a year, imagine.

Alison Jones:                        It depends on the book though, does it? This is where genre fiction has its own rules, because people who consume, I don’t know, erotica or crime fiction, they can’t get enough of it. They binge on the stuff.

David Roche:                        Yeah, and I think, to a certain extent, that’s where the author really is a brand. I think what’s interesting for publishing is, with some are self publishing, do the publishing houses, the imprints actually have a chance, even more, to be a brand now in your area? I know romance is an area similar to the ones that you described, and I think Mills & Boon are probably the ones where it’s almost more of a brand than anything else, in that a Mills & Boon book is almost more important than the author.

Alison Jones:                        Yes.

David Roche:                        That’s probably not true, because I’m not a Mills and Boon fan, but that perception that you know what you’re going get and I’ll stick with that certainly works with imprints like that.

Alison Jones:                        I think we’re both probably the edge of our knowledge when it comes to Mills and Boon. Let’s get a little bit closer to our natural home. I mean, there’s not many brands like that, but perhaps Wiley’s Dummies brand is another example, isn’t it? Where you almost don’t care who wrote it, because you know exactly what you’re going to get when you buy a Dummies book.

David Roche:                        Yeah, and a travel books are similar. If you’re an Lonely Planet person, or you’re a DK person, or you’re a Rough Guides person, you do stick with it. I think the other area with subscriptions that’s interesting, and you can see working with that parallel of music is audio books. And I think the moment is still really to arrive, but everyone talking about it growing hugely, but it’s still nowhere near the breakthrough that is normal in the American market. If you look at Girl on the Train audio book, I mean, it’s just under 11 hours long I think. With a one hour commute to work each way, you could do that in round about a week, so if people can’t read a book every two months, is that a way of making something work commercially, in a subscription way, that may be different to the printed book?

And it seems such an obvious thing when everyone is going to be carrying around one item, which is their Oyster card, is their phone, is their camera, is their credit card, is their debit card, is their everything else, and certainly, the audio side is possibly more conducive to devouring a book than physical. Well, certainly, the new Kindle, it has a seamless coordination between book listening and reading, so it can switch from one to the other, so you can see getting into the car, and then parking, and then getting a train, that you’re listening to it in one environment and potentially reading it into another are seamlessly.

Alison Jones:                        Yeah, absolutely, and the tech is continuing to drive in that direction. When you talk about cars, and obviously audio is going to be … and hook-ups to podcasts and so on are going to be native in all cars within a few years I imagine, and, of course, Alexa and all the … I shouldn’t say that out loud, sorry. Anybody who’s listening, who’s just had their assistants switch on, I’m really sorry. The various home assistants out there, other brands are available, once they achieve the sort of penetration that … Certainly in America, it’s incredible how fast they’ve taken hold, and once you start playing your audio books through them as well, so when you just kick back in the evening, it’ll be really interesting to see how that changes things.

David Roche:                        Absolutely. The other area that the music industry has … The direction they’ve gone into is that of live events. Book festivals, jumping up and down on a muddy field is obviously much more fun than going to a book event, but I think the-

Alison Jones:                        How could you say that?

David Roche:                        I don’t know, the key to me is, do you sell books or not? Publishing is very guilty of, either not selling books at events a few years ago, or not reporting them to the point where the charts didn’t pick up sales there, and I think, certainly, the book as a ticket now seems to be much more of the model that’s going along. You buy the hardback and listen to the person speak. Often, the events, the big festivals, you see people taking their old books along, tote bags full of wrinkled old books that they’ve had for years, of backlist, and getting them to sign that. Book-as-a-ticket seems to me fair enough, but you’ve got to get your timing right. You can’t do that all round the circuit, I guess, but there are a number of more niche business areas where it might be a business breakfast with an author of various companies. I went to one, I won’t name the author, but the publisher put on a very high-powered lunch with some very high-powered people from across multiple industries, and this person talked about his theories.

It was a very interesting talk, and everyone was very taken with it. The publisher didn’t bring along one copy of the book to sell to any of the people who attended the lunch. There wasn’t even a copy of the book in the room.

Alison Jones:                        Ohhh.

David Roche:                        And you’re sitting there going, “Wow, that’s sort of missed a trick, hasn’t it?”

Alison Jones:                        That’s incredible.

