Five Minutes With Stephen Page

Five Minutes With Stephen Page

Stephen began his career in bookselling before moving into publishing where he initially worked in marketing and sales. In 1994 he joined Fourth Estate, becoming its Managing Director in 2000. In 2001 he moved to Faber and Faber as Chief Executive and the positive impact of his leadership was first recognized by the industry in 2006 when Faber was named Publisher of the Year. Faber has gone on to win Independent Publisher of the Year in 2011 and 2018.

Stephen is an active member of some of the important publishing trade bodies including the Publishers Association.

Stephen is active in promoting the importance of independent publishing and libraries and is a founding member of Reading Partners – a dynamic alliance of 40 publishers and the entire UK public library network, set up in 2004 and led by The Reading Agency.

In 2005 he was instrumental in founding the innovative Independent Alliance, which today comprises fifteen of the most exciting independent publishing companies in the UK.

In 2007 the Guardian selected Stephen to give the keynote address for World Book Day and he is frequently asked to speak or write on issues facing the publishing industry, especially the ways in which technological developments may affect authors and publishing in the future. In 2007 he received the Vista Award for Industry Achievement. In December 2012 he was named as the Most Inspiring Digital Person at the FutureBook Innovation Awards.

From 2011-2018 Stephen was a member of the board of Creative Skillset, the industry body which supports skills and training for the UK creative industries. He is still involved in representing the interests of the Creative Sector to government as a member of the Apprenticeship Stakeholder Board.

He has been a trustee of the Folio Prize since its inception.

He was a member of the panel for the two Reviews commissioned by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, chaired by William Sieghart, into the Public Library Service and E-lending.

From August 2013 to February 2017 he was a Non-Executive Director on the Board of Bloomsbury, PLC.

Stephen is a member of the board of the Clore Leadership Programme (March 2017 – present)

In November 2017 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Derby.

Stephen Page will be keynote speaker at Quantum 2019.


What was the last book you read? 

Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens, in an edition printed in 1901 as part of a set that my mother used to read at her grandfather’s house in the 1940s. Joyous both as literature and object.

What’s next on your reading list?

Kingdomland by Rachel Allen, a debut collection of poems by a brilliantly gifted new voice on our poetry list at Faber. She is another exciting addition to a new generation of poets that we have been publishing over the last few years, including T.S.Eliot prize winner Hannah Sullivan.

You’re stranded on a desert island, what three books do you want?

For sanity, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera, for solace, complete poems of T.S. Eliot, for hunger, Bistro Cooking by Patricia Wells (my island is French and well-stocked).

What’s the one thing about your company that we need to know?

We’re celebrating 90 years of independent, literary publishing.

What is the single biggest challenge facing the publishing industry right now?

It’s perhaps a new version of the oldest challenge, which is creating demand for books amongst all the other marketing noise. The crucial role of booksellers has been highlighted over the last few years, and sustaining an ecology of brilliant digital, social and event marketing in partnership with booksellers in an uncertain economic environment and in competition with global brands from other industries will require great vision, investment and strength of purpose. Perhaps more long term the unknowable question of reading in an attention poor world may prove greater, but that too is a marketing challenge.

What was your first job?

The first time I was paid for anything was playing drums in a genteel trio playing that was effectively lift music in an old people’s home during afternoon tea. My first real job was working Sherratt & Hughes bookshop in Croydon.

Let us know your musical guilty pleasure

No guilt but perhaps secret; AC/DC’s album Let There Be Rock. The whole thing. For me the greatest example of pure rock music. An unencumbered freight train of thrilling noise and chutzpah, brilliantly played with no faffing about and recorded like they’re in your bedroom.

A passion outside the business

You may have already guessed, but music came before books for me, and remains a passion, both playing (drums) and listening. Of all, Jazz is perhaps my greatest musical passion. Happily a love of music is something shared with my wife, and now passed on to the next generation, who have helped us to discover the new and, strangely, the old we didn’t yet know.

What is the one essential item you bring to the Fair?

Boundless optimism for what might happen and what I might learn. (OK an outlook not an item).

What piece of advice would you give first-timers at the Fair?

Eavesdrop and be curious about everything, especially publishing from outside the UK.

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