How the publishing business from Kharkiv survives today: interview of the general director of the Kharkiv publishing house Vivat Julia Orlova

The general director of the Kharkiv publishing house Vivat Julia Orlova gave several interviews about the state of the publishing business in Ukraine during the war in general and about its publishing house itself. I want to present some of her theses from the interview for

Many businesses during the war decided to move to a safer city or country. Some companies have succeeded, some are still in the process of relocation, some are still preparing to do so. The experience of each of them is unique and can be useful to those who still choose their way to save the business.

The war rolled over all businesses in the country. Someone was waiting for her, so she had time to prepare a little. Someone could not even imagine such an unfolding of events and faced all the problems ex post facto. The experience of each company is unique in the current environment.

How is the team experiencing the war?

Frightened and confused workers, for whom the main task every day is to survive.

The shelling of our city began on the first day of the war and continues to this day. Every day, colleagues dealt with their own security, food, evacuation and other “attractions” of wartime. Some left in the first days, some were drawn to the latter in the hope that it would not “fly” to his house.

So far, 95% of employees have been evacuated. Work could not be resumed until all colleagues were safe and relatively calm. At the same time, all 100% of employees are now able to start or continue their work in full or in part.

How was the material evacuation ensured?

An office with all the equipment and a warehouse with books remained in the city. And this became the second problem for the publishing house. Many colleagues needed the equipment to work, and the books were to replenish the bookstore in Lviv and be sold in the online store.

The equipment was picked up and sent out promptly a few weeks after the start of the war. I had to sweat a little with the books. The publications were taken out in batches at a time when it was a little quieter with shelling.

In addition, a new warehouse was found in Rivne, which will temporarily be home to the saved publications.

No books – no money

The processes associated with printing books have been completely stopped.

Her, we will also add the situation with the warehouse in Kharkiv and we will receive 90% losses. That is, during the war we were able to fulfill 10% of the plan.

But the publishing house continues to prepare novelties, of which there are more than 50 so far.

Recovery of the company’s profits is gradual in several areas:

  • Sale of copyrights to foreign partners. From the beginning of the war, Ukrainian books began to be in greater demand. This is primarily due to the number of refugees abroad. They want to read and buy books in their native language, because these books help to create a bridge that connects them with the Motherland and peaceful life. But foreigners themselves now want to know more about our country, its culture, history and customs.
  • Establishing cooperation with foreign partners. The war showed certain opportunities that had previously received less attention. Yes, the publishing house is even more active in foreign markets and opens new offices. Additionally, work is underway to create audiobooks for placement on European platforms.
  • We are adapting to new conditions. Thanks to the books taken out of the warehouse, we can finally fulfill the orders that were made before the war. But even in addition to them, we are already receiving new ones. To be able to complete them in full and continue to publish new products, we found a new printing house in Lviv to resume printing books and, consequently, sales.
  • We are restoring cultural life. Yes, at first glance it may seem that why those cultural events for people who live from one air alarm to another. But we think otherwise. People need consolation, something that can bring them back, at least for a while, to a time when there was no war outside. So on our pages on social networks we read fairy tales for children, psychological clubs for adults. Recently, we even managed to hold the first book presentation in the country since the war. It took place in one of the Kharkiv bomb shelters and during it Serhiy Zhadan and the Kharkiv band “Selo I lydy” presented the song “Bayu, blyaha, bay” based on the book of the same name by Adam Mansbach.

How not to lose dignity and keep the team?

From the first day of the war, we made an important decision: our main goal is to keep the team. That is, no layoffs to save money. Of course, it is possible to temporarily dismiss “unnecessary” employees, on whom the functioning of the publishing house does not yet depend. But how to explain this decision to colleagues who were already forced to leave their homes and move around the world? Will it be fair to those who are already in a crisis situation and full of uncertainty about the future?

Leadership is a responsibility. So, if you were ready to share your business with these people in peacetime, in my opinion, do it honestly in wartime. Yes, given our losses, we are not yet able to pay wages in full. But the options for financial support and job preservation will be much better than layoffs.

As you can see, doing business is a flexible process that can be adapted to the conditions in which it finds itself. And even such a thing as a book, which is not vital today, must continue to live and support the country’s economy. I believe that after the victory there will be a new renaissance of Ukrainian books. Moreover, I see the meaning of my life and my mission as a publisher – so that the whole world knows about the events of this war, and we never forget about them.

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