David Roche:                        I think the other one where music certainly has understood things is … For years, music’s been playing in stores, and they understand the soundtracks on the back of TV and film. Music’s understood its role in other media, and I think, within the book market, selling books to the stories, stories to the scripts, and so on and so forth’s interesting, but just in its basic publishers selling to retail, selling to consumers, that non-traditional book market, a massive one that sits outside of Nielsen, who capture the sales data, and publishing imprints such as Igloo and Paragon have sewn up that market that’s represented by chains, you know, Aldi, Lidl, The Range, B&M, Poundland, that sort of market, and they really have it to themselves. The understand exactly that sort of customer. They understand exactly how to custom publish a book on farmyard animals, or tractors, or ballet dancing, or whatever the hell it is, at a price point of 1.99, or, in Poundland’s case, £1, and they understand that perfectly.

But what’s almost more amazing is that other traditional publishers have left them to do it. It’s a ginormous market. Absolutely huge market.

Alison Jones:                        I’m not sure about Poundland. I think the race to the bottom doesn’t sound terribly appetising to be honest, but I think-

David Roche:                        I just used that as the most extreme example to prove the point.

Alison Jones:                        And that’s focused on non-traditional stores, and the fact that it’s, as you say, it’s complete invisible to most of the book trade in the way that they measure success and so on. It’s really interesting. I think that’s fascinating. And, certainly, selling books at events is something that my authors do a huge amount, and I think as another side effect of digital disruption and so on, is that, actually, anybody can have content, anybody can have a book, in a sense, but if you have that real-time experience with the author, there’s a quality to that, that matters almost more than ever these days.

David Roche:                        Yeah. I mean, of course, the biggest events I see, certainly at London Book Fair, are the Author HQ events. It’s for self-published authors. So how do you find an agent? How do you market your book? They’re swarms, these events. Everyone’s got a book in them, and now everyone’s written it, now everyone’s trying to sell it.

Alison Jones:                        But there is something about that experiential quality, isn’t there? That, if you’re an author, really thinking about how you use that with your book is so important. I mean, if you’re the kind of author that, as you say, just wants to hide away, and do the research, and write the book, that’s not going to work for you, but, if you’re able to get out there, then that really is going to give people a reason to buy your book, crudely.

David Roche:                        Yeah, I totally agree.

Alison Jones:                        Yeah. And, obviously, you have hopped over the fence. So just tell me a little bit about why did you decide to author a book at all, and then why did you decide to use Unbound? What did you find out about the whole experience?

David Roche:                        Oh, God, it was extraordinary experience. Well, it still is an extraordinary experience. The reason I wrote it in the first place, I mean, it wasn’t designed to be a book at all. I used to, along with my wife, had to go along to … I’ve got three boys, and they used to be in various poetry competitions at school, and I used to have to go along to them. They were incredibly boring evenings, where the same poems were read out over and over and over again, and the prize went to the person who learnt by rote the longest poem and spouted it without understanding what on earth he was saying, which was marvellous. And then my oldest son said to me one year, “What shall I do?” And I said, “I’m going to write a poem that takes the piss out of poetry competitions,” and added references to all the classic poems and stuff, but that would just take the mickey,” and, sure enough, everything in the poem came true. He came second. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner came first, and so on and so forth.

So we were on a roll, and I did one the next year on sports day about how competitive the parents were, and that’s where the real action was, and picnics, and who’s going on the best holidays, and all that sort of thing. And parents didn’t think that was very funny at all, but the teachers did.

Alison Jones:                        Bit close to home.

David Roche:                        So I wrote, I don’t know, 12 or 15 of them around that sort of time, but that was when my eldest was 12. He’s now 29, so it was some time ago. And Scott Pack, who I think has been on your podcast…

Alison Jones:                        Yes, he has.

David Roche:                        He’s at Unbound. I’ve worked with him at HMV, and Waterstones, and HarperCollins, and he’d heard about these, and he said, “Let’s have a look.” He went, “No, no, I think we ought to publish these, but you need to write some more.” So I’m holed up in Finland for a month in the rain. We have a summer cottage there. My wife’s a Finn. And I wrote a whole load more, and tried to bring it up to date, tried to write a few more about girls, so it wasn’t too boys-ey, and really actually just started attacking the parents non-stop, which seemed to be the easiest target, and how absurd … I don’t know if you’ve ever watched Motherland at all.

Alison Jones:                        I’ve heard a lot about this. I haven’t seen it actually.

David Roche:                        Yeah, sort of going in that direction. I thoroughly recommend it by the way. So, I don’t know, it’s a nice little hardback. It seems to resonate with parents. It’s under a tenner. Here’s the sales pitch.

