A page is turned
Bidding farewell to a familiar member of the Valley Press team
After a small period of hibernation, we’re now bang in the middle of new book season at Valley Press — the last month has seen us release surreal, subversive fairytales from Angela Readman, witty yet elegiac poetry from Frances Sackett, and a mind-bending post-modern noir thriller from Daniel James. Today though, I’m writing with some fairly big news that doesn’t involve new books, which I hope won’t be too unwelcome or surprising.
For those newer subscribers who don’t instantly recognise the prose style, I’m Jamie McGarry, and I started Valley Press as an undergraduate student in 2008, going on to run the business as my full-time-plus job from January 2011 onwards. It’s been a wild ride, encompassing 200+ published titles, and growth that could easily be mistaken for steady and consistent (if you zoom out all the way when viewing the financial charts!)
This week, that chapter of my life comes to an end, as I leave my management role at VP and step away from an active part in the workings of the company. Peter Barnfather, our Senior Designer since 2020, is taking over as the “new sheriff in town” (though he’ll probably stick with the title “Publisher”), and joins veteran Editorial Director Jo Haywood and recently-promoted Publicity Director Seline Duzenli as part of the team taking Valley Press into a brilliant new future.
Why the change? Firstly, it turns out eleven years — almost my whole adult life — is a very long time to do the same thing, especially something as emotionally demanding and time-consuming as running a small publishing house. More pressingly, it had also become clear that Peter was more than ready to fulfil the role of Publisher, and the entrepreneurial side of me knew the time was coming when the best thing I could do for VP was to step back and let Peter and the team take it forwards.
To some extent, this was always the plan: my dream was to build a business that could carry on after I personally hung up my publisher’s hat, and when the opportunity came along to make that a reality, I had to grab it with both hands. I’ll still own the company, by the way — who knows, this might not even be my last blog post! — and will be checking in regularly, if only to score some free books (got my eye on the 800-pager coming in July). But my days toiling at the publishing coalface are over, as of this week.
What’s next? Well, in the short term, I will be open to interesting freelance/consultancy projects — if you have anything suitable, you can reach me on firstname.lastname@example.org. More generally, I will be looking to get into the education sector, helping the next generation of enterprising publishers get their own operations up and running. Exactly what form that will take is yet to be decided, but I’ve got plenty of ideas and a decade of hard-won knowledge to share — so watch this space.
When these big moments approach, strange coincidences often follow; for example, my local post office, where I posted my first and last books, closed down for good on the same day I left my role at VP. Thank you for all your help, postal workers, if you’re reading this! Of course, I also need to give huge thanks to every single Valley Press author, staffer, and reader, who have all done so much for me over the years. With the exception of this particular blog post, it was always — and will always be — about you, my job was just to make sure you ended up in the same place and on the same page.
Also, as I took a break halfway through writing this, I turned on the radio and caught the end of an interview with a retiring footballer, presumably not much older than myself. He expressed the view that, although he may not have won any of the big trophies, the simple fact that he got to do what he loved as a job for over a decade meant he would forever consider his career a huge success. His only regret was that his young son didn’t get to see him at his peak, in his prime… but hey, at least he had plenty of great stories to tell him one day.
Oh, and of course, he knew that the best years of his life were still to come. What more is there to say?
Thanks for reading,