As dedicated readers we’re always searching for the next title but Covid-19 has made this much more difficult. Writers and publishers need our support more than ever. I spoke to a few independent publishers about their new books, where they can be purchased and how the pandemic has affected them. For some small publishers this is a battle for survival. Some have had to furlough their whole operation, others have been luckier with functioning distribution and publicity and the ability to connect with readers in innovative ways via social media. If you’re reading more, if books are part of the way you cope with lock-down and you like entertaining, challenging and prize winning writing here are some suggestions of titles and where to find them:
Myriad Editions publish literary fiction, graphic novels, feminist non-fiction and memoir. They are passionate about books and about spreading the word and finding new readers. It’s a small dedicated team working from home but used to meeting up regularly. Weekly team meetings now happen on Zoom:
“it’s still great to catch up, check in with what’s happening now and plan for our post lockdown future! On a ‘normal’ week most of us would be out and about at meetings and attending events with our authors.”
The team are still organising launches online, and planning a series of monthly salons. Readers can buy direct from Myriad’s website for a 25% discount plus free P&P with the code myreadathome – here’s how:
Follow Myriad: @MyriadEditions (T) or @myriad_editions (I), and sign up here for their new weekly newsletter.
MOTHER: A Memoir by Nicholas Royle will be published on 14 May, £8.99.
A touching, funny and beautifully written portrait of family life, mother-son relationships and bereavement which feels very topical right now with relatable themes of origins, endings and inheritance. https://myriadeditions.com/books/mother-a-memoir/
She-Clown and Other Stories by Hannah Vincent (March, £8.99.)
These fierce and funny feminist stories are about everyday heroines at work and play, trying to be themselves while clowning around for others. https://myriadeditions.com/books/she-clown/
The Wolf of Baghdad by Carol Isaacs (Jan, £16.99)
A moving graphic memoir about her family’s lost Jewish homeland of Baghdad, this graphic memoir takes Isaacs on an imaginary journey from her North London home to Baghdad as she explores what it means to be homesick for a homeland she has never even visited. The book is illuminated by family portraits and testimonies, offering a poignant perspective. https://myriadeditions.com/books/the-wolf-of-baghdad/
COMMA Press are a small team of five people – a not-for-profit publisher specialising in the short story and fiction in translation. Comma aims to put the short story at the heart of contemporary narrative culture. Publishing collections by new and established authors, cutting-edge (often marginalised) voices from across the world. Award-winning publications include The Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blasim, Tea at the Midland by David Constantine, You Should Come With Me Now by M. John Harrison, The Sea Cloak by Nayrouz Qarmout, and the first ever collection of science-fiction from Palestine, Palestine +100. The staff are working from home, all forthcoming events have been cancelled (including a nationwide book tour), and planning has paused for their writer development conferences. Comma has moved content online and have been starting initiatives such as online book clubs and livestream masterclasses from their authors. Comma are selling books directly from their website, but stock may be an issue. http://www.commapress.co.uk
Other outlets include Hive, Waterstones, and any independent bookshops still able to supply. eBooks are selling as normal with a new eBook deal every week, with collections down from £4.99 to £1.99.
Commas latest publications are:
Europa28 – edited by Sophie Hughes and Sarah Cleave. A collection of 28 women from across Europe writing on the future of the continent from the perspective of 28 EU countries.
The Book of Shanghai, edited by Jin Li and Dai Congrong. Ten new short stories by the city’s most renowned authors.
Forthcoming: Resist: Stories of Uprising in paperback, twenty fictional re-tellings of key moments in British protest history (out 21st May) https://commapress.co.uk/books/resist-stories-of-uprising-1
“The best thing you can do to help us as a small press is buy or pre-order directly, and if you’re a reviewer, review from PDFs/epub where possible! Also, our first online short story course has sold out quickly, but more are on the way, and our next livestream masterclass is Jane Rogers on the work of Dostoyevksy.”
