A flurry of new independent publishers with small lists and new approaches to author relationships has launched in recent months.
Hannah MacDonald, formerly of HarperCollins, has founded September Publishing, which publishes its first four titles across spring and summer.
MacDonald said: “The titles have been chosen partly serendipitously and partly because I’ve been around long enough to know which authors I want to work with. Each one represents something quite special. We wanted to make sure we had a good balance of lives, stories and insight. There’s no room for quick-fit, repetitive or bandwagon publishing on the list.”
Its first title is artist Alice Stevenson’s Ways to Walk in London (£12.99, April), an illustrated walker’s guide that celebrates seeing the capital by foot. It will be followed by Barefoot at the Lake (£14.99, April), a memoir by Bruce Fogle, an experienced travel and reference writer. He initially sent MacDonald the manuscript several years ago, but “it didn’t work for a corporate publisher in the way that it appeals to me as an independent publisher,” MacDonald said, adding: “It’s a treat to have the space to follow your own strategy.”
May sees the reissue of P J Kavanagh’s 1960s memoir The Perfect Stranger (£12.99), which the publisher was introduced to by author David Nicholls, who has contributed a quote for the new edition. MacDonald described it as “an extraordinary description of falling in love but it’s very masculine, brutally moving and very unsentimental”.
September’s fourth title is One Hundred Acts of Minor Dissent by Mark Thomas (£9.99, June), “our most established, trusted and principled activist comedian”. The book details his year spent “living provocatively” and describes 100 acts of dissent—from the fight to have “farage” defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “the liquid found at the bottom of a bin” to taking pornographic magazines, covering the performers’ faces with pictures of Margaret Thatcher and replacing them in shops, ready for unsuspecting customers.
September is offering a modest advance, good royalties and a 50% net royalty receipts policy for e-books. MacDonald emphasised: “It’s important for us to be able to say to authors that if you do well, you will see your share of the success. I feel the high-discount element of a trade contract was based in a previous era. We’re keen to have a contract that reflects the now.”
Michael Bhaskar, Iain Miller and Nick Barreto have teamed up to launch a new digital publisher, Canelo. Bhaskar is due to relinquish his role as digital publisher director at Profile at the end of this month, while Miller and Barreto were previously at Quercus before it was bought by Hodder & Stoughton. Millar said: “We first met as trade publishing was getting to grips with the e-book revolution—now we’re here to prove that the industry can change further, and that the market for digital reading can continue to grow.”
Canelo is focusing on mass-appeal digital-only publishing, as well as looking at collaborations with publishers. Millar said: “A lot of publishers don’t know how to talk to developers, but we can do that. We can mediate.”
Unsung Stories, a new publisher of science fiction, fantasy and horror, has emerged from within Red Squirrel Publishing, which publishes the “Life in the UK” study guides for people preparing to take the British citizenship test.
George Sandison, managing editor at Unsung, said: “We had spare capacity at Red Squirrel so we wanted to take advantage of our position and do something that we were passionate about.”
Unsung launched in August 2014 and published two titles last year: Déjà Vu by Ian Hocking and The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley (both £9.99). It has just revealed the details of its third book, Dark Star by Oliver Langmead (March). Sandison said: “It’s a hardboiled science fiction book written in pentameter, recasting epic poetry for the modern form.” Dark Star is set in a dark world; one in which light is a commodity. When a girl is found glowing on the street, the city’s burnt-out policeman has to get involved. The book will be launched on 20th March, when there will be a total solar eclipse.
Sandison said: “The plan is to focus on doing a small number of titles well, as well as publishing short fiction on the website. We can’t compete with Tor and Angry Robot. We’ll never be able to do it better than them, so we’re focusing on doing something distinctive with new authors—the brave indie curation thing that people seem to love.”