Saqi seeks new investment

Saqi seeks new investment

Independent publisher Saqi Books is reviewing the future of its English language publishing programme and seeking new investment in the business after facing what managing director Lynn Gaspard describes as "an uphill struggle" in the UK.

The publisher, which has a sister company in Beirut, Dar al Saqi, has been publishing in the UK for more than 30 years. The family-owned business employs three people full time, and four part time.

Gaspard said: "Following considerable success and significant growth over the years, Saqi is now reviewing its long term strategy. It is no secret that publishing in the UK is an uphill struggle, especially for a small, independent outfit. We have been going from strength to strength and we saw our highest turnover in 2013. The directors are now reviewing our strategy in the UK, actively seeking investment in the business, and have embarked upon discussions with interested parties."

Speaking to The Bookseller, Gaspard said that being able to carry on English language publishing was dependent on further investment. She said: "It has become increasingly difficult to manage publishing costs without lowering the standards we pride ourselves on. Indeed, investment would mean that we could continue to publish seminal works from the Arab world and elsewhere, as we have been for the past thirty years, in the way that we want to, without having to compromise on the quality of the titles that we publish."

She added that Saqi would be open to a full takeover, "if it is right for the company and our authors."

Referring to the recent news that Atlantic Books has restructured following investment from Australian publisher Allen & Unwin, and that Quercus is seeking a buyer while Constable & Robinson has joined Little, Brown, Gaspard said: "Having read the headlines over the past fortnight, it clearly is a difficult time for publishers of all sizes in this country… I suspect it is difficult for any publisher to exist today without strong financial support, either in investment or in grants, and it is even more difficult if you are a small publisher."

She added: "Despite having received strong support from the trade last year and having success with particular titles, it isn’t easy to compete in today’s market. The book trade is changing and whilst we had a very good year in the e-book market, both backlist and frontlist performing well, the advent of e-books has clearly changed the way the public perceive the pricing of books.

"The average price of an e-book is under £3, and this is now what the market has come to expect. Most of our titles sell at a higher price, but by dragging the retail price down the effect on the industry as a whole, both for publishers and for ‘bricks and mortar’ retailing, has been dramatic."

The company was founded in 1983 to publish academic and special interest works on the Middle East and North Africa. It has since expanded, launching fiction imprint Telegram in 2005, and non-fiction imprint The Westbourne Press in 2012. It published a New York Times bestseller last year with Reza Aslan's book on Jesus, Zealot.

The company also has a London bookshop, Al Saqi Books, which will not be affected by the review. Dar al Saqi will also be unaffected.