URBANE Publications are a traditional indie based in the South East. They’ve published over 200 books, primarily fiction with the emphasis on thrillers and crime, as well as literary, historical and romance, and business, biographies and popular reference. Popular authors include Hugh Fraser, George Costigan, Anne Coates, James Silvester, Jenny Boyd, Christopher Lowery, Pamela Holmes, Chris Parker and Geoff Thompson. The company has two full time employees, and has partners for sales and distribution.
“It’s been very serious and more worryingly we can’t gauge the long term impact at this stage as it’s impossible to plan effectively. Despite the guff you hear in the media about book sales being up, that doesn’t help if the supply chain isn’t functioning fully. We all have visions of a captive audience, literally with lockdown, and we’ve been vigorously pushing the ebook list for example, but we’re one company amongst many all vying for attention in a small space. There are signs that the wholesalers and other retailers are coming back online and gradually getting up to speed, but we’ve taken an enormous hit to physical sales, particularly in the States where we were launching a high profile biography just as the crisis hit home. Obviously the London Book Fair was also cancelled and we’d invested huge amount of time and money in that – it’s a very, very big deal for a small independent as that is where we would hope to drive most of our rights business for the year. We have had to delay publication of titles, cancel launches and tours, re-organise marketing and PR – it’s simply an unprecedented situation.”
Urbane are concentrating on ebooks and driving the profile of backlist titles, reducing all fiction titles in price to £0.99/$0.99/€0.99 worldwide.
“I suspect that the autumn is also going to be overrun with BIG titles as everyone will be desperate to drives sales in the run up to Christmas.”
Fall Out by debut author Mark Grenside, (May).
A genuinely gripping international thriller full of intrigue, double cross, murder and conspiracies. Mark made his name as a film producer and the film’s story has its genesis in a notorious Hollywood scandal.
Recently published two thrillers – Perdition’s Child by Anne Coates and Locked in Fear by Liz Cowley – Both very strong writers with great female protagonists.
And there’s the fabulous memoir:
Jennifer Juniper by Jenny Boyd.
She’s led an incredible life – Sixties model, friend to the Beatles, married twice to Mick Fleetwood and the inspiration for Donovan’s song Jennifer Juniper. It’s a genuinely fascinating story of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, but also how the world has changed so much in the last forty years memory.
Urbane ask us to:
“Keep buying books, keep reading, and keep discovering new authors and titles. These are tough times for everyone and will be for some time, but great books will always be published and every book bought helps authors get published, publishers stay in business and bookshops open again. If you are going to buy books, order with your local indie bookshop if they’re doing postal orders, if not head to Hive as they support an independent bookshop with every single sale they make.”
Gallic Press have furloughed some staff so they’re operating a skeleton crew from home. A lot of author events, interviews and other publicity has been cancelled, and Gallic is missing out on opportunities to promote latest releases and are having to operate with uncertainty with regards to upcoming titles. The bookshop Belgravia Books is also closed so we are missing that daily trade but still operating online: https://belgraviabooks.com/) with free UK delivery. Also eBooks of all titles are available and many can be bought as audiobooks. People can get hold of Gallic books through retailers still operating (Amazon, Waterstones, Indie bookshops).
“We definitely want to remind people that Antoine Laurain has a new book coming out this autumn Info here, especially in light of the Duchess of Cornwall recommending The Red Notebook.”
The new Editions Gallic collection brand new titles The African by JMG Le Clezio is coming out this Thursday and Georges Perec’s I Remember on the 21st. These are iconic French titles that will join a gorgeous curation of our backlist titles to create a wonderfully collectable set of must-read French work. Gallic are also releasing a new edition of How’s the Pain by Pascal Garnier with an introduction by John Banville.
Bitter Lemon Press
Bitter Lemon Press produce about six titles a year, mostly, but not exclusively, highly regarded crime fiction from around the world. They say that working from home is affecting morale at times but not stopping them from carrying on. The small full-time team relies heavily on third party support for services like publicity, design, sales, distribution etc. So far these third parties have adapted well to the changes in circumstances and continue to support Bitter Lemon Press with enthusiasm. Work continues on books to be published later this year and into 2021. The chief concern in lockdown has been the closure of book shops and difficulties with the supply chain. This has of course affected the sales of physical books, so regarding marketing and publicity, they have been concentrating on eBooks.
