Fail Harder - with notes - Pecha Kucha to SYP
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in...5

Like this? Share it with your network


Fail Harder - with notes - Pecha Kucha to SYP



Pecha Kucha (with notes) on the importance of failure. Given by Peter Collingridge to Society of Young Publishers, London Book Fair, 2009 ...

Pecha Kucha (with notes) on the importance of failure. Given by Peter Collingridge to Society of Young Publishers, London Book Fair, 2009



Total Views
Views on SlideShare
Embed Views



4 Embeds 66 47 9 9 1


Upload Details

Uploaded via as Adobe PDF

Usage Rights

© All Rights Reserved

Report content

Flagged as inappropriate Flag as inappropriate
Flag as inappropriate

Select your reason for flagging this presentation as inappropriate.

  • Full Name Full Name Comment goes here.
    Are you sure you want to
    Your message goes here
Post Comment
Edit your comment

Fail Harder - with notes - Pecha Kucha to SYP Document Transcript

  • 1. “Fail Harder.” Peter Collingridge 1 / - Talk given to Society of Young Publishers - London Book Fair - Pecha Kuch (21 seconds per slide!) - 21 April 2009
  • 2. “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure 2 without losing your enthusiasm.” Sir Winston Churchill - Asked to do this 12 months ago - “Fail” seemed apt then - Since then - lots of big failures - capitalism, economy. - Failure seems a bit grand for my minor personal disappointments - Some things you want just don’t work out - Inspire you to fail - Winston quote - Twitter?
  • 3. 3 Who Am I? Why am I here? - Not existential dilemma - Don’t consider myself publisher - On fringes of publishing for 12 years: Canongate, Film, Apt, Enhanced Editions - Evangelising about technology, creativity, beauty and the web - PASSIONATE that Books and web made for each other - Uphill struggle for last 11 years - Suddenly all going on
  • 4. 4 How Did I Get Here? By failing to get what I wanted. - If you had asked me when I graduated where I would be 12 years later, not here - Here is glamourous Acton, where I live - But actually I’m very happy. Working on incredible projects with great people, making beautiful stuff - But only because I failed to get what I wanted - Harry Beck’s tube map: struck me on this slide that similar: Harry was evangelical about technology improving something (Tube map) so did it on his own, and believed it would ultimately work out. It did. - So - here’s some failures
  • 5. 5 1993: Wanted Oxford. Fail. Got Edinburgh. - School. Wanted to do graphics. Made me do as 4th A level so I could go to Oxford. - Worked hard and focused on going to oxford to read english and French. Fail - Went to Edinburgh, found out had to do 9am lectures on linguistics in this building. Fail. - Tried to switch to School of Art - wouldn’t have me. Fail. - French department rubbish. Dropped it. Fail. - BUT! English Literature was perfect for me. - Courses on hiphop, film, cultural theory, economics, history, psychology. - Made me decide I wanted to be “paid to be pete”
  • 6. 6 1995: Wanted Paris. Fail. Got Vienna. - Heart set on Paris as part of lit (hey, I was a 18 year old arts student!) - Applied ERASMUS. Fail. - Got Vienna. - Only requirement of literature was to speak English. Yay! - Spent all time listening to hiphop and writing my thesis on Tricky (see picture) - And getting into books, literature, finally. - Also got into the internet. - But - still had 8 am jacobean poetry seminars on a MONDAY!
  • 7. 7 1996: Wanted to be a hiphop DJ. Fail. - Had been in bands at Uni. - Taught me about being a “producer”. - All about the getting the crowds (and the girls) in. - No musical talent. - Worse than drummer: Scratch DJ - Loved it. Minor success, but incompatible with career. - Abandoned in 1998 other than Book Fair party slots. Which don’t count!
  • 8. 8 1997: Wanted to be an ad exec. Fail. - Ah. Advertising. - Perfect communion of my love for language & visual communication - Glamour, creativity, wealth, recognition - Fuckers wouldn’t have me - Application forms dripping with 2:1 post-Marxist / Jameson theory. - No dice.
  • 9. 9 1997: Wanted a (Guardian Media) job. Fail. Lots. Fails: JWT. Kiss FM. Grey London. The Guardian. Pentagram. Penguin. HarperCollins. Wieden + Kennedy. Mook. Poke. - When graduated had zero interest in publishing. - Lots of job applications that I convinced myself i REALLY wanted - Ended up setting up a cashmere outlet for friend’s dad - Thank fuck not at JWT, KissFM, Grey.... other ones I’m still bitter about! - Then met girl through band who lived on a canal boat - She was editor at Canongate....
  • 10. 10 1997: Joined Canongate Books (Parent) Fail. - Got job Canongate: knew Jamie from Chocolate City (funk club) - Pre-life of pi days - “Lucky” to get £10 day. Parents supported me. - First task was counting the books in every store in Ediburgh. Yup. - Most visible part of Canongate (to my parents) was Rebel Inc: Irvine Welsh. Gave appearance of publishing the odd pamphlet from smacky stairwells. - Really good for me: entrepreneurial, cult, fun, creative. Taught me to be maverick in approach.
  • 11. 11 The Pocket Canons Second Coming. - Fantastic project: republish bible in individual books with celebrity introductions (Nick Cave, Bono, Will Self) - Most staggeringly beautiful book design I’ve ever seen - Brilliant. Audacious. - Taught me that people buy good ideas. - But it’s all in the execution. - Also, my parents got it. It was in the paper! And they were proud! - “Second coming of the bible”. Jamie compared to jesus etc (hair!). Blasphemy. - Talking of second comings....
