Karl Sabbagh, former m.d. of Hesperus Press, has set up a new independent publisher, Skyscraper Publications, to publish between six and eight titles of selected fiction and non-fiction a year.
Sabbagh’s major coup for Hesperus was securing the UK rights to The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, the Swedish comic novel which sold over half a million copies in less than a year.
"Without wishing to tempt fate,” Sabbagh said, “one of my first acquisitions for Skyscraper is an American first novel, Good for Nothing by Brandon Graham, which I think has all the potential I saw in The Hundred Year Old Man. . .—a strong central character who experiences a crisis-laden life, in this case over a few weeks rather than a hundred years, and against all odds emerges as a survivor.” Good for Nothing will publish in early 2014.
The title was submitted to Sabbagh by the same Barcelona-based agent who sent him The Hundred Year Old Man—“Maybe they thought I could do it again with this book,” he said.
Skyscraper’s first book will publish next month. Justice (11th July, £8.99) is a new novel by Carey Harrison, best known for his 1990 novel Richard’s Feet. Set in Italy in the 1930s and ’40s, Justice tells the story of a British Jewish woman’s search for justice for her son who was sent to Auschwitz.
Other forthcoming Skyscraper books include A History of the Future in 100 Objects, published under a separate Skyscraper imprint, Skyhook, managed by Rebecca Lynch.
“Skyhook has two defining characters,” Sabbagh said. “Its books ask ‘what if’ questions of the future, drawing from science and technology, architecture, philosophy and design. It also uses crowdsourced funding through websites like Kickstarter, where individuals commit small amounts of money to a particular project.”
The production costs for A History of the Future in 100 Objects were raised through Kickstarter, but Sabbagh said he would have published the book anyway. “All of those books I have faith in, it just helps—particularly when you’re starting up an operation—to cover some of the costs.”
Skyhook is also pitching a book about time capsules to Kickstarter, and Sabbagh said two museums have already expressed an interest. “If you think a book is any good I don’t think there’s any shame in taking grants or subsidies. I’m hopeful that this hybrid model—where some funds are raised upfront and then a title gets the full sales and distribution benefits of a publisher—will help the print book, along with its e-book version, survive in a tough market,” he said.
Jacqui Graham, who was group publicity director at Pan Macmillan for 30 years, will be in charge of publicity for the independent.