Physical book sales have slowed but as platforms like Amazon are now increasing their deliveries of paperbacks we see a mild resurgence even in that area. eBooks have showed strong growth over the past weeks and BLP have increased marketing activity online dramatically to reach readers. Postings (and followers) on Twitter, FB and Insta have double or tripled, they have published newsletters with greater frequency, all to keep readers informed and entertained, and to tell them about discounted and free eBooks. They have had, and will continue to have, at least one free eBook available every day of the lockdown. Sign up to the newsletter, follow on FB and Twitter to get more information as things develop.
The eBook initiative during lockdown has focused on backlist titles, often on novels that are part of a crime series. Examples include Havana Fever by Leonardo Padura, Needle in a Haystack by Ernesto Mallo, and Evil Things by Katja Ivar–with a sequel called Deep as Death coming out in July in PB and eB. The eBook of Tin Sky by Ben Pastor is another example of recent focus but readers should know that, conditions permitting, The Night of Shooting Stars, another in this WWII crime series, will be published in August in PB and eB formats.
“Despite daily mood swings in lockdown, we remain optimistic about publishing, about the joys of reading and about a return to better conditions soon. We continue to acquire the rights to books (from translation and written in English) for publication next year and beyond!”
Fitzcarraldo Editions publish International and contemporary fiction, including Fernanda Melchor, Nobel Prize winner Olga Tokarczuk, Matthias Enard, and Augustin Fernandez Mallo and books of essays including Ian Penman, Kate Briggs, Simon Critchley and Annie Ernaux. The staff began working from home a few days after lockdown. Unfortunately many events had to be cancelled including almost all of the dates for BOX HILL by Adam Mars-Jones, for Esther Kinsky’s GROVE and Adania Shibli’s MINOR DETAIL. Festivals such as Hay and the International Literature Festival Dublin have also been cancelled and postponed and the Booker International prize-giving has also been postponed affected sales and the ability to reach new readers. There has been a huge negative impact to sales as so many Fitzcarraldo books are sold by bricks and mortar bookstores.
“We are a small team of four, and while this crisis has presented many new challenges, we continue to have a lot of work to do and are still looking forward to the future. We did not cancel or postpone any publications and we are hopeful that those books will still reach readers. We have been able to sell books and are in the process of getting our ebooks available directly through our website.”
So books are available via the Fitzcarraldo website but when their distributors had to shut their warehouses, they had to get creative, with the help of Burley Fisher, to get individual books to customers.
A GIRL’S STORY is Annie Ernaux’s latest book, first published in French in 2016.
Ernaux revisits the summer of 1958, spent working as a holiday camp instructor in Normandy, and recounts the first night she spent with a man. Ernaux discovers that here was the vital, violent and dolorous origin of her writing life, built out of shame, violence and betrayal.
In GROVE, An unnamed narrator, recently bereaved, travels to Olevano, a small village south-east of Rome. It is winter, and from her temporary residence on a hill between village and cemetery, she embarks on walks and outings, exploring the banal and the sublime with equal dedication and intensity. Seeing, describing, naming the world around her is her way of redefining her place within it. Written in a rich and poetic style, GROVE is an exquisite novel of grief, love and landscapes.
Fitzcarraldo have been hosting a series of posts from authors on their blog during the crisis which is definitely worth checking out. From playlists to readings to daily dispatches from their area of the world, it’s a nice way to escape the day to day. http://blog.fitzcarraldoeditions.com
“We will also be shortly releasing audiobooks of DRIVE YOUR PLOW OVER THE BONES OF THE DEAD by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones and read by the translator and POND by Claire-Louise Bennett, read by the author. So keep your eyes peeled for those.”
