Peepal Tree is among the indie publishers to be longlisted for this year's Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses.
The Leeds-based publisher has been nominated for The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey, which won the Costa Prize last month.
The list features 10 books from 10 small presses across the UK and Ireland. For the first time, all the longlisted presses will receive funding from the prize, with each publisher receiving £1,000. A further £10,000 will be split between the shortlisted books, to be announced in late March. The prize is funded by the Publishing Project at the University of East Anglia, and, newly as of this year, the Granta Trust. The rest of the prize money is raised through the Small Press Book of the Month subscription service run by the prize.
The full longlist features: A Musical Offering by Luis Sagasti, translated by Fionn Petch (Charco Press), The Appointment by Katharina Volckmer (Fitzcarraldo Editions), Mordew by Alex Pheby (Galley Beggar Press), Mr Beethoven by Paul Griffiths (Henningham Family Press), Unknown Language by Huw Lemmey and Hildegard von Bingen (Ignota Books), Lote by Shola von Reinhold (Jacaranda Books), The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey (Peepal Tree Press), Men and Apparitions by Lynne Tillman (Peninsula Press), Alindarka's Children by Alhierd Bacharevic, translated by Jim Dingley and Petra Reid (Scotland Street Press), and A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa (Tramp Press).
Four publishers, including Ignota Books, Jacaranda Books, Peninsula Press and Scotland Street Press, are making their debut on the list, while Fitzcarraldo Editions and Galley Beggar Press have won the prize previously. Alex Pheby took the prize in 2019 for Lucia, also published by Galley Beggar.
The 2021 judging panel consists of writers Eley Williams and Guy Gunaratne and Unbound co-founder John Mitchinson, and the judging process is being studied and supported by students from the MA publishing module at the University of East Anglia.
Commenting on the longlist, Mitchinson said: “I’ve always considered myself pretty well-informed about the independent publishing scene in the UK and Ireland: after all, I’ve worked in the industry in some capacity or other for 33 years, including the last decade as an independent publisher. Judging the Republic of Consciousness Prize has shown me just how superficial my knowledge was. In the eight months of reading, I’ve got through 54 books, from at least as many independent publishers (before I started, I might have been able to name half that number). The quality of the works published has been astonishingly high – as I think the longlist shows—but also the care and skill demonstrated by the books themselves in terms of design, typography, paper quality and binding. It feels very good to be bringing this vibrant subculture to a broader audience.
"I’d also like to thank my fellow judges, Eley Williams and Guy Gunaratne. It’s a rare pleasure discussing books with such careful and exacting readers: they sent me back to several of the books we discussed with a clearer mind and a deeper understanding. The final list of books is something we all feel very proud to endorse. Should anyone ask about the health of the independent sector in this most difficult of years, that pile of 10 very different books offers a complete and definitive answer.”
The shortlist will be announced in late March 2021, and the winner announced in May.
The prize rewards outstanding literary fiction published by small presses based in the UK and Ireland with no more than five full-time employees. It is open to both novels and single-author short story collections in English, either originally or in translation, as long as it is the first-time it has been published in the UK and Ireland. The prize was founded in 2017 by the novelist Neil Griffiths and since then it has awarded nearly £50,000 to small presses and their authors.