Top 10 start-ups tipped for 2006

<p>Writers are not writing less, but giant publishing houses are increasingly reluctant to take a punt on books that are not guaranteed bestsellers. This is where the small, agile independent publisher comes in, as Mark Smith, managing director of Quercus says: "There is a huge reservoir of great material out there that is available to small, independent publishers because the larger publishing groups are too scared to touch it. While working for the big groups, I saw a lot of books not published at all; of all the titles in the big guys' sights, 80% of those may never make it into print."</p><p>So, from the "gripping literary crime novels in translation" produced by Bitter Lemon Press, through to the first mainstream publishing company to specialise in producing books inspired by popular websites, The Bookseller brings you 10 of the best small or new independent publishers that are poised to make colourful, individual inroads into the bookselling market.</p><p>Alma Books</p><p>Alma is Spanish for "soul"--a well-chosen name for a press that professes to see the book as "a crafty object" rather than a "mass-produced product". When Alma's first books are published in April 2006, they will be printed on natural paper; the company's co-founders, Alessandro Gallenzi and Elisabetta Minervini, will focus on quality over quantity, from proof-reading and editing, to the "actual physical look of the books".</p><p>Gallenzi and Minervini left Hesperus, where they were minority shareholders, to set up a publishing company that they could own 100%, dedicating it to contemporary literary fiction. Around 70% of the books that Alma intends to publish each year will be English-language originals, while the remainder will be works in translation--particularly from French, Italian, Russian, Spanish and German, which are the languages spoken between the five-strong team.</p><p>Authors already signed up by Alma since its launch in October include political journalist Matthew D'Ancona, National Book Award-winning writer William T Vollmann and Anthony McCarten. McCarten's The English Harem will be published this month to coincide with the release of a major ITV drama adaptation starring Martine McCutcheon. Alma aims to publish 20 books a year.</p><p>Think Books</p><p>Originally a successful contract publisher, Think Publishing launched Think Books in March 2005 as a way of capitalising on its membership magazine publishing for a variety of charitable and environmental organisations. Run jointly by Ian McAuliffe, publishing director, and Tilly Boulter, managing director, Think Books specialises in books on the outdoors, gardening and wildlife.</p><p>"That is our traditional area of expertise," Boulter says. "We are doing books with the Wildlife Trust, the Royal Horticultural Society and the Campaign to Protect Rural England, as well as some high quality gift books, which lead on from our Companion series--a set of 18 trivia books which we previously packaged for Chrysalis, but are now publishing ourselves."</p><p>Think Books is one of only three UK publishers to be sold by Pan Macmillan--the other two being the Friday Project and Rodale Press. While this autumn's list is being sold and distributed internally, the 10-strong list for next spring will be sold and distributed by Macmillan.</p><p>Titles to watch out for next year, according to Boulter, are the three RHS books--The Garden Finder, The Good Parks Guide and Wildlife Gardening for Everyone, and a "really wonderful, quirky book" called Animal Tragic, which explores and explodes popular animal misconceptions over the centuries.</p><p>The aim of Think Books is to drive sales by striving for quality at every stage of the publishing process. Boulter says: "There is a need in this country to have an imprint that is also a brand. Quite simply, we want to be the most exciting publisher on the block."</p><p>Bitter Lemon Press</p><p>Bitter Lemon Press launched in January 2004, founded by the Swiss brother-and-sister team of Fran├žois and Frederic von Hurter and Laurence Colchester, who is French. With an initial books list of six books a year, the purpose of Bitter Lemon Press is to publish books that "expose the darker side of countries you are likely to visit". "Our books are entertaining and gripping literary crime novels in translation that expose the darker side of foreign places," says Fran├žois von Hurter. "They have a strong sense of place, and explore what lies just beneath the surface of bustling cities such as Mexico City, Paris or Munich."</p><p>Bitter Lemon's first author, Swiss morphine addict Friedrich Glauser, wrote "legendary crime novels mired in small-town hypocrisy"; another successful Bitter Lemon writer is Cuban Leonardo Padura, who pens scathing mystery novels set in a Havana beset by corruption and oppression. His first novel, Havana Red, is Bitter Lemon's bestseller to date; the next title in his series of four Havana books, Havana Black, will be published in April 2006. </p><p>Bitter Lemon's one rule is that any book published in its name must have been read and enthusiastically endorsed by all three partners. Following this guide, the press hopes to build a following for its authors and grow the size of its books list to 10 books a year, with a possible branching out into literary fiction over time.