Cambridge Publishing Society

Kim Maya Sutton: Virtual Publishing Meets Reality

Kim Maya Sutton, co-owner and founder of digital publishing company Safkhet Publishing, came to talk to us this week about virtual business and the paperless office. Kim was full of practical advice stemming from her own experiences in setting up and running a business from scratch, and it was clear throughout that she knows what she’s talking about.

Starting an independent press is not for the faint-hearted, and in her talk Kim showed the determination and willingness to experiment that has allowed Safkhet Publishing to succeed. Most of all, she stressed that a digital business model is not faultless – there are as many problems and pitfalls as there are in more traditional methods of working, and it is how you approach these challenges that matters most.

One of the most interesting approaches taken by Safkhet Publishing is their international nature, and the way in which the virtual model they have adopted allows them to work with authors and editors in a range of different countries. Although this offers them a significant degree of freedom, it also comes with the difficulty of maintaining relationships without regular face-to-face contact in an industry in which relationships are key. The inability to negotiate in person can lead to strain which might be more easily overcome in a meeting or over lunch, and an international business runs the risk of cultural misunderstandings that may be difficult to smooth out in cyberspace. Kim also shared her personal experience with another potentially embarrassing result of virtual relationships, the possibility of meeting your authors at an event and failing to recognise them!

Kim overcomes these problems by trying to meet the people she works with in person whenever it’s feasible, as well as sustaining an online relationship with them. Publishing events are a great way to make this a reality, and our CAMPUS talk was indeed attended by several of Safkhet’s current and former editors and authors, some of whom were meeting Kim in person for the first time. This is a great example of the power of publishing and stories to bring people together, and the ways in which our modern world is opening up more and more opportunities to connect across distances.

The talk concluded with some solid advice from Kim which is applicable to anybody aspiring to get involved in the rapidly changing publishing industry: be genuine, be authentic, be flexible and, most of all, never forget that you are dealing with people, no matter how far away they are or how you stay in contact. As time goes on it might become more common to send an email than meet for a coffee, but beyond the pixels and screens there will always be real people, and we need to continue to treat each other as such.

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