Hi I am the new publisher for the O Books imprint from John Hunt Publishing. This is where it all began, literally for me and for O Books!
At a garden party in a pretty village in Hampshire, after a couple of glasses of wine, the father of my son’s friend talked about his publishing company. So I asked if he had any jobs going and it concluded in my becoming the Marketing Manager for John Hunt Publishing, at the time, a Christian and children’s colour book publisher.
I wasn’t wild about the subject matter, but John promised me that things would change in the following 12 months as he intended to develop a new imprint encompassing all religions/faiths and spiritual practises.
Part of my job was dealing with key buyers, selling titles in, by meeting face to face with the likes of Gardners, Bertrams, WH Smith, Waterstones etc, presenting titles to the Religious Book buyer. We also had a sales team that trod the streets of Britain presenting our titles to bookshops, and I met with them twice a year to present our coming list.
I keenly remember the very first non religious title that crept into the list in 2003. I had already witnessed a certain sternness in some of my buyers with regards to some of the titles creeping into the list. These buyers tended to be those that headed up devout Christian shops, or distributors to said stores. They were a little tight lipped at titles that covered interfaith issues, or the sexuality of their clergy, or ‘God Forbid’ women of the cloth! Always polite, they had a standard ‘no, this one isn’t for us’, line that I knew couldn’t be argued with a clever sales pitch.
That said, the title that I now had at the back of my file in 2003 was definitely not going to be presented to the above contacts, however my WH Smith buyer, a lovely chap with a great sense of humour, provided me with my first opportunity to present, The Heart of Tantric Sex!
In 2004 John sent me off to the London MBS show to research the market of ‘new age’ beliefs. That trip to London literally changed my life, not immediately, but it set off a chain of events that introduced me to Reiki, opened my eyes to the unseen, and started me on my own spiritual and personal path.
It was also in 2003/4 that the O Books imprint was born, and we started out with titles such as The Instant Astrologer, The Reiki Sourcebook and The Standing Stones. I was researching and building our database, I even set up the first JHP website, teaching myself out of a book! I was having a ball.
In 2006, however, I handed in my notice so that I could run away to France with my family. Like so many Brits, I went with rose tinted glasses, to set up a healing sanctuary in the middle of ‘nowhere’ in rural southwest France. I bought a shop, started an upstairs conversion for a Reiki treatment room. I felt that I was on a path, which had been written for me by ‘those upstairs’. On visiting the house that we eventually bought, my husband discovered a box of crystals in the loft of the main house. It turned out to be rose quartz. When I moved in and had a really good look in the loft, I found lumps of sodalite, rutilated quartz, peridot, and amethyst! My dream, that I had had, in my Hampshire home six month prior, about opening a crystal shop, was surely a certainty with all this synchronicity.
Life is never smooth though is it? There are ups, and there are downs, and 2005-2006 was my ‘annus horribilis’. My husband’s longstanding illness, took a turn for the worst, seeing him in and out of hospital. Rural france is a little slow commercially, I found that I had to do tourist markets, to make up the household budget, and this took up a lot of my time and energy. Money was tight (understatement), my children were stressed (understatement) and the strain saw me down to 48 kilos! Sadly I lost my husband in 2006, and my children their very loving father.
I had to let go of the shop, it just wasn’t working, I continued to do the markets, to get rid of my stock, and also to help two other girlfriends, a different synchronicity was at play there, which has seen a bond that has endured to today. John Hunt was a trouper, he gave me some freelance work, to help out, but it also served as a tester to John’s burgeoning new publishing system. My personal life was in freefall, I felt like a teenager again, not quite knowing who or what I was, my identity had been stripped and I needed to find who I was, and what I believed in.
I moved house, although most of the crystals came with me. I dabbled at dating, I made some fantastic friends. I found a new Reiki teacher and I continued to work for John. The children started to fit into their new country, they found being bi-lingual an advantage, they found love, lost love, made friends, rode horses and scooters, discovered clubs and bars, went to college and grew up.
In 2007 one of my authors Barbara Meiklejohn-Free, at an MBS show, brought my husband’s message to me, an emotional reading that did a lot of healing. My husband also told me, from his place on high, that he had a new man in mind for me, but that I had to sort a few things out first! Later that year I did a course with another author, June-Elleni Laine, on psychic development, where another participant saw a baby for me. No way, I thought, this couldn’t be a physical baby, but I saw it as a sign of a new project. I wanted a new project, I enjoyed freelancing for John, but I felt distanced from the business, I didn’t feel fully involved.
I met Chris in 2008 and knew immediately he was the one to share the rest of my life with, my three children agreed with me, and so we married in 2009 and added a new member to the flock, our gorgeous daughter Madeleine in 2011. I felt grounded in my life.
However, I felt ‘stuck’ in my working life. Working at a distance has its advantages, no office politics, no effect from other people’s moods, but you also feel isolated and unconnected. John has made huge changes to the business since my early days, no phones, virtually no emails and these days I sit in front of screen rather than going out and about to meet clients. Most mornings see me sat here in my PJs, very glamorous! 2 months ago, John swept the basic business through with a wide broom. He took all the admin stuff back to the office in the UK. I’ve been beavering around in the admin back bone for years, and I suddenly felt over exposed and underworked. O Books is no longer a sole imprint, we added Zero and Circle some years ago, to separate some titles that did not sit alongside each other. They have their own publishers who are expert in their field. Slowly more and more imprints have arrived, with their own specialities and audience. So John handed over some publicity and a handful of books, from around the various lists. I thought OK, I did this before I can do it again, so I started to beaver away, using Facebook and Twitter. But John wanted to the publishers to do the social networking. I wished I could have a blog to help publicise the authors/books I was working on, but this too was the publisher’s domain.
So……………. John asked me if I’d like to be the publisher of O Books, develop its identity, find its voice and to babysit some other lists and be the publicist permanent for another couple of lists.
I haven’t stopped squealing ever since 🙂
Maria Barry 08/06/2012