Judy Piatkus is known as an entrepreneur, publisher and experienced business adviser as well as an expert, pioneer and speaker with regard to many aspects of personal development. She now has a portfolio career which includes angel investing and a variety of business activities. She is also the founder of ConsciousCafe, a network of people who have been on a journey of personal and spiritual development for many years. ConsciousCafe runs regular discussions, events and workshops and there are now several groups in the UK as well as one in Geneva. www.consciouscafe.org
Judy Piatkus founded Piatkus Books from the bedroom of her home in Loughton, Essex when she was in her 20s. The company started its existence as publishers of hardback fiction for the library market before building a range of general non-fiction titles with particular emphasis on lifestyle and personal development. During the 1980s Piatkus were also known for publishing cookbooks and health titles including a range of bestselling titles from Mary Berry. While Piatkus published a wide variety of general non-fiction, the company became renowned for being pioneers in the area of personal growth titles. Topics such as reflexology, aromatherapy, tai chi, qigong and shiatsu were unknown in the 1980s and meditation, reincarnation and shamanism were just a few of many subjects that Piatkus explored in the 1990s. Piatkus were known for their innovative marketing, becoming one of the very first companies to advertise their books on the underground in the 1980s and to give away novels free with copies of The Standard in 2003. Judy Piatkus was regarded as a risk-taker within the publishing industry, unafraid of trying out new ideas and always taking risks with her own money.
During the 1990s Piatkus became market leaders in their field as interest in alternative ways of thinking developed as a result of the recession of the early 1990s. Piatkus Books achieved success for its authoritative range of business books, popular psychology and mind, body and spirit titles. Bestsellers included The Perfect CV, The 10-Day MBA, Getting Things Done, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, Many Lives, Many Masters and a plethora of books on meditation and mindfulness including classic titles by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
By the end of the 1990s, mainstream publishing had caught up with growing public interest in the area of personal development and Piatkus Books reinvented itself, this time returning to its fiction roots. Judy’s strategy was to take advantage of the growing sales power of the internet and to develop a range of commercial mass-market paperback fiction titles, written by bestselling novelists, many of them American, including hugely popular bestselling author Nora Roberts and her alter ego J D Robb. She travelled frequently to the States, quietly buying up licences to publish in the UK and export markets many of the most popular authors whose books were found in supermarkets and bookshops all over the country. These were published alongside the non-fiction, and became very successful, quickly generating a substantial backlist and enabling a successful exit sale in 2007 to Little Brown, before the 2008 financial collapse which Judy Piatkus and her team had foreseen (by commissioning a book on the subject). Little Brown continue to develop the Piatkus imprint.
Judy Piatkus was a highly respected hands-on publisher, working closely with a dedicated team of experienced colleagues and always putting her own money on the line as Piatkus had grown organically and had no outside finance or shareholders.
During its 28 years of independent existence, Piatkus achieved a reputation for its forward-thinking company culture. Judy Piatkus believed that if staff enjoyed coming to work they would be more productive and would, at the same time, reap more personal rewards. Many Piatkus corporate policies, such as offering flexi-working time in the 1980s and inviting staff to develop new skills which would benefit both themselves and the organisation during the 1990s, were ahead of their time and attracted a lot of people to work at the company.
After the sale, Judy Piatkus has continued her interest in leadership and entrepreneurship working as a coach and mentor to startups and SMEs as well as becoming an angel investor with a wide-ranging portfolio. She is also a keynote speaker and is frequently invited onto panels discussing entrepreneurship, womens’ issues and angel investing.
Judy Piatkus has always been personally interested in self-development. During the late 1990s she studied for three years to qualify as a psychodynamic psychotherapist and worked in the NHS achieving 450 hours of counselling, alongside her publishing career. After the sale of Piatkus Books, as a mature student, she achieved an MA in Creative Leadership, her first university degree.
Alongside her other activities Judy now runs ConsciousCafe, a network of people who have been engaged on a path of personal and spiritual development for many years. www.consciouscafe.org
In 2003 Judy Piatkus was included on a list of ’50 Movers and Shakers who define how well we live’ in the Times and in 2009 she was referred to in The Times as ‘One of the world’s leading thinkers’.
Judy Piatkus is interviewed here on aspects of publishing and spirituality for a podcast by MerlinsDiary