Category: Publisher Profile

Publisher Profile: Eye & Lightning Books

For me, independent publishers are the people in the industry who are prepared to take risks on new authors and books where the larger players either don’t wish to venture, or where they can’t see there being a return on. Each month in 2018 I am aiming to highlight some of my favourite independent publishers, along with some of their books that I have loved and also to have someone from the publisher answer a few questions. This month is the turn of Eye and Lightning Books

I have been on twitter for almost two years now and the contacts that I have made through there with authors, publishers and fellow readers continue to be a rich seam of bookish goodness. One of those publishers is Eye and Lightning books, a publisher that I had not come across, or so I thought. Turns out I had. They published a pair of books by the adventurer Alastair Humphreys called Moods of Future Joys and Thunder and Sunshine of his 46,000 mile trip cycling around the world. I had picked up book two from the library, but the didn’t have the first book. Duly bought a copy and read them back in 2016. Thought it was slightly mad that they only had the second half of the journey so donated the first volume to them.  Another of those that I have met in this virtual space is Scott Pack, (@meandmybigmouth) who was doing a thread on the how hard it was for small publishers to get time with booksellers and the perils of sending review copies out. Around 90% of them never get read. I will admit that I do not always get to a book immediately and often miss the publication date, but almost always, if they have been kind enough to send me a copy, I will read and review it.

Brief correspondence was entered into, and they very kindly offered to send me Alastair Humphreys motivational book, Ten Lessons from the Road which i have read and reviewed elsewhere on the blog as well as a couple of other travel books:

Which I haven’t read yet, but will be getting to very soon. Turns out that they do a lot of travel books, and a lot of them look rather good and will fit in with my #WorldFromMyArmchair challenge that I am doing. On my radar are Riding with Ghosts and Squirting Milk at Chameleons and his follow-up book, Chasing Hornbills. Scott at Eye and Lightning was kind enough to answer the questions below:

Can you tell me a little about the history of Eye Books / Lightning Books?

Eye Books was founded twenty years ago by Dan Hiscocks. He wanted to publish extraordinary stories told by ordinary people and, in the early days, this manifested itself in a fascinating and vibrant list of travel writing. So he published books by women who had walked to the North Pole, a bloke who had cycled the world, people who had travelled to previously closed countries such as Tibet and Saudi Arabia, and all manner of amazing tales. Over the years this evolved somewhat, to include a range of genres and writers, and a few years ago he decided to venture into fiction, and that is when he set up Lightning Books.

 

How is the company organised today and how many people work for you?

So Dan is the founder and publisher. Simon looks after social media, the website and marketing. Hugh handles our sales. Clio does most of our copy editing and typesetting. Ellie manages our publicity. I am editor-at-large and acquire books for our lists. We run a virtual office, with Slack as our main communication tool, and meet up every six weeks or so in person, usually in London. None of us are full-time and we have to be creative and nimble to make everything work, but it does sort of work.

 

What is the company philosophy when it comes to selecting for your catalogue?

Because we publish across a wide range of genres; fiction, travel, memoir, biography, music, graphic novels, crime, thrillers, experimental novels, humour, business – our philosophy is pretty simple. At least one of us, ideally all of us, will love the book and believe we can help it find an audience.

 

How do you go about choosing the titles to be included in your portfolio?

They come from all directions. We receive submissions both direct from authors and from agents. On occasion, I have approached authors I know and some of our acquisitions arrive that way. I am a big fan of the wonderful writing coming out of New Zealand and Australia at the moment, much of which is ignored by UK publishers, so that is another rich source. You never know where the next book is coming from.

 

Tell me about your process after selecting a book for publication

Usually, everyone in the team will read the manuscript and offer feedback and I will collate that and consider it during my own edit if it is one of my acquisitions. I will then work with the author to make the book as good as it can be. Generally, the person who acquires the book then manages things such as cover and text design but everyone gets their chance to offer an opinion.

We also work closely together on pricing, scheduling and the publicity plans for each book, so it is very much a collaborative effort all round.

 

How much effort goes into the design of the book, for example, the cover design, font selection and so on?

I used to be head of buying for Waterstones so I know how important it is to have a strong cover, and also how often small publishers let themselves down by not creating a commercial package for their books, so we spend a lot of time making sure our titles can hold their own on the bookshop shelves.

For most of my books, I work with the designer Ifan Bates, who is incredibly versatile and can give us a hugely commercial thriller cover the same month as he delivers a cover for a literary memoir.

As for the insides of the books, we are perhaps unusual in that we have an in-house typesetter with Clio. She will chat with the editor about the look and feel we want for the text and will create a few samples to consider. One thing she is a big fan of is ensuring that the cover design is echoed in some way throughout the book, often by creating chapter headers in the same style as the cover text. It is a small thing but looks great.

 

Are there any up and coming books that you are publishing soon that we need to look out for?

Actually, most of our 2018 list is already published. As a small publisher it is pointless going up against the big guns in autumn and Christmas. We rarely get the space in newspapers, magazines or bookshops at that time of year and we want to give our authors the best chance of selling. So most of our publishing takes place in the spring and summer.

We do have one book still to come, though, An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire. It is a hugely acclaimed Australian novel, shortlisted for lots of awards over there, about the impact of a murder on a small town. What I loved about it is the way it presents a crime novel in a different way, focusing on the aftermath of the crime and examining the media obsession with the murders of young women. Hugely thought provoking and I think it will prove to be very popular with UK readers. We publish it in August.

 

What debut authors are you publishing this year?

We have published two proper debuts this year.

James Hall is a journalist of many years’ standing, most recently as a music writer, but The Industry of Human Happiness is his first book. It is a novel set in the early days of recorded sound and is so rich with period detail and resonates with a real love of music.

And then making a huge jump in genre, The Participation Revolution is a business book by Neil Gibb, a consultant who has worked with Shell, Barclays, the European Space Agency and others. His take on the future of business and employment has proved to be really popular.

But then we have also published the first literary novel by a former crime writer, a memoir by a novelist, an experimental novel by an author who has only published short stories before and a second novel that was actually the first novel the author had written. So lots of exciting firsts.

 

How did you come across them?

James actually tweeted me – I had known him for years – and asked me to take a look at his book. I loved it, which was a relief as I often get sent books by people I know and they turn out not to be all that great. And Neil was, I believe, one of Dan’s contacts after years of networking and being a publisher around town.

 

What title of yours has been an unexpected success?

The Antipodeans by Greg McGee was the first book we published this year and it received no press reviews at all and very few bookshops bought copies, except for Smiths Travel who ordered loads and went on to sell loads. So many that other bookshops had to take notice and more orders started coming in. The fact that those initial sales came purely from in-store merchandising was a pleasant surprise.

 

What would you say were the undiscovered gems in your catalogue?

New Zealand author Sarah Laing’s graphic memoir, Mansfield & Me, part biography of Katherine Mansfield and part autobiography, told in comic book form, is a groundbreaking book that I thought we might be able to persuade the literary pages of the newspapers to cover, or perhaps some UK authors to shout about, as it was a subject they’d love approached in a different way, but no such luck, so we are pretty much relying on word of mouth and chance discoveries at the moment. Goodness, that was a long sentence. Anyway, we knew this one might be a slow burner and we are confident it will find a wider audience as the year goes on.

There are lots of gems in our older backlist, especially among the travel books, and there are lots I still need to read myself. I just need to get the edits for our 2019 books done first!

 

How do you use social media for promoting books and authors?

It is tricky with social media as, naturally, you need to use it to promote your books but if that is all you do then people quickly switch off. Simon manages our social media accounts and I think he offers a nice balance of promotion, discussion and the sharing of other user’s content, including that of our authors. He also makes these great little images containing quotes our books have received and they are easy to share online. I often use my personal Twitter account to talk about what is happening at Eye & Lightning. In fact, a thread I posted about the realities of life as a small publisher came to your attention and directly led to this publisher profile, so thanks for that.

