‘It’s the books that matter—that’s why we’re all here.’
Tim Davies talks about taking over as Managing Director of Westchester Publishing Services’ UK and Irish operations.
Tim Davies is no stranger to the Irish publishing market. During his time as Head of Sales for Faber, Davies would regularly tour the floors of the Irish bookshops with Gill Hess. ‘I remember walking through Hodges Figgis,’ recalls Davies, ‘and being blown away by the range of Faber titles on display. I wasn’t sure if they had just appeared in advance for my benefit!’ The reality, however, was that the range and depth of the Irish readership was impressive then and continuing to grow. Faber and Anna Burns’ success with last year’s Booker Prize-winning Milkman was something Davies watched with pride.
Following his time at Faber, Davies moved to the role of Sales Director at Oxford University Press, responsible for the UK and Irish markets. His time there gave him an insight into changing academic trends and requirements, particularly into what was important from a production perspective to individual academics and institutions.
This time across Faber and OUP appears to have prepared him particularly well for his new role as Managing Director of Westchester Publishing Services’ UK and Irish operations, following the decision of the Connecticut-based company to expand to these shores in 2018; his background, that blend of trade and academic, essentially mirrors the history of Westchester itself.
Originally founded in 1969 by typewriter-salesman Joe Foley, (Westchester celebrates its 50th anniversary this year), the company’s original brief was to manage the overflow typesetting for Manhattan trade publishers. In 1983, Westchester was acquired by Pistone-Rainsford Type, who were performing the same services for the academic market. The companies merged under the name of Westchester Publishing Services and grew significantly in the decades that followed. Globally, their publisher clients are made up of university presses, educational, academic, trade, and children’s houses. The publisher list includes some household names, notably Bloomsbury, Macmillan, Harvard University Press, UCL Press, Edinburgh University Press and now, following Westchester’s recent entrance to the Irish market, Gill Books, Gill Education and Mercier Press.
The ongoing incorporation of the feedback from this wide range of publishers has been a focus of Westchester’s development, Davies notes. The importance of real-time communication was a feature of this feedback, most recently reflected by investment in technology that saw the development in partnership with Dropbox, of a new Client Portal project management platform, through which publishers can keep continual track of the progress of all their projects. The workflows of each project are specifically designed according to each publisher’s needs.
One of the most helpful strands to Davies’ publishing career in this regard was his time as a publisher himself, as CEO of a publishing group with an Irish division, the History Press Group. ‘When I sit down with publishers, we can speak about XML mark-up and the production processes. That’s no problem, that’s what we do. But I also want to hear about their upcoming books, their forward programme, what they’re excited about. It’s the books that matter, that’s why we’re all here.’
This understanding of the needs of publishers, their timelines, budgets and production standards is something Davies feels is embedded in the thinking of Westchester’s operations.
‘What first attracted me to Westchester was their ethos, the way they treat their staff, the care they have for their publisher clients.’
This focus on ethos is a thread that arises frequently in discussions of Westchester, and something Davies is clearly proud of. In 2014, the US parent company became 100% employee owned, a feature that he feels is reflected in all aspects of the way they operate. This extends, Davies notes, to the Indian arm of the company (Westchester acquired Antares Private Limited in 2008, a Chennai-based typesetting company), and the more than 450 employees that are based there. ‘The same ethics that apply to the US and UK operations have been mapped across our Indian operations, with the ongoing provision of training, promotion paths and, in particular, a focus on providing opportunities for women.’
It is this holistic understanding of the requirements of publishers, together with maintaining an ethos and philosophy of a company which mirrors that of the industry he represents, that Davies feels allows Westchester to continue to enjoy the trust of publishers. ‘We have to continually build relationships and trust, and to prove ourselves,’ agrees Davies, ‘and that’s something we agree with. That’s what we are happy to do.’
For more information on Westchester, see westchesterpublishingservices.co.uk, or Tim Davies can be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
First published in Books Ireland Sept/Oct 2019 issue.