Freight Books in talks to sell

Freight Books in talks to sell

Scottish independent Freight Books has revealed that it is "exploring the opportunity" to sell off the company.

Following an "unsolicited" request to buy the publisher, the business will be advertised on the Publishing Scotland website this week for an “investor or buyer”.

Operations at Freight Books were thrown into disarray after co-founder and director Adrian Searle left the company abruptly in April due to “irreconcilable differences over strategic direction”. Figures in the trade expressed concern about the future of the publisher following his departure, but were reassured by the appointment of Robbie Guillory as interim managing editor.

In a letter sent to authors seen by the Herald, Guillory said: "Following some expressions of interest in acquiring Freight Books, we are exploring that opportunity further by posting a notice on the Publishing Scotland website to see if any other interested parties reveal themselves, either as an investor or a buyer."

Guillory told The Bookseller that the company would be "exploring all avenues to determine a secure, stable and fruitful future for Freight Books". He said in a statement: "After receiving some unsolicited interest we have decided to offer Freight Books as an investment opportunity/going concern."

He added: "In the meantime, we continue doing what we do best; selling, marketing and publishing brilliant books. We're releasing new titles in July, including the winner of the Dundee International Book Prize The Cure for Lonely, a stunning poetry collection by Rachel McCrum, and a mouthwatering book on champagne. That is where our attention is focused."

Guillory reassured authors that the company would "continue as normal" and that he will "certainly not be stepping back from [his] efforts at marketing, selling and producing".

"I’ve been meeting with as many authors and booksellers as possible over the last two weeks [and] I’m pleased to have now got contacts for all our authors, and feel in a much better position than I was three weeks ago, with a good overview of matters and a keen understanding of what needs to be done," Guillory said.

The Glasgow-based publisher was founded as an imprint of Freight Design in 2001 by Searle and his business partner Davinder Samrai.

Marion Sinclair, chief executive of Publishing Scotland, confirmed that the publisher was up for sale as the company has plans to return to being a "design business only".

She added: "Obviously we are keen that the imprint stays in Scotland as we need to preserve choice for writers - a predominantly literary fiction list is a vital home for many new writers, especially debuts. A lot of energy and editorial judgment has been put into the Freight list and that's not something that can be replicated easily."

Agent Jenny Brown of Jenny Brown Associates added that the Scottish book trade is hoping Freight will "flourish" under a new buyer, as the "main priority" for a sale would be to "secure a good future for Freight Books and bring an end to the uncertainty for its authors". 

"Freight has been such an important platform for debut literary writing here, and obviously we would be concerned that any sale or merger would mean the number of publishers taking on new work would be reduced", Brown said. "However, the main priority would be to secure a good future for Freight Books and bring to an end the uncertainty for its authors."

She added: "Robbie Guillory has been doing a sterling job in running the publishing business, and I know how much authors have appreciated his open lines of communication. There's such goodwill towards Freight Books in the book trade in Scotland, and everyone wants to see it flourish. We really hope an enlightened buyer, passionate about publishing new writing, will come forward."

Freight author J David Simons told The Bookseller the decision to sell Freight Books "makes strategic sense". He said: "Given that the current and sole director, Davinder Samrai, is more of a design and advertising man than a publisher, I think it makes strategic sense for Freight Design to divest itself of Freight Books. As for my own position, I guess it will depend on the pedigree of the potential buyer and what their intentions are towards current Freight authors. I have been published now by four small independent publishers, three of which have all quit the game for various reasons. I am happy to say, however, that despite this, all my five novels over the last ten years still remain in print."

Samrai has previously said existing contracts will be honoured. In an earlier statement Samrai said: "I am very keen to reiterate and reassure all our authors and their agents, as well as others with whom we work within the Scottish publishing community, that Freight Books is committed to meeting all our contractual obligations. We continue to have a robust sales and distribution infrastructure in place, that ensures our list remains in the marketplace. We will also be looking at how best to meet our imminent publication schedule in the light of these recent events."