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Fifty years of selling books around the world

Logo for The Queen's Awards for Enterprise: International Trade 2010

On Saturday we were delighted to announce that we had received a Queen’s Award for Enterprise.  We were surprised that no other publisher had received one in the last five years and were proud to be a winner.

The UK book publishing industry is a great exporter and I’ve been involved in being part of that for longer than I care to remember. I’ve been selling books outside the UK ever since I started in publishing 50 years ago; selling books to a tiny independent bookseller; starting publishing companies in countries as diverse as Hungary, Japan and Mexico; building publishing companies; sitting in a minister of education’s outer office for what seemed like days in searing heat; arriving in a tropical suit for an urgent meeting in Chicago in sub zero temperatures; meeting world figures like Indira Gandhi and Deng Xiao Ping; drinking tequila, Mai Tai, Bloody Marys on the aeroplanes; eating huitlacoche, hundred-year eggs, kusaya; calculating margins on a slide rule; fixing the fax machine; shivering in Outer Mongolia with a hot water bottle and six quilts.

And what stands out is the joy – the joy of meeting new people from different cultures, establishing bonds with them, and talking about a product whose virtues you can really believe in – the book.  Then the thrill, the realisation that they have bought in to it too, and that together you will sell one copy, or 200,000, of something that will educate, entertain or inform.

Selling internationally isn’t easy – you do need to have empathy and you do need to have precision, particularly when you are dealing with people whose language isn’t yours and in which you can only manage a couple of words. You need to understand when yes means no. And you do need to follow through on what you have promised.  But if you can do that, there is nothing more pleasurable and rewarding.

So I was particularly pleased when Nosy Crow received the Queen’s Award for International Trade. It’s been the fastest export growth rate of any company I’ve been involved with.  We are still small, but the Nosy Crow brand has become internationally recognised and we can be proud of the products we produce. We love our partners outside the UK and look forward to establishing more partnerships.

And we look forward to the next Queen’s Award!

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