By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Mary Cannam: ‘Creative and Committed People’Today (March 31), we’ve seen another move in women’s leadership of a pivotal publishing house in the United Kingdom.
The 92-year-old Faber & Faber, one of the most honored of the UK market’s independents, has announced that Mary Cannam will become managing director of the company on Thursday (April 1) as longtime CEO and chair Stephen Page moves into the role of executive chair.
This is described in the company’s media messaging as meaning that the executive team will report to Cannam, and that she will lead the day-to-day running of the company’s business in concert with Page.
Publishing Perspectives readers will know from our reporting on the Publishers Association’s diversity and inclusivity work that more than half the British market’s executive leadership and senior management roles are held by women, at 52 percent in the executive category and 55 percent in the senior managerial roles.
Cannam has held the position of CEO at Faber for two years, the role having been created for her in April of 2019. She’s formerly a bookseller and manager with Waterstones and has experience at HarperCollins UK.
In a statement today, Cannam says, “I’m thrilled and honored to be given this opportunity. Faber is a very special company, with its remarkable history and a superb list of writers. As we take Faber into the future, I want us to continue to build on the strengths that we have, to be a culturally significant, outward-looking, inclusive, and innovative company, publishing the very best writers, and serving our authors and readers as fully as we can.
“The team at Faber is extraordinary: a truly exceptional and highly committed set of individuals, at all levels and in every department. My colleagues on the executive team are creative and committed people I love working with, and we could not be better placed to continue the success of recent years.
“Stephen and I have worked very closely together during the past few years and I’m very much looking forward to continuing that close working relationship.”
A comment also comes from Geoffrey Faber Holdings and the TS Eliot Foundation: “We have watched Mary’s career since she first came to Faber with increasing admiration. For the past few years Stephen and Mary have been guiding the firm with the growing success that means it is now, as much as it has ever been, a beacon for independent publishers.
“We’re delighted that Stephen is now appointing Mary as managing director. We know she’ll be hugely successful and that Faber has the right team to lead it toward its 100th birthday.”
Stephen Page: ‘An Ambitious Strategy’
Page in his 20 years at the helm of Faber has become its face and seems to see his new role as a very active one.
“‘I’m delighted by this promotion for Mary,” he says in a prepared statement today. “We’ve worked closely for many years, and her range of strategic and leadership skills, her wise judgement and ethical outlook, along with a vocation for bringing great writing to readers, make her a natural for the role. Mary has played a particularly important part in Faber’s achievements in recent years, and I’m excited at the prospect of her leadership of the company, and at how, working together, we can plan and deliver an ambitious strategy.
“This important and necessary change comes at an exciting time for the company, following a sustained period of success across our business, and as we launch a bold new plan for the next decade.
“Faber is a larger, more impactful company than it has been at any time in its 90-year history, and our new roles are designed to ensure that we continue to develop the company brilliantly and successfully in a very dynamic environment for publishing.”
Speaking to Publishing Perspectives in 2019 before giving an address at London Book Fair, Page—at that time seeing the lengthening shadow of Brexit ahead—was giving a lot of thought to the role of publishing in the evolving markets it serves.
“We’re now moving into [an era] that’s far more serious in terms of the collision of ideas and the need for stories, the need for writers to be published freely, courageously.
“Cut us and you’ll find it—deep down in the publishing communities of the United Kingdom, the United States, the European countries—there’s the real belief that we have a responsibility to our society, to the cultures we’re part of.”
He went on, “What’s so interesting about that, as well is that a sense of being relevant in the culture is not just about publishing new writers, it’s about creating an environment in which your existing cohort of writers feels it’s in a place from which their new work will be presented to the world urgently, and with a sense that they’re in the company of new writers—and the new writers feel they’re in the company of writers they admire, writers who have defined them as artists.”
His thoughts in this area seem to have helped lead Page to what he today tells Heloise Wood at The Bookseller, is a relatively newfound interest in helping to steer book publishing’s place in the quickly expanding and complex realm of the creative industries at the broadest scale.
“I chair Creative Access and also sit on the Creative Industries Council,” he tells Wood. “So we’re trying to represent our industry within the creative industry and play some role in transforming the creative industry through Creative Access.
“This is something I’ve done more of recently and I enjoy these roles and think they’re really important, so perhaps the first thing on my mind is I’ll win some time and headspace for these areas. But also I’ll have some space to think about how publishing is developing and help us put together the best list—we have a brilliant editorial team.”
More from Publishing Perspectives on the United Kingdom’s market is here, and more on Stephen Page and Faber & Faber is here.
More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on publishing is here.