Our new business and smart-thinking imprint Heligo Books made a splash this year with a launch list that aims to reach audiences and age groups typically underserved by the genre. We spoke to Rik Ubhi, editorial director, about the birth of the imprint and publishing with purpose.

As you worked to create a brand new imprint from scratch, how did you ensure that inclusivity and representation were built into the very fabric of Heligo Books?

I wanted a more inclusive take on the business and smart thinking landscapes by both publishing brilliant authors from a range of backgrounds whilst also reaching audiences who may typically have been overlooked. As a publisher, I felt that this was something lacking in the business/smart-thinking market and so this is a natural and necessary step in order to generate new ideas and new perspectives. As a reader, I felt these were the sorts of books I’d like to see on bookshelves and to read myself.

What was important for me was that every single book would have something new, interesting and important to say about the worlds of work and ideas and would stand up on the merit of its content, the lived experiences within and the lessons it offers.

What this all demonstrates to me is that a heterodox approach in publishing in critically important: that having people in any gate-keeping role from a range of different backgrounds, identities, perspectives and preferences opens the door to more representation and inclusivity.

“This year, in 2022, over half of our list is by writers of colour and we have
complete gender parity.”

Heligo Books promises to rethink the business and smart thinking market. How are you looking to reshape the landscape?

Our tagline is ‘Books for curious young readers and established business leaders’. This idea of reaching as wide a range of ages and experiences is a core to our identity. We are a home for readers expanding their horizons and seeking knowledge, whatever their background, position or identity.

We aim is to publish wider and reach further than other business and smart-thinking imprints: to inspire, energise and encourage a diverse range of readers.

Another core tenet of what we want to achieve is to publish with purpose: to help create positive change in the world around us through what we publish. Examples of this include: a landmark guide to running an environmentally-friendly business; a timely manifesto-cummemoir of social enterprise; a game-changing manual for ‘atypical’ entrepreneurs taking on the toxic, tech-bro start-up culture; a searingly smart title that asks us to take back control from algorithms – and lots more besides.

With your early acquisitions, you’ve actively sought to bring in voices from the margins – how important is it to bring this diversity of thought into the workplace itself?

It’s important to remember that bringing diversity into the workplace increases performance across that business and results in quantifiable gains in almost all metrics. What’s more, as people, we simply learn better and take in more information when exposed to different perspectives, or to people and things that are new and surprising. It is clear that there are both business – and people-based imperatives for having a representative workplace – it’s not simply ‘the right thing to do’.

Why was Bonnier Books UK the place to launch Heligo Books?

Bonnier Books UK has that attitude when confronted with an apparent obstacle of not asking why something can’t be done but instead asking how can we do it. This can-do approach, coupled with people-fi rst principles and positive purpose, has made it a true pioneer in the publishing world, from trailblazing sustainable practices by going beyond net zero to working with other organisations to amplify change, like the NSPCC and Tommy’s. Indeed, positive change seems embedded into the fabric of the organisation.

What’s more, it is clear that Bonnier champions and encourages talent from wherever it comes, which in turn creates positive role models for aspiring publishers of the future.