Publishing Consultant And PublisHer Board Member Emma House Interviews Inspiring Bookwomen Around The World.
Renata Gorgani and Pico Floridi
Renata Gorgani and Pico Floridi are respectively the CEO-Publisher and the Presidentof Editrice Il Castoro, the publishing house they cofounded in 1993 with other associates.
Both women are also on the boards of the publishing houses Tunué and Sonda, while at Libreria dei Ragazzi Renata is President and Pico is the Vice-President.
In addition, Renata is a board member of AIE (Italian Publishers Association) and since 2020 has been on the board of Centro per il Libro e la Lettura, an Italian governmental body for books and reading. In September 2016, she was elected as President of La Fabbrica del Libro SpA founded by Fiera Milano and Ediser (Services Company of the Italian Editors Association). From 2005 to 2010, she conceived and directed Quantestorie, a children’s book festival in Milan.
Renata holds a degree in Modern Humanities from the University of Milan.
Pico studied in France before working as a journalist and freelancer for the cultural section of Le Monde, la Repubblica, and as Italian correspondent for the Architectural Digest.
From 2005 to 2010, she directed Quantestorie, a Milan children’s book festival she also founded. From 2010 to 2014, she was Director of the Bookshop of the National Museum of Cinema, in Turin
You had different jobs in former lives. What were they, and why did you decide to found a publishing house together?
Pico: I had never thought of publishing as a job really, but a good chat over a really good fish soup managed to convince us both that this would be the best challenge for our future.
Renata: I was already working in the field but had never thought of running a publishing house of my own. When the opportunity came, I had no hesitation whatsoever. Building a whole new business from scratch was a fantastic prospect.
Later, you founded Il Castoro – focusing on children’s books – why did you decide to move into the children’s publishing sector?
We began by publishing books about film. The Castoro Cinema monograph series is still the largest ever made, with over 250 titles and every filmmaker you can think of. We also published all sorts of other cinema books and catalogues, but we soon realized that, if we really wanted to expand our business, we needed to focus on other areas. And children’s books were the choice.
The market in this genre was growing fast, so we thought we could find our niche by publishing books of the highest quality, always looking for new directions, always trying to be close to children’s needs and tastes. We started with an ideal reader in mind and grew with her. We now publish all kinds of titles for all audiences, from newborn to YA and crossover, picture books, novels, graphic novels, and non-fiction.
You have also acquired other publishing companies and taken over a bookstore. Is that part of a bigger expansion strategy?
Yes, we now have two sister companies and two bookshops for children: La Libreria dei Ragazzi in Milan, and La Libreria dei Ragazzi in Brescia.
The two publishing houses are Edizioni Sonda, for both adults and children with the main themes of ethical diets, civil rights, social inclusion, responsibility towards the environment, and technological innovation; and Tunué, whose focus is graphic novels for junior and adult readers, as well as non-fiction, comics, animation, video games, and contemporary pop culture.
We chose them because they cover two areas that are particularly valuable to us. By building a publishing group we achieved a broader vision of the book market, thus optimizing the organization and costs, as well as cultivating new ideas.
Renata – you are also very active at an industry level, on the board of the Italian Publishers Association and Centro per il Libro e la Lettura. What motivates you to do this?
Renata: Our activity is part of a broader domain, with many themes in common. I feel it is important to engage with other publishers and tackle the challenges of our industry as a cohesive community: discuss new initiatives, draw the politicians’ attention to the issues that really matter to us. It is also very important for a publishing house for children to work on all themes linked to the promotion of readership, the relationship with schools and public libraries, and the future of bookshops.
What challenges have you had to face being young female entrepreneurs in publishing?
Luckily, the publishing sector is populated by many incredibly clever women, but of course at the beginning it was quite hard to stand up to distributors, salespeople and chains – not to speak of biased journalists!
What is your view of the Italian publishing sector with regard to women in leadership?
Italy’s situation is a mirror of what’s going on worldwide. Most of the workforce is female, and yet the big bosses are usually men. This is changing, but still too slowly.
Your publishing house celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. What have been your highlights over the past 30 years? How will you be celebrating the anniversary?
Our very first early readers from Pittau and Gervais were translated from French and are still in print.
The publication of Diary of a Wimpy Kid was a turning point in our business, and in the opportunity to reach non-readers, which has always been one of our key goals. Some of our books have been translated in several languages and still are bestsellers, like Storia di Goccia e Fiocco, Il Manuale delle 50 avventure da vivere prima dei 13 anni, Io sono Zero and Nebbia.
A turning point in our journey was our strong engagement with graphic novels for kids, a resounding success from the outset. We started with Raina Telgemeier, and we are now publishing about twenty titles per year, including Italian authors and translations.
In the past few years we have published Le 15 Domande (The 15 Questions). This is our encyclopedia for today’s children, fifteen titles designed to better understand the present and imagine the future! Stem subjects, presented in the most exciting form for children in order to answer their questions, and raise many more.
What do the next 30 years have in store for you? Both personally and professionally!
Pico: Many more books, of course; and especially new ideas. Invention. Innovation. Captivate the reader with funny, exciting, profound stories, stories that move you in a slightly different place from where you were when you first opened the book. Expand our readers and reach the ones who never had a book to read for pleasure.
Renata: We want to understand what’s changing, we want to listen to kids. We keep looking for fresh perspectives. We are keen to innovate, to communicate the values we believe in: being open towards diversity, learning to look at the world from multiple viewpoints. Embracing the world we live in, and preparing a better future for our kids. And, of course, growing as a business!
This interview was originally prepared for BookBrunch.co.uk and is reproduced here with kind permission.