 

Is working with book bloggers becoming a larger part of that process now?

It always has been a large part for us, partly because it can be hard for small publishers to get books reviewed in newspapers and on radio etc. and bloggers offer a broader and better chance of getting coverage. Having a blogger passionate about a book you have published can make a real difference to sales. However, as a former blogger myself, I know that that they receive a hell of a lot of books, many of then not remotely appropriate for them, so we find it is best to build relationships with bloggers, if possible, rather than just sending out books in the hope that they want to read them.

 

What book do you wish you had published?

I have been really lucky and published some of my all-time favourite authors – WP Kinsella, William Wharton, Otfried Preussler – as well as authors who have become real friends – Tracy Farr, Niven Govinden, Kristin Hersh – so it seems churlish to covet another. However, I would have loved to have published Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey. I would have been supremely unqualified to do so, of course, but how wonderful to be involved in such an important and long overdue publication.

 

What does the future hold for Eye Books / Lightning Books?

So next year we publish an experimental ‘found’ novel from an award-winning New Zealand author, a cosy crime debut, the third book in a legal thriller series, a gripping dystopian drama by a Hungarian-born novelist, the same short story told in 99 different styles and a novel set during the BSE crisis.


Thank you to Scott once again for taking time out of his hectic schedule to answer those questions for me. I really appreciate it. Their books are available from all good bookshops. I would urge you to buy them from an independent bookshop if you can as this support them, the publisher and of course the author with one purchase.

Previous Publisher Profiles:
 

Publisher Profile – Parthian

For me, independent publishers are the people in the industry who are prepared to take risks on new authors and books where the larger players either don’t wish to venture, or where they can’t see there being a return on. Each month in 2018 I am aiming to highlight some of my favourite independent publishers, along with some of their books that I have loved and also to have someone from the publisher answer a few questions. This month is the turn of Parthian




I had first come across Parthian because of the author John Harrison. Confusingly, there are two travel writers of that name, but this John Harrison is particularly good. The first of his that I read just over five years ago was Cloud Road. This is about his travels through the Inca Heartland as he hikes along the Camino Real. This 500-year-old road visiting villages where life has not changed in centuries. Managed to get hold of a copy of Where the Earth Ends which is about his travels in the landscape of Patagonia where we learn about the history and the people that he meets. Forgotten Footprints is very different from his previous books as it is more about the history Antarctica and the individuals that have been drawn to this harsh part of the world.

I was fortunate enough to be sent a copy of 1519 by Parthian. This is about another trip out to South America and he deftly weaves history with travel writing, but there are personal elements to this as we learn about his cancer diagnosis and treatment. If you do get a chance to read any of his books, they are well worth it, he is a writer of quality. 

On my radar are A Van of One’s (mentioned below) and Seven Days which I will get hold of at some point. I have just bought a copy (signed!!) of Insufficiently Welsh which I am looking forward to.  I haven’t ventured into their fiction offering, but Burrard Inlet looks really good from my perusal through the catalogue.


Eddie at Parthian Book was kind enough to answer the questions below:

Can you tell me a little about the history of Parthian?

Parthian will have been publishing for twenty-five years in 2018 so we’re looking back and seeing if it’s all been worth it. It has been a time of many emotions. Publishing is about hope and communication. The idea to make public, ideas and stories. We’ve published books that stay with you, become part of a shared culture and some that are forgotten quickly as they fail to find a hold and are hidden as the fall of new words turns with every year.
Rhys Davies Trust has been a constant for us with other work and projects through the twenty-five years and is now supporting the Modern Wales series. The Prince’s Youth Business Trust was crucial in the initial development of the venture with training and finance. 
Major supporters, once we got going, were first the Arts Council of Wales and then the Welsh Books Council with their many services to develop publishing in Wales. And then with devolution and a Welsh Government the Library of Wales project, now reaching fifty titles, has been a ground-breaking series edited with talent and ambition by Dai Smith. 
This year at twenty-five, we’re having a quick look back, but publishing is always about the future and this catalogue brings another year of books published by Parthian. 


How do you go about choosing the titles to be included in your portfolio?

What we look for are voices that bring something distinct to the table. This can come from anywhere and take any form. We look for prose or poetry that feels like it comes from an authentic place, grounded in what the author is trying to communicate. These are the stories that stay with you. We will always be especially keen on Welsh stories and authors that bring a different perspective on Wales or identify an overlooked aspect of the country. When publishing works in translation or stories from outside of Wales, we look for a tactile sense of place, imagery that immerses the reader in that specific time and location.


Tell me about your process after selecting a book for publication

Once a book is chosen by our commissioning editor, we send a contract to the author’s agent (or to the author directly in some cases). Once the contract is signed, we move on to the editing phase. This pairs an editor with the author to collaborate on putting together the best iteration possible of that story. This means that the first read through by the editor includes some large-scale suggestions (if warranted) which she or he discusses with the author. Then the editor reads through again, making more granular notes (extending a scene here, deleting a line there) which will strengthen the structure, tone, or themes of the story. Once the editor and author are done with the manuscript, it’s sent to a proofreader who goes through it with a fine-toothed comb and catches typos. Then, it is sent to the typesetter, and once it is type-set, the editor and/or proofreader will review the copy to ensure it is devoid of errors. Then, it is sent to the printer for its initial print run. Sometimes, proof copies are ordered and sent to reviewers after the type-set version is approved and before the final print copies are received.

What is the company philosophy when it comes to selecting for your catalogue?

When selecting books for our catalogue, we ask whether it aligns with our mission. Does it excite us? Does it tell a story we haven’t heard before? Does it reveal something new about Wales? Europe? Abroad? Is there a strong voice at its centre? These questions are our guiding criteria that we investigate the story with. We are confident that if a story is well-told and comes from a distinct voice, it will find its audience. We do not try to reverse engineer a hit based on our readership. We read something that strikes us and we commission accordingly.
What book do you wish you had published?

Eddie: 
My pick is George Saunders’ debut novel Lincoln in the Bardo which won the Man Booker Prize. Saunders is arguably the greatest living short story writer, so having his first novel would’ve been having a piece of history. Would also have loved to get tips on beard-growing from the man.

Maria:
Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea Quartet. Or Marlon James’s forthcoming Dark Star trilogy, I think it will be a landmark in new, diverse fantasy fiction. 

Alison:
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. 
It’s down to all of the involvement I’ve had in translated literature recently which has made me think a lot about translations I’ve enjoyed. I think this one was one of the first I read as a teenager and, like many others, I read at the time (Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Camus etc) I didn’t consider it as translated, probably because it was so brilliantly and seamlessly done – the mark of a great translation. (Also, I just love the whole concept of the book, each character and its perfect ending).

Richard:
This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kaye and Aaron’s Rod by D.H. Lawrence.

What would you say were the undiscovered gems in your catalogue?

Our undiscovered gem is debut author Lloyd Markham’s Bad IdeasChemicals. This novel is one part social satire and one part fantasy adventure with a would-be planet hopper, an open mic player, and a prototypical lad banding together for a ‘bad’ night out. Despite a recent nomination for the Wales Book of the Year Fiction Award, it’s still largely undiscovered, with only 200 copies sold. We anticipate that’ll grow once the word spreads. 


How is the company organised today and how many people work for you?

The company is primarily based in Swansea and Cardiff, but has staff across south Wales. The publisher, Richard Lewis Davies, and editor, Susie Wild, work in Cardiff and frequently correspond with the main office in Swansea that is managed by Maria Zygogianni. Maria manages a team of interns that primarily come through Swansea University where the office is housed. The financial wing of the company is managed by Financial Director Gill Griffiths out of Cardigan, where other freelancers are based. 

