UK’s Blake Freeman Johnson Media: ‘An Original Cyber Publishing Concept’

In News by Porter Anderson

Put together by three former players from UK’s Bonnier Publishing, Blake Freeman Johnson Media is to focus mostly on nonfiction.

With Richard Johnson looking very much the front man, his new independent publishing program is a joint venture with Derek Freeman, left, and John Blake, right. Image: BFJ

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘No Ordinary Startup’

Touting its purpose as “an original cyber publishing concept,”UK’s Blake Freeman Johnson Media (BFJ) brings together John Blake, Derek Freeman, and Richard Johnson, three Bonnier veterans whose media messaging indicates that they’ve collectively published “in the region of 250 million books” during their careers to date.

With a combined four decades of publishing experience, press materials report, the trio has run more than 50 companies on three continents—and still have the energy to start another.

“The company plans to announce their publishing list in stages,” according to a press statement provided to Publishing Perspectives, “and whereas the group they used to work for, Bonnier, intends to turn more literary in the UK, Blake Freeman Johnson’s list will have mainly popular adult nonfiction,” but won’t be limited to it.

In a prepared statement, Johnson says: “The new company will be entirely web-based and our editorial, production, and sales teams will all work remotely. This will drive costs down and create a framework that the authors will benefit from through much higher royalties and faster publication dates.

“This is no ordinary startup.  I have proved I can build a major publishing company and I am doing it again–but in a different and original way to suit the times.”

UK government Companies House listings show the firm seated in Chichester.

Blake is quoted, saying, “This is a truly exciting venture which will give us the freedom to publish who and when we choose.  I have always been celebrity- and popular-culture- focused and this is just what I want to be doing–a whole new buzz will come as a result of this new venture.”

And for his part, Freeman is quoted, saying, “If we like it, it will be published by us. We won’t mess about, there will be no corporate bureaucracy to tackle in this company.”

Three Bonnier Buddies, At It Again

The project is an interesting one for its joint effort by three former colleagues with various connections to Sweden’s Bonnier AB.

John Blake, for example, sold his John Blake Publishing to Bonnier in 2006, and the deal was put together by Richard Johnson, who at the time was group CEO of the UK’s English-language Bonnier Publishing.

Johnson held his Bonnier leadership role from 2009 to February of this year, when he was pushed out of the position. He’d boasted in his 2017 FutureBook Conference keynote of taking Bonnier Publishing from 200 employees to 500 this year when he was shown the door.

As Philip Jones, editor at The Bookseller, would write in September about Johnson’s memoir on the experience Show Me Your Medals, “Six months on from his ousting, Johnson feels slighted, undervalued and betrayed. He has written the book to counter all this. A fair account? The dedication, to an unnamed former friend and presumably past colleague, gives the game away. It ends: ‘Fuck you for all eternity.'”

And Derek Freeman became executive chairman of the Bonnier Publishing board, after starting in 2005 as a board advisor to the company. Having worked closely with Johnson on his vision for Bonnier, Freeman left the company in June.

From left: John Blake, Richard Johnson, and Derek Freeman. Image: BFJ

More from Publishing Perspectives on startups is here, and on UK publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.