</p><p>Arris Publishing</p><p>According to the Oxford English Dictionary, an arris is "the sharp edge formed by the angular contact of two planes or curved surfaces". For Michel Moushabeck and Geoffrey Smith, co-founders of Arris Publishing, the tangential contact of two objects represents their aim of bringing different worlds closer to each other--their travel books cross over into art history, while their history titles aim to open people's eyes to political events on the world stage.</p><p>Arris Publishing has two imprints: Arris Books, which launched in late 2002, and Chastleton Travel, established in January this year. Arris Books specialises in politics, current affairs and history, while Chastleton offers "travel books with an edge". Smith explains: "Obviously you can't compete with Rough Guides and Lonely Planet for doing straight travel guides, so we are trying to do travel with an angle. At the moment we are doing a series called the Travellers' Wildlife Guides and a series about the 100 best paintings in certain cities, starting with The 100 Best Paintings in London, which was published in September.</p><p>Smith does not believe in mission statements, but concedes that Arris Books' leading title, The New Pearl Harbor by David Ray Griffin, with life sales of around 20,000 copies, has "a certain political stance, taking a realistic, some would say sceptical, view about what is happening in the Middle East and the US". Smith has no plans to expand beyond 30 books a year, but would like to further develop art-history/travel and wildlife/ travel crossovers.</p><p>The Friday Project</p><p>The Friday Project, named in the spirt of the founders' joint satirical email comment sheet, The Friday Thing, is a new breed of publishing house specialising in turning "the internet's finest brands into the world's finest books". "The Friday Project is the first mainstream publishing company to specialise in producing books inspired by popular websites," says Clare Christian, publishing director, who set up the company with Paul Carr, editor-in-chief. "It is great to be able to take the massive creative talent that exists on the web and bring it to a wider audience."</p><p>Launched in June this year, the Friday Project has already published its first three titles: The Holy Moly! Rules of Modern Life; London by London: The Insiders' Guide; and 2005 Blogged: Dispatches from the Blogosphere. Next year the company plans to publish 25 to 30 titles, with 50 books the year after that. Christian says: "We are just going out for a second stage of investment, the idea being that we can begin to grow the business much more rapidly. The web world moves about a million times more quickly than the traditional publishing world, so it is really important that we are in a position to exploit those opportunities."</p><p>Key investors in the Friday Project--which now has four full-time staff--include former Random Century and Orion chief executive Anthony Cheetham, who also serves as non-executive director. The company has also formed a partnership with Macmillan, which provides sales representation and distribution services.</p><p>Portobello Books Ltd</p><p>Portobello was founded in London at the start of this year, at a time when "the dynamics of conglomerate publishing in the English-speaking world mean that fewer and fewer literary works of significance are being published with respect for the author as creator and for the book as durable transmitter of the written word", according to managing director and publisher Philip Gwyn Jones.</p><p>Jones, who in his previous incarnation as publisher at the now defunct Flamingo list at HarperCollins was responsible for publishing Arundhati Roy, Jhumpa Lahiri, Douglas Coupland and Naomi Klein among others, argues that there is a genuine thirst for stories from other cultures. "I would rather publish the best Danish novel of the year than the 38th best English novel," he says. "You should not badge books as international literature, but simply as the best books wherever they happen to come from."</p><p>Portobello's first list, published this autumn, reflects the company's aim to promote "new voices and innovative writing from around the world"--a mix of fiction in English and translation with an array of politically, historically and culturally engaged non-fiction. Titles on the first list include People I Wanted to Be by Gina Ochsner (below) and Half Gone by Jeremy Leggett; one to watch in 2006 is Harbor by Lorraine Adams.</p><p>Portobello, which will publish up to 20 titles a year, is financed by Eric Abraham, founder of film production company Portobello Pictures, and his wife Sigrid Rausing, an anthropologist and philanthropist. Sales and distribution are being handled by Atlantic Books in conjunction with Faber.</p><p>Cyan Books</p><p>Cyan Publishing has been around as a corporate communications company since 2001, only moving into book publishing in May 2004, when it launched Cyan Books with an initial list of four titles. </p><p>The Soho-based company published another eight books in 2004, expanding quickly to produce around 45 titles in 2005.</p><p>Cyan is a non-fiction publisher specialising in areas such as business, self-development and personal well-being. </p><p>Key titles for 2006 are Megatrends Europe by Adjiedj Bakas; a marketing take-off of The Da Vinci Code called The Marketing Code by Steven Brown; and City Slackers by Steve McKevitt.