How much effort goes into the design of the book, for example the cover design, font selection and so on?

Each cover is designed from scratch, with the content of the book and the demographics of the audience taken into consideration. Cover design is entrusted to expert freelancers who have collaborated with Parthian for several years. If a book is part of a series, such as the Library of Wales, there are common banners, logos, and fonts used with which the designer matches with an evocative image that coalesces with the placement of text. Books that are not part of a series have a greater range of parameters, yet a common aesthetic can be seen throughout our titles – one that makes books stand out on a shelf but are not screaming at the reader. 

Are there any up and coming books that you are publishing soon that we need to look out for?

A novel recently released is The Golden Orphans by Gary Raymond. This literary thriller is set in Cyprus and written with a grounded sense of place and history. The author channelled his literary influence of Graham Greene to deliver a compelling, thoughtful meditation on identity and obsession.  

I, Eric Ngalle is a new memoir by author Eric Ngalle, a Cameroonian former refugee currently based in Cardiff. Eric’s new book tells of his journey from Cameroon to Wales. Written in his distinct voice, one with equal parts suffering and hope, Eric describes the years he was detained in Russia, not knowing if he’d ever get out. His story sheds light on contemporary Wales, and the piece of himself he left behind.


A work in translation from the Basque Country out this year is Her Mother’s Hands. This novel by Karmele Jaio is an examination of the deepest human bonds and a beautiful and moving tribute to life. The precarious balance in the life of Nerea, a thirty-something journalist, breaks down when her mother, Luisa, is hospitalised with total amnesia. Luisa is haunted by memories of a romance from her youth and soon Nerea begins to discover that the two women share much more than they believe.



What debut authors are you publishing this year?

Ironopolisis the debut novel from a talented young writer called Glen James Brown. This book is set in North East England and weaves together six stories from working class characters experiencing the collapse of their council estate. It explores collective memory, masculinity, the housing crisis, and cultural heritage through lived-in characters.








A talented young poet called Mari Ellis Dunning is releasing her debut collection titled Salacia. This accomplished collection is a contemporary reflection on mental health, mythology, love and loss. Salacia offers a stark and honest exploration of human nature and our fallibility, where the dark and sombre moments in life are as precious as the uplifting ones.

How did you come across them?

We come across debut authors in a range of ways. In the case of Ironopolis, we had the good fortune of receiving a query from the author’s literary agent, then read the full manuscript and signed on. Other authors we discover through submissions sent in hard copy to our Swansea office and read by our team. Still others we’ve made personal contact with, then discovered they had a book project that was in alignment with Parthian’s aesthetic. 

What title of yours has been an unexpected success?

We were confident that Biddy Wells’ A Van of One’s Own was a quality book, and we were delighted to find just how much it resonated with readers. It tells the story of how, propelled by a thirst for peace and quiet, for a modest adventure and, perhaps, for freedom, Biddy left for Portugal on her own, with only her old campervan, Myfanwy, and her GPS, Tanya, for company. 


A Van of One’s Own is a journey through the breath-taking scenery of France, Spain, and finally Portugal, populated by colourful characters and the roar of the ocean, the taste of fresh fish and the grind of the asphalt; but more importantly, it is a journey through past memories and present conflicts to inner peace.
How do you use social media for promoting books and authors?

Our social media presence on Facebook and Twitter is driven by the mission to situate Parthian within a collaborative community of readers, writers, editors, and administrators. We find ways to connect our authors with current events being covered in other media, such as how we’ve coupled promotion of Ironopolis, a working class novel, with The Guardian’s stories about working class and the arts. Another example is linking our new biography of Welsh suffragettes, Rocking the Boat, with the Processions 2018 public artwork that commemorates the women’s suffrage centenary. Through this collaborative approach, we increase the scope of our media reach and widen the context. We supplement this strategy with posts about individual author’s readings as well as book reviews and blogposts, in addition to posting live-feeds from events and recaps thereafter.

Is working with book bloggers becoming a larger part of that process now?

Book bloggers are an important part of getting early reviews for new releases. We’ve incorporated several book bloggers into our reviewer list and they’ve provided quality, timely reviews that have aided in promotion of the book. We anticipate growing this network even more, because of the expanding influence of bloggers with their audience and the importance of word-of-mouth support which is essential to the success of books published from independent presses.

What does the future hold for Parthian?

The future for Parthian includes further situating Wales within a global context. One way we do this is through our Carnival of Voices in translation from a wider Europe including recent work from the Basque Country, and the Baltic countries. These works help introduce Welsh and UK audiences to authors from regions of the world they’d not otherwise read, places like Greece, Malta, and Slovakia. It also builds partnerships with the home countries literary organisations and readerships, as in the case of Latvia, through which we published three volumes of poetry in 2018. 

We will also continue to give new authors their first publishing opportunity. This has proven core to our identity as an independent publisher and has led to several successes such as Alys Conran and her Wales Book of the Year-winning Pigeon. We will continue to find diverse, vibrant perspectives that bring a distinctly Welsh perspective to the world or bring a distinctly global perspective to Wales. Sometimes both. The Carnival of Voices will evolve to include all voices that have been marginalised because of mental illness, race, sexual orientation, and displacement. Publishing stories from these margins is how we will continue to push literature in Wales forward. 

A big thank you to Maria at Parthian for making time at fairly short notice to answer those questions for me. I really appreciate it. If you do want their books, get them direct from the website or I would urge you to buy them from an independent bookshop as you can as this supports them, the publisher and of course the author with one purchase. 

Previous Publisher Profiles:

Publisher Profile – Slightly Foxed

For me, independent publishers are the people in the industry who are prepared to take risks on new authors and books where the larger players either don’t wish to venture, or where they can’t see there being a return on. Each month in 2018 I am aiming to highlight some of my favourite independent publishers, along with some of their books that I have loved and also to have someone from the publisher answer a few questions. This month is the turn of Slightly Foxed





Each year the Uk publishes a staggering amount of books. A number of these end up on the bestseller lists, but in amongst those headline books are lots that never have the same level of hype and publicity. Sometimes this is because the budget isn’t there to promote them properly or they are languishing on a backlist. This is where Slightly Foxed comes in, it has an independent editorial team and a raft of people who contribute who are passionate about reading and books and who pick books that you almost certainly haven’t heard of. 

Not content with helping people discover books that most wouldn’t have heard of and feature them in their magazine, they took the steps to start to republish some of what they considered the best that had dropped out of print. They now have a selection of beautifully made books that are there for a new generation of readers. If the books and magazine aren’t tempting enough, then there are some carefully chosen literary gifts that will have you reaching for your wallet fairly quickly.

So thank you Steph and the Hattie, Olivia, Anna and Jennie at Slightly Foxed for taking time out to answer my questions.


