Ian Chapman is a man on a mission. The CEO and publisher of Simon & Schuster UK and International, having successfully navigated a challenging past few years, is optimistic about life under new corporate ownership and has ambitious plans for growth.

Paramount sold Simon & Schuster to private equity firm KKR in 2023 after a three-year search for a buyer, and after a bid from Penguin Random House was blocked by the U.S. government. The ups and downs of the sale process created trying conditions at the company. “I kept saying there is nothing you can do about tomorrow but do something good today,” Chapman recalls.

S&S UK was set up 37 years ago as a conduit for distributing books published by Simon & Schuster in the U.S. The foundation of the company’s success since Chapman’s arrival in 2000 has been a steady concentration on the local publishing list. The U.K. list is constantly evolving and has, most recently, been focused on science fiction and fantasy, which is thriving. The prestigious U.S. literary imprint Scribner, which was relaunched in the U.K. in 2016, is another area where Chapman sees strong potential. “We publish not only John Irving and Graham Swift but new voices too,” he says. “The list is building beautifully—and we have great ambitions for it.”

Alongside S&S UK’s adult fiction list, which is home to Colleen Hoover and Hannah Grace, adult nonfiction is performing well in the U.K. too. Recent successes include autobiographies from Dave Grohl, Bob Mortimer, and Britney Spears, as well as books by Gordon Brown, David Grann, Walter Isaacson, Alice Roberts, and Simon Schama. Another genre S&S UK is looking to expand into is business books, and Chapman is also projecting further growth in the children’s division.

With the new ownership in place, what are his goals? “Winning more awards,” he says. The company’s success has helped it win publisher of the year in 2021 and 2022 at the British Book Awards, as well as children’s publisher of the year in 2022.

“For me, there are three keys,” Chapman says. “One is to have an overarching vision, strategy, and plan for what it is that you’re trying to do; second, to be an advocate for those around you, and for the projects they are looking to get support for; and third—and this is desperately important to me—spend at least 10% of your working life doing the things that got you into publishing in the first place. For me that’s acquiring, loving, and publishing books. If you do this—if you have a collective ambition that everyone buys into—everybody’s personal ambition will be realized. I strive for S&S to be a place where people want to come to work and enjoy it. We’re all going to make mistakes. Learn from them. Move on. But enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy it, what’s the point?”

Jo Henry is the managing director of BookBrunch.

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