Sam Jordison of Galley Beggar has known that Preti’s work was special from first reading it. He says that ‘ever since Andrew Macdonald from Gatehouse Press called on us with a copy of Kumkum Malhotra and a chapter from We That Are Young, we have loved this book, believed in Preti and known we had something wonderful on our hands.’
Praise for her work comes too from the chair of this year’s judging panel, Sarah Perry, who says that after reading the novel the panel ‘were left shaking their heads, saying “If this is her first novel, what extraordinary work will come next?”‘
Many congratulations to Preti and to Galley Beggar!
If you’d like to read the books on the Republic of Consciousness shortlist, we recommend buying direct from the publishers. The more people reading these books, the better. Independent publishers are usually very small operations, and the more control they can take over their distribution and sales, and the bigger the slice of the pie they get, the better for them.
So, follow the links above to get your hands on the RofC shortlisted books!
Writer Anna Vaught puts together a Small Press Christmas List. Inspiring and uplifting new books that bring comfort and joy all year round…
I love Christmas and have been on a mission to denude the whole thing of anxiety in recent years. For example, no worrying about what you’re supposed to be doing; no massive present spend I cannot really afford; some slow and steady shopping so that I actually enjoy the gift-giving side of things. And I never want anything much, really, for myself. I loathe clutter and waste and basically all I do want is fudge, marzipan, the essential box of sugared almonds, fires, routine, dossing about, lots of food and no fuss, inviting anyone in who’s alone or looks sad, my annual reading to the community – candlelit house; mulled wine (please come?) – of Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales and – I’m getting there – some books. So I thought…which new or newish books have given me most pleasure over the past two years or so, when I really – arriving foolishly, negligently late to the party – discovered the independent presses of the British Isles? I started to publish with them and that was what led me there. I now write for more, buy from more for myself, have started to review indie books for assorted publications and I love to buy them as presents. Friends say, ‘Oh, I hadn’t heard of that!’ or, when I posted on social media about my favourite books of the year so far, ‘Where do you find out about these books?’ One aim of this article is to help you with that.
…TA DA! Here is something rather fabulous to do for Christmas. I’m going to:
tell you where to look for indie titles
suggest presents that also support the work of the presses
tell you about books, particularly anthologies, that have a philanthropic purpose; that are fund-raising. I don’t know about you, but I’ve found the last eighteen months or so really hard. I’m frustrated and jaded by the tirade of Brexit-Trump. Why not – and in so doing boost your spirits – lift your sights and see who needs you nearby?
So, readers and present-buyers, where do you look for indie titles?
First stop, if you have a good local bookshop anywhere near you, go in and ask. There is pretty much nothing that makes me feel as jolly as a joyous, bookish conversation in a great indie bookshop. And they’re not all in London. Oh no. I don’t want to name names here, so please feel free to list a shop you’ve loved below. Not sure which independent presses there are? Fancy buying direct from one near you? Here is an interactive map started by Salt Press. The presses have added to it since it was published. Why not click on your area and see what comes up? Buy locally, but think globally, see? You can click through to the list of small presses on The Contemporary Small Press website here. While I’m at it, if you are a writer as well as a reader – or rather the person for whom you’re buying presents wants to write – then the Mslexia Guide to Independent Presses is pretty exhaustive.
Where else to go? Author Neil Griffiths set up the Republic of Consciousness Prize two years ago. It’s the only UK literary prize dedicated exclusively to books published by the small presses. A great way to get involved is by supporting the prize fund. You’ll find great prize packages and publisher subscriptions available, with the added bonus of investing in this worthwhile literary prize. Or why not pick from the longlist, which will be out in December in time for Christmas shopping? It will be a beautifully curated selection. Also, the Small Publishers’ Fair happens in November and if you look at this list of launches, you’ll seem some very interesting things that someone might just love. Go on; do it now.
Right then. What about presents?
What I cannot do here is tell you which books you absolutely have to go and buy. (Well I could, but I won’t – although of my top five, four are indie and you can see what I’ve said on twitter and go and follow the indie presses or ask them directly!) No. I mean something that is a substantial book gift and maybe lasts a year or more.
