I opened an envelope right before leaving the office today, on my way home to finish packing for the trip to Frankfurt. (I’m at the airport now.) It came from Reference Reviews, the UK library journal, and contained a review of Patterns of Global Terrorism. Another intelligent review from this journal–which is edited by Tony Chalcraft of St Johns College in York–and a favorable one, too, which leaves me wondering why it’s so hard for us to market our publications in the UK. A very experienced marketing person told me recently that trade is one-way, when it comes to reference. That is, Americans will buy British reference but the British won’t buy ours.
Actually, UK libraries have bought a lot of reference edited by David Levinson or by me (we can tell, by checking library catalogues online, and it’s possible to search all the London libraries at once, which makes things easy), and The Times reviewed our first sports encyclopedia and called it the “newest sporting bible.” But those works were published under imprints, like Sage or Routledge, with a strong UK presence. How do we persuade UK libraries to pay attention to us when we don’t have decades, or centuries, of publishing behind us? The name Berkshire probably doesn’t help. It’s English, of course, but not the name of a university like Oxford, Cambridge, York, Durham, or Exeter (all cities, by the way, not counties). Our publications are more international in coverage than virtually any U.S. or U.K. publisher’s, we work with many British authors, and we consciously, and subconsciously, have British perspectives in mind as we develop our publications. Actually, the review I read together quoted from my introduction to the set, in which I mentioned that editor Anna Sabastenaski and I had both lived within a block or two or Harrod’s when it was bombed by the IRA in 1983. We have a lot of English connections: Trevor Young, our intrepid computer maven, comes from Lincolnshire, and Francesca Forrest, senior copy editor, is married to an Englishman.
We were sending out press releases about our China partnership announcement at the Frankfurt Book Fair on Friday, and I wanted to get the attention of the British publishing press because UK publishers have been in the vanguard when it comes to building relationships in China and might be natural partners for us on future publications. So I added this note to the top of the release: “Note: Berkshire Publishing is located in Massachusetts, not in England, but its CEO/cofounder (that’s me) began her career at Blackwell Scientific in London, worked for Fabers on the T S Eliot Letters, has published five books of her own in the UK, and hopes to set up an office there soon, so this deal seems to us a UK story as well as one for the US and China. An invitation to the ceremony and reception will follow this mail. Best, Karen Christensen.”
Seriously, any ideas are most welcome! We love British libraries and want to see more of our books in them.