Can you tell me a little about the history of Slightly Foxed?
Slightly Foxed started life in 2004 after the sale of the independent publisher John Murray to a large conglomerate. Gail Pirkis, former managing editor at Murrays and Hazel Wood, a Murray editor and journalist wanted to set up a bookish company with the emphasis on independence.  After much thought, Slightly Foxed, the quarterly literary review was the result.  It started around Gail’s kitchen table with a handful of staff, including Steph Allen from Murrays and Kathleen Smith from Waterstones. Kathleen moved on to the bookshop Topping & Co in Bath, but the original team are all still there – aided by Jen Harrison Bunning who arrived in 2006 and a strong team in the office (more of whom below).  It is a testament to Slightly Foxedthat staff have a tendency to stay.
After 4 years of publishing the quarterly we moved into books, specifically reprinting memoirs and autobiographies no longer in print. The Slightly Foxed limited editions, beautifully produced pocket hardbacks in an enticing array of coloured cloth have become collectors’ items.  Following on from their popularity we launched the Slightly Foxed paperback series and the Foxed Cubs – a children’s series of historical novels from Ronald Welch.  Plain Foxed Editions followed on. 
For a short while we had a second-hand and new bookshop on the Gloucester Road, which was wonderful while it lasted, but we have now established an online bookshop offering presents for bookish friends or relatives and a carefully chosen range of book-related merchandise, including bookplates featuring wood engravings by some of our favourite engravers.  
We have an active marketing team who combine traditional marketing (advertising, inserts etc) with a stylish social media presence, a growing partnership scheme with other like-minded magazines and organisations and regular events. We aim to launch each quarterly at an independent bookshop, or other venue that has a connection with our latest issue or edition and we have a one-day literary festival held every November in the Art Workers’ Guild in Bloomsbury
How is the company organised today and how many people work for you?

We have a busy office with four full time staff.  Jen Harrison Bunning looks after our website design, oversees our social media presence and future projects.  Anna Kirk deals with bookshops and our partnership scheme, alongside editorial assistance.  Olivia Wilson runs our renewal programme and will be our new podcast manager and along with Hattie Summers keeps our readers happy, dealing with their subscriptions and book orders.  Our editors work mainly from home, in Devon and London and we have three part-time staff who help with packing, marketing, accounts and events.  At busy times everyone does a bit of everything! We also have two contributing editors.  Once a month the editorial team and the marketing team meet up and we aim to get the full staff together at regular intervals – for a little gin and a catch-up.  Altogether there are 11 staff and between us there are also 6 office dogs and 3 cats! 
What is the company philosophy when it comes to selecting contributors for your journal?
Our contributors come from all different walks of life – some well-known in the literary world, some not – but what they all have in common is the ability to write personally and entertainingly about books they love and return to.  The end result is not so much a review magazine as a collection of literary enthusiasms and book recommendations.
How do you go about choosing the titles to be included in your portfolio?
Our memoir list is primarily selected by Gail and Hazel (our editors), from a mixture of favourite past reads, titles suggested by other staff members and some suggested by readers.
Tell me about your process after selecting a book for publication
After obtaining the rights from the agent, the book enters the editorial and design phase (see below).  We announce each title to our subscribers, a number of whom have a repeat order of the same limited edition number.  
How much effort goes into the design of the book, for example the cover design, font selection and so on?
The look of the issue and our editions is extremely important to Slightly Foxed.  The issues are A5 in size, 96 pages and are printed on high-quality, cream-coloured vellum to stand the test of time (many of our readers collect back issues and we have slipcases for them to house an annual subscription).  Each issue has a specially commissioned cover and we have a number of artists who return to us time after time. Cover artists include Posy Simmonds, Quentin Blake, Angie Lewin and Sue Macartney Snape among others. 
Our cloth-bound limited edition series was inspired by the pocket hardbacks of the 1920s-40s and much work goes into the choice of cloth colour, endpapers and ribbon. 
Key to the Slightly Foxedlook and ethos are our printers, Smith Settle in Yorkshire who have been with us from the first issue.  They are a traditional craft printer with a reputation for high-quality printing and bookbinding. 
Are there any up and coming books that you are publishing soon that we need to look out for?
We are bringing out Brendon Chase from BB, our third reissue of a BB title and greatly anticipated. We are also looking forward to bringing Rosemary Sutcliff’s historical novels for children in the Foxed Cub series.
In our limited edition series we have memoirs from Ernest Shepard, Jennie Erdal, Jan Morris and Eric Newby coming out in the next eighteen months. 
What debut authors are you publishing this year?
Something new for us – Philip Rhys Evan’s A Country Doctor’s Commonplace Book, due out in September. 
How did you come across them?
He is one of our readers and sent his manuscript in! 
What title of yours has been an unexpected success?
Terms & Conditions: Life in Girls’ Boarding-Schools 1939-1979by Ysenda Maxtone Graham.  We had wonderful review coverage for this title and reprinted 6 times! 
What would you say were the undiscovered gems in your catalogue?
There are almost too many to mention, but books that our readers have discovered for the first time and loved include Diana Holman-Hunt’s My Grandmothers and I, John Hackett’s I Was A Stranger, Gavin Maxwell’s The House of Elrig, Michael Holroyd’s Basil Street Blues and Adrian Bell’s trilogy of farming memoirs.  
How do you use social media for promoting books and authors?
Social media has become increasingly important to us for publicity and marketing purposes.  We use twitter and facebook to promote events, share news from other publishers and spread the literary word and we have a stylish, carefully curated instagram site which is worth taking a look at if you haven’t done already @foxedquarterly
Is working with book bloggers becoming a larger part of that process now?
Yes, Jen Harrison Bunning who plans and photographs our Instagram posts is connecting with an increasing number of book bloggers.  We always share any bloggers posts about Slightly Foxed and enjoy reading them in the office.
What does the future hold for Slightly Foxed?
Podcasts! We are excited to be joining forces with a podcast company to produce our own carefully selected content and round the table discussions from the Slightly Foxed team.
We will also be celebrating the publication of our 60thissue in December with an event at the London Library.
A big thank you to Steph and the team at Slightly Foxed for taking time out of their hectic schedules to answer those questions for me. I really appreciate it. I have contemplated getting a subscription for a while now, and after reading this have taken the plunge. If you do want their books, get them direct from the website or I would urge you to buy them from an independent bookshop as you can as this support them, the publisher and of course the author with one purchase. 

Previous Publisher Profiles:

Head of Zeus

Eland

Salt Publishing

Little Toller

Publisher Profile – Head of Zeus

For me, independent publishers are the people in the industry who are prepared to take risks on new authors and books where the larger players either don’t wish to venture, or where they can’t see there being a return on. Each month in 2018 I am aiming to highlight some of my favourite independent publishers, along with some of their books that I have loved and also to have someone from the publisher answer a few questions. This month is the turn of Head of Zeus.




Head of Zeus are based in London and have been in business now for 16 years. They have a broad portfolio of books and have also started their own imprints for childrens books, literary fiction and digital books. In their latest catalogue you can find a diverse range of genres from crime to historical fiction, YA and science fiction and fantasy. As you would expect from me, I tend to head to their non-fiction pages first to perruse their latest offerings and their books have always been well worth reading. Along with other small publishers they take care in choosing the covers that work with the books they want to publish as well as that attention to detail in the quality of the paper and what I call the heft of the book.

The first that I can recommend is Stonehenge by an archelogy hero of mine, Francis Pryor. He was one of the first authors that I interviewed for Nudge Books magazine and he was generous with his time and his answers. I did notice that they are publishing a new book of his on the Fens later this year.Simon Barnes was another author that I interviewed about his beautiful book, The Meaning of Birds, it is a well written, heartfelt book about the wonders of birds. One of the subjects that I like reading about is language, and may I Borrow Your Language? by Philip Gooden about the way that the English Language purloins words from all over the place is well worth reading and would be an excellent addition for anyone with an etymological collection of books.



Swimming with Seals by Victoria Withworth is a book in the sub-genre of nature writing and personal memoir. Whitworth is a member of the Orkney Polar Bears, a swimming club who meet to swim in the cold seas of Orkney. This beautifully written book is about the company she seeks to comfort her, as her marriage crumbles and she tries to manage other health problems too.

My career is in engineering, both electronics and mechanical so I have an inordinate fascination with all sorts of machines. This book about the Blackbird is a collection of facts and details about the design and creation of this still breathtaking looking aircraft that still holds several records for speed including one for travelling from New York to London in just 1 hour 54 minutes






They are a publisher with breadth and depth to their range of books. I have read one of their fantasy books, but not read any of their brilliant looking science fiction as yet, though have been very tempted at times. Laura and Blake were kind enough to answer some of my questions below on behalf of Head of Zeus.

