W. F. Howes Ltd, began trading from its headquarters in Leicestershire, England, in 1999, but the story of the company begins at a much earlier point.
In 1979 there was an engineering salesman called Henry Trentman, who loved reading. He lived in Maryland, USA, and daily he travelled an area from South Carolina to New England. Tiring of listening to the radio, he posted a sign at the Arena Stage regional theatre, seeking an actor who would be willing to read a book, in its entirety which he would record on tape. Frank Muller, an actor, responded to the advertisement and recorded "The Sea Wolf" by Jack London. This was Trentman's first production. This was an unabridged recording.
Henry lent his audiobook to friends and they gave it to a library who then in turn asked if more books were available. Realising that there was demand and a need Henry created Recorded Books and embarked on a totally new career and business venture. Henry Trentman said, "As commuting times increased, so did listeners." Today, Recorded Books, Inc. resides in Prince Frederick, MD.
During the 1990's Henry Trentman had a vision of offering a wider range of titles on unabridged audio and a better service to UK libraries.
In 1998, W. F. Howes Ltd was conceived. Recruitment began for the team that would form the company. In 1999, the Chief Executive Officer was appointed and W. F. Howes Ltd became a trading company generating its first sales. A sales team of two, book keeper, warehouse person, and rights assistant were appointed. Premises were leased in the small village of Rothley in Leicestershire.
Why the name W.F.Howes Ltd
W. F. Howes Ltd is now a well-known name in the publishing industry and the company enjoys wide ranging relationships in the industry with authors, literary agents, print publishers, suppliers and of course our customers. We are often asked how the name of the company was derived. The company is named after one of Henry Trentman’s distant relatives; a man called William Frank Howes.
William Frank Howes was a well-known captain of Clipper ships during the 1830s. Clipper ships were used to export goods across the world’s seas into new territories, and it is from this connection that the name Clipper originated and became the main imprint of W. F. Howes Ltd.
The first title published under the Clipper imprint in the UK was in September 1999. It was a work of fiction called “Possession” by Booker Prize winning British author, A. S. Byatt. It consisted of 16 cassettes and was priced £52.95.
At that time, W. F. Howes Ltd published eight titles a month on cassette under the Clipper imprint.
Changing the Landscape
The team at W F Howes have a vision to significantly grow the UK market for unabridged audiobooks and believe in the importance of providing contemporary popular titles in up-to-date media formats.
In April 2001, W. F. Howes Ltd introduced audiobooks on compact disc and was the first company in the UK to bring this exciting new format to libraries. At first, libraries were cautious when purchasing this new product, but within two years all library authorities across the UK were buying collections of CDs. The first title published on compact disc was “Necessary Ends” by Booker Prize winning British author Stanley Middleton, which consisted of eight discs and was priced £43.95. Eight titles a month were being published on CD.
In reply to the frequently asked question, ‘How long will you continue to produce stories on cassette tape?’ we responded, ‘At least five years.’ In fact, it is planned that 2012 will see the last of the cassette from the production line at W. F. Howes Ltd.
In addition, the new Playaway format entered the arena in October 2007, with its first title “The Protector” a thriller by Duncan Falconer, priced at £54.96 (13 hours recording). An initial publishing programme of 3 titles per month commenced for this innovative portable new format exclusive to audiobooks.
The first downloadable audiobook service was introduced to UK libraries in 2004 by W. F. Howes Ltd, and in 2012 the new platform OneClickdigital was introduced. Once again, W. F. Howes Ltd was at the forefront of the audiobook industry, supplying libraries in the UK.
W. F. Howes Ltd quickly became known for editorial success and publishing some of the best available books in audio format. Publishing lists including authors ranging from household names and bestsellers to debut authors and original and creative works. The studio process is also at the heart of the team’s editorial focus, carefully matching actors to books and working with authors to produce an authentic audio recording. This painstaking approach has won the company many industry awards and regular reviews in the national press.
In 2006 and with a myriad of bestselling titles under the belt and now buying exclusive rights the move to enter the retail market commenced to ensure our authors were as widely available as possible to all segments of consumers. A brand name of Whole Story Audiobooks was devised to ensure full understanding of the difference between unabridged and abridged and the acceptance into bookstores began.
2009 was an important year in W F Howes’ audio publishing programme with releases of some of the biggest selling books in the history of British publishing including The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown and the Man Booker Prize winner that year, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantell. We are proud to publish many prize winners including 9 winners of the Man Booker Prize plus many shortlisted titles. In 2011 we held 4 out of the 6 shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
Clipper Large Print Books
In 2002 W. F. Howes launched their large print books following completion of a ground-breaking research project conducted with Loughborough University and 20,000 library members who use large print books. The findings were compelling and indicated a gap in the market. Our strategy was to publish contemporary titles, popular genre fiction, prize-winning books and interesting non-fiction books, all with high quality production and artwork standards. The first title was delivered to libraries in April 2002 and was entitled “Killing Time” a thriller by Caleb Carr (priced £17.95). Eight large print titles were published each month to begin with. In 2007, after further market research, a move from hardback large print books to lightweight paperback editions was introduced again by responding to the needs of the customer and their use of the books.
The Clipper Large Print list now includes many award winners and bestselling authors who we have published from the start in this format such as No.1 bestselling crime author Peter James. We publish broad range of fiction, non-fiction and in 2012 commenced a collection of classic literature in large print format.
On the Move from Rothley To Rearsby
By 2002, the company had out-grown its office space in Fowke Street, Rothley, and moved just 200 yards into a new site, offering larger offices and a warehouse, and support its growing number of employees. In late 2005, the company moved again, from Rothley to the rural Leicestershire village of Rearsby, our current premises, incorporating fully contained production facilities and enhanced warehouse capabilities.
Expansion to Australia
As early as 2004 the Clipper imprint was being distributed into Australia but it was very clear that the product offering as a whole was required by the Australian library industry and so in 2009 Wavesound Pty Ltd, a sister company of W. F. Howes Ltd, was established to provide Australian libraries with the best selection of contemporary titles available in large print, audio and downloadable. Based in Sydney they serve the whole of the Australian industry needs.
W F Howes Ltd also sells products throughout the British Commonwealth including Canada and South Africa.
The 10,000th Title
The year 2010 brought a new recording achievement as we published our 10,000th title. If you began reading the first audiobook and continued to the 10,000th, it would have taken you nearly fourteen years of non-stop listening. Our books have been listened to and read by millions of people enriching their lives and supporting the lifelong learning that reading delivers. We have introduced new authors to the UK market and also to the audio format.
We are expanding our offering of online resources with books, magazines and educational products but the core of our business is publishing and weighted to the audio format through whatever medium our customers require. We currently publish over 100 new editions of books each month in the UK. Our core publishing values remain Quality, Range and Value.
TO BE CONTINUED…