Oh, what a tangled web we weave

Our monthly newsletter looks at the completion - at last - of our new website

It was with a mixture of pleasure, pride and not a little relief that finally saw the launch of our new website in early April, rather later than our original target of 1 February. We must admit to underestimating the sheer amount of work involved. In our minds we envisaged a quick switch over to a white background, a few pastel colours, a fancy font or two, a sprinkle of fairy dust and we’d be done and dusted.

But we must also admit that we created work for ourselves. In an attempt to liven up what are, by definition, a fairly inanimate bunch of authors, Nichola came up with the clever idea of giving their portraits a sort of pop-art look and launched herself into the task with great gusto. Several weeks and 217 authors later her enthusiasm was somewhat diminished. And then there were the quotes. We blame the website developers for this one, as they added a quote in an elegant font on one of their demos so we thought it would be a nice touch to have a quote for every book and every author we had. And, yes, since you ask – that’s 669 quotes we had to find.

Eventually, the task became all-consuming and the term ‘working hours’ ceased to have any meaning . Between the hours of 10.30 to 11.30 each night, after my wife retired to bed and when any self-respecting man would be cruising dubious websites, I was sourcing and resizing images for 155 blogs.
But it’s done and it’s time for a big vote of thanks to the team at WK360 (at first I thought they made colourful alcoholic drinks for young people) for seeing the project through to a successful completion, specifically Joel for bringing through Nichola’s concept into a finished design and to Marc for his endless patience in seeing through every tweak, enhancement and outright U-turn without word of complaint (at least not in our earshot).

A major redesign like this gave us the opportunity to add some new sections to the website. Because customers can’t buy from us direct, we try to give as much information on the various ways that our books can be purchased. We were conscious that, while it’s easy to point people in the direction of a website, it’s more difficult to provide information on independent bookshops that stock our titles, the reason being that, because many purchase their stock through wholesalers, we simply don’t know who they are. However, with the help of The Booksellers Association, we have written to every independent bookshop on their membership list, and we been able to start to compile a geographical list of outlets on our ‘Independent Bookshop’ page. In addition, because of the importance of the education market to us, we now have a specialised ‘School Orders’ page, where the relevant information is quickly and easily available.

In other news this month, we complete our release of H.G. Wells titles with his ‘Selected Works’ in our Special Editions series, which includes all of his most popular novels in one bumper paperback (Metric Royal format ISBN 9781840227451) for just £7.99. The release was delayed slightly so that it could be the first of the series in the latest cover design, conceived by Nichola, designed in conjunction with Tony Collins of The Design House and using original artwork by Hastings artist Helen Wells (www.helenwellsartist.co.uk). We’ve just seen the first copy and we think (admitting a slight bias) that they look fantastic. The other titles in the series will move over to the new design as they print. Two titles (Andersen and Grimm) will be temporarily out of stock until they reprint in early June.

The subject of new covers reminds us of an incident some years ago, when devotees of Thomas Hardy were surprised some years ago to find a Wordsworth edition for sale bearing the title 'Return of the Dead by Thomas Hardy’ on the spine, which provoked a number of enquiries as to the history of this previously unknown title. In truth, this was the result of a mental aberration by the cover designer, and a certain lack of attention on behalf of the Wordsworth staff one Friday afternoon, and the book was hurriedly withdrawn from sale. It may now be a collector's item...

Some good news this month was the announcement from The Publishers Association that sales of physical books last year were up 8 per cent to £3 billion, the highest total since 2012. This gives further justification for Hachette's decision to invest in a brand new distribution centre in Didcot, Oxfordshire and we had the chance earlier this week to have a look around the building site.

That’s it for this month – next month’s newsletter will be all about the 25th anniversary of the Wordsworth Classic.

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Site visit to the new Hachette distribution centre in Didcot, Oxfordshire. Just time for a couple of choruses of Y.M.C.A.
Completion due later this year, with publishers being moved in from 2018 onwards.

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