The Independent Publisher Crisis

I have pointed out several times that the most interesting books being published in translation into English are being published by small, independent publishers. While all parts of the book trade are being hit by Covid-19, the independent publishers, often run on a shoestring with few not very well paid staff, are being particularly hit.

Yesterday’s Bookseller had an article on this topic. The Bookseller did a survey on the topic and it does not make for happy reading.

Two publishers, the excellent Jacaranda, publisher of books by writers of colour and Knights Of, publishers of children’s books, have started a crowdfunder. Please help if you can.

Several of the publishers mentioned in the Bookseller article will sell you their books directly from their website rather than your going to online behemoths (though you can also get the books from your local book shop, many of whom will now deliver). In the US Bookshop uses local bookshops as does Indiebound, while in the UK Hive supports local bookshops.

The publishers mentioned in the Bookseller article who sell on-line include:

Dead Ink Books, the experimental literary publisher
Bluemoose Books, publisher of the legendary Ben Myers, Ronan Hession and Ian MacPherson’s Sloot
Galley Beggar, publisher of Toby Litt, the brilliant Ducks, Newburyport, Eimear McBride, Alex Phleby and Gonzalo Garcia
Pluto Books,a publisher of radical non-fiction
Orenda Books, publishers of literary and crime fiction
September Publishing who publish books in which to lose yourself and find yourself again
Fledgling Press who publish and promote debut authors and new voices who have never been published before
Seren who publish a host of Welsh writers, writing in English, including Caradoc Evans, Clare Morgan, Dannie Abse,Emyr Humphreys, Kate Roberts, Niall Griffiths snd Russell Celyn Jones but also a lot of other interesting authors from other countries.
Firefly Press, the Welsh children’s publisher.
Lilliput Press, the Irish publisher of both fiction and non-fiction, including Sam Coll, James Joyce, Benedict Kiely, Flann O’Brien and Colm Tóibín
Guppy Books, publisher of children’s books

It would not be fair to omit those excellent independent publishers whose books you can buy directly from them but who did not appear in the article. These include but are certainly not limited to the following. Some of them also sell subscriptions, which are usually a good deal. Note that some publishers are not included as they do not sell directly to the public from their website. My apologies to any publisher inadvertently omitted.

404 Ink
Akashic
Alma
And Other Stories
Bloodaxe
Boiler House Press
Carcanet Press
CB editions
Charco Press
City Lights
Coffee House Press
Comma Press
Dalkey Archive Press
Deep Vellum
Fairlight
Featherproof
Feral House
Fitzcarraldo Editions
Fly on the Wall
House of Anansi
Influx Press
Istros
Les Fugitives
Melville House
New Island Press
New Vessel Press
Nightboat Books
Noemi Press
Open Letter
Persephone
Peter Owen
Peepal Tree Press
Peirene Press
Polygon
Route
Salt
Saraband
Seagull
Serpent’s Tail
Slavica
Soho Press
Tachyon Publications
Tilted Axis Press
Tramp Press
Transit
Tupelo Press
Two Lines Press
The Unnamed Press
Vagabond Voices
Valley Press
Verso
Wrecking Ball Press

I must also mention the Borderless Book Club, a group of presses who meet online using Zoom to discuss translated literature. Here is their forthcoming programme, which shows you that you get discounts when ordering the books under discussion.

I urge you to support these publishers and initiatives. Without these and other independent publishers, the outlook for quality literary fiction will be grim. Over the past few years, we have enjoyed something of feast of new books in translation, even if, as I frequently remark, there are still far too many worthwhile books that have not been translated into English, though, in many cases, have been translated into other languages. if we lose any of these publishers, it will be a great loss.

Livraria Lello, Porto

A long weekend in Porto revealed a few things, one of which is that it is wetter and colder in Porto than in (the South of) England. We visited the Livraria Lello, a bookshop famous for its appearance. As you can see from my not very good photo to the left, it is certainly an attractive interior. Indeed, J K Rowling, who spent two years teaching English in Porto, was inspired by it when she wrote Harry Potter. As a result the bookshop is permanently packed, mainly with Japanese tourists, taking photos. As a result the shop now charges an admission fee of €4, which you can put against any book purchase. However, while the interior is certainly attractive, the shop’s selection of Portuguese (and Portuguese-language) fiction was less so. They had a fairly pitiful selection – Saramago, of course, Eça de Queiroz, Miguel Torga, valter hugo mãe, who was their author of the month, but not his a máquina de fazer espanhóis [The Machine for Making Spaniards] and a few others but no Teolinda Gersão, no copy of José de Almada Negreiros’Nome de Guerra (see next post), a copy of which I found in the a chain book shop near by hotel, and a not a single one of the Portuguese books on my list to buy. It was even worse for other Portuguese-speaking countries. So go for the shop, particularly if you are a Harry Potter fan, but don’t bother going for the Portuguese literature.

Ateneo bookshop

I have just returned from the one continent that has no native born writers (though it does have a few native born people). It also has one bookshop, as the Port Lockroy bookshop in the British Post Office sells a few books. I am, of course referring to Antarctica. However, en route we stopped in Buenos Aires and I managed to visit the Ateneo bookshop (featured in the Guardian), a former theatre, now a bookshop, an essential visit if you are in Buenos Aires. The stage that you can see at the back in my photo is a café and there is a good section of Argentinian fiction on sale.