|Rebecca Collins and Adrian Hobart have combined their talents and experiences to set up Hobeck Books. Here’s what they say about embarking on an exciting new adventure.|
When was Hobeck Books established and what inspired you to form your own publishing house?
Hobeck was established at the end of 2019, but the idea had been with us for about eighteen months before that. Adrian had been exploring the developing independent publishing scene with a view to publishing his own novels, but then it struck us that our combined experience and skills could be put together to create our own publishing house. We were driving through the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire, remembering a scene from the first series of ?The Trip with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon and they kept talking about “Holbeck Ghyll” – and it struck us that Ho (from Adrian’s surname) and Beck (from Rebecca’s first name) would combine to make Hobeck and the name stuck!
You both have interesting backgrounds. Could you tell us a bit more about the work you have done prior to Hobeck Books?
(Adrian) I worked in broadcasting for thirty years, starting in local radio before moving to national radio and TV as part of BBC Sport. I’ve been fortunate enough to cover some of the world’s biggest sporting events and meet some incredible athletes during my career. I worked for the BBC for 25 years, eventually becoming Assistant Editor for Global Sport – which broadcast to millions of listeners and viewers worldwide. Management had its pleasures and pains, but I really missed the day-to-day creativity of on-air broadcasting, and running Hobeck with all of its challenges has more than filled that void. Besides, I occasionally have the chance to hit the airwaves again on the Partners in Crime podcast with Adam Croft, and I narrate audiobooks too.
(Rebecca) After graduating from my first degree (economics and politics) I worked for a locksmith, then taught English to high school students in Japan and finally, after spending some time temping, fell happily into the world of publishing. I had always wanted to work with books in some form or other so I when finally landed my dream job, a full-time position at Oxford University Press, I was overjoyed. I stayed there for five years and I loved every minute. I left after having my first child and thereafter embarked on a freelance career as a publishing project manger and editor. I’ve been lucky that over the last sixteen years as the babies have grown and surpassed me in height, I’ve been able to work on some fabulous projects with companies such as Bloomsbury, Oxford University Press, Macmillan and Pearson Education. At the same time as working and bringing up three boys I completed a fine art degree and a masters. Not having ever worked in fiction publishing before I confess that when Adrian and I first came up with the idea for Hobeck I was terrified. But now I have absolutely no regrets. Every day is different. I love what we do. Should work really be this much fun?
Who has influenced you most in your career to date?
(Adrian) I’m new to the publishing world so I’m still finding inspiration from the people I meet in the industry. I’d have to say my biggest influence has been Rebecca – she first gave me confidence to believe I could write, and has imbued me with self-belief throughout the creation of Hobeck. On the broadcasting front, I had many great influences. If I had to single out one person though, it would be a former boss in BBC Local radio, Neil Pringle, who combined empathy and understanding with the ability to challenge me to be better on air, and find new creative ways of telling stories. He taught me the power of creative support from a boss – and that’s something I always aimed to do in my later managerial career, and is at the core of what we do at Hobeck with our authors.
(Rebecca) In terms of my career, my biggest influence was my boss at Oxford University Press. I was the assistant editor working on non-lexical reference and she was the commissioning editor for that list. She was a true legend of the publishing world and had been working for 30 years by the time I met her. She was always insistent that even though we were part of a huge organisation we should treat authors as individuals and with a certain degree of kindness as well as professionalism. She also taught me to be meticulous and thorough yet to take a pragmatic approach when things do go wrong. She told me that things will always go wrong however good you are at your job. It happens. However, more important than the error itself is how you deal with it. The other major influence on me is of course Adrian. I tell him often that I wouldn’t have embarked on this new direction in my career without him by my side. I get energy from his daily confidence in me, his enthusiasm, his passion and his belief in me. Every day he inspires me, makes me smile and wipes my tears when I feel stressed.
What do you think will be the key to your success?
Openness and integrity. We don’t pretend to be anything other than we are. We’re a new company, making mistakes as we learn the business, but we never hide or make excuses. We are totally honest with our authors and partners, and we are ourselves in all that we do. The other key to our success will be sheer hard work. We work long hours, seven days a week, and Hobeck is always on our minds. We often wake at 3 a.m. to share new ideas.
