Martin Woodhead

I have been involved in the book publishing industry for 55 years, starting with Macmillan in 1966. Then I worked for a new publisher, Gower Press, from 1969 – 1972, and then started the first of two publishing businesses. The first, Woodhead-Faulkner (Publishers) Limited, was sold in 1987 to Simon & Schuster for whom I worked until 1989 when I started my second business, Woodhead Publishing Ltd, which was sold to Elsevier in 2013. Since then I have been more or less retired. In 2015 I helped two ex-colleagues to start Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing Limited, of which I am a shareholder and non-executive Chairman.

My businesses have been based in Cambridge UK, and have been very dependent on exports which accounted for approximately 80% of sales. This required many overseas trips to be made, mainly to the US, India, China, Singapore and Japan. My focus was always on sales, having started as a trainee sales representative at Macmillan.

I had no particular desire to enter the publishing industry in 1966, having taken a year out from university, but my mother spotted Macmillan’s advertisement in the Daily Telegraph. I liked the job so much I decided not to resume my university education. I later found I got the job largely because of my ability to sell ice creams on Brighton Beach. I always had a multitude of jobs in my youth and as a result was financially independent from an early age.

The Macmillan job was not dissimilar to being an apprentice – a thorough grounding in publishing, albeit mainly from a sales point of view, and gradual progression through to being a sales representative covering East Anglia. I enjoyed meeting booksellers, teachers, lecturers and professors very much and discussing their needs. At Gower Press I was sales manager responsible for global sales and it was there that I learnt more about the economics of publishing.

The most satisfying part of publishing, for me, is to see an idea move from start to finish and to see it become profitable, either as a printed book or, these days as an e-book or database. And working with a team to achieve this is both enjoyable and crucial. 

The Stationers’ Company has been an important part of my career since 1981 when a printer first asked me to apply. I was soon on a committee and attending events but found that my businesses took priority and so it wasn’t until 2010 that I got more involved, resulting in the setting up of a ski team and subsequently an invitation to join the Court in 2013. For seven years I enjoyed being involved particularly in the Library and Archives Committee, the move of the Company’s priceless archives to a secure environment, the digitisation of the archives and the employment of a new archivist.

If you’re interested in a career in the communications, media, publishing or printing sectors, go for it! It has been a most satisfying career for me.