Booklaunch, the quarterly books magazine and packaging outfit, has launched a publishing arm called EnvelopeBooks.
The new imprint launched this month with three titles: Postmark Africa by the FT's former Africa editor Michael Holman (£10.05 in paperback), covering half a century as a foreign correspondent; From Bedales to the Boche: The Ironies of an Edwardian Childhood by Robert Best (£14.75 in paperback), tracking the author's journey to enlistment in the Royal Flying Corps; and A Road to Extinction by Jonathan Lawley (£10.05 in paperback), a plea for the survival of a group of palaeolithic tribespeople who, against the odds, have managed to retain their culture in the forests of the Andaman Islands.
Each of the covers have so far been designed to allude to envelopes, to reflect the imprint's premise: "a book is a letter from a writer to a reader". The book’s dedicatee appears as the addressee and the stamps sum up the theme of the book visually, except that books set overseas come in an airmail envelope with a red and blue chevron border.
Specialising in non-fiction memoir to date, it will however also be branching out into fiction in the future. The aim is to publish about 12 titles a year, in both print and e-book formats. In the pipeline is a novel set in medieval China: the memoir of a man who encouraged his wife to kill herself after she was diagnosed with Hodgkinson's disease, a history of the globalisation of war, a history of the design profession in England in the first half of the 20th century, a reinterpretation of one of the books of the Bible and a books of poems.
Stephen Games, founder of Booklaunch and its new spin-off publisher and previously a BBC documentary maker and arts correspondent at the Independent, said EnvelopeBooks was "rare" in a crowded field. "We take writing seriously and we’re conscientious," he said. "Unlike many firms who advertise more widely, we don’t take shortcuts and we don’t take advantage of authors’ innocence. We work tirelessly to ensure your words are as good as they’ll need to be, and then we get them to market in whatever format makes most sense."
He continued: "As an editor and writer, I’m inspired by Penguin in its early years: the breadth and the quality and the self-effacement. As a designer, I love the early Jan Tschichold unillustrated covers—three bands: publisher, title, author. You’ll notice that our covers are formulaic in the same way—and against the trend of modern book cover design. Instead of struggling for attention, each looks like an envelope, because a book is nothing more than a letter from a writer to a reader... I am keen that booksellers will take an interest and want to stock us. With our unusual cover design, books can be stood up on their side without needing a bookstand, and I hope shops will take advantage of this feature."
As an offshoot of Booklaunch, which also specialises in packaging, it is understood authors contribute costs for copy-editing, page layout, proofreading and cover design at the outset – after which, if the author then chooses to publish with its own publishing arm, they are then listed, marketed, distributed and sold as part of its own EnvelopeBooks imprint, with the author receiving a royalty on all sales.
Booklaunch began in September 2018 as a means of showcasing new authors and their writing, akin to the browsing experience in a bookshop, acknowledging dwindling review space. It operates as a quarterly magazine, featuring as an insert in publications such as the New Statesman, Literary Review and Spectator, with a distribution of around 50,000 per issue.
Further details can be found on the Booklaunch website.