  • 12. 12 “Amanuensis.” Fail. - This is _really_ embarrassing failure. Ego. - I thought I was doing well at canongate, really enjoying working with Jamie - Flourishing under his leadership - Drinks with one of the board, late at night (common occurrence) - He said “We thought you were Jamie’s amanuensis when you joined” - Yay! - I thought this was some Christian word and that I was destined to be the second coming of Byng. - Until I looked it up in a dictionary. - It means gimp. - FAIL.
  • 13. 13 Wanted to be an internet entrepreneur. First business plan. - Realisation at Canongate that I was not going to be a designer or art director, or editor or publisher - Self-glorified PA - Had been getting increasingly into the web - Friends filmmakers - Decided to have creative business ideas instead - business plan: pop promos for books - taught by ex-MBA how to write business plan - learned a huge amount and am indebted to him (David Graham) - Submitted business plan to Scottish Arts Council for £25,000 funding
  • 14. 14 Got Funded! (Premise fail.) - And it worked! - Was good idea: make good films, let people watch them, they will buy books from a site that is converting 8% of visitors to customers - Well executed: Gil, Life of Pi (3m). Others not so much. - Flawed strategy. People watched but didn’t buy. In their millions. - Fail. - Made me resolute to focus on commercial AND creative success. - To this day more focused on it than some of our clients!
  • 15. 15 2000: Really wanted this jacket to be better. Fail. - All going well at Canongate then? Good company, good job? - Also acquiring books. - The Testament of Yves Gundron, Emily Barton. - I was the only one who had read it. - Someone briefed in the most awful jacket. - I had a vision for Angus (Pocket Canons) to do it: could see it in my head. Instead sub-Tolkein fantasy photoshop disaster. - In the end I had to fight to get US edition (above) used. - Epiphany: no room for me here. Not being listened to. - Accepted offer from Screenbase, company who had built Canongate web site with me - Left publishing.
  • 16. 16 2001 - 2005: Dot Com Dream Full of Fail. - Dot Com Dream - all going off - be part of a rock group in a bubble - Boss who promised me everything and, in particular, trusted me and gave me space and latitude - Also offered me bigger salary. - Bubble burst. FAIL! - Perversely, I decided to focused new business on publishing (not famous for technophilia or pecunious) - Boss was weird mix of trust and micromanager: whenever we did something, he’d come in and change it at the last second - I ended up running new business and production - learned a huge amount - Personal clashes led most of us to leave and set up on our own: company died - Owed lots of money. Horrible. Horrible. - But luckily learned some very very valuable lessons - which jobs to take on, cashflow, running a small business and team - whilst (just) being paid - during a recession. - Left in May 2005.
  • 17. 17 2005: Apt Fail-free! - Set up Apt to consult to publishers - Joined in 2007 by James Bridle. Wasn’t looking for people to join, but he was just awesome and very convincing. - Done great work together: Granta, 4th Estate, James Frey - Had some minor failures together: lost pitches really wanted, been close to killing clients, some twitter-based indescretions - But maintained focus on quality of idea and execution - Evening Standard “50 most influential” in publishing - Both shortlisted British Council Young Publishing Entrepreneur: India trip above - Update: UKYPE FAIL! (Congrats to Davy the winner)
  • 18. 18 2006: BlenderTen Decision Fail - 2006 Apt was fine, growing, but I was in a bit of a rut. Still “dark ages” in publishing and the web - Had lots of very rich friends in superstar industries - Still had/have advertising hangup - Massively talented friend / colleague and I cooked up a brilliant idea for getting rich quick - Both “had a clue” about web. Independently and jointly very experienced. - High-quality, high-price “White label” web stuff for the legions of design and (particularly) ad agencies who don’t have a clue. - I was moving house, to London, having babies - couldn’t commit. Couldn’t decide. - He went off and got a £250,000 year job.... - Source of very great frustration to me
  • 19. 19 2009: Enhanced Editions. - 2008 the day Apple launched the App store - Blogged as to why publishers were not in there - Decided that this is what I would do instead - Broke rule that would never become publisher - Set up “A team” - Used all 12 years experience of books and tech - Enhanced eBooks on iPhone - Launching this summer - No idea if it will fail - Got a good feeling....
  • 20. 20 Fail Harder. - Enhanced Editions pulls together all my working passions (as did English Lit) - Where I’m at now is the logical conclusion of my failures. - Failure recently got me to India with the British Council - Persistent, tenacious, ambitious failures. - Mini revelation in India (predictably!). “Found myself” - UKYPE made me comfortable with “entrepreneur” - Encourage you to...
  • 21. “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. 21 Fail again. Fail better.” Samuel Beckett - Most of you at beginning time in career. - See yourselves as an object in movement, not at a point in time - Economic climate great time to think things through. - I would encourage you to be wildly ambitious. - Take risks, CHEAPLY! - Follow your passion with integrity and quality. - Do what makes you happy, not rich. - Fail quickly, cheaply, forwards. - If I’d got what I wanted I’d be very unhappy now.