When we mentioned last year that we were moving to a new office, with spectacular views over St Paul’s, we’re not sure what image this will have conjured up. One of those atmospheric, old-fashioned magazine offices perhaps, heaped with books and unread submissions, where coffee was made with a kettle rather than a machine and the switchboard was manned by a chirpy character who’d been there for decades, recognized callers’ voices and always knew where everyone was.
In some respects this isn’t so inaccurate. When we started Slightly Foxed – having had a brief taste of the corporate world – we knew we wanted a set-up where a real person answered the phone, where we didn’t spend all our time ‘in meetings’ and where ‘over-30’ wasn’t necessarily a term of abuse. ‘Small is beautiful’ was our watchword, and now, with the confidence of two happy, even flourishing, years behind us, we feel it may be time to reveal just how small.
In fact, the core staff of Slightly Foxed numbers three, all of us part-time. Behind us hovers a stalwart back-up team who come in on an ad hoc basis to help with marketing, sort out the computers and man the office in times of emergency. This is sometimes augmented by other helpful people on work experience who do the filing, stuff envelopes, go to the bank and the post office and generally make themselves useful – one of them, Patrick Evans, contributed an excellent piece to Issue 5 on The Leaping Hare. Husbands and children pitch in loyally when required and, of course, Pugwash the cocker spaniel also makes his own special contribution by forcing us out into the fresh air occasionally.
Backing us all up is a group of equally important and supportive people – our investors. There is nothing corporate about them either: they are all friends who were generous enough to chance some of their own money on setting up this new venture, and without them we would never have got off the ground. And we mustn’t forget to mention our kindly accountant, who travels up from Gloucestershire to give us encouragement and sage advice, and the other members of our Board who gather round the kitchen table a couple of times a year to do the same.
Small though we are, we do have many years’ experience in publishing and journalism between us and aim to do things professionally while – we hope – providing cheer and entertainment, which is our primary concern. We’ve been saddened to see how, in the world of corporate publishing, editorial has become synonymous with marketing (the only important question about a potential book being ‘Will Waterstones take it?’) and standards of editing have dropped.
But looking on the bright side, there are still some good editors left, as demonstrated by Charles Elliott’s piece on p.84. And if this stimulates your interest in the relationship between writer and editor, do read Diana Athill’s Stet, about her time working for the publisher André Deutsch, or Gardner Bottsford’s recently published A Life of Privilege, Mostly, by a contributor to the New Yorker in the days of the fabled editor William Shawn.
We certainly feel we have a life of privilege producing Slightly Foxed, since dealing with you all, subscribers and contributors alike, has turned out to be pure pleasure. We look forward to hearing from you this year – even during evenings and weekends, which is not unusual! – and would be delighted, in particular, to know your reactions to our Christmas stocking-filler Ghost Writer, which so many of you loyally bought.