Update on Influx Printing - a note about the way we work

An eventful week at Influx. We'd like to be open about how things work here, so Kit has written a short post about printing troubles.

On Monday our printers MPG Biddles, we were told, went into administration. This is a huge shame for the workers at Biddles. We have had a wonderful relationship with them and everyone on production level has been incredibly caring and friendly. Biddles is part of the MPG group which, according to various sources (see below) expanded too quickly and inefficiently after acquiring Cambridge University Press. Over 200 people appear to have lost their jobs (this is after the company made £800,000 profit last year).

While I don't profess to know the ins and outs of MPG's predicament it does seem to me that acquiring too quickly and underestimating costs are to blame. The staff were told not to turn up from Monday just gone as they couldn't be paid. However, Tony Shard (CEO) has just told Printweek that, "The directors would like to reiterate that the company is not in administration although a notice of intention to appoint administrators remains in place. This notice affords the business time to enable the management to evaluate all options available."

Now, what has happened to us, and other publishers I have spoken to who also use Biddles MPG is that we have orders waiting to be delivered and absolutely no communication regarding whether the contracts will be honoured. Yesterday we couldn't get through on the phones or via email all day.

We sent through for a re-print of Sam Berkson's Life in Transit - which, happily is still selling very well for a poetry collection. We have paid for the half print run (second half paid on delivery), but as yet have no stock to show for it. Thus we are pretty frustrated and are currently looking for a new printers to take this run on - which is going to cost us money we previously hadn't budgeted for. We may never see the MPG run of Life in Transit and have to chalk it up as a heavy loss to our tiny funds.

These things happen. That's the best I could tell myself yesterday when we heard the news. However, I think we've learned a valuable lesson. Searching through the web for news about MPG, I found a number of articles discussing problems at the company over the last few months. Had I been more in tune, or perhaps even taken our industry involvement (however small it is) more seriously, I might have flagged this up before we sent off for the re-print. It's made me realise that even if you're doing it as small as we are, publishing books with great care but long time lines, you have to keep abreast of what is happening in the world you have entered.

At Influx we come from a DIY background and still feel like we are there, really. However, we are trying to produce quality books that will look good in any bookshop, so we have pushed for some serious printing. It's with that in mind that we went with MPG, and our next printers will hopefully produce as good quality books too. In the future though, with more books in a catalogue and more orders being made, I will definitely be reading the insider business magazines. Even if it means I will cry salty tears of boredom all over the pages.

- Kit Caless