We spoke to Kay Hutchison, founder of Belle Media, a London-based independent publisher and production company, which she runs with fellow Director Richard Dikstra. Kay has a talent for developing large-scale, cross-sector partnerships, bringing teams together to deliver results and has held a variety of senior roles in TV – BBC, Channel 5, Channel 4 and Disney. Kay is also a leading figure within Tech London Advocates. She was born and brought up in Scotland and is currently writing her first book, My Life in Thirty Therapies.
Tell us a bit about Belle Media’s publishing projects.
Two further books are planned for 2017 but Belle has already published 3 books :
– A social history Hurricane Hutch’s Top 10 Ships of the Clyde – a coffee-table book in full colour with some exceptional archive photographs (some never previously published) about a famous Scottish ship’s Captain and his fascinating life at sea and favourite ships.
– Books 1 and 2 in the new Tigeropolis Children’s book series : Tigeropolis Book 1 Beyond the Deep Forest (also available in audiobook narrated by Richard E Grant) and Tigeropolis Book 2 The Grand Opening.
Tigeropolis Book 3 Caught in the Trap is out Summer 2017.
To support the Tigeropolis titles, the author RD Dikstra’s tiger talks at schools, libraries and creative and cultural festivals, Belle has also produced a 3D printed model of central character, smart tiger cub Bittu – very popular with children – and a puzzle game for iPad and Apple TV, closely linked to the themes in the books.
Separately, Belle is producing a regular Tigeropolis comic strip cartoon in conjunction with Hull City Official Football Supporters Club whose players are the ‘Tigers’. Bittu loves football and his talent eventually takes him from his forest home in Tigeropolis a tiger park in the foothills of the Himalayas all the way to England to play for Hull City ‘Tigers’.
What have been the main lessons you’ve learned taking the DIY approach to publishing ?
It’s fun. You’re learning every day and you’re in control. But you have to fit in with the ways of working of the publishing industry – and this takes more time than you might expect. Take your time and don’t be discouraged if things don’t happen fast – they just don’t! If you really want to try and make a commercial success of your publishing business, it also means you’ll probably need more capital than you thought. And you’ll have to sell millions of books if you want to make any money. If you just want to enjoy the experience of publishing books without any expectation of returns on your investment, then that’s a different story – a much simpler, more straightforward option.
You’re working on your own book at the moment. How have you found the process of working with an editor?
I’ve enjoyed the experience. I think it’s extremely important to be open to learning from those with experience. Everyone thinks they can write a book. Actually, I’m sure everyone has a book to write, and everyone can write a book, but if you want to try to ensure it’s the very best it can be and that it might even reach an audience of readers (rather than just your nearest and dearest) then find a good editor.
You’re busy on any number of business projects. How do you find time to write?
With difficulty. However, I firmly believe that if you’re busy on other things (especially if it’s related to publishing, like the Tigeropolis and Hurricane Hutch experience), it’s not an entirely bad thing as you will be learning on multiple fronts and all of that experience will be helpful. I have to carve out time and sometimes it’s a challenge. Once I get going, it’s very rewarding.
What advice would you give anyone thinking of writing a book based on their own life experiences?
Great and why not. But before you start, best speak to some knowledgeable people for guidance and then get on and write, don’t dither.
The staff at whitefox are knowledgeable, lovely to work with, full of energy and they know their industry. They’re an honest company too. They’ll tell you exactly what they think (nicely) and if it’s not their bag, will pass you on. If it is whitefox’s area of expertise, then they will guide you with honesty and find the right person for you to work with.
Unlike Belle’s previous projects where we did it completely DIY, this time I have approached things differently – for the memoir 30 Therapies I set out with the help of whitefox. That’s definitely the way to go. It’s certainly right for me.