Rebecca Smart is CEO of Osprey Group, a UK-based international publishing company focused on producing the best content for enthusiasts across a broad range of specialist areas including military history, heritage and nostalgia, transport history, crafts, antiques, science fiction and fantasy, and mind, body and spirit. Osprey Group publishes in four divisions: Osprey, Shire, Angry Robot and Watkins. What defines the company is not what it creates but for whom it creates. Osprey Group publishes books and content based on subject enthusiasms and passions, whether it be authoritative technical data on the military technology of World War II, a positive psychology guide, a history of the Great Western Railway or an edgy genre novel set in near-future South Africa.
1. What is your most memorable achievement in publishing and why?
The achievements I remember most are those of my team. I believe the most important way I can spend my time is in helping people be the best they can be, and it’s such a great feeling to see someone step up to a new level in their work, or to take on a new role and really fly in it. I know that sounds very clichéd but it’s true.
2. How much impetus was placed on the use of social media with the release of Angry Robot? Any lessons learned?
Angry Robot is very much part of the community (of both authors and readers) it serves. The editors and marketers use social media all the time as a natural part of being ‘in the gang’. Developing a brand within a niche market takes time and patience, but a steadily growing feeling of belonging is crucial and social media is key to this. Lessons … don’t try too hard, blend different types of communication, be yourself, make friends, remember that face-to-face is a social medium too.
3. What are you most excited about as one of the Judging panel for FutureBook’s Digital Innovation Awards?
I have been really excited to see work which matches great use of a digital platform with meeting a clear market need – not just innovation for the sake of innovation. I can’t say any more for now!
4. If you could travel five years back in time what advice would you give yourself?
On workflow and systems, be creative in finding low-cost solutions which move the company towards an ultimate goal, don’t worry about getting there all in one go. And recognise that change makes people feel uncomfortable and that it’s OK for things not to be OK at times – it’s part of the process.
5. What do you look for when hiring individuals into a digital capacity?
In no particular order …
- Creativity – not just capability around design/appearance of a product but also in thinking about process. I need people who can find their way through a project using innovative solutions. And that means flexibility is also key.
- High energy combined with strong communication skills and a ‘can-do’ approach – I want someone who can enthuse and evangelise about digital and who is driven to succeed.
- Technical knowledge and/or a hunger to learn a broad range of skills.
- Broad commercial awareness and a focus on the customer.
6. And lastly if you were the living embodiment of a publishing business model what animal would you be and why?
We’d be Perry the platypus, from Phineas and Ferb (if you haven’t watched it I urge you to check it out, it’s brilliant). All the qualities of a platypus (people don’t get it but it’s perfectly suited to its environment) and a secret superhero to boot.
A huge thank you to Rebecca for taking time out of her extremely busy schedule to provide such insight. You can find her on Twitter via @rebecsmart. Rebecca is one of the judging panel for this year’s FutureBook’s Digital Innovation Awards of which we are a proud sponsor. I would strongly suggest heading over to the Futurebook blog site for some fascinating takes on digital publishing where you can read more from Rebecca and many others. As a further note the bookings for the Bookseller’s FutureBook 2012 conference close on Friday 23rd November. More details here. The conference takes place on Monday 3rd December so do come and say hello if you’re attending.