Sheffield-based independent And Other Stories is celebrating its 10th anniversary this autumn with a redesign as well as physical and digital events.
Founder and publisher Stefan Tobler says that the team will mark the milestone from September on into the new year with new designs, online events and in-person parties and bookshop displays. The publisher’s titles will get a different look from September onwards, thanks to new house-style typefaces as well as the appointment of an art director, designer Tom Etherington.
Events will include: a Sheffield party with the Off the Shelf festival; bookshop road trips for the team; and several of the publisher’s authors appearing at bookshops and festivals. It will also “ramp things up digitally” with a couple of showcase online events featuring conversations and short readings with authors and translators. Tobler says: “With our international bunch of writers and our ecological commitment to avoiding flights, we want to continue creating online and hybrid events that enable writers to chat to readers easily.”
Reflecting on the early days of And Other Stories, Tobler says: “To be honest it feels like a minor miracle that the press started at all. I was a single parent, not living in London, and so not getting out all that much. I had never worked in publishing. It was amazing how ready with advice others in publishing were, like Pete Ayrton, and organisations such as Arts Council England.” He notes that while And Other Stories was something of a pioneer with its focus on translated writing and its subscription model when it began, in the last decade the landscape for both has changed a lot.
While the increase in publishing in translation in the UK is “great for readers, [it] can be a challenge for presses all applying for the same pots of translation funding”. However, Tobler is heartened by “how translations have just become much more of a part of the accepted fabric of the UK publishing industry”, praising the “collegial” publishers in this area as well as the work of sales and marketing agency Inpress to bring presses together. The industry’s attitude towards subscription services is “a million miles away from when we started, when we were the only trade publisher in the UK for whom subscriptions was a significant part of our model”. The publisher now has 1,600 active subscribers. Tobler calls this direct contact with readers “rewarding”, but warns that currently “we’re in danger of losing [customers] if postal solutions for streamlined customs payments to the EU don’t improve”.
Over the past year, the press has expanded its team in the US, with editor Jeremy Davies joining from FSG and former bookseller Tom Flynn becoming outreach manager. The new additions have “put us in a much stronger position, list-wise and profile-wise, on that side of the Atlantic”. Davies’ first acquisitions for And Other Stories come out this autumn, beginning with Robin McLean’s “mind-melting eco-feminist Western” Pity the Beast in November, to be followed by Robert Aickman’s Go Back At Once and Adrian Nathan West’s My Father’s Diet.
On the horizon
Other upcoming publishing highlights for the press include a trio of début novels. Keeping the House by poet, writer and artist Tice Cin is edited by prize-winning author Max Porter and is “at once a family saga and a tale of the London underworld” (7th September); the winner of And Other Stories’ 2020 Northern Book Prize, Fit by school teacher Sammy Wright, is pitched as “a cutting and compassionate peek behind the scenes of a social-media Cinderella story” (21st October); and award-winning poet Mona Arshi (pictured) joins the list with her first novel, Somebody Loves You (16th November). For the latter, And Other Stories will gift long-term subscribers and bookseller supporters with a limited edition broadside [a large piece of paper with print on one side] taken from the novel, printed by letterpress printer New North Press.
Next spring, And Other Stories will release the first in a series of Barry Hines reissues, The Gamekeeper. Tobler says: “Barry Hines is a great writer and it’s ridiculous that only A Kestrel for a Knave is in print. As a South Yorkshire publisher, it was a natural step to decide to bring his novels back into print with new introductions.” The Gamekeeper, publishing next April, is “an incisive portrait of working-class rural life that speaks to our love of nature and nature writing, but is also shrewd about humankind’s influence on nature”. And Other Stories secured rights to a never-published piece by John Berger about the book to use as the introduction to the new edition.
A highlight of the series will be Hines’ last previously unpublished novel, Springwood Stars, about a village football team during the 1920s miners’ strike. Tobler read it in the author’s archive in manuscript form, and will publish it in 2024 to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the 1984–85 miners’ strike.
Looking back on the past decade, Tobler sums up his highlights—aside meeting his now-wife and colleague Tara at a sales conference in 2014—as “the books read, people met and worked with, conversations had, festivals attended, and prizes won—or almost won”.
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