Boydell & Brewer is a small company where the different departments work closely together, something which is essential for the company’s success. Today, we introduce you to our very own International Sales & Marketing Director Michael Richards.
What led you to your current role at Boydell & Brewer?
My previous few jobs had been with large publishing corporations and I was tired of the pretence, the politics and the intriguing that goes on in such places. I was in line for another one when the Boydell position came up. I imagined it might be fun to work for a company that thought it could make a profit out of a book of letters between composer Gerald Finzi and one of his friends. I was called for an interview – at that time the company was based on the Bawdsey peninsula – and it seemed one had to drive for miles through farmland to get there. When I finally arrived, and was told that the offices were in a converted cowshed, I knew I had to have the job. Speaking to Richard Barber, Caroline Palmer and Sean Andersson convinced me that not only were the books interesting but the people in the company were delightful. I thought it would be a nice place to work for a couple of years before re-joining the fray, but I appear to have stayed for 18!
What’s the absolute best part of your job?
It’s very rewarding in so many ways to work for a smaller company where everything you do counts and working closely with other departments is essential for Boydell’s success. I do get a great thrill out of attending conferences, however, and hearing how important Boydell and its publications are to the academic communities we serve. Finally attending the medieval conference in Kalamazoo a couple of years ago was terrific, although I do wish our stand wasn’t next to the one selling reproductions of medieval hunting horns…
Briefly outline a normal working day for you.
There’s no such thing, really. I’m sure spreadsheets would be in the mix, a pile of books certainly, a meeting or two perhaps, but there’s no real routine especially since I took over sales and marketing globally and spend several weeks of the year in our delightful Rochester NY office. The only constants are my two cups of coffee and a German chocolate biscuit at around 10.00 am each day.
What’s the view from your desk?
When we’re in the office it’s usually my colleague, Sean Andersson, contre-jour, but during lockdown it’s a large mulberry tree and my studiedly unkempt garden from the window of the spare room in my house.
What are you currently reading?
Well I’d love to say it was Wolfram von Eschenbach in the original but in fact I’m enjoying local author, Craig Brown’s book on the Beatles (his ‘biography’ of Princess Margaret was a joy); I also have Christopher Neve’s wonderful book on 20th century British painting, Unquiet Landscape, on the go; as well as a rather demanding but very rewarding book called My Bright Abyss by American poet Christian Wiman, which concerns his search for religious faith after contracting a rare cancer. It’s much more engaging than that makes it sound.
What’s your beverage of choice?
If I didn’t have a publisher’s salary it would be a good bottle of Barolo, but I do enjoy various French reds from Avery’s (when they have special offers) or a delicious falanghina which I recently bought from Corney & Barrow (yes, on special offer).
If you could choose a book for us to publish on ANY subject, what would it be?
I’d love it if we could publish something on Arvo Pärt, whose music I find life-enhancing and glorious. I was fortunate enough to attend a concert of his music in Paris where he was guest of honour. Afterwards there was an opportunity to meet him and I said something to him in English; he answered in German which his assistant translated; so I asked him something in German and he looked horrified. I can’t think my knowledge of the language has deteriorated that much.
I’d also like us to publish something on the marginal drawings in medieval manuscripts. There are one or two books out there but ours, published in our magnificent Studies in Medieval Art and Architecture series perhaps, would be much better.
What’s your favourite historical novel, film or play?
Is it dreadful to work for a history publisher and not like historical fiction or films? Like my colleague, Katie Kumler, I do enjoy Lion in Winter, and would A Knight’s Tale count? As my favourite city is New York I’d rather watch or read something set there within the last fifty years, to be honest. Give me an old episode of Kojak over a Sunday evening TV series of Trollope, with everyone talking cod ‘Victorian’. Sorry about that.