Can you tell me a little about the history of Head of Zeus?
Head of Zeus started life in an attic in Shaftesbury Avenue. The company consisted of five people, three laptops, and four chairs in a startling shade of neon pink. It was chaotic and exhausting, but very exhilarating too. We founded the company in January 2012, just as ebooks were exploding. Our mission was to launch new fiction authors in the market very quickly, using a hybrid model of traditional print publishing and innovative E-publishing to reach – and grow – their readership.

How is the company organised today and how many people work for you?

We are now 40 people, working out of a lovely, light-filled office in Clerkenwell. We have added non-fiction, children’s fiction and digital-first fiction to our publishing portfolio, and since 2012, we have won the Digital Business of the Year Award, the Independent Publisher of the Year Award and a Bad Sex Award. You can guess which one is in pride of place on the bookshelves.  
As we have grown in size, we have tried to preserve the entrepreneurial spirit that was central to our foundation. Having an open-plan office is very important to us – sometimes it gets a bit noisy, but it means we all know what is going on in each department, and can collaborate as much as possible. And we’ve kept our original pink chairs to remind us where we started!

What is the company philosophy when it comes to selecting for your catalogue?
We have two publishing divisions, one which focuses on literary fiction and non-fiction, and one which focuses on popular fiction. I run the latter division, and our aim is to build a list of 60 book-a-year authors, each of whom has the potential to become a market leader in their genre – whether that be historical fiction, romance, crime and thriller, or science fiction and fantasy.
How do you go about choosing the titles to be included in your portfolio?
Personally, I look for books that combine a page-turning plot, memorable characters and emotional engagement. I want escapist fiction that makes me feel something, whether that be fear, shock, love, sadness, or happiness. All editors are different, of course. Some search for brilliant prose stylists; others look for fiction which transports you to new worlds. At Head of Zeus, all our editors have slightly different tastes. Hopefully, that means we can publish something for everyone.

Tell me about your process after selecting a book for publication
Usually, we will schedule a book for publication twelve months after it has been written. Books have to go to the printers three months before they are published – so that gives us nine months to prepare. We spend the first three months working on the structural edit; designing the book jacket; and preparing the sales pitch. The remaining six months are spent undertaking finer edits; writing the copy for the book jacket; selling the book into the bookshops; and planning the PR and marketing campaign.
How much effort goes into the design of the book, for example, the cover design, font selection and so on?
I’d say the cover is one of the most crucial moments in a book’s life. We know that people look at a book’s cover in a bookshop for about 3 seconds before they decide whether or not to buy it. They may turn it over to read the back, or they may not. Either way, you have 3 seconds for your cover to tell someone 1) what the book is and 2) why they must buy it. So it’s absolutely crucial to get the cover right.
We put a huge amount of thought and effort into our covers and into the cover copy, sometimes redesigning or rewriting them two or three times over the book’s life.
Are there any up and coming books that you are publishing soon that we need to look out for?
We’ve just published Anna, a heartbreaking but uplifting love story by one of my very favourite authors, Amanda Prowse. I defy anyone to read it without shedding a tear.
On the other side of the emotional spectrum, I have had a ball working with Wendy Holden on her sparkling romantic comedy Last of the Summer Moet. If you are looking for something fun, glamorous and truly escapist, it’s perfect. (it is also 99p on kindle until the end of March!)
We’re also really excited for Gallows Court from Martin Edwards, who is President of the Detection Club, Chair of the CWA and consults on the British Library’s classic crime series. He’s won hundreds of awards and when you read Gallows Court you can see why – it’s gripping and dark, and totally unputdownable.
What debut authors are you publishing this year?
We are publishing two really exciting debut authors this year.
My tip for the summer is The Boy at the Door (July 2018) by new author Alex Dahl. It is a completely engrossing psychological thriller about a woman in Norway whose perfect life is destroyed when a mysterious young boy turns up at her doorstep. I raced through it.
In August, we are publishing The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas – a wonderfully quirky novel about a group of female scientists who invent a time machine and use it to solve a murder. We’re describing it as a time-travel murder mystery, and everyone who’s read it, loves it.
How did you come across them?
Both authors were submitted to us by their literary agents. We tend to find most of our debut authors via literary agents, although we also welcome authors to submit directly through our submission portal (headofzeus.com/submissions). Our digital imprint, Aria, also has a submissions portal and we’ve had some great titles acquired through this.
What title of yours has been an unexpected success?
Back in 2013, we published a novel called The Detective’s Daughter by Lesley Thomson. It was upmarket, literary crime, first in a series. In the ‘old’ days, that kind of fiction would have taken seven books (over seven years) to build up the kind of readership that delivers a top-ten bestseller. But the immediacy of ebook publishing had changed all of that. People liked the title and description, and downloaded it in their droves. Then, once they had read it, and started posting rave reviews, what had begun as a little success snowballed into something much bigger. The book sold 300,000 copies in four months, was reviewed by 1500 readers, and stayed at the top of the kindle charts for about ten weeks.
What would you say were the undiscovered gems in your catalogue?
My absolute favourite undiscovered gem is a novel called Black Dog Summer by Miranda Sherry, which the entire company fell in love with at acquisition. It’s the story of a young girl navigating the world after the death of her mother. Set in rural South Africa, the novel weaves together family drama, thriller, love story and ghost story. Although we got excellent reviews, sadly the sales didn’t hit the dizzy heights we were all expecting. If the book ever has a renaissance, I’ll die happy.
One of our authors, M.R.C. Kasasian, has developed a hardcore fanbase, who call themselves the #KasasianCrew. Everyone who reads his books adores them, but for some reason they haven’t broken through yet. We’re re-launching him this Autumn with a new series featuring kickass detective Betty Church, in Betty Church and the Suffolk Vampire. Hopefully this will be the moment where his amazing books, which combine a wonderful, wry humour  with gruesome and gripping crimes.



How do you use social media for promoting books and authors?

We have a monthly email to readers on our rapidly growing database, which highlights our titles for the month, shares details of our upcoming events, and also spotlights the best content from the previous month on the website. We share all our review coverage online and take advantage of events and book signings to share new content like videos and photos, so that we are constantly engaging with our followers.

But although we are very active on our HoZ social media channels, at the end of the day, it’s the author, not the publisher, that readers really want to connect with. So we encourage all our authors to have social media accounts, and advise them on which one (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) would work best for them. We give tips on building their profile, and we create artwork and marketing messages for them to share.

Is working with book bloggers becoming a larger part of that process now?

As a small independent publisher, we have always benefited from our relationship with book bloggers. Unlike some of the bigger companies, who invest heavily in tube advertisements or magazine campaigns to promote their books, we rely on word-of-mouth within reader communities. We recognise how important bloggers are, and (hopefully!) we show our gratitude for their support by inviting them to author launch parties, crediting them properly when we include their reviews on our books, and offering them exclusive content such as signed copies.

What book do you wish you had published?
Oh there are so many! If I can pick just one, I’ll go for The Other Hand by Chris Cleave. Partly because it has the perfect combination of gripping plot, memorable characters and emotional heft I am always looking for, but mainly because it was published with creativity and flair. The publisher made the unusual decision not to share any details about the story or the author anywhere on the cover. Instead, the book included a passionate letter from the editor, imploring readers to simply trust in the magic of the storytelling. It was an original and bold strategy, and it worked on me! I have never forgotten it.  
What does the future hold for Head of Zeus?
Last year, we launched a children’s list, Zephyr which has some brilliant offerings later this year, including big names like Marcus Sedgwick and Sally Gardner. Our genre fiction is going from strength to strength and, with our science fiction authors over for WorldCon in Dublin in 2019, next summer is starting to look out of this world. We are already publishing some fantastic authors – old and new – and I can’t wait to see how it develops in 2019.

