How the publishing industry received an unexpected boost in 2015

2015 has been a huge year for the Virgin Group, so we're catching up with our Virgin companies to find out what their highlights have been. Here, Ed Faulkner, CEO of Virgin Books, shares some of his standout moments from the last 12 months...

Virgin Books’ biggest success in 2015 was Guy Martin’s phenomenal number one bestseller When You Dead, You Dead.  Professional truck mechanic, motorbike racer and TV presenter, Guy Martin is fast becoming a British national treasure. As Guy’s Latvian grandfather frequently reminded him, "When you dead, you dead," so, before it’s all over, Guy has decided to make the most of the time he’s got, whether that involves racing the Isle of Man TT, competing in solo 24-hour bicycle races, or building the largest Wall of Death the world has ever seen. Take a look at him in action trying to ride a motorbike on water...

The biggest surprise of the year in our business was the extraordinary sales growth of adult colouring books – a truly global phenomenon – which I believe illustrates two developing trends.  Firstly, mindfulness appears to have gone mainstream, as the calming act of colouring encourages people to simply relax and 'be in the moment'.  

Image from Virgin Books

And secondly, as our technological devices continue to demand more of our time, these books offer an escape from the digital world – they are tactile and meant to be handled – much like the revival of vinyl in the music industry.

This trend is also good for book sales!  Indeed, Virgin Books are proud to have published one of the bestselling colouring books of the past year: Lost Ocean, by the wonderfully talented Johanna Basford.

People moving their focus away from the digital world and, in turn, embracing physical objects will continue to affect the book industry in 2016. This means publishers will need to invest more resources in design and production so that books continue to represent quality and value for money, while also giving readers a great experience and something they feel proud to own.

Read more: How did 2015 change Virgin StartUp's world?

The great Irish playwright and novelist Samuel Beckett once wrote: "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." These words are particularly apt for the publishing industry, where we as publishers take calculated risks releasing thousands of books each year, only a few of which become international bestsellers.  Failure and experimentation is part of our DNA, for it is only by failing that you can learn and become better at what you do. 

In order to overcome frequent setbacks, it is important we become resilient, and there is a growing body of scientific evidence to support the importance of determination or ‘grit’ for our health, wellbeing and success.  In the long run, grit may matter more than talent.  

A colleague of mine is publishing a fantastic book called Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by American psychologist Angela Duckworth in May 2016 (you can see her brilliant TED talk on the same subject above). 

Read more: What were Virgin Mobile Australia's defining moments of 2015?

Her outstanding book should be on everyone’s reading list in 2016 as it shows all of us how to embrace and overcome the inevitable challenges the future brings.


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