How many authors are you hoping to sign?
It’s hard to say. We don’t want to grow beyond our ability to give our authors the close personal attention and support that we believe is crucial to our mutual success. One of our core values is that we are always available to our authors, and we pride ourselves in responding quickly to all their requests. We have signed five authors in the past four months, and that feels manageable, with scope for adding more. Eventually we will expand our team, but Rebecca and I never want to lose that personal touch with our authors.
What do you look for when you receive a submission and do you read the whole book?
We’re looking for a number of things in a submission. We want to be hooked first and foremost – by the story, the characterisation, and the quality of the writing. We’re looking for writers with the confidence to know what to leave in and leave out in their prose. We often receive submissions that start well but sag under the impression that publishers want to see the thesaurus being thrown into the text, or overly flowery sentences to show off their literary skills. In our case, we think that clean, simple sentences, unadorned by too many adjectives or adverbs work best. And yes, once we’re intrigued, we ask for the full manuscript and we read them all. It’s a time consuming process, but an exciting one, especially when you find a writer you believe in.
What excites you most about being an independent publisher?
What excites us most is the chance to work so closely with such committed and talented people. Being independent means that we can be nimble and set our own approach and culture. We’re not bogged down in endless meetings and committees like many of the bigger publishing houses. We can have an idea one minute and put it to work a minute later. We can make decisions without worrying about how accounts will react to it, or worry about what the sales team will think. We can simply concentrate on publishing brilliant books and telling great stories.
What are your hopes and aspirations for Hobeck?
Our hope is to build a reputation for bringing great authors and compelling stories to our readers, while remaining true to our creative values of openness, honesty and integrity. We want to create a Hobeck family of authors, who support and inspire each other, and we want to develop a reputation for being an approachable publisher. That’s why we pride ourselves on acknowledging every submission and replying as promptly as we can. Of course we want to be financially stable and successful too, and the more we grow, the more authors we can support and publish.
Robert Daws centre stage with Rebecca Collins and Adrian Hobart
What if you disagree about a submission? Do you ask for another opinion?
We’ve had some healthy debates between us over submissions in recent months, but we generally agree about who we want to sign. We both read the submissions independently, and never hint at our reaction if one of us has been the first to read it. That way we begin our discussions openly and without any prior influence on each other. We’re always focused first and foremost on the quality of the work in front of us. Then we’ll discuss other considerations – such as what genre and market niche the book fits into, and whether it’s something we can really promote successfully. We’ve had to turn away some great books because they’re too far removed from our core business of publishing crime, thriller and suspense novels.
Do you provide all authors with feedback? If so, how do you find the time to read everything?
That’s always a huge challenge! Yes, we do offer feedback to all the authors who submit their work to us. It’s absolutely central to our approach to publishing. We understand how much work goes into writing a novel, and how much hope is bound into that submission, so we feel that it’s the least we can do to repay an author’s interest in us with some honest, and hopefully helpful feedback. It’s never easy writing a rejection letter, and it’s one of the most challenging parts of the job, but we’re always pleasantly surprised how positive authors can be when they reply – often saying we’re the first publisher to actually take the trouble to explain their decision.
There are many books being published every day. How will you ensure yours are noticed and will they be available in a variety of formats, for example, Audiobooks?
Without question that’s the biggest challenge we face. The competition is growing day-by-day, and we recognise that successful marketing is the key to the future of Hobeck. We know we have great authors and great books to share with the world, but unless we find the right readers nothing will sell. We use a number of marketing strategies, including adverts on Facebook, Amazon, and Bookbub. We’re busy building our Hobeck mailing list and have some great content in the pipeline for readers who sign up to it. Audiobooks are a hard sell, but we’ll soon have Robert Daws bringing his acting talents to his Rock crime series on audiobook, and we look forward to running radio campaigns for those. Above all though, we know that word of mouth remains the number one selling tool, so we continue to focus on publishing authors and stories that we know people will love and want to share with their friends.