The nine winners of the regional and country round of the British Book Awards Small Press of the Year accolade have been revealed. Presented for the third time in 2021, and sponsored by the CPI Group, the award celebrates the diversity of small presses in the UK and Ireland. This year’s winners include publishers from County Kildare in Ireland, Hackney in London, Leicester, Sheffield, Cardiff, Beaminster in Dorset, and Edinburgh.
The winners include three past victors — Charco Press, September Publishing, and Firefly Press — as well as newcomers such as Boldwood Books and Magic Cat Publishing; but the award also recognises longevity with Merrion Press, the 46-year-old Ireland winner. The durability of small press publishing even during the pandemic is recognised with five highly commended awards for publishers including Vertebrate Publishing in the North of England, as well as Cranachan and the The Wee Book Company from Scotland.
Philip Jones, editor of The Bookseller and chair of the judges for the British Book Awards, said: “The Small Press Award has been a highlight of this year's British Book Awards, as it has once again revealed the sheer indefatigability of these publishers in this most difficult of years. We are now seeing a raft of small presses, well supported by their authors, readers, and bookshops, publishing at the top of their game with stand-out success stories from 2020 including Dara McAnulty's Diary of a Young Naturalist, Old Ireland in Colour, and Slow Down: Bring Calm to a Busy World. These are publishing lists for the bigger publishers to envy, run by publishing people making an everyday difference."
The regional and country winners will now be in contention for the overall Small Press of the Year, to be announced at the British Book Awards, a.k.a. The Nibbles, on 13th May 2021. The winning companies, including joint-winners for London, are:
And Other Stories
Winner of the North England category, And Other Stories used its subscription model to great effect when shops closed, while also growing its US publishing. A social enterprise, diverse in its output and working towards carbon neutrality, it is one of the most ethical indies around.
London: joint winners
One of two joint winners in the London category, Boldwood Books has hit the ground running, some may even say sprinting, with its commercial fiction list. In its first full year it recorded £1.6m of sales and an output of 78 titles, and it is already achieving impressive international reach.
Magic Cat Publishing
Like fellow London winner and newcomer Boldwood Books, Magic Cat has made a huge impact in a relatively short space of time. The 11 titles on its launch list have been superbly developed with rights and spin-off products in mind, and it is set to be a major force in children’s publishing.
The Scotland category winner shows how indies so often lead the way in translations—in this case, of Latin American literature. It had a book on the International Booker Prize shortlist for the second time in the past three years, and also grew direct sales to its dedicated followers.
The Wales winner for the second year in a row, Firefly bounced back from a tough spring to grow sales by more than 50% year on year. Jennifer Killick’s Crater Lake has been its most successful book to date, and its tiny team produced powerful trade and consumer marketing.
Little Toller Books
The winner of the South-west England category had phenomenal success with Dara McAnulty’s Diary of a Young Naturalist, which added the Wainwright Prize to 40,000-plus sales. Flourishing direct sales in lockdown led it to open its own bookshop towards the end of the year.
Island of Ireland
Ireland winner Merrion Press, the trade imprint of the Irish Academic Press, had by far the best year in its history, thanks in large part to a remarkable €1m of sales of John Breslin and Sarah Anne Buckley's Old Ireland in Colour. It published its first children’s and audio titles too.
September is the winner of the East and South-east England category for the second year in a row. It flexed to reach readers digitally and directly, raced out Joanne Harris’ Ten Things About Writing for those who were writing in lockdown, and had its best year yet in the US.
Leicester-based Sweet Cherry is the Midlands winner. Export sales doubled in 2020, and UK and e-book revenue rose nearly as much. With half of its management from Black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds.
The Wee Book Company, Scotland
From You To Me, South-West England
Vertebrate Publishing, North England
Europa Editions, London
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