What about subscribing or being part of a buddy scheme? For example, if you buddy up with Galley Beggar, for £30 or £50, you get a number of rather lovely things. Books through the year, signed by the author (I’ve enjoyed this so much) free ebooks, funny postcards that make you smile, invitations to all the new book launches with pop and fun and substantial discounts of the books. Also your name is in the back of each book because, as a subscriber, your contribution to a new work of art is vital. I’d be delighted if someone bought that for me. No-one did, so I bought it for myself. However, I have two subscriptions from And Other Stories; one for me and one for my husband for a Christmas present. I know; it’s very sweet. His ‘n’ hers. This is a daring range of literature, with a special focus on translation and, I see from himself’s latest subscription book post, authors who should have had more attention when they were alive. Again, there are levels of subscription, but what a lovely gift that keeps giving through the year.
I’d posit that it is wonderful and life-affirming just to be part of something new and innovative so why not pledge to a really exciting project from Dead Ink, who have recently acquired the backlist of the Eden Book Society: that’s a whole lot of horror and it would be a brilliant present. You can subscribe at different levels, from name in the book to books through the year. I’ve asked for the £40 level from husband and the little bookworms, so I can receive novellas through the year.
There will be more in this cornucopia. Go hunt and, indie presses, stick your suggestions in the comment box.
How about buying some book bundles or trying some book offers?
These are a good value way to experience what the small presses get up to. Bluemoose is currently doing a ‘2 for £10’ deal. (Excuse me a moment: I’m popping this on my own Christmas list with the Dead Ink pledge because there’s a couple on the Bluemoose list I’m yet to read…right: I’m back in the room.) There are eight titles to choose from. Charco Press are offering a wonderfully festive ChocLit package on all their titles – combining great Latin American literature in translation with delicious artisan chocolate in delightfully matching colour schemes. Or, at Patrician Press, you’ll see that the publisher has Christmas in mind, with three choices of book bundle, three books in each. One is for children, the others take in a range of novel, novella, short stories and the first of the fund-raising anthologies which the press has commissioned.
And finally, linking from that, philanthropy. Good stuff. An expansion not a battening down. There are too many books to mention that enlarge our view – arguably, don’t all books? – of course, so I will focus on those books which are fund-raising. Patrician Press’s (see above) Anthology of Refugees and Peacekeepers gives profits to the charity Help Refugees. The two anthologies of Refugee Tales from Comma Press give all profits to the Gatwick Detainee Welfare Group and Kent Help for Refugees.
Recent titles at Unbound include 24 Stories (out next year and funded, but you can still pledge), edited by Kathy Burke, an anthology of stories, put together to aid PTSD related needs of survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire and Trauma Response Network. I’m pleased to say my name’s going in that book because I pledged for it, as it will be for Others, funding at the moment. This is sure to be stunning and it will raise funds for refugee and anti-hate charities. And the point is, more broadly – as I’ve said above – that it’s a wonderful thing to be contributing to an artistic endeavour; here, the double present is that you are contributing to essential debate, fostering links between people through open discussion and you are also helping to fund those most in need.
I’m not saying such bookish extravangance is what everyone wants for Christmas, but My Dear Lord, Santa, it’d make my heart beat faster.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Keep your chins up and keep reading. Anna x
Feature by Anna Vaught
Annais a novelist, essayist, poet, editor, reviewer and also a secondary English teacher, tutor, mentor to young people, mental health campaigner and mum to a large litter. A great champion of the small presses, she reviews their books and writes for them: novel, Killing Hapless Ally (Patrician Press, 2016), novella, The Life of Almost (2018) and poems and essays with Patrician Press and Emma Press. Books three and four out on submission at the moment. Anna is working on her fifth novel.
Linen Press in collaboration with The Contemporary Small Press
Keynote talk by Maureen Freely, President of English PEN.
‘A word after a word after a word is power.’ Margaret Atwood
In a masculine centred literary tradition that values male over female voices, women refuse to be silenced and continue to tell the truth about their personal and political lives. Join us in exploring the politics of silence and in honouring the voices of women writers everywhere who, despite repression and invisibility, risk all to give voice to the need for liberation and freedom.
Keynote speaker Maureen Freely onthe crucial work done by English PEN and like-minded partners, with particular reference to women writers.
Hema Macherla on the plight of Indian women – fallen women, broken women and women shunned by society.
Avril Joy on working for over twenty-five years with women writers in HMP Low Newton.
Lynn Michell on publishing women writers. She is here to celebrate ten years of Linen Press and to launch The Red Beach Hut.
