Zedicated to the cause

The Autumn Masterclass programme began with a fascinating insight into the political publisher, Zed Books.  
                    Thanks to Tamsine O’Riordan, Senior Commissioning Editor, and Ruvani de Silva, Publicity Manager, for their guide to the triumphs and pitfalls of publishing in subject areas too often overlooked by mainstream houses. Their focus and passion indicates why the company is a commercial success and is now celebrating 30 years.  As a co-operative, they all have a say in what gets published and the sense of genuine collaboration came across. Zed are actively involved with their community of authors and readers. It’s easy to see why authors would want them behind their books . Tamsine’s explanation of the different types of commissioning she engages in – from ‘soft active’ to full pursuit of topical ideas – was really interesting. Ruvani’s determination to make the most of each title – whether displaying it at an academic conference or bringing it to the attention of the national press – was very impressive. It was great to be given books as case studies to comment on.
                I was particularly struck by their desire to incorporate trade cross over titles on their list. I bought their ‘best-seller’ The F Word for my 16 year old as a basic guide to feminism, what it was, what it has evolved into. It ‘s an accessible read and outside Zed’s more usual academic and activist customer base. As a way of stimulating debate in a wider society, the topic and style hits the mark. At home, we certainly had a heated discussion! Reaching new and wider audiences can only be a good thing (and good for Zed’s business plan). Any comments on how they can further penetrate this less targeted market on a budget would no doubt be gratefully received. 
        It was good to hear how a small business can produce so many titles to such critical acclaim – and how pride in ones brand counts for so much. I would enjoy hearing another time more about how they operate in global markets and how they co-publish and work on translations. Zed are a case in point where social networking is a great leveler – allowing them to reach potential readers without vats of cash.  Follow them online on the platform of your choice. I for one am glad they fought their way through traffic to get here (and that  Tamsine decide to wait until next month to give birth  – best wishes).  Long live publishing for the social conscience! And who ever goes to Zed on work placement we hope to hear more news of them on this blog.


3 responses to “Zedicated to the cause

  1. What really impressed me about Zed was how they market their books. When I had to read feminist literature for my undergraduate degree, I found it really difficult to grasp and a bit too heavy. Admittedly, it turned me off reading anything like it again. However, I really liked how they designed their Glamour book. I loved how they took the idea of the pin-up girl, which has gained in popularity over the last few years and put her as their cover. I think it immediately would appeal to a broader audience, me included.
    I think the same about the F Word. After finding it hard to grasp some concepts of feminism, myself. I really admire that they’ve opened up some really topical issues to a wider audience and how they’ve made it feel that bit more accessible. It was really beneficial to see.

  2. I agree Deirdre that these books can be targetted at a wider audience when they are accessibly written and designed with clear signposting. I read Affluence recently which illuminated the topic for me, ‘the common reader’, and where the author had produced a monograph alongside with all the research and more complex theoretical approaches should anyone want/need more. After the session Peter suggested this might be a good way forward to capture the wider social conscience market – 2 verisons of the same argument: is this useful repurposing of content or an expensive risk for the publisher?

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