Bloodaxe Books Business Model Case Study

Bloodaxe Books Business Model Case Study

By Mark Robinson


Find out how Bloodaxe Books' commitment to getting the best poetry to more people drives its business model.

Introducing Bloodaxe Books

Bloodaxe Books was founded in Newcastle by Neil Astley in 1978. In 1982 he and Simon Thirsk became founder directors of Bloodaxe Books Ltd, now a non-profit limited company.

In 1997 one of the founder directors relocated. This led to the creation of sister companies to maximise funding potential and allow each founder to concentrate on particular functions.

The operation was split three ways:

  1. Distribution moved to a succession of companies
  2. Sales and finance was managed by sister comany Pandon Press at Bala in North Wales
  3. Editorial, publicity and rights moved to a new base in Northumberland

The organisation employs two full-time and five part-time staff in its two offices.

Bloodaxe Books receives funding of £92,000 per annum from Arts Council England as a National Portfolio Organisation. This grant support makes it possible for Bloodaxe to:

  • publish around thirty new titles a year
  • maintain an extensive backlist
  • sell more poetry books than any other subsidised publisher in Britain

Writers published by Bloodaxe Books include Nobel Prize Winner Tomas Transtromer, Benjamin Zephaniah, John Agard, C.K. Williams, Moniza Alvi and hundreds of others. Their titles have won many prizes.

The Business Model

Co-director Simon Thirsk describes Bloodaxe Books as ‘a vital cog in the machine of contemporary poetry’; that is the heart of its Value Proposition.

Bloodaxe is active in finding, developing and promoting writers, reaching audiences and connecting the two. It then connects both writers and audiences through festivals, creative writing courses and other ‘cogs’ in the complicated system that makes up this relatively small - but powerful - artform.

The central element of the Value Proposition is ‘publishing an exceptional range of outstanding international poetry in well-designed books’.

Each element of that description is important to how Bloodaxe has worked. It has been determined to reach ‘the general reader’, as opposed to simply poetry specialists and afficionados. It is not just the selection of poets and the shaping of anthologies that are a key part of the Bloodaxe list but also the way the books look and feel. Although this was more unusual when Bloodaxe was founded, some major poetry publishers still tend not to have covers featuring artwork. Bloodaxe has been unashamed in its search to be not populist but popular. The design is important and not just the covers. The books are designed and printed to last and to feel new ten and more years later.

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Bloodaxe Books Business Model Case Study (PDF)

Resource type: Case studies | Published: 2016