Adrian Searle has set up a new publishing company, The Bookseller understands, as his former press Freight Books is officially wound up.
Searle has recently published a book under the imprint Wild Harbour Books, which is part of the company Dalbeath Trading. According to Companies House, the firm was established in December 2016 under the name of Freight Books, before he had left Freight Design Ltd, but changed its name to Dalbeath Trading in July.
The new book, The Willow Tea Rooms Recipe Book by Anne Mulhern, was published on 17th November, according to Amazon, and was launched at Waterstones Glasgow on Sauchiehall Street on Thursday (30th November). Searle has not responded to requests for comment from The Bookseller.
The news comes as the liquidator for Freight Design Ltd, the parent of Freight Books, has begun the process of formally winding up the company after failing to attract a buyer for the business. Provisional liquidator Ian Wright, m.d. of WRI Associates, told The Bookseller that he had "given up" on the idea of trying to sell the business and its publishing contracts, and is now waiting on a winding-up order which will allow the company to be formally liquidated. Wright said he was expecting to receive this "any day now". Following this, all author contracts will be terminated.
Literary agent Jenny Brown, who sold many books to Searle while he was director of Freight Books, reacted with “shock and anger” to the news he had set up a new publishing company while the authors at his last press were having their contracts terminated. Freight poet Harry Giles meanwhile said those at director level were not being "held accountable" for the collapse of the business.
Giles told The Bookseller: "That an award-winning independent publisher could be tanked into liquidation in a matter of months doesn't make much sense. And none of those responsible have been held accountable."
Marion Sinclair, chief executive of Publishing Scotland, said: “We are aware of this development. The company was not secret as Adrian Searle had registered a company previously at Companies House. Wild Harbour is the name of the imprint but not the company name."
Wild Harbour Cottage is also the name of a cottage that Searle rents out to tourists in the historic harbour village of Pittenweem, in the East Neuk of Fife in Scotland.
Searle's former authors at Freight Books have meanwhile been sent a letter on behalf of liquidator Ian Wright, m.d. of WRI Associates, seen by The Bookseller, offering them the opportunity to buy back their books at a discounted price. The letter also said the liquidators had been unable to respond to individual enquiries because it was not "cost effective".
"The assets identified to date mean that there are limited funds to meet the costs of administering the liquidation. Regrettably, responding to individual enquiries is simply not cost effective", the letter said. "The Provisional Liquidator’s focus has been to establish what assets the company owned and whether there was any opportunity to sell the business and assets. I can now confirm that a sale of the business and assets will not be possible. The Provisional Liquidator intends to apply for a winding up order in the next few days. Once this is granted, any publishing contracts which have not already terminated by other means, will be terminated."
"The company may hold a quantity of your books. Could you please let me know whether or not you wish to buy any or all of the stock held. If you buy all the stock, I will provide a 35% discount on the recommended retail price (RRP) and a 20% discount on RRP if only some stock is purchased. I would also require you to pay any associated carriage costs and payment would be needed in full before the books could be released.
"For the avoidance of doubt, should you be owed any money by Freight Design (Scotland) Limited T/a Freight Books I am unable to allow it to be offset against the purchase price for the stock of books."
Authors have called the situation "depressing" and have said the way it has been handled "truly appalling".
Author Alan Murray said: "The wind-up of Freight [leaves] authors high and dry - without a distribution or marketing network and the liquidator would do just as well to pulp copies or give them to libraries. After close to a year in literary limbo, I still have no clear idea of what transpired to cause this train wreck.
"At the end of the day, the authors will get nothing or next to nothing - that's always the way - and Scotland/UK will have lost another indie publisher and that isn't good whichever way you look at it."
A fellow author, who asked not to be named, said: “The contempt shown to authors has been truly appalling - the liquidator doesn't even deem it necessary to respond to individual cases - and twice now the opportunity has been taken to try and claw funds from the very authors affected most by Freight's failure.
"I had confirmation my rights would be returned prior to the liquidation but Freight held on to them anyway. Throughout, the publisher would tell me one thing and do another... I still don't have my rights and have no idea when I will. Nor do I expect to see a single penny of the four-figure sum owed to me. Shambolic doesn't come close."
Founded as an imprint of Freight Design (which was set up by Searle and business partner Davinder Samrai) in 2011 by Searle, operations at publisher Freight Books were thrown into disarray with the abrupt departure of Searle in April due to “irreconcilable differences over strategic direction”. In September, authors and agents called on Freight Books to provide more transparency about its financial status after it emerged its writers had not been paid for several months. It was also reported that Freight was in talks to sell the books side of the business, following an "unsolicited" request to buy the press.
After the company was taken to court over unpaid work by Glasgow-based printing company Bell and Bain Printers, a provisional liquidator was appointed to the company and all employee contracts - including those at Freight Design - were terminated.
Discussing the demise of Freight Books, Sinclair added: "We are sad to see Freight being wound up, and had hoped that a buyer would emerge over the past few months. That has not happened. It is sad to see a company disappear from the publishing landscape in Scotland and to see the effect it has had on all concerned. We put our efforts into helping Freight find a buyer and to help them with publishing issues as they emerged so it is a blow that they have not managed to do so, and that most of the authors will be without a home for their titles, in the short term at least.”
Last week, Hodder and Saraband announced that they had rescued two former Freight authors represented by Jenny Brown after she reverted their rights on grounds of breach of contract in August.