</p><p>Cyan Books is based on the principles of having a strong relationship with its authors and publishing commercial books that have the potential to be marketed and promoted well. </p><p>The plan for the expansion of the books publishing division to around 80 to 90 books by 2008 is about developing "a more global outlook", according to Martin Liu, managing director.</p><p>The company has already quadrupled its output by setting up a publishing alliance with Singapore-based Marshall Cavendish--Asia's largest English-language publisher; Cyan has also signed publishing partnerships with Germany's Campus Verlag and the Netherlands' Scriptum to publish business books in translation.</p><p>Quercus</p><p>Quercus is a combination of two businesses: Smith Davies contract publishers, now known as Quercus Editions, and Quercus Books--a press specialising in crime fiction and reference books with a twist--that will formally launch in March 2006. </p><p>The venture has been developed by Anthony Cheetham and Mark Smith, both previously at Orion, with support from former Fourth Estate publisher Christopher Potter and New York bookseller Otto Penzler, who will run the crime list.</p><p>Quercus, named after the Latin for oak tree, has already signed some well-known crime writers--Joyce Carol Oates, Andrew Klavan, Thomas H Cook and Joe Gores--and the highly rated Australian author Peter Temple, who Smith describes as "our superstar in the making". Temple's new novel, The Broken Shore, will be published in July next year; books on the 2006 spring list include Red Leaves by Thomas H Cook and Speeches That Changed the World, introduced by Simon Sebag Montefiore.</p><p>Quercus plans to publish 45 titles over its first year, of which 40% will be fiction, 30% trade non-fiction and 30% illustrated non-fiction, some of which are from the Quercus Editions list. Smith wants to specialise in crime initially before branching into contemporary women's fiction, historical fiction and science fiction. The company, which projects turnover of approximately &#163;3m next year, plans to publish between 75 to 80 books a year by 2008.</p><p>Reverb Books</p><p>Reverb Books adopted a music business approach when it launched its first four books in May this year; the aim of co-founders Andrew Chapman and Paul Lenz was to develop "a label readers trust in the same way that people trust an independent record label". Lenz says: "Most other publishers don't stand for anything in particular or have become diluted."</p><p>Reverb specialises in "the best of contemporary writing where literary fiction meets popular culture"; its second list of three titles, released on 1st December, is made up of How to Disappear Completely by Observer columnist Stefan Demetriou, C M Taylor's Cloven, and the company's first foray into non-fiction: a travel autobiography by Robert Turner called Kishkindha.</p><p>Chapman and Lenz see Reverb as an online community of readers; they send out a weekly newsletter of book reviews called ReverbReview, and cross-promote Reverb mail on whatshouldireadnext.com--a website that has proved "far more comprehensive and popular than similar sites" according to Lenz, with more than 6,000 readers having registered lists of their favourite books.</p><p>Nurturing new talent is also important at Reverb: the company is committed to publishing 50 new writers over the next five years, and promises to give a constructive reply to submitted manuscripts within seven days. "Writers tend to get treated pretty badly unless they are already successful," Lenz says. "But without writers there would be no publishing."</p><p>Snowbooks</p><p>Emma Barnes was moved to set up Snowbooks through spending "an inordinate amount of time in the departures lounge at Heathrow". </p><p>Her role as a management consultant for Deloitte&amp;Touche, which involved working 14-hour days churning out PowerPoint slides for presentations in business parks in Bracknell, was making her "lose the will to live". She says: "I didn't want to get to 60 and look back and think I just saved people thousands of pounds on their paper-buying budgets."</p><p>Instead, Barnes and a friend, Rob Jones, decided to quit the corporate treadmill to set up Snowbooks--an unusual, bohemian organisation whose main aims, besides profitability, are "being a source of fun and making us proud". Barnes says: "We're a strange blend: cynical, efficient ex-consultants who share an idealistic streak so broad and dewy-eyed it's a wonder we don't give all our money to homeless kittens."</p><p>In line with their unconventional nature, the book publishing process at Snowbooks is rather different: each member of the four-strong team, who are all publishers, "individually acquires" a book and then does everything to do with that title, from cover design and typesetting through to marketing. "This means that we have more ownership of our titles," Barnes explains. "When the book rolls off the printer you can hold it and feel proud that you have had everything to do with it."</p><p>Since its launch in July 2004, Snowbooks, which is distributed by Littlehampton, has published 10 titles, with 15 more planned for 2006. It has done particularly well with Adept, a crime thriller by Robert Finn.</p><p>Harriet Dennys</p>