Back from the dead

<p>While I was buying manager at Waterstone's I kept a secret list. No, not of publishers and journalists who had called me an [insert expletive here], that would have been far too time--consuming. Instead, I made a note of all the books that customers and booksellers were trying to track down but which proved to be out of print. I had some vague notion of bringing a selection of these back in one form or another, perhaps a Waterstone's own-label, but nothing came of it.</p>
<p>Until now. This month, The Friday Project publishes the first four titles in a sporadic series called the Library of Lost Books. These are all titles that have been unavailable for some time but which, for differing reasons, are worthy of a new life in print-on-demand and, crucially, digitally.</p>
<p>Each title will have its own bespoke cover and wherever possible we will keep the r.r.p. to under a tenner. We are not setting up a transactional website and will, instead, rely on retailers to sell these for us. Realistically these books will not be promoted in the high street chains, but I genuinely believe they are worthy of space in the A&ndash;Z and in booksellers' recommended displays. I hope the independents, who have been great supporters of our books, will love them.</p>
<p>But what of the books themselves? The launch titles are an eclectic selection. <i>The Slaughteryard </i>by Esteban Echeverria is an Argentine classic that is studied in many of our universities but this is the first modern translation and comes packed with loads of extra material. Contrast that with Eric Morecambe's d&eacute;but novel, <i>Mr Lonely</i>, a surprisingly accomplished story of a cabaret performer who finally breaks into the big time.</p>
<p>English-language copies of <i>Krabat</i> by Otfried Preussler, a classic children's book, have been changing hands for up to &pound;300 a copy online. And I am particularly delighted that the Library of Lost Books will give some more recent titles an opportunity to find a new audience. Sarah Salway is one of our great British writers, just ask Neil Gaiman who calls her &ldquo;the Madonna of writing books&rdquo;, but her first novel <i>Something Beginning With</i> was not a big hit first time round. It deserves a second chance.</p>
<p>We will give each title a very competitive e-book price of &pound;2.99. We have seen our digital pricing policy working across our list, without being detrimental to print sales, and I am convinced it can be put to good use here.</p>
<p>As with many of our publishing experiments, it remains to be seen how successful this whole project will prove to be. The important thing, I think, is to try something new, to do it well and to make it as commercial as possible. After that you need a little bit of luck, and the right books, and some willing readers. I shall report back.</p>