We welcome today, multi-talented Judy Piatkus. Judy, you were once vice-president for the RNA. What are your fondest memories of those times?
I was a member of the RNA for many years and always appreciated the warmth and friendliness of the organisation. I loved the meetings where I could learn more about successful fiction publishing from publishing colleagues in other companies and I always admired the dedication of so many of the authors to improving their craft. I must have joined around the time when the lovely Diane from Corgi/Bantam/Transworld was chairperson. I have always had so much respect for the RNA as I think it provides a wonderful service. Writing can be such a lonely occupation. Giving experienced writers the chance to connect with other authors, writing in a similar genre, and having the opportunity to meet publishers informally is hugely valuable.
How did winning the Inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award, make you feel? Do you miss being a member of the RNA?
I was thrilled to receive the Inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award from the RNA. The letter came completely out of the blue, about eighteen months after I had sold Piatkus Books. It was so unexpected and I felt so very appreciated by the RNA. It was also a great pleasure to reflect on how many authors had begun their careers by having their early work published by Piatkus and I felt very proud of that. When I attended the Awards ceremony, I appreciated the group even more. I have never regretted selling Piatkus Books because I knew the time was right and it was also the right choice for me personally.. The Award ceremony however did remind me of so many good things about publishing that I missed and especially the social side of the trade.
Renowned for being a risk-taker, what do you think has been the biggest risk you have taken and did it pay off?
There are so many kinds of risks in life. Is moving in with a partner or getting married a risk? I always think so because it takes a long time to really know another person (no wonder romantic novels are so popular – falling in love is all about risk). Getting married for the second time is always a risk if you have not got it right the first time.
In my business career I took so many risks but we were very careful not to bet everything on the house. We always considered what we might lose, should things not work out. I do remember paying something like £40,000 in the 1990s for a book by a non-fiction author who had a column about property in the Sunday Times. It was a huge amount for us and that’s why it sticks in my mind. Luckily the Sunday Times paid well for the serial rights and the book was successful. We certainly couldn’t afford to pay advances like that too often.
How does it feel to be on the other side of publishing? Any surprises? And now you have written your memoir, do you have another book you’d like to write next?
I loved being a publisher every day of my career. I always thought I had the best job in publishing as we were free to publish anything we wanted as long as we could afford the advance. After I sold the company I loved not being a publisher. Publishing is a vocation and every weekend of my publishing life was spent reading. After I stopped being a publisher, I had time to explore what else the world had to offer.
I have found it very interesting and enjoyable to be able to write and a book and have it published. The biggest surprise has been all the changes on the marketing side in particular. There are so many routes to find your customers. I thought I had kept up with changes in publishing but I hadn’t experienced the minutiae of it all. It has been a fascinating learning-curve.
I have been considering writing a sequel to Ahead of Her Time. It would be very different though as it would not be about publishing. Now that I have become an author I am waiting to see how the first book sells and whether Watkins, my publishers would be interested in another book from me. It’s definitely publishing karma
So, publisher, motivational speaker, mentor, author, psychodynamic psychotherapist – it seems whatever you take on you do with aplomb. What’s next? Any long-desired dreams or ambitions that you’d would like to take on?
Good question. If you had told me ten years ago that I would be going to University for the first time as a mature student in my 60s and my first degree would be a Masters and that I would subsequently be writing a book and have it published, I would not have believed it. I am not sure where the journey will take me next but I am always ready for new and exciting experiences and lovely surprises.
Ahead of Her Time sounds quite a journey. If it were to be adapted into a movie, who would you like to play you?
Rachel Weiss or Gemma Arterton
Judy Piatkus is an entrepreneur, publisher and business coach specialising in conscious leadership. She founded Piatkus when she was in her 20s and grew the company to become an international brand, before selling it in 2007, just before the global financial crash that she had shrewdly foreseen. She is now a keynote speaker, an angel investor, and a coach and mentor to start-ups. In 2011 she founded Conscious Café, a network that brings people together for connection and discussion. Find out more at: judypiatkus.com
About the interviewer.
Catherine Lawless lives in Hertfordshire with her husband, daughter and their three border terriers. She writes novels, journals and children’s books. Catherine’s career started out as a singer/songwriter in a rock band. She toured extensively throughout Europe and the UK before settling down and following her childhood dream of writing books.