Alison Jones:                        Go on.

David Roche:                        I’m pitching it as the lyrical loo book of the year.

Alison Jones:                        That’s magnificent.

David Roche:                        And hoping it solves the problem of what to buy mum and dad, because kids never know what to buy, or a stocking filler for mum to give dad, or vice versa.

Alison Jones:                        Just in time for Christmas.

David Roche:                        Well, yeah, we’ve had Brexit-type books, and Ladybird pastiche, and adult pastiche for three years, so something else has to have its turn, so why not Just Where You Left It?

Alison Jones:                        And having worked in publishing all these years, what was the Damascus moment for you? When you became an author, how did you see things differently?

David Roche:                        What was very … I mean, Unbound had an interesting model. Obviously, raising the money is an unusual side to it. After that, their publishing is completely normal. They’re absolutely expert and everything’s exactly as you expect from a traditional publisher…

Alison Jones:                        I should just explain, sorry. For anybody who is not familiar with Unbound, they’re a crowdfunding publisher, so, as David says, a publisher in a normal way, but, instead of them investing in the book and taking a punt on it, they work with you to help you raise the money, and then anything that’s extra is split between them and the author. That’s a fair summary?

David Roche:                        Yeah, yeah, absolutely perfect, yeah. And so raising the money is interesting. You have three groups of people. I don’t know if Scott … I haven’t heard Scott on the podcast, whether he said the same. You have best friends and family, who you think are a dead cert. You have people who you’ve worked with closely over many years, that you think, “Yeah, they’re a good chance.” Then people who you think, “Well, I’ve crossed them, or they’ve crossed me, or we don’t really get on,” but, amazingly, those people seem to come in quite regularly, and the family and friends are the ones, “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” they’re the ones who don’t do anything.

Alison Jones:                        That was exactly Scott’s experience, it’s hilarious, yeah.

David Roche:                        Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, he’s definitely right in that, and you can edit that out.

Alison Jones:                        It was Scott that recommended you, of course, so you should go back and listen to his episode. He says lovely things about you.

David Roche:                        I will do, and I’ll say nice things about Scott too. I think what has been most interesting, as we touched on earlier, was this discoverability and how do you make the book stand out, because, still, even though there’s publicists and social medial experts at Unbound, you still have to do a lot of the work yourself like any other author, and the lesson’s been that manipulating social media isn’t as easy as it looks, and it’s certainly, potentially, costly. I thought, “But for this book, Mumsnet bloggers would be great,” and just that reaction, “Yeah. How much do you want to spend?” And it’s like, “Really? I thought I’d just send you a copy and you’d love it, and it would all go from there.”

Alison Jones:                        Yeah. This is the power of owning the platform, isn’t it?

David Roche:                        Yeah, absolutely. It’s been a really good lesson of what authors go through. I mean, I’m, for example, going to not particularly spend money on it that would be just thrown as … What’s the word I’m looking for? That’s just cast out into the ether. So I’m going to go down the broadcast route and use … I got shown something called Buffer, where you can schedule Tweets. So my idea is to redo the same Tweet throughout a day for 25 days. I’ve been calling it, basically, my Christmas advert calendar, instead of advent calendar.

Alison Jones:                        Ah, that’s the real spirit of Christmas.

David Roche:                        And there’s 20 odd poems there plus a couple of generic ones that I can do. And each poem’s illustrated, so I use the illustration as a sort of advent calendar, advert calendar, each day, and I just set that up once on Buffer, and it will schedule it according to however much to be done throughout-

Alison Jones:                        And do it automagically.

David Roche:                        Yeah, absolu … Automagically, exactly. And there’s also some very interesting companies. There’s a guy I know who started a company called comeround.com, which was set up a few years ago. He came out of the music business, and that was almost like an Ann Summers party for product. So, if there was a new Lady Gaga album, he’d send a Lady Gaga album to a thousand people, they had to have parties with at least 10 people going to them, and then he’d get third parties to put in other products into the party box, so there might be 10,000 people attending a party up and down the country, and then, if you imagine that happening on a Friday night, they’ve all listened to the Lady Gaga album, which is coming out on the Monday, they’re all on social media throughout the weekend, so this thing hits with incredible momentum on the Monday morning.

Alison Jones:                        Oh, that’s clever.

David Roche:                        Old fashioned way of doing it with face to face and word of mouth, but amplified with …

Alison Jones:                        Amplified by social media, yeah.

