Members of the Northern Fiction Alliance have said they have seen boosts in book and rights sales from being part of the coalition.
Speaking on the first anniversary after it was formed, the members said they have grown their international networks and partnerships as a result of being part of the alliance.
Assembled by Manchester-based indie Comma Press in August 2016, the group was formed to facilitate independent publishers in the north of England to work together to help represent themselves and their authors internationally. The core NFA cohort includes Peepal Tree Press, based in Leeds, And Other Stories, which is relocating to Sheffield from High Wycombe, Dead Ink Books, in Liverpool and Comma Press. This has expanded to include Tilted Axis (Sheffield), Mayfly (Leeds), Saraband (Manchester), Bluemoose (Yorkshire), and Route (Nottingham).
Ra Page, founder of Comma Press, told The Bookseller that the response to the alliance had been “fantastic”, with publishers seeing a boost to their rights sales and international partnerships putting them in a “much stronger position” to develop future projects.
According to Page, three of the four original members of the Alliance - Comma, And Other Stories, and Peepal Tree - have seen increases in their rights sales (including volume, translation and audio rights) on the year before, with Comma increasing its rights sales three fold.
Among these deals, Comma has struck up a co-publishing relationship with Deep Vellum Press in the US to publish a series of works in translation as part of its Banthology series. This series will start with an anthology featuring writers from the seven countries Trump tried to target with his travel ban. The press has also sold Iraq + 100, the "first ever" anthology of science fiction from Iraq, to Macmillan imprint Tor in the US, in the "biggest single book deal" the press has ever signed.
Kevin Duffy, co-founder of Bluemoose, added that his publisher has seen a 9% rise in book sales which he attributed to the "co-operation of the other indies, cross-promoting our titles". He added that social media and website traffic had also seen a boost, with a 23% increase in visits to the press' website. The company has also just sold a book to a French publisher which is to be announced in due course.
Nathan Connolly, director of Liverpool-based Dead Ink Press, said that being part of the consortium has “really solidified a team mentality” and that the "greatest success" of the NFA has been in "fostering that sense of teamwork between us all".
Dead Ink, which was founded in 2010, is the youngest and smallest member of the alliance, and as such is "starting from scratch with international rights deals", Connolly said. However, membership of the NFA has enabled the press to develop an international reputation and network which has been invaluable, he added. "Though we haven’t secured any rights sales just yet, we are confident that we will begin to do so soon. Prior to the NFA, Dead Ink had no international reputation or network. That is absolutely not the case anymore. We have a lot of great things lined up for Frankfurt and beyond."
Meanwhile, Adam Lowe, publicity and social media officer at Leeds-based Peepal Tree Press, added that the NFA had been "essential" in raising the profile of independent publishing outside of London. "We've witnessed a tangible change in the frequency of reporting on publishing outside of London. More than just boosting sales figures, the Northern Fiction Alliance has allowed us to redress the imbalance in media coverage of the literature sector, shifting from a myopic view focused on the capital to a broader, more national one", he said.
He added: “We've also had a very positive response to our collective presence internationally, such as at Frankfurt, and we are keen to continue building relationships with publishers and rights agents overseas. This is sure to be a key area for development, and crosses over nicely with opportunities for translation and touring. We hope to translate more titles and sell foreign language rights for new and backlist titles, and the NFA has definitely helped us find the right networks to do so".
Core member And Other Stories recently moved from High Wycombe to Sheffield. Stefan Tobler, founder of the press, said AOS had been "very warmly received" in Sheffeld and that they are "extremely excited to be partnering with several brilliant Northern organisations”.
“We’ve previously gone on the record to suggest how English publishing might benefit by shifting more of its activities away from London, and the number of extraordinary people who applied for our recent job posting bears that claim out," Tobler said. "We collaborate with many independent presses in the UK and beyond. The NFA is one such collaboration, and a very welcome one."
On 26th of September, the NFA will be holding an event at Waterstones Deansgate in Manchester as part of the first stop on the Northern Fiction Alliance Roadshow, a series of yet-to-be-confirmed events organised for members to showcase their work to readers and the trade.
Tobler said: "The NFA Roadshow is a great direction and we would enjoy doing more public-facing events with other Northern fiction publishers.
Saraband, which was previously based in Glasgow, relocated to Manchester earlier this year. Its publisher Sara Hunt said that the move and the subsequent joining of the NFA has proved to be an "overwhelmingly positive experience".
She said: "Manchester is, of course, a vibrant centre for the creative industries, but the NFA includes publishers from all over the North and it can only be a good thing for us to collaborate. We’ll be on the NFA stand at Frankfurt and we’re taking part in the NFA Roadshow at the end of September, which will be a great opportunity for people to see the variety of fiction on offer from the Alliance members. Working together on these kinds of events genuinely helps build relationships both with the trade and the reading public, and it’s a boon for all the NFA members to be able to showcase just what indie publishers have to offer.”
Deborah Smith, founder of Titled Axis Press, which recently moved to Sheffield from London, added: "Though it's still early days for the NFA, it's been brilliant to see booksellers and readers in the North getting excited about the project; combing our clout - and incredible author lists - for things like the roadshow, book fairs, and other events mean we're able to build much more of a buzz and attract larger audiences than otherwise. And as far as other publishers go, I suspect that once they see how indies in particular are not only surviving but thriving outside of London, it'll start to look like a no-brainer."
The Alliance will be attending this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair and will have its own stand (Hall 6.2 A113). According to Becky Harrison, engagement manager at Comma Press, this will be the first time many of the Alliance members have had access to a stand, as well as "what comes with it - space to host meetings, a branded presence, listings viewed globally in their international catalogue, etc". She added: "It's a fantastic way of representing the Alliance to all those attending the Frankfurt Book Fair."
The Alliance is supported by Arts Council England.