01 April 2021
Happy birthday to us! We are thrilled to be celebrating 25 years of top-notch independent publishing. Born on April Fool’s Day, in a tiny office in Marylebone, we have been dedicated to publishing the best non-fiction by incredible authors from around the world.
Since then, we have acquired over eight imprints among many other areas and can call ourselves one of the most admired independent publishers in the UK. We are home to incredible authors, powerful voices, bestselling books and a brilliant, dynamic workforce.
Our new editorial intern Georgia Poplett interviews Managing Director Andrew Franklin about the origins of Profile, 90s parcel deliveries, and independent publishing.
Andrew Franklin and Stephen Brough, two of Profile’s founders
GP: Why did you want to start Profile?
AF: The idea of an independent publisher that would not be tied to any corporate agenda and free to publish what the publisher believed best was very attractive. I had worked at Penguin (now Penguin Random House) for 11 years so I had learned a huge amount and felt it would be worth having a go.
GP: How did you go about setting up the company?
AF: When you are inside a huge company, there are specialists who do everything for you and you believe it would be impossible to do it on your own. That turns out not to be true because there are brilliant freelancers and specialists out there to help people setting up companies. Everyone was incredibly kind – literary agents, other publishers, bookshops and suppliers. Some of the obvious things you have to do like opening a bank account, producing a business plan and raising capital seem daunting but actually it turns out to be less of a challenge than one might expect. More people should do it.
GP: What was your first day in the office like?
AF: Our current offices are absolutely beautiful – wedged between the Norman church of St Bartholomew-the-Great and Smithfield meat market. Our first office in Marylebone was very different. It was on the sixth floor of a building with no lift. In those days there was no email, so couriers used to deliver manuscripts all the time. Each day was devoted to arguing between the three of us then working for the company about who would go down the six floors to answer the door and then drag ourselves up again with the manuscript, parcel or post.
GP: What was the first book you published and how did it do?
AF: We started at Profile publishing The Economist Books so within three months of setting up the company we had an Economist backlist that we took over from Penguin. Some of those great stalwarts like The Pocket World In Figures and The Economist Style Guide are still in print 25 years later. The first book with a Profile P in it was Amitai Etzioni’s New Golden Rule. It wasn’t the best book that we have ever published and that has been long out of print.
GP: What do you hope to see in Profile’s future?
AF: We have always wanted to publish interesting and lively nonfiction. We didn’t do a bad job 25 years ago but we are doing it so much better now. Look at our backlist, look at our forthcoming titles: there are books here that really matter and that change the way people think. And, with the acquisition of Serpent’s Tail from its founder in 2007 we added fiction and crime. We have published some amazing novels and short stories. In fact only last week a Serpent’s Tail title won the Folio Prize. Now Souvenir, acquired from the estate of its founder who ran the company for 61 years. So we publish really good distinctive books. The sort that corporates don’t see, don’t understand or won’t take the risk to publish. I am immensely proud of our authors and books and hope that they, like us, can see continuity in our ambitions and ideals.