Involving Finance in Editorial Decisions: Bloomsbury Publishing CFO (Video)

"There will be conflict," says the finance chief of the company that published the Harry Potter books, but finance needs input on author advances.

Bloomsbury Publishing launched in 1986, with the goal of bringing high quality books to the mass market. It grew at a respectable pace, publishing several successful novels (including The English Patient in 1992) and raising £5.5 million in its 1995 IPO.

Two years later, its world changed. Bloomsbury published Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first installment in the renowned fantasy series about a child wizard, penned by J.K. Rowling. That series has bankrolled Bloomsbury’s growth for the last 20 years. Now a £100 million ($121.7 million) company, the publisher can take more risks, like publishing the surprise success The Kite Runner in 2003. It has also invested heavily in textbook publishing, completed nearly two dozen acquisitions and strategic partnerships, and has diversified (Bloomsbury Academic) and expanded geographically (Bloomsbury USA).

But Bloomsbury CFO Bill Sarr says the publishing company is missing a huge opportunity. Finance and editorial don’t partner the way they should, says Sarr, a former CFO at New Vitality and Reader’s Digest. The finance department is kept out of the most important decision the company makes: the size of the advance awarded to each author.

Sarr  sat down with CFO at our recent CPM conference in New York to talk about why it’s so crucial that the finance team be involved in editorial decisions (and how technology could help that partnership run more smoothly).

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