Information Studies


MA Publishing alumnus Marianne Tatepo features in the Bookseller

This article was first published in The Bookseller on 3rd February 2023 and is reproduced with permission

Tatepo looks to build on Square Peg legacy after move from Ebury



After moving to Vintage imprint Square Peg a year ago, publishing director Marianne Tatepo plans to grow the list’s repertoire with beautiful books and more narrative non-fiction

Marianne Tatepo

Marianne Tatepo © Mark Guest

Midway through our conversation at Vintage’s smart new office at One, Embassy Gardens, publisher Marianne Tatepo reveals that she is a fan of Co-Star, the Millennial-favourite astrology app that provides advice and predictions. “I love astrology,” she says, telling me that the app greets her each morning with some timely words—“don’t take it out on your friends today” or “listen to your brain not your heart”. I wonder then what the app would say about her longer-term future as a rising star. Tatepo joined non-fiction imprint Square Peg in the newly created role of publishing director in January 2022, charged with building on its strong legacy in cookery and illustrated books with a renewed emphasis on narrative.

Founded in 2008 by publicist and editor Rosemary Davidson, the imprint has had recent standout success with food writer Rukmini Iyer’s various Roasting Tin books, the top three—The Green Roasting Tin, The Roasting Tin and The Quick Roasting Tin—having served up close to £9m in revenue from Nielsen’s Total Consumer Market since 2017. Iyer was the third-biggest cookery author in the UK in 2022 for the second year in a row, with Square Peg claiming 3% of the cookery market—“not neglible”, as Tatepo says.

I want to publish narrative and memoir, wellbeing and lifestyle, pop culture and food and drink, either putting a twist on a popular topic, or bringing a slightly niche topic to a broader audience. I can’t be too prescriptive, but I know it when I see it—Marianne Tatepo

The imprint’s books also comprise Mohsin Zaidi’s award-winning memoir A Dutiful Boy, The Mixed-Race Experience by Naomi and Natalie Evans, Stephen Moss’ bird biography series, and of course last year’s Magic Days by Nadine Jane.

Tatepo says she is excited to step onto the Iyer juggernaut, with more titles to come, but it is at the black-and-white end of the market that Tatepo particularly wants to lean into, using her experience from Ebury, Penguin General and 4th Estate/William Collins to gently rebalance the list. “I don’t think the mix was ever formalised, but the plan is to bring in my narrative mono expertise on top of the books we are already doing really well.”

The overall ambition—to publish “unique non-fiction”—remains the same. Books that break the mould, hence the imprint’s name. “I want to publish narrative and memoir, wellbeing and lifestyle, pop culture and food and drink, either putting a twist on a popular topic, or bringing a slightly niche topic to a broader audience. I can’t be too prescriptive, but I know it when I see it.”

She cites Lesbian Love Story by Amelia Possanza (June 2023), part memoir and part social history, and Decolonising My Body by journalist Afua Hirsch (October 2023), an exploration of self-care inspired by the author’s efforts to reclaim her body from the colonial ideas of purity, adornment and ageing. Claire Ptak’s fifth cookbook Love is a Pink Cake has also already been announced and is slated for April. Beyond this year, titles to come in 2024 include The Visual Detox by Marine Tanguy, Sobremesa by Susana Villasuso, Pathway to Flow by Dr Julia F Christensen and The Wine Flavour Guide by Sam Caporn.

There won’t be a move away from artfully designed hardbacks, with each title still expected to be standout in its look and feel. “I really care about working with our designers super-closely,” says Tatepo, “it is what makes it fun for me”. In fact, for Tatepo the mantra will be to focus on “beautiful books that empower and entertain”. She adds: “The thing about beautiful books really matters to me; sometimes it is about the design, sometimes it is about the way they are written.”

Square dance

Tatepo has had a pretty meteoric rise in publishing. She joined Square Peg in the newly created role from Ebury, Penguin Random House, where as commissioning editor her publishing included Michaela Coel’s début Misfits: A Personal Manifesto, TikTok sensation Burn After Writing by Sharon Jones and neuroscience manual The Instant Mood Fix by Dr Olivia Remes, among others. She has also worked with authors such as Philippa Perry, Dr Rangan Chatterjee and Julia Samuel at Penguin Life, following editorial roles at 4th Estate and William Collins.

Square peg book list

Above: Square Peg all-time TCM top 10

Tatepo has been part of The Bookseller’s 150 most influential list, was a Bookseller Rising Star, a Printing Charity Rising Star Award winner and the founder of publishing community and mentoring network the Black Agents’ & Editors’ Group (BAE). In April 2021, she made history as the first guest editor of The Bookseller, curating The Black Issue on behalf of BAE. The issue won Best Content Piece of the Year at the PPA’s Independent Publisher Awards 2021.

Is there a sense, then, that both publishing and the wider market are now more receptive to the type of publi-shing that she wants to see? “It feels like there is more opp-ortunity to do books that I’ve always wanted to read, books that didn’t necessarily exist before,” says Tatepo, citing the influence of online communities and those authors who can tap into such groups in order to build an audience around a book, as well as the way the best independent bookshops can take offbeat titles and amplify them. But although Tatepo might mine niche areas to begin a book’s journey, the ultimate ambition is to publish to a broad audience. “We don’t need to stay in these boxes. I want to publish a bit for everybody. I want to figure out how we access those readers, because we know they are out there.”

In that respect, Vintage, which can be both distinctive and punchy, has been a good place for her to land. “There is an openness here to explore ideas. My publishing and my interest in publishing has been really well received. I want to carry on publishing really interesting voices and people who are doing something distinct. I don’t have a ceiling on any of those things.”

That said, there is a limit on the number of titles Square Peg will publish, with Tatepo aiming to issue 10 to 12 each year, through her and assistant editor Emily Martin, abetted by Vintage and Square Peg publicity director Lucie Cuthbertson-Twiggs and lead marketeer Rose Poole. “We want to be really focused on what we are publishing.” Unsurprisingly, she also wants to look after the backlist—consisting of more than 200 titles—and keep that heritage growing. “As much as frontlist matters, there is a lot going on with backlist too, and how we keep those books going.”

For Tatepo, it’s also an opportunity to cement her reputation not just as a trailblazer, but as someone who is making and finding her space. Square Peg meets suitable hole. “It’s a good name [for an imprint], and we are a good match.” Written in the stars, perhaps?

Marianne Tatepo was a student on the UCL MA in Publishing in 2014-15

This article was first published in The Bookseller on 3rd February 2023 and is reproduced with permission