4th June, 2020
3 min read
Wine and books. The perfect combination?
Operations Director, Jane Rowland looks back at last year's management trip to Barcelona, discussing what we can learn about passion and creativity when we take inspiration from beyond the publishing world!
Recently, while exploring vineyards of Catalonia, I was blown away by the passion, enthusiasm and utter belief in the product and methods of the winemakers – but also by their pride in the history of their vineyards and their wine story. And storytelling is the key phrase here, because each of the vineyards we visited had a strong story: from secret tunnels created in the Spanish Civil War, to reclaimed and revitalised vineyards after phylloxera devastated the local wine industry in the early 19thC, to stories of love (the estate owner falling in love with a harvester – and together founding a wine empire). These stories now form a strong part of the vineyards’ heritage and are reflected in the ethos of what the vineyard does – from how it makes wine, to the branding, labelling and marketing.
Last year, Troubador took their entire management team on a long weekend to the vineyards of Barcelona. Why? Because we’ve learned that looking outside our industry brings new thinking and passion into what we do as a publisher. The small, local vineyards were passionate, but also inventive – often organic or creating wines using biodynamic principles – but trying out blends and different varieties. They also have to be inventive when it comes to getting their wines to market – with competition from bigger, louder competitors (with bigger budgets and infrastructure). All of which the indie publisher and author will clearly identify with! But we also visited one of the largest Cava producers, whose scale dwarfed the smaller estates we’d been visiting. But the welcome received, the feeling of experience and sense of experiencing a product at the big producers, also decreased with size.
So for me, the lesson was clear. The smaller vineyards exemplify what an indie publisher can do. Create products with belief and passion – taking advantage of the benefit of being indie and therefore less bound by big company rules or assumptions; experiment and always keep that core story at the heart of what they do. But also, it’s important to retain that spirit as a company grows. The key take-aways that we had were:
- Passion – in the vineyards this infused the product, from the creation of the wine to the branding and marketing. Something that we can easily identify as a value that exists in publishing too – but can we, as publishers and authors, show that passion in our marketing, in our social media, in our digital presence?
- History – being proud of the origins and stories behind the brand. For us, this is not just about the company, but also the fantastic staff that work in that company.
- Hospitality – offering your customers an experience, which the smaller vineyards did so well and whose staff made our visits special – with lunches and tastings plus other vineyard-related experiences that made us feel unique. As a publisher, we already have a customer service front and it’s at the forefront of what we do, but making our customers feel special and unique is also important.
- Diversification – the most vibrant vineyards we visited did more than just make and bottle wine, with walks, tours, gastronomic experiences, bird watching, cooking demos, homestays... In publishing and as authors we have our core product – the book - but what other opportunities are open up to us? Bookshops are familar with this conundrum – the most profitable don’t just sell books, they sell coffees, cakes and the experience of meeting authors; indie publishers and authors can learn from this too.
Networking in your own industry is fabulous, but sometimes you need to look outside of what you do to learn and grow. The senior team at Troubador arrived back buzzing with ideas and vision (helped of course by the odd bottle of wine that came home with us in the suitcase!)