Book Production Consultants was registered on a wing and a prayer – and a few spelling mistakes – 35 years ago. Like any IT company today, it was way ahead of its time and unique in a dreary England, struggling with a 3-day week, and a shortage of toilet rolls.
In those days of hyperinflation, when petrol was 35p a gallon and no one would have dreamed of paying for water in bottles, cash was in short supply. Banks were hopeless; they wouldn’t lend you a penny without grabbing your most precious assets. There were no schemes to encourage entrepreneurs, no angels ready to float on a new idea, no government interested in trying to lift you to your feet.
We did without them all. With £50 cash – not much, even in the Seventies - we produced our first brochures. What we did have were contacts – with every publishing house throughout the UK. And a very deep awareness that what we were offering was not only unique, but answered the prayers of many. Had the Internet been around then, we would have conquered the world.
In 1973, if you wanted a publication, you had to jump through several hoops. You needed a typographer, designer, a repro house, and a technical knowledge of printing and binding. Companies, PR agencies and advertising agencies were actually afraid to produce a book – it was all too complicated. So we provided all the facilities in house. In truth, we didn’t; but we knew a man with a van, a writer with a pen. Academics in charge of journals, companies wanting to celebrate anniversaries, regiments wanting their history, all of these and more could now be catered for.
It was publishing houses, though, that produced the first bites. We produced books for every publishing house in the UK, many in the USA. We were extra production facilities, we had expertise in obscure comers of the world, and we knew how to produce complicated documents in Russian, Chinese or Arabic. And we could deal with authors with “personality problems”, the difficult types who nobody wanted to work with in the publishing house.
By the 80’s we were producing own brand books for WH Smith, had joint ventures with the University of Cambridge, and became publishers to the London Tourist Board now Visit London). It did not seem peculiar that a small company in Cambridge should be producing all the magazines for the then LTB, or co-host annually the main publishing party at the Royal Automobile Club with 500 guests. Many other joint ventures followed – with the Chartered Insurance Institute, with London Transport, with the National Childbirth Trust
It was particularly gratifying to work for the Royal Collection Enterprises, providing all the production services for the guidebooks to palaces, the catalogues for exhibitions and posters and paraphernalia connected with royal occasions.
By the Millennium, so much of the IT had changed and so, too, had BPC. We still produced some books for publishing houses, but that was no longer our pivotal market. Margins had grown slimmer, and publishers were up against the furious retail opposition of the Internet. While we continued to produce esoteric publications for foreign publishing houses, especially in the Middle East, much of our work has concentrated on the companies and institutions that wish to produce celebratory publications. Additionally, we have been very pleased to work closely with the Wine and Spirit Education Trust, a Charity that is continuously expanding as the world becomes more knowledgeable about wine.
Along the way, there have been highlights and lowlights. The loss of Keith Michell’s illustrations for Captain Beaky, the arrest in East Berlin for smuggling currency, the clashing with Chinese fascists in Hong Kong and establishing the AdHoc Club at the Frankfurt Book Fair were but a few steps on the way.
BPC, a team of professionals, highly focused on the task in hand, bring expertise in every conceivable publishing skill that has unrivalled anywhere in the world, moving fluidly in any crisis – most of which crop up frequently with unbelievably tight schedules.
Colin Walsh - who was the Managing Director of Book Production Consultants and one of the joint founders - is now acting as a consultant and is looking forward to taking on tasks deemed impossible, by lesser companies than BPC.