Apart from that, it’s quite simple: world domination.

So world domination it is then… A big thank you to Laura and Blake for taking time out of their hectic schedules to answer those questions for me. I really appreciate it. Head of Zeus’s books are available from all good bookshops and their most recent catalogue can be seen here. I would urge you to buy them from an independent bookshop if you can as this support them, the publisher and of course the author with one purchase. 

Previous Publisher Profiles:

Eland

Salt Publishing

Little Toller

Publisher Profile – Eland

For me, independent publishers are the people in the industry who are prepared to take risks on new authors and books where the larger players either don’t wish to venture, or where they can’t see there being a return on. Each month in 2018 I am aiming to highlight some of my favourite independent publishers, along with some of their books that I have loved and also to have someone from the publisher answer a few questions. This month is the turn of Eland.


One of my favourite non-fiction genres is travel writing, so much so that I usually read around twenty to thirty books a year. To have a publisher that only focuses on travel books is a little like heaven for me. Named after the name of a misremembered elk, Eland’s primary focus is finding the obscure and normally unknown texts by writers that are wry, humane, tragic, lyrical, universal, funny and idiosyncratic and intelligently written, but most of all they need to sum up a sense of place. Their cream and rich red branded books are slightly taller than the others on the shelf, making them stand out when I am browsing through the travel sections of a bookshop. I am even doing a personal challenge to read a travel book from every country around the world, called The World From My Armchair Challenge; there are, as you’d imagine, a number of Eland titles on the list.

Not only do they have over 100 classic titles in their catalogue, but they occasionally commission books for their series called Eland Originals. They were generous enough to send me one from that list that was published in 2017, Travels in a Dervish Cloak. This fantastic book by Isambard Wilkinson tells of his travels around Pakistan, seeing how life was for the people in the places he visited and seeing how paganism still flourishes under a thin veneer of Islam in the wilder parts of the country. 
Another classic that was reprinted last year is The Forgotten Kingdom by Peter Goullart. This describes in intimate detail the time that the Russian author spent in the Nakhi Kingdom of south-west China and is such a brilliant book. There are a couple of authors that are key to their catalogue, one is Dervla Murphy, the Irish travel writer famous for cycling from Ireland to India. The other is Norman Lewis, a prolific writen of fiction and travel books, and whose Naples ’44 is one of Levison Woods must read books; which reminds me… I have read The Goddess in the stones, a fascinating journey wall away from the tourist routes around the state of Bihar. Warrior Herdsmen is Elizabeth Marshall Thomas’ account of living with the Dodoth cattle-herdsmen in Northern Uganda. It is closer to anthropology than travel, but fascinating nonetheless.

Mustn’t forget too their ‘Through Writers Eyes’ series of books. These are collected and curated works of fiction, poetry and non-fiction about different places and countries. They are an excellent publisher, and Barnaby Rogerson was kind enough to answer some of my questions below on behalf of Eland

Can you tell me a little about the history of Eland?

Eland was started thirty-six years ago by John Hatt in a fury that none of the publishers he contacted were interested in reprinting Norman Lewis’s book about Vietnam, Dragon Apparent.  A book which if read could have informed any US politician about the likely end result of the Vietnam War.  On the back of this venture, he was later employed as the travel editor of Harpers Bazaar, which put him in an ideal position to travel and test out the best books on the ground.  


I must have written him a fan letter (in green ink) whilst still a history student, but instead of binning it, he invited me for tea on the strict understanding that he was never going to employ me.  I later became a writer of guide-books and a jobbing travel journalist and tour guide, so we kept in touch.  After 20 years running the business, he wanted to get out, having made a fortune from setting up cheapflights.com which also nearly killed him with overwork. 

How is the company organised today and how many people work for you?

Eland is passionately independent and is entirely owned by its three directors, has no other shareholders, and (at the moment) no debt. It takes no subsidies from the UK or any other government or pressure group. It is currently run by a husband and wife team (Barnaby Rogerson and Rose Baring) in an attic (a three storey walk-up above a popular London street market) who make use of a dozen skilled freelancers who either work from home or pop in once a week or once a month and hot desk in this attic while we feed them cups of tea.  The freelance sales force in the UK is supplied by PGUK, the physical books are stored (and invoiced) by the incredibly efficient GBS/TBS.  There is a network of freelance reps for our various foreign territories plus two stock holding distributors in AUS and the USA.  We also sell to individual readers through our own website, which though it only achieves a tiny 3% fraction of our turn-over helps keep us in touch with our customer base. 

What is the company philosophy when it comes to selecting for your catalogue?


We can never quite define what we are looking for until we stumble across it but it needs to be observant of others, capable of summing up a spirit of a place and catching the moment on the wing– aside from such everyday literate skills as being funny, wry, intelligent, humane, universal, self-deprecating and idiosyncratic – plus the whole book has to be held together by a page-turning gift for story-telling. Increasingly we look for travel books that are not defined by heroic adventures but the ability to listen (and maybe understand) other cultures – ‘anthropology lite’. 

How do you go about choosing the titles to be included in your portfolio?

Eland is essentially a co-operative of passionate readers.  Some of our best book suggestions come from our customers, who write in by postcard, letter or e-mail  (typically listing half a dozen books that they adore about one region and that we do publish) then casually mention “but why not this as well”.  This happened yesterday for instance.  Our other principal sources of information come from the well-read staff who run bookshops and of course writers.    

Tell me about your process after selecting a book for publicationhow much effort goes into the design of the book, for example, the cover design, font selection and so 
on?

Sometimes it takes a year to find the right image. We pride ourselves on getting the mood right for the cover of an Eland book, and have a loose rule of thumb that fiction can be best expressed by a painting and fact by a period photograph.  Various versions of a cover get created, pinned to the wall, then after a bit you find the most appropriate one.


Are there any up and coming books that you are publishing soon that we need to look out for?

We are thrilled that we have recently acquired the entire back-list of one of the greatest post-war British writers, due to a supportive literary agent who admires what we do. In May 2018 we will release Jonathan Raban’s Old Glory, Arabia: Through the Looking Glass, Hunting Mr Heartbreak, Coasting and For Love & Money.  He is wise, irreverent, clever, wicked and funny. 



What debut authors are you publishing this year?

None. In 2018 we are back to our principal role of reprinting travel classics, which will however include the first English language publication of the iconic French travel-writer Nicolas Bouvier’s Selected Works.

How did you come across them?

My wife, Rose Baring, who reads in French and Russian, discovered Bouvier.

What title of yours has been an unexpected success?

The Road to Nab End by William Woodruff.  

What would you say were the undiscovered gems in your catalogue?

Some of our publishing rivals/friends would say half the Eland list! But off the top of my head – Warriors by Gerald Hanley, Peking Story by David Kidd, Living Poor by Moritz Thomsen, People of Providence by Tony Parker





How do you use social media for promoting books and authors?

Our publicist Stephanie Allen, who used to work at John Murray and helps run the Literary Magazine Slightly Foxed, has led the way.  Getting us to send out quarterly chatty newsletters (that do not endlessly try to flog our books), which she then supported by setting up an Eland Facebook page, then twitter, then instagram.  Her recent round of energy has been connecting Eland up to the fascinating world of freelance literary bloggers (whose motivation is often very similar to that of Eland).  Beside this we continue with traditional means like drinks parties, launch parties, lecture, pop-up shops, not to mention sending books out to review to the print medium of magazines and newspapers.  

