Fair & Square in conversation with the Founder of Mensch Publishing

Our guest on this episode of the Fair & Square podcast is Richard Charkin, founder of Mensch Publishing

Richard is a publisher with half a century of experience in an industry which has undergone dramatic changes in those years and which he has now chronicled in his memoir My Back Pages from and all good bookshops.

From Madonna’s book SEX to the CD-ROM version of the Oxford English Dictionary, Richard estimates he has published 30,000 books during a career which has seen him work for family and public companies alongside personalities from Robert Maxwell to Paul Hamlyn.

Richard was a non-executive director of the Institute of Physics Publishing, and still at Liverpool University PressBonnier Books UK, and Cricket Properties Ltd who are licensees for Wisden. He is also currently Vice-Chair of Bloomsbury China. He is a member of the international advisory board of the Frankfurt Book Fair, President of The Book Society, and Advisor to

He has also held senior positions at Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, Macmillan, Reed Elsevier, Oxford University Press and Pergamon Press as well as serving the book industry through the presidency of the UK Publishers Association and the International Publishers Association.

Richard tells our podcast host Adam Batstone that since he joined the industry in the 1970s the major changes have included; the rise of women into senior roles which has improved publishing immeasurably, the transformative role of technology and the globalisation of language – in particular the ubiquity of  English – and the power of the media in promoting books from articles to films based on books.

In setting up his own publisher, Mensch, his approach is to address some of the aspects of the industry which he has found deeply frustrating. This includes saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to an author quickly and, while not paying advances, paying authors 25% of all the cash he gets in for the book, paying royalties quarterly on the day he gets paid.

Richard said the true measure of publishing is not the sales or profits but the assets – the contracts with authors because there is copyright protection for 70 years after the death of the author. He thinks there are enough powerful vested interests from the pharmaceutical sector to the arms industry to ensure copyright protection will persist.

In terms of the future of publishing, Richard predicts in the same way as national boundaries have diminished languages will diminish as AI auto-translation improves, so publishers will not be English language publishers, but just publishers.

He also suggests authors are becoming and will become much more multi-media in their approach to audiences from platforms such as Substack to podcasts.