This event is hosted by Linen Press – a small, independent press run by women for women – and the Contemporary Small Press, which aims to promote, explore and facilitate the work of small press publishers of fiction and poetry.
On February 20th, 2016, Contemporary Small Press held the first of its Reading and Being Read events at the British Library, London. The event brought together readers, writers and small press publishers to share a day of talks, networking and workshops designed to stimulate interest in the small press and provide a forum for feedback and communication between publishers, writers and their readers. It was a huge success!
The day was sold out in advance and a full house of around 40 people enjoyed the unique experience of being part of this small press celebration.
Linen Press is now the only indie publisher of new women’s writing in the UK. Virago was founded in 1972 by Carmen Callil to publish mainly women writers – new and neglected – and with a strong feminist focus. It is now owned by Little Brown. The Women’s Press, my own role model, was established in 1978 and was hugely influential in the 80s bringing us Alice Walker, May Sarton, Janet Frame, Stevie Davies as well as minority writers. It is no longer functioning. Persephone reprints books already published.
She shared the highs and lows of being an independent publisher, including editing by the gas fire with 93-year-old Marjorie Wilson, whose memoir Childhood’s Hill was the first book that Lynn ever published. Lynn described the role of Linen Press as a publisher that takes risks to publish challenging, experimental, ‘tender and brutal’ books by women that you won’t find elsewhere.
One of the writers recently published by Linen Press is Susie Nott-Bower, whose book The Making of Her tells the story of Clara, a fifty-year-old female protagonist in contemporary society. Susie read from her novel and spoke about her experience as an older woman writer trying to get published. ‘Ageing is the new taboo,’ she said, describing how ‘older writers are encouraged just to dabble in writing as a hobby, between daytime T.V, gardening and grandchildren’. However, when Lynn read her original manuscript she saw the potential of the book and worked through the editing process with Susie to produce the finished novel, proving that, ‘it’s perfectly possible to reinvent yourself at any age’.
A key message that came out of the day was the dedication of small press publishers to developing and nurturing their writers’ potential: a process which can be challenging, but is ultimately rewarding in creating the best possible book – the best result for everyone. This kind of relationship between writer and publisher is one reason why many writers are choosing to publish their books with small presses these days.
Galley Beggar is one such press that works hard to nurture and develop its writers, and has a reputation for discovering and developing high quality new literary talent. Sam Jordison, editor and co-founder at Galley Beggar, spoke passionately about taking literary risks and publishing the books that matter, regardless of commercial popularity. He said,
As soon as we start asking what’s cool, what’s fashionable, that’s when we’ll stop. Small, independent publishers give writers the opportunity to write the book they want to write, not what the market dictates.
Sam spoke about publishing Eimer McBride’s A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing in 2013, a novel that initially needed some editorial development but which he could see had potential as writing that would be ‘moving modernism forward’. The novel won theGoldsmiths Prize and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize in 2013, the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award and the Desmond Elliott Prize (for debut novelists) in 2014, and was also shortlisted for the Folio Prize in 2014. It is now published by international publisher Faber & Faber and is currently being performed as a play at The Young Vic.
Writer Alex Pheby, whose ‘neuro-novel’ Playthings was published by Galley Beggar in November 2015, agreed that the process of publishing with a small press gives a writer the opportunity to ‘write your own story, whether it’s popular or not’. He also outlined various reasons why a writer might choose a small publisher over a mainstream publisher, including the politics of commercial press ownership which may be off-putting to some writers in some cases. He added, ‘processes can’t be turned into money’, and argued that small presses give writers and readers an experience of being in the world.
Five of Frania’s students then demonstrated their hand-made books and magazines in a practical workshop which really got people thinking about different forms of innovative book production that could be used to publish various literary genres. There was such a buzz as people chatted to the students about making their own books and the possibilities for publishing seemed to open that little bit wider.
Christina Reynoso Lopez
When Words Turn Back by Sandhya Kaffo
Sow, Bloom, Wilt
Rounding off the day was Tony White from Piece of Paper Press. Tony read his short story ‘The Holborn Cenotaph’ – a daring, funny, surprising and moving piece that calls on us to question our institutions. He also provided free copies of the story in Piece of Paper Press format and demonstrated how to make your own book from a single piece of paper.