Is working with book bloggers becoming a larger part of that process now?

Yes, there seems to be a natural and immediate sympathy between the thoroughly independent nature of Eland and the world of book blogging

What book do you wish you had first published?

Lords of the Atlas by Gavin Maxwell, which we now have on our list – even though I know he was in many ways a total monster, as revealed by Douglas Botting’s biography – which we reprinted last year !  

What does the future hold for Eland ?

After 36 years of work, we have now built up the Eland backlist to over 145 titles, which you can have a look at on the website.   So Eland has now probably become the world’s leading independent publisher of classic travel.   There are at least three dozen travel books which I would like to add to the list right NOW, but we like to work within our own capacity and budget.  So there is no immediate danger of scraping the barrel. 

We now have probably just as many travel books written by women as men, but the next challenge will be to expand out of our Anglo-American identity and start including much more of the world.  We got a great kick out of translating Evliya Celebi’s travels, and showing the world a 17th-century version of Orhan Pamuk, an Ottoman Bruce Chatwin.



Thank you to Barnaby and Steph for taking time out of their hectic schedules to answer those questions for me. I really appreciate it. Eland’s books are available from all good bookshops and their most recent catalogue can be seen here. I would urge you to buy them from an independent bookshop if you can as this support them, the publisher and of course the author with one purchase. 

Previous Publisher Profiles:



Publisher Profile – Salt

For me, independent publishers are the people in the industry who are prepared to take risks on new authors and books where the larger players either don’t wish to venture, or they can’t see there being a return on. Each month in 2018 I am aiming to highlight some of my favourite independent publishers, along with some of their books that I have loved and also to have someone from the publisher answer a few questions.



The publisher for months Profile is Salt Publishing. Based in Cromer, Norfolk, Salt have been been in business for 19 years this year and are committed to the publication of contemporary British literature, poetry and short stories. The first books published were poetry and they soon became a force to be reckoned with as the awards piled up. From 2011 they branched out into fiction and have critical aclaim there too with shortlisting and winners in the Polari First Book Prize, the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Award , the Man Booker Prize and the Costa Book Awards. They are good at finding the authors who most mainstream publishers would never consider, and bringing the stories to life that you wouldn’t get to read otherwise. For example The Clocks in This House All Tell Different Times, not only has a stunning cover, a disturbing and unerving novel set in Epping Forest or the unreilable narrator in The Giddy Career of Mr Gadd (deceased). I have just finished The many this weekend which was longlisted for the Man Booker. It is a haunting novel of a seaside village that is full of suspense as an outsider moves into a house and disturbs the fragile equilibium.

Christopher Hamilton-Emery was kind enough to answer some of my questions below on behalf of Salt Publishing:

Can you tell me a little about the history of Salt?
Well we started things back in 1999, in Cambridge. In the early days, it was mainly poetry, and mainly experimental poetry, often with a transatlantic flavour. We published a lot of Australians, too. We quickly diversified into literary criticism and literary companions, poetry, memoir, novels and short stories. There was this rapid expansion in the Noughties, at one point we were publishing around eighty titles a year. Like any publishing business we began with some narrow editorial imperative; if you are lucky enough to survive, you broaden those out – I’d say we were a small independent trade publisher now. We started developing our fiction list about seven years ago and at the same time, began plans to draw the list back. In the main, we publish British novels, about fifteen books a year, but we’re redeveloping our non-fiction and poetry lists, too.
How is the company organised today and how many people work for you?
There are three directors: Linda Bennett, Jen Hamilton-Emery and me. Nicholas Royle is a commissioning editor. Emma Dowson is our publicist. As in all independents, we all double up in roles – Jen commissions fiction, Linda commissions crime, I commission poetry. But this is the core team of five people.
What is the company philosophy when it comes to selecting for your catalogue?
I suspect each of us would provide a slightly different set of concerns in answering that question. There are perhaps three questions: Is it good? Can we sell it? Will readers love it? Each of us might attend to those questions in a different order and with different priorities, and we may add things in, loyalties and prejudices, hopes and dreams. Wearing my director’s hat, you don’t have a business if you don’t address paying readers – so I tend to start and end with this in strongly mind. Yet it’s not all about sales. A great book can be persuasive in several ways.
How do you go about choosing the titles to be included in your portfolio?
Each editor is free to choose what they most passionately believe in. We are great advocates of editorial judgement. There are cases when we might debate whether we can make a title as successful as it deserves to be. And I’d be wrong to imply that there aren’t financial constraints. But each editor is part of the Salt family and understands what we are trying to do and what resources we have. There’s pragmatism to match the passion.

Tell me about your process after selecting a book for publication
We start work on a book anything from fifteen months to nine months in advance – sometimes earlier, working with the author in developing a text. Then there’s contracting, editing and revision. Copyedits and line edits. Lining up your contacts and fans, working out the marketing plan, the publicity plan. Cover design and cover reveals. There’s a lot of administration sorting the bibliographic data, loading the buyers and suppliers with information. There’s a lot of talking to people: finding endorsers and supporters. There’s the typesetting and proofing cycle once editorial is finished. Prize planning and getting proofs out. Publicity copies to reviewers, bloggers, vloggers and booksellers – some on long lead times, some short. Pre-sales: planning titles in to key selling cycles and briefing the sales teams. Catalogue production. International sales. Rights sales. The book fair and festival planning. Author events. Excerpts, features and interviews. Social media campaigns. More prize planning. Networking. Drawing upon the author’s own publicity through their websites, online presence, friends and colleagues. Looking at influencer marketing – who will love this book. Seeding reviews with readers. Giveaways. Competitions. Tie-ins. Radio and TV. Point of sale materials. Bookshop marketing. Special sales. Then, in a kind of crescendo, we publish. 80% of the sales and marketing effort happens before the book hits the shops.
How much effort goes into the design of the book, for example the cover design, font selection and so on?
A great deal. You can’t formally announce a book without a cover, so it has to happen as early as possible and there’s a team involved in getting the right solution. Yet I’d say that the author is a key player – no book will succeed without the author, and the author needs to believe in the cover. It might not be the one they had chosen, but it must be the one they settle for. If you publish a book with a cover the author hates, its biggest advocate won’t support it. It’s both an emotional and commercial matrix. We think we get it right most of the time. Never underestimate its importance. Try to avoid bringing too much compromise. Don’t illustrate the book but create a powerful metaphor if you can.

Are there any up and coming books that you are publishing soon that we need to look out for?

All of them! However, if you want a glimpse of our range I’d say Samuel Fisher’s The Chameleon, Bee Lewis’s Liminal, Alison Moore’s Missing and Philip Whitaker’s You would give you a flavour of 2018 – but I am quite serious, they’re all worth seeking out.




What debut authors are you publishing this year?
Mark Carew, James Clarke, Samuel Fisher, Bee Lewis and Martin Nathan.

