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deCoubertin Turns 10

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Ten years ago today, deCoubertin Books was born.

I wish that I could give you an exciting anecdote about a Eureka moment but the reality was more prosaic.

In late-2009. At the time I was working as an international sports correspondent, contracted to a US sports business website and freelancing for the BBC. My modest ambition, was to take creative and editorial control over my own book project – I’d had two books published at that stage – and to work with likeminded friends and colleagues, utilising our experiences from the worlds of journalism, design and digital to produce outstanding publications.

The birth of deCoubertin was prosaic. With my sister, Anna, who worked with me in these early days, we laid out a statement of principles in a South London coffee shop, and argued about a name. I wanted to call it after my son – Joshua Charles Publishing – but Anna argued in favour of De Coubertin – after the founder of the modern Olympics. Anna, as she often does, won the day.

The statement of principles read as follows:

We will publish non-fiction of the highest quality. Books that we love and believe in. We have a particular interest in the best sports writing, but this is not our sole focus.

We envisage a future where there will be a marriage between traditional books and electronic editions. But for there to be a future for paper editions they will have to be objects of beauty. Thus we will create fine editions, utilizing smart typefaces, quality paper and cover designs as bold and arresting as we can make them.

Our business model is flexible, light of traditional overheads and focused on authors. We can’t offer big advances, but can promise very generous royalties packages – in excess of those offered by established publishing houses, in fact – and to put the author at the heart of the publishing process. We have committed, passionate staff who will do everything in their power to make your book a success.

We seek a collaborative approach with our authors based on mutual respect, trust and cooperation. Because we are a small independent publisher we are reliant upon the success of our authors’ work because we meet all the upfront costs of publication. We will do everything we can to achieve that success and expect a similar commitment in return.

We seek organic growth, aiming to publish 4 books in 2010, 6 the year after and 8-10 by 2012. Our long term aim is to support literary imprints which will publish high quality genre fiction.

Okay, so the last bit about supporting literary fiction was naïve; but considering we had no money at the start, and relied on profits to generate our next book, I think those plans and principles have largely served us well. While my humble ambitions for the company have long been outstripped – we now have offices, full time staff and sell around 50,000 books per year deCoubertin’s philosophy remains the same: to do something well and to believe in it. Such an ethos has bred loyalty in readers, allowed us to create close relationships with booksellers that makes our business viable and successful, and brought critical recognition.

Today our authors represent a distinguished slice of international sport and media. The footballers we have on our books share a combined 423 international caps, 20 English league titles, 11 FA Cups, 5 European Cups as well as Serie A, Bundesliga, SPL and World Cup winners’ medals. They have played for or managed clubs including Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Everton, Manchester City, AC Milan, Borussia Dortmund, Rangers and Fiorentina. They include journalists, contributors and broadcasters from virtually every significant news organisation in the UK and beyond. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined eight years ago that such a cast would join me on this adventure.

It is also true that there have been difficult moments, and moments of doubt. Brexit has caused chaos in the British economy, even for a relatively small company, breeding credit crunches, a decline in consumer confidence, instability in currency transactions, and caused me to question at times if it’s all really worth it. There are rogues, as I’m sure there are in every business. Tiny things have gone wrong in production – a misplaced letter or incorrect barcode – that have cost thousands to fix. There are books that we’ve produced that have been brilliant in every way, but which shops have ignored, or which readers and critics haven’t ‘got’. There are other books that we’ve done with modest expectations, which have been unexpected successes.

At the moment, a lot of my time is devoted to securing a fresh round of funding to grow the company again, improve in certain areas and make others more profitable. We are a bigger and more mature business now. We have the infrastructure and knowledge to be able to scale up and it’s exciting to be able to talk to investors and financial institutions about our journey and where we hope to go over the next decade.

To celebrate our tenth birthday, we are offering all our loyal readers one third off items bought in our online store. Simply enter BIRTHDAY at checkout to claim your discount before Saturday. We’ll also be launching a number of giveaways and competitions over the month of November to celebrate our landmark birthday.

Thank you to all your support and loyalty, we couldn’t have achieved anything without you.

Best wishes

James Corbett

Founder & Principal

deCoubertin Books 


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