Since I’ve been reviewing books, which is about three years now, I’ve seen this independent publisher punch well above their weight, developing an impressive range of titles, signing top authors and bringing some great new writers to the British market. Orenda Books, based in Dulwich, publish contemporary and crime fiction; not everything is to my taste, but that’s a matter of preference not quality. The number of prizes, shortlist appearances and critical acclaim they receive, including some garnered during the crisis, is a measure of the respect their authors are gaining. Their literature in translation and from around the world is particularly impressive. Orenda are progressive and energetic, and publisher Karen Sullivan is nothing short of awesome. So I’m just going to let you read in her words in an article in The Bookseller about catching the virus:
Lockdown diaries: the indie publisher http://www.thebookseller.com/blogs/lockdown-diaries-indie-publisher-1201917
Current and upcoming titles:
Ash Mountain Helen Fitzgerald. Single-mother Fran returns to her sleepy hometown to care for her dying father when a devastating bush fire breaks out. A heart-breaking disaster-noir thriller from the bestselling author of The Cry. (May)
The Waiting Rooms by Eve Smith. Swinging from South Africa to England: one woman’s hunt for her birth mother in an all-too-believable near future in which an antibiotic crisis has decimated the population. A prescient, thrilling debut. (Out in eBook format, paperback July).
Blood Red City by Rod Reynolds. Video footage of an apparent murder on a London train thrusts crusading journalist Lydia into a terrifying web of money, politics and power, in sophisticated, shockingly believable contemporary thriller. A witness but no victim. A crime but no crime scene… (Out in eBook format, paperback June)
If you’re a crime fiction fan then it’s a fair bet you’ve read a No Exit Press novel or two. Among UK crime imprints, No Exit are the gold standard, their fiction output is distinctive and varied: from classic noir/hard-boiled titles to the best of new talent from Europe and North America. While crime is the No Exit staple, they also publish espionage, contemporary literature, collections/anthologies and factual books. From light (cosy) to noir, a bit of domestic drama and, recently, a contemporary western too. No Exit Press publish several popular authors, including Leigh Russell, Peter Murphy, Michael Farris Smith, John Lincoln (John Williams), Robert B. Parker (and his pen name reincarnations: Ace Atkins, Reed Farrel Coleman), William Giraldi, Bill Beverly, James Grady, Daniel Pembrey, Gary Philips, Juris Jurjevics and D.O. Dodd. Among the classic authors they have reprinted are Eric Ambler, Paul Cain, George Simenon, W. R. Burnett, Charles Willeford, Jonathan Latimer, Lawrence Block and Dashiell Hammett.
No Exit press have had to cancel all public author events but have set up online interviews, features with authors talking about their books and ramped up their direct sales. They will be supplying print editions of titles for as long as stocks last, but due to the developing nature of the crisis, this may change, for the moment:
“FOR A 50% DISCOUNT ON ALL PRINT EDITIONS USE CODE BIG50 AT CHECKOUT – MORE INFO HERE »
– FREE EBOOKS WITH ALL PRINT ORDERS (WHERE AVAILABLE)- EBOOK ONLY PURCHASES: ALL FICTION EBOOKS NOW JUST £1.99”
When We Fall by Carolyn Kirby, the acclaimed author of The Conviction of Cora Burns, longlisted for the Historical Writers’ Association Debut Crown Award. Out now.
Southern Cross Crime by Craig Sisterson (out now as eBook, paperback September, 2020).
A guide to Australian and New Zealand crime and thriller writing – collectively referred to as Southern Cross Crime – which is booming globally, with antipodean authors regularly featuring on awards and bestseller lists, such as Eleanor Catton’s Booker Prize winning The Luminaries and Jane Harper’s big commercial hit, The Dry, winner of the CWA Gold Dagger Award.
Daisy by JP Henderson. Written in his own words, and guided by a man who collects glasses in a local pub, this is the story of Herod ‘Rod’ Pinkney’s search for Daisy Lamprich, a young woman he first sees on a decade-old episode of the Judge Judy Show, and who he now intends to marry.
Good luck finding the right book for you and maybe doing some good for independent publishers too.
Collated by Paul Burke.