How did you come across them?
In each case, our editors went out and found them –through teaching, workshops and lectures.
What title of yours has been an unexpected success?
Success is always unexpected, I know that sounds arch but it’s true. You have a sense of which titles have the largest sales opportunities, and you have evidence for those insights, but prizes can swing things dramatically and we have had considerable success with literary prizes – a key part of our business strategy, you may say. No one can know the full effect of prizes. There are always dark horses, something that readers respond to in a way you hadn’t foreseen. In fact, I’d say that every year, there are some real surprises. That’s part of the pleasure of publishing.
What would you say were the undiscovered gems in your catalogue?
Each of us would answer this differently: Pinckney Benedict, Gerri Brightwell, Charles Yu.
How do you use social media for promoting books and authors?
We talk about what we do, about how and why we do it, which books we’re working on. We share our passion and hopefully our humour. We try to be honest, relentlessly honest. We try to be inclusive and open – let people into our working lives. We’re certainly not precious. We try to be visual. We try to be informative. We try to be, er, interesting, sometimes perhaps controversial. Social media is the coffee machine natter with folks. There are some more formal components, creating memes around releases and events. A change in register and tone makes for a more interesting voice. We start early and keep going. Social media is also a kind of afterlife for books. Never stop talking about them.
Is working with book bloggers becoming a larger part of that process now?
Yes, a blogger can break a book in ways traditional media largely controlled ten years ago. Like all media, some bloggers have a larger presence and impact than others. Some bloggers have become vloggers and changes in how we use new media have seen changes in how blogs work. Once upon a time, people would leave the world of social media to visit a blog – now the blog has to appear within social media. The discussions move to where the audience is. Presently, this lies within Facebook (for depth) and Twitter (for transient moments). It’s interesting to see vloggers increasingly collaborate and we’re seeing the emergence of a form of coherent broadcasting. We may yet see the emergence of channels of combined book reviewers creating an effective schedule of programmes.
What book do you wish you had published?
After Me Comes the Flood. What an author to have in your stable.
What does the future hold for Salt?

Financial exasperation, commercial seizures, all the usual moans and groans – yet alongside this ‘publishing weather’, the old complete conviction that we can make a difference to readers’ lives. Homilies aside, we have an important collaboration as co-funders with Galley Beggar Press and the Writers’ Centre Norwich/National Writing Centre over the next three years. We’re excited about that. There’s the careful development of our non-fiction list. And hopefully the resurgence of our poetry publishing. As Blake says, ‘The most sublime act is to set another before you’.

Thank you to Chris for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer those questions for me. I really appreciate it. Salt’s books are available from all good bookshops and their most recent catalogue can be seen here. I would urge you to buy them from an independent bookshop if you can as this support them, the publisher and of course the author with one purchase. 

Publisher Profile – Little Toller


For me, independent publishers are the people in the industry who are prepared to take risks on new authors and books where the larger players either don’t wish to venture, or they can’t see there being a return on. Each month in 2018 I am aiming to highlight some of my favourite independent publishers, along with some of their books that I have loved and also to have someone from the publisher answer a few questions.


The publisher that I am going to be starting with resides in my home county. Little Toller are in Toller Fratrum, nestled in the hills of West Dorset and have a focused portfolio of books that are centred on the natural world. They are not only reprinting classic books about rural life, but they are ensuring that we are getting new books too as they commision books for the fantastic Monograph and Field note series. I am slowly working my way through their back catalogue and I have liked and loved all that I have read. Particular favourites though have been Orison for a Curlew by Horatio Clare, Snow by Marcus Sedgewick and Arboreal. Not only are the authors that they choose top class there is something about one of their books that is quite special, from the cover art, the grade of paper that they choose and the tiny details in the way that it is made. 

They are also a significant part of Common Ground a charity that seeks to engage people with their local area and are the originators of Apple Day

As part of this Jon Woolcott was kind enough to answer some of my questions below on behalf of Little Toller:

Can you tell me a little about the history of Little Toller?


Little Toller was founded by Adrian Cooper and Gracie Burnett in 2009, with the aim of republishing the great books of rural life – books like The South Country by Edward Thomas, Four Hedges by Clare Leighton and Men and the Fields by Adrian Bell. That list, our nature classics, now has over twenty-five titles, and we now publish contemporary landscape and nature writing; in fact that’s now the main focus of our publishing.
How is the company organised today and how many people work for you?

We’re tiny! Four of us work in the office regularly, working variously on editorial, sales, marketing, artwork and production, just like a normal publisher, on a micro-scale. But we do use freelance proofreaders, and have many collaborators, like the team who work on our blog, The Clearing- where we publish new nature and landscape writing and interviews with authors, plus podcasts and develop new themes.
What is the company philosophy when it comes to selecting for your catalogue?

We’re very choosy- we try to think about how the genre of nature and landscape is developing. Fundamentally, it must start with the words.
How much effort goes into the design of the book, for example the cover design, font selection and so on?

This is critical for us, and should be for all book publishers. If physical books are to survive in a digital age, they need to be beautiful.  Carefully selecting artwork for jackets is really important, often commissioning new work by young artists. We feel the same about internal illustrations, the endpapers, the cloth that covers the jackets. We spend a lot of time thinking about paper quality, its weight and its grain. These things matter.

Are there any up and coming books that you are publishing soon that we need to look out for?

We’re delighted to be able to publish Eagle Country, by the poet Seàn Lysaght in April – his quest for the eagle landscapes of the western coast of Ireland – this will be the tenth in our monograph series, which includes books by Fiona Sampson, Iain Sinclair and Adam Thorpe. In the Nature Classics series, we’re looking forward to publishing Dorothy Hartley’s Made in England in the same month – an account of cottage industries and village life in the 1930s. This will have an introduction by Fran Edgerley of the Turner Prize-winning architectural collective, Assemble. We’re also publishing Herbaceous by Paul Evans, in paperback, next month – this was our first ever monograph, and is remarkable. And we’d have to mention the extraordinary Carol Donaldson – her book On the Marshes, about the watery edgelands of northern Kent was a debut last year, and a big success – the paperback is coming in May. We have plenty more wonderful books to come, but we’re yet to announce them.
What debut authors are you publishing this year?

We’re excited by Martha Sprackland’s book, Sharks, about the science and mythology and culture of this much misunderstood animal. It will be safe to go back to the beach, after all…
What title of yours has been an unexpected success?

When you’re small, any success is welcome, and of course, we feel that all our books deserve a wide interest – especially because we pour such energy and love into each one, but we were delighted with how well On Silbury Hill by Adam Thorpe and Snow by Marcus Sedgwick we received. Both were BBC Radio Four Books of the Week.



What would you say were the undiscovered gems in your catalogue?

All our books matter hugely to us. I personally have a huge fondness for Dexter Petley’s memoir, Love, Madness, Fishing, about growing up, as he puts it, among the rural poor on the Kent/Sussex borders in the 1960s and 70s. It’s a quite astonishing evocation of a mostly vanished world, and it’s brilliant.



How do you use social media for promoting books and authors?

While we don’t do much with ebooks, which don’t suit our books well, the digital world has much to offer the small publisher. While Twitter and Facebook are important mouthpieces for us, the real point is that we try to use these opportunities creatively, in a way that works for our books. We make little films with our authors for new books, and distribute them online; and as I mentioned earlier, The Clearing is an important way of beginning a dialogue with our readership about important issues. What the internet enables us to do, is to be very targeted, and to reach people interested in what you’re doing more easily, and frankly, more cheaply.
Is working with book bloggers becoming a larger part of that process now?

Yes, to a certain extent. The truth is that there are fewer places for books to be reviewed as national newspapers find their continued existence more challenging, so finding sympathetic bloggers, who write about the appropriate subject area is bound to be a bigger part of what we do. Having said that, nothing beats a proper review in a national paper, or a serious radio discussion.
What book do you wish you had published?

We have talked about this sometimes – we publish books in such a distinctive way that it becomes difficult to separate that from the text alone. I’d say that while we’re often admiring of other books, it doesn’t usually extend into wanting to publish them.
What does the future hold for Little Toller?

When you’re as small as we are, planning means thinking about books we might publish in, say 2020, and while we have one or two very exciting projects, we’re still developing them. In the meantime, we hope to make bigger and bigger splashes with our books and, furthermore, to develop The Clearing more too.

Thank you to Jon for taking time out of his hectic schedule to answer those questions for me. I really appreciate it. Little Toller’s books are available from all good bookshops. I would urge you to buy them from an independent bookshop if you can as this support them, the publisher and of course the author with one purchase. 

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