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Tricia Gilbey’s interview with Clays, the book production specialist and supplier to many leading publishing houses

Did you know that for over 200 years Clays, a Bungay business, has been producing some of the most well known and best-selling books in the UK? I spoke to Greg Manterfield-Ivory to find out more.

Can you name a few of the titles you’ve printed over the years, and do any stand out, and why?

We’ve printed a huge range of titles over the years, some big names stand out such as Harry Potter, autobiographies of politicians such as Barack Obama and runaway hits like Fifty Shades of Grey. There’s always an element of pride when you see the titles you have worked on sitting on a bookshop shelf.

I see you’ve moved into printing independently published novels as well as those from the big five publishers. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

Years ago, when we first invested in digital presses, we decided to move into the independent market with an offering for self-publishers and smaller presses. This quickly proved to be an area of growth for the business as the number of independent presses increased. Digital print technology alongside our vast experience and expertise on how to manufacture a good book allows us to service these customers and provide them with the same tools and offerings previously only available for traditional publishers.*

How has digital printing changed your business?

Digital printing has allowed us to service the move towards printing smaller quantities more often at an economic price point, thereby allowing publishers to reduce their stock holding and therefore reduce risk. We’re also able to provide our customers with a more enhanced capability for backlist titles, with Automated Stock Replenishment workflows as well as Print on Demand services. Both are designed to give publishers only what they need on backlist titles, reducing the likelihood of titles going out of stock or storing slow moving titles. Digital printing and the quicker start-ups on presses allows us to produce a large amount of short run printings for a range of customers, from the very largest to self-publishing authors.

I’m curious to know if there are any parts of the book production process no-one ever sees or thinks of, but which are valuable to the finished product?

Almost everything! We work so closely with all of our customers to ensure the books are manufactured as they want them. The key is partnership. This is probably the key thing no-one sees from outside. Once we establish what the publisher wants we work tirelessly with our fantastic teams both pre, during and post manufacture to ensure that is achieved.

You have 700 employees. Can you tell us what sort of roles there are in your organisation?

We have a range of roles in our business, the majority of these are based in manufacturing environments within the factory ranging from text printing, colour printing and finishing and binding, but there are administrative roles in our offices within various departments such as Customer Service, Pre-press, Materials as well as Invoicing and Accounts. We also have a sales team based in London.

How many books do you print each year?

As one of the leading book production specialists in the U K Clays prints over 150 million books per year.

Amazing! Thank you for that glimpse inside Clays, Greg. Great to find out more about the businesses in our county which produce the books we love to read.

Tricia Gilbey

*For any indie author members of SBL, you may like to explore further:

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