David Roche:                        Yeah. I saw him recently, and he’s very interesting about it not being about the number of followers people have, but about that engagement, and so do they actually do anything with it? So, if you’ve got 100,000 followers as a brand, or a million followers as a brand, who are those followers and what do they do? If you’ve got a glamorous model that fronts your brand, they may be all 14-year old boys in Brazil, who just are not going to engage with this brand and spend anything. Very interesting talking to him, and I hope we might be able to do something to help to boost this book.

Alison Jones:                        Yeah, brilliant. And, again, that lovely combination of providing an experience and selling off the back of that. Brilliant. Now, there’ll be lots of people listening, who are in the throes of writing their first book. What’s your one best tip for a first time author? And please don’t talk about how long it took you to write your book, because I don’t think that’s going to help them.

David Roche:                        It took me not very long. When you read the book, you’ll see why.

Alison Jones:                        But didn’t you start … You started 20 years ago or something, didn’t you?

David Roche:                        It’s true, it’s true. Yes. It’s like a magnum opus. The lesson is exactly the same, and I don’t care what genre you’re writing in, and I’ve been to a lot of conferences, talked to a lot of people, and it always comes back to the same thing, and that’s get the manuscript in as best shape as possible, before you worry about design, marketing, publicity, and all the other things. And the number of times that doesn’t happen is amazing. If it’s not as good as you can possibly get it, revisit, repolish, reedit, rewrite. Why would you give it someone else, whether it be a gatekeeper agent, or whoever, that sits there and goes, “That could be better,” and you go, “Yeah, I know.” You’ve got one shot at it, so it has to be as good as it can possibly be, before you show it to anyone else.

Alison Jones:                        Brilliant. Bracing tip. Thank you, I love that. Now, you’re here because Scott recommend you, obviously. I always ask my guests to recommend someone else that I can invite onto the show. Someone with something interesting to say about the business of business books. Who do you think would make a great guest for this show?

David Roche:                        I’ve got a couple of suggestions here. My favourite business writer is Lucy Kellaway. She’s written a few hilarious books. Who Moved My Blackberry was one, and my favourite book, Sense and Nonsense in the Office. And she writes better than anyone else about the absolute bullshit bingo you get in businesses. She was a columnist in the FT, but, interestingly, she’s jacked it all in, at the age of 57, to become a teacher, and she’s started a charity called Now Teach, and I suppose Teach First could be the opposite of Now Teach. So people trying to encourage other 50 somethings to quit their cushy jobs and join her, basically. So I think she’d be really interesting, having seen-

Alison Jones:                        She sounds fascinating.

David Roche:                        And her books are hilarious. It’s Dilbert, but in really interesting literary form. The other one I was going to suggest is a guy called Roger Mavity, who, amongst other huge roles he’s had in advertising industry, he was chief executive at Conran Group, and Roger wrote a rather successful book called Life’s a Pitch with the design guru, Steven Bailey, and I agented Roger’s second book, which was called The Rule Breaker’s Book of Business. He’s semi-retired now, but I’m sure he’s still very direct. He’s certainly a direct person, and he does love the sound of his own voice, so I think a podcast, you’d probably definitely get him. I have to say though, Charles Allen, the founding chief executive of ITV, described him as, “Without doubt, the best presenter I have ever met.” And Roger certainly agrees with that.

Alison Jones:                        Brilliant. Oh, that sounds irresistible. Thank you. Excellent recommendations. Now, David, if people want to find out more about you, more about David Roche Enterprises, where should they go?

David Roche:                        Probably see their doctor… www.davidroche.co.uk, and the Roche is R-O-C-H-E. I made the mistake once of someone’s going, “Is that how you pronounce it, Roche?” And I said, “Well, it’s like in cockroach, except the cock is silent,” which was difficult. R-O-C-H-E. Davidroche.co.uk.

Alison Jones:                        I keep Frenchifying your name, don’t I? I’m so sorry.

David Roche:                        People do it all the time. It’s exactly a double-barrelled name, but no-one can spell the Roche right, so I don’t even bother with the other bit.

Alison Jones:                        Well, we’re going to put the links up on the show notes, so nobody’s going to get the R-O-A-C-H. Actually, I shouldn’t have spelt it, should I? That was stupid. Now that’s in your head, people. I’m really sorry. R-O-C-H-E is the spelling you want. I shall put the links up on the show notes. Right, that was absolutely wonderful. I can’t believe how widely we ranged in that conversation. Thank you so much for your time.

David Roche:                        Thank you very much. I enjoyed it.

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