Tony set up Piece of Paper Press in 1994 as a low-cost, lo-tech, sustainable method of book production to occasionally publish new writing or graphic works by writers and artists, and distribute them for free. The press produces work in short runs of 150 copies and distributes them freely at organised gatherings and events. They are ‘the perfect format for festivals’, he quips, recounting a previous experience at Glastonbury where another author’s box of hardback books was left untouched, while every copy of his work was given away. He is committed to this process and has collaborated with numerous writers and artists since the press’s beginnings.
I designed Piece of Paper Press very quickly in 1994 to suit certain conditions and constraints of the time. I needed a format that would create a space for collaboration and commissioning, but that would be cheap, sustainable and infrastructurally light. That wouldn’t need funding of any kind to continue, but also wouldn’t need to rely on sales or to break even. It needed to be deliberately punky, lo-fi, and set against ideas of ‘craft’ value, but also distinctive and catchy, and to address evolving and diverse readerships.
The final activity was a collaborative writing exercise in which the audience’s favourite quotes from the day were gathered, selected and made into mock-headlines in newspaper hoarding style. These were then reproduced onto coloured paper for everyone to take away.
The day was immensely enjoyable, and we’ve had so much positive feedback from the people who came. Below is a selection of feedback and comments on the event, and you can also read novelist/audience-member Avril Joy’s review on her blog and Tony White’s review too. For more comments and reactions on Twitter, search for the #ReadingBeingRead hashtag.
There was a very welcome message that came across loud and clear from the organisers, the audience and the other contributors at the event at the British Library. We heard not often voiced support for and acknowledgement of the fine books made with integrity and passion by small presses on a tiny budget and with minimal resources. For that we thank you! The day was varied, differently paced, always interesting. Watching the audience, they looked absorbed and engrossed. Personally I loved the students’ projects – their enthusiasm, competence and originality, especially the structural poems by Sandhya. Thank you to everyone who contributed. You created a very successful day. Lynn Michell, Linen Press
What an inspiring, stimulating and rewarding experience! What struck me most was the well organised, friendly atmosphere with just the right mix of listening and interaction. As a speaker, I was bowled over by the warmth and receptivity of the audience and it was a delight to mingle afterwards and talk about writing, reading and life. The after-echoes continue – people are reading and commenting on my novel. And on a personal note, I was so inspired by Tony White’s Piece Of Paper Press and the MA students’ presentations that I’m thinking of making a little book of my own! Thank you to all involved. Susie Nott-Bower
I thought that the event was fascinating and invigorating. It’s always great to have the opportunity to talk to people from other small presses and to share stories. It’s even better to be able to do it along with an interested and engaged audience. The event gave us both an opportunity to exchange ideas and some welcome publicity. Sam Jordison, Galley Beggar Press
‘Great introduction the work of the small press – eye opening!’
‘The speakers and writers were very insightful – a very enjoyable event’
‘Fantastic event! A thoroughly enjoyable day…. Great value for money.’
‘This was a good day all round. All the elements complemented each other.’
‘Loved the presentations and the later participative workshop feel of the afternoon sessions. Inspiring day!’
Here at the contemporary small press, we want to celebrate that success and help more readers to find the books they’ll love from the UK’s best small publishers.
That’s why we’re looking for a panel of readers to read and review this year’s new releases from the small press.
Readers on our panel will receive review copies of small publishers’ new releases and will be asked to submit their reviews to be published on this site. Reviews are vital for helping readers to find the books they love, meaning that more readers will be able to find more great books from the UK small presses this year.
“It’s been a fascinating year, which has confirmed the increasingly important role independent publishers are playing in infusing new blood into literature. With the industry struggling to make the transition into the digital age, editors in the larger houses are finding themselves under increasing pressure to make a commercial case for each acquisition. So smaller publishers, for whom risk is an unavoidable fact of life, are driving innovation.”
That’s why we think that if you want to read the UK’s best new books, you need to be reading from the small press.
If you want to be the first in line for this year’s new releases, and you want to share your passion for books with other readers, please send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Your email must include: Your name; Your reading interests/passions/preferred genres; Why you want to review for the contemporary small press; and if possible, a short review of a recent book that you’ve read. Readers selected for the panel will be sent further information and guidelines for writing and submitting their reviews.
Be the first to read this year’s best new books from the UK’s small publishers, and help other readers to find the books they’ll love. Email us now at email@example.com