HarperNorth in Manchester

From Publishing Perspectives:

Editor’s note: In recent years, a strong pushback against the London-centric structure of publishing and other creative industries has gathered energy in the United Kingdom. That dynamic is, in part, behind the creation of HarperCollins UK’s new HarperNorth division in Manchester–a development that has found itself arriving in a most challenging year for the business.

. . . .

On January 21, HarperCollins UK announced that it was launching a new publishing division in one of Europe’s fastest growing cities, Manchester. The next day, Public Health England raised the coronavirus risk level from very low to low. Two months later, the United Kingdom was in lockdown.

“I’ve always talked about trying to do things differently, but I never imagined just how different it would be,” Genevieve Pegg says with a laugh. She’s the publishing director for HarperNorth and a former editorial director of Orion.

Despite the twin challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown, HarperNorth’s editorial and marketing team was recruited and offices were acquired. The division opened for submissions at the end of June and made its first acquisition a month later, Melissa Reddy’s Believe Us, which is scheduled to be published on November 12. Reddy is a senior football correspondent for The Independent.

“HarperCollins was moving at pace and keen to make it happen,” Pegg says. “I’m all the more grateful for that now, because if we’d been operating at the glacial pace that can happen in parts of this business, we wouldn’t have got over the starting line before lockdown.

. . . .

The question for cynics is how much North is there actually in HarperNorth. When the BBC opened its studios in the city of Salford, near Manchester, so many of its presenters commuted from London rather than live in Manchester that it became something of a joke.

“We’re not slingshotting people from London to a strange and unknown land” at HarperNorth, Pegg says. “It was about finding a bunch of people who feel connected to the place and were either already living here or were in the process of moving anyway.”

Pegg was born in Liverpool and grew up in North Wales. She gave up her job at Orion in London five years ago to move back to the North of England with her family and begin a new stage of her career, this time as a freelance editorial consultant.

“I kept having conversations with people like, ‘Oh, you live up in Cheshire now. One day publishing will catch up.’ It was only at the start of this year that the conversation felt different, like there was a sort of commercial aspiration to it, as well.”

“Publishing in the North has its own traditions,” she says. “There’s already an amazing tradition of the university presses and a bevy of really bold and inventive independents who are blazing a trail. There are also a lot of indie authors who’ve not gone down the traditional publishing route. There’s a lot of artistic energy here.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG recommends Des Moines as New York Publishing’s Manchester. PG has a number of relatives living in Iowa, so he visits from time to time.

He finds many Iowans to be intelligent, well-educated (Iowa has a long tradition of a lot of small colleges, some of which are very innovative, plus a couple of large state universities) plus you can live in a decent house in Des Moines for less than a cheesy apartment with roommates and rats would cost in NYC.

PG hasn’t seen any statistics, but he would bet that Iowans on average have a higher literacy rate than the the citizens of NYC. They certainly commit far fewer crimes and are much friendlier to strangers.

PG understands that an English Lit major from Wellesley might not find Des Moines an attractive location at which to intern with a publisher, but, on the whole, that might not be a bad thing.

A Des Moines publisher would find a lot of graduates of Grinnell, Drake, Coe and Cornell (the real one in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, not the poser in New York) who would work harder, perform just as well and not have that entitlement attitude going on.

6 thoughts on “HarperNorth in Manchester”

    • It’s a great place full of lots of nice people.

      IMHO, if the entire country/world were like Des Moines, we would all be better off.

  1. It’s not exactly clear how much of the organisation is moving “north”.

    I’d have been more impressed if they’d moved lock, stock and barrel to the real north, maybe Newcastle, Durham or Carlisle. What’s more, any staff that relocated could probably have sold the rabbit hutches they can afford in London and bought small country mansions within an easy commute of their new location.

    • I was wondering about that.
      Is Manchester all that different culturally?
      Or might it be a political manuever to spread out and gather broader support for subsidies and protection from competition?

    • Ah, but it’s not about the rabbit hutches. The minute you move out of London, you stop being Sophisticated and Cosmopolitan and a Cultured Citizen of the World, and instantly become a provincial with a vulgar accent who probably voted ‘Yes’ to Brexit. At the very least, you have to live cheek by jowl with Those Awful, Awful People. And everybody knows that Those Awful, Awful People are far too illiterate and simply subhuman to run a Hallowed Cultural Institution such as a publishing company. (This is true whether you are a Londoner talking about Newcastle or a New Yorker talking about Des Moines. For that matter, Buffalo and Bury St. Edmunds are far enough away to be full of Those Awful, Awful People.)

      (By the way, since I don’t use autocorrupt, when my clumsy fingers commit a creative tyop, I get to stop and enjoy it before correcting the error. Above, I accidentally typed ‘Hallowed Vultural Unstitution’, which I think is a much more apt spelling, though it might not be understood in midtown Manhattan or SW1.)

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