As we return to a face-to-face event in April, we wanted to spotlight the publishing industry, focusing on the people who make the industry what it is. As part of this, we’re running a series that interviews leading figures within publishing to introduce them and their story – our You Are the Story series. We spoke to David Shelley, Group CEO of Hachette UK, to kickstart this.
David Shelley joined Little, Brown as Editorial Director in 2005, after five years running the publishing at independent publisher Allison & Busby. Initially commissioning mainly crime and thriller novels and overseeing the audio and ebook lists, he became Sphere publisher in 2007, then Little, Brown Deputy Publisher in 2009, and Publisher in 2011. He became CEO of Orion and Little, Brown in 2015, and in January 2018 became Group CEO of Hachette UK. David is currently President of the UK Publishers Association.
What do you love about your career?
The constant, infinite variety of it: no day is the same as another.
In your opinion, what impact has the recent changing world had on the publishing industry, and what are your predictions for its future?
I think publishing has shown its real value during the pandemic. Books and other education materials have helped children to learn while schools were shut; books have provided entertainment and solace during the bleakest of moments; and published scientific research has helped the world understand COVID-19 better. I am very proud that books have been at the forefront of people’s lives during this tough time.
Likewise, how has Covid changed you?
I think it has broadened my mind to the possibilities of what publishing can be, and the audiences we can reach.
What/who is your reason for working in publishing?
Firstly, and very simply, a love of books. I grew up above a bookshop, I studied English at university, I read constantly… I can’t imagine my life without books at the centre of it. Beyond that, I have come to love the interplay between creativity and commerce, and the satisfaction of finding huge readerships for books.
In life, what guides you?
Having fun, learning more every day, and trying where I can to leave things better than I found them.
What advice would you give to someone starting in the industry, and what, in your opinion, should the generation of young people coming into the industry do next?
I would say to anyone coming into the industry to ask as many questions as you can, and to never be afraid to challenge or to be challenged. To use every opportunity you can to learn more and to constantly be curious about readers and what they are buying/why they are buying it.
What’s the one thing you started doing that drastically improved your life/career?
Spending a lot of time wherever books are sold: bookshops, online, gift shops, supermarkets etc. I feel I’ve learnt a lot that way.
In your opinion, what books should we be reading? And what’s next on your reading list?
From our lists this year, I absolutely loved Love Marriage by Monica Ali and Tiepolo Blue by James Cahill. Next on my list is The Escape Artist by Jonathan Freedland.
What is your biggest hope for the future?
That the publishing industry much more closely represents the audiences it serves, and that this helps us serve an even wider range of readers than before.