Ask a Publisher: Toby Trotman from Vision Sports Publishing

Welcome to our Ask a Publisher! After the success of our Ask a Bookseller series, we’ve been reaching out to a bunch of our publishers with some questions about what they do. Here is Toby Trotman of Vision Sports Publishing, publisher of a variety of books on football, rugby, cricket, tennis, and much more.

Tell us about your publishing house in a few sentences.
VSP specialises in producing sports books. We have evolved into an award-winning publisher of illustrated titles and work with some of the biggest names in our field; The FA, Wimbledon, Tottenham Hotspur, The British & Irish Lions etc.

What is your role and how long have you worked there?
I’m the Commercial Director and have worked at VSP since we started in 2004.

What does a typical day at work look like for you?
It’s a very varied role (as most in all companies are!) and comprises of everything from answering emails from customers or authors to producing costings for future project ideas, looking at sales on Turnaround’s portal and brainstorming books for two years ahead. Certainly liaising with clients has become a big part of the role.

What are you reading right now?
I’m a big fan of Audible and am currently listening to The Handmaid’s Tale.

What is the one book you wish you had published?
I generally give all my attention to books that we have published and try and not worry about what we have turned down. There are a few we refused to publish that have won awards but I still don’t think they commercially made sense to us. I do get frustrated when an author or agent looks only at the size of the potential advance and doesn’t necessarily think about the long term rewards available through selling lots and lots of books.

What do you look for in a book? What makes a book amazing?
We have to look at commercial viability first and foremost – but that nearly always depends on the book being good! We look for books that resonate with fans… copy that either takes them back to some great memories or into a dressing room and has them sitting among their heroes. Detail in books can be everything.

What is your proudest publishing moment?
Possibly winning for the first tine at the British Sports Book Awards. It was for 61 – The Spurs Double. A great book, successful in every aspect. I also remember our first book signing very well… Iwan Roberts was signing copies of All I Want for Christmas at Jarrolds in Norwich. Two hours before the signing commenced the queue wrapped around the outside of the whole store and police were called to manage the crowd! A great day.

What are your favourite publishers and what do you love about them?
I’m not sure that people generally ‘love’ publishers. I think they love their title or authors… and what is a publishing house without books and writers?

What would you like to see more of in publishing, and what have you seen enough of?
In the sports market I have seen enough of lazy books where a famous player fronts a ghostwritten product about ‘his/her favourite legends’. I’d like to see more space given to sports books in the high street retailers. The space allotted has just shrunk and shrunk since we entered the industry.

And finally…. name three of your absolute favourite authors.
In sport… Julie Welch who wrote a lovely, evocative book, The Biography of Tottenham Hotspur, and was the first woman sports writer on Fleet Street
In fiction… Somerset Maugham for Of Human Bondage (although George Orwell would be up there). In non-fiction, Antony Beevor for managing to convey the horror and sheer scale of conflict.

Thank you, Toby!

Take a look at Vision Sports’ website for their full catalogue, and check out @SportsVSP on Twitter to keep on top of some of the best in sports publishing.

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