A couple of weeks ago, a new email newsletter arrived unsummoned into my inbox. Proof - lo-fi in design, satirical in tone, anonymous in provenance - promised "insider gossip and comment on the UK publishing industry from two people who work in publishing." Offering a blend of "parties, trends, gossip and absurdities", it felt like a fun breath of fresh air for the industry, and a nice example of the current email newsletter renaissance.
I reached out to its shadowy authors to understand a bit more about the project and get their honest take on what needs shaking up in publishing.
Why are you launching Proof, and why now?
We feel there’s space for a publishing newsletter that falls somewhere between the trade press and a TinyLetter. We want to make something of value that’s fun and satirical whilst being honest about the problems within the industry. Proof has been in the making since late 2017 but we wanted to wait until we’d got the tone right before sending out issue #1.
Why an email newsletter?
We did loads of research i.e. chatted about what we liked and realised we weren’t big blog readers or long form fans, but we would be up for a nice little colourful bulletin in our inbox once a month. We are also zine aficionados [see Mushpit party in issue #1] and love the irreverence and carefreeness of DIY print culture. We wanted to bring a bit of that spirit/look to Proof BUT make it a free & easily accessible publication. Digital was the way to go & PROOF can be read on your phone in a lunch break.
Why are you choosing to remain anonymous?
It’s partly for stylistic reasons - a nod to traditional satire, like a 21st c Alexandra Pope & Joanna Swift - and partly because there is a freedom in remaining anonymous when you work in the industry you’re writing about. But we might change our minds and show our faces after issue #2 or #3 comes out. We would like to give others the opportunity to contribute anonymously too.
What most needs shaking up in the publishing industry?
Amongst many other things, blurb vocab. ‘Dazzling’ is dead to us.
In the next newsletter we’ll be reporting on entry level salaries. How is it acceptable for publishers to ask entry-level candidates to state expected salaries on their applications / offer anything below the living wage?
What publishing innovations are you currently most excited about?
We’ve noticed that some publishers have introduced rooftops to their offices. That’s really nice, especially when the weather is good. But sadly access to occasional sunshine and free drinks on Fridays don’t pay the bills…
A lot of promotional effort and creativity has been channelled into the lit events scene over the past few years and especially since the dawn of nu-Waterstones (see: TCR). Publishers like Picador & Faber are also hosting more meet-the-author evenings which we like because publishing needs more parties. We will be talking about London’s salon scene in issue #2 btw.
What publishing startups would you invest in if you had the cash?
404 Ink, Silver Press, Dostoyevsky Wannabe, Dead Ink Books, Goldsmiths Press, Mushpit, gal-dem, Red Press (social justice), Vagabond Voices, Peninsula Press, PROOF + loads more, it’s all very exciting
Enhanced ebooks: exciting or meh?
We think we tried one once but we’re not sure it worked.
Mobile fiction: what’s the best you’ve seen so far?
Lena Dunham’s Lenny has just announced an ‘interactive fiction series’ in partnership with US Glamour magazine which sounds like a cute, Instagram-friendly experiment. We also enjoy For Books’ Sake’s Weekend Read mailout on Fridays.
Book subscription services: untapped brilliance or dead end?
Dead end is a bit harsh. But we have yet to see one which offers something to get excited about.
Who do you find most inspiring in the book industry?
INTERNS we <3 them. They are the backbone of this industry and they should all be paid a living wage. We’re also massively behind Creative Access and Arts Emergency & what they’re doing to help young people + people from BAME backgrounds get into publishing.
Send issue #2 out on time! Get invited to more awards ceremonies/launches/balls etc for our Warm White Whine party wars slot and eventually channel everything we’ve learnt about book parties into hosting our own Christmas do with actual, real life, cold white wine.