London's small book publishers

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In an industry almost entirely dominated by big boys and blockbusters, it's a delight to discover the delicate charms of the capital's little literary imprints

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    Beautiful endpapers are a hallmark of Persephone's publications

    Persephone Books

    Time Out pays a visit to one of London's most bucolic book publishers

    Alma Books

    According to the Times, Richmond-based Alma Books was ‘one to watch’ in 2006. We catch up with them to find out why

    Short Books

    Startiing life as (yep you guessed it) a short books publisher, Time Out finds they are now a broad church

    Snowbooks

    We speak to the winners of Small Publisher of the Year at last year’s British Book Trade Awards


    Persephone Books

    The floors are wooden and the walls decorated with vintage railway prints. Classic FM pours soothingly from the radio and books – of course – are piled high. Lamb’s Conduit Street has always been praised for its ‘village atmosphere’, but Persephone Books, at Number 59, is like stepping into Hay-on-Wye. 06 CF book 2.jpgAppropriately named after the Greek goddess of the underworld, Persephone is both independent publisher and retail outlet. Most of the shop’s stock is their own: resurrected fiction written predominantly by women during the inter-war years which had either been neglected by larger companies or gone out of print altogether.

    Nicola Beauman started the list in 1999 after developing a passion for little-known books by authors like Dorothy Whipple and Susan Glaspell while she was at home bringing up her children. The heroines she discovered were, like her, ordinary middle-class women who had gone to university but abandoned the academic life to raise families. Despite the books’ everyday scenarios and accessibility, there was something quietly profound about them, and she felt sure they would speak to other women. As her office manager, Emily Hill, puts it: ‘It was feminism with a small “f”.’

    Among the 70 numbered titles are more obscure tales by well-known writers such as Katherine Mansfield, Virginia Woolf and Frances Hodgson Burnett. Other names are less familiar but have proved their worth by selling well, thanks, in part, to Persephone’s staff who excel at communicating their enthusiasm for the books to customers. Design is very important to Persephone: each book has an elegant dove-grey cover and its own distinctive endpaper with matching bookmark taken from a fabric issued in the year the book was originally printed.

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    'Now, where did I put that book...'

    Persephone started life in Clerkenwell. Now based in Bloomsbury – spiritual home of the bluestocking – it makes a quarter of its money from shop sales. Another quarter is made selling to wholesalers who, in turn, sell on to big players such as Amazon. The remaining half comes from mail order sales via a 10,000-strong mailing list which extends all over the world, from France to South Africa.

    Until now, Persephone has published two ‘new’ titles each quarter – the next new ‘installment’ (as faithful subscribers to their Quarterly view it) is in April. However, these will shortly become biannual for a while to allow a new venture, Persephone Classics, to be launched. These will be smaller and blurb will be added to the back covers. (They are still debating how the endpapers can be retained and transferred to the front cover – a vertical band of pattern running down the side of the front cover is a strong contender.) Their stalwart fans were alarmed by this development, and wondered if Persephone was about to sell out. Hill says not: ‘We want to make it more democratic and to reach more people.’

    Bestseller ‘Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day’ by Winifred Watson (20,000 copies).

    Persephone Books, 59 Lamb’s Conduit St, WC1 (020 7242 9292/www.persephonebooks.co.uk) Holborn tube. Open Mon-Fri 10am-6pm, alternate Sats 12noon-5pm.

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19 comments
Mary Merriman
Mary Merriman

Hello Sir/Madam, I am a self tough writer, i love to write short stories also poems, can you please help me publish my book? I would be so grateful, i await for your reply so i can e-mail it to you. Thank you.

red heels
red heels

Another great post in this series C I'm finding that when I write a "better" headline I'm actually simply following your advice. Above all else C keeping it reader focused helps alot even if its a mediocre headline.

semal
semal

i am a 16 old school boy i am a indiya boy. i live in indiya. i wrritn by 120 pages 1 poem in hindi language. i acn publish my book in london. so u saporrt mi plese help mi sir.

starlite
starlite

hi there this is 'starlite' a poet; just finished my first novel, though, already published two poems books. 'true poems' and 'life is a sword, keep fighting' with an international company. is available online (amazon) or free from the library. don't give up, bye.

isoje david
isoje david

I am a young writer and i wish if you can publish a book i have written, over 1oo pages and autobiography of my life, thanks.

Njoteh Ifeanyi Rivhard
Njoteh Ifeanyi Rivhard

Good day sir i am a writer i want to get my books published but i dont know if you do sell for writers. i will like to ask three question. 1 What does it take to publish 2 will you sell the books your self 3 what is the royalties share like Please tel l me other things i need to know.

prabhat Baruah
prabhat Baruah

Bogapani1 is the title of my book. i want to sell the copyright @1720000 USD. It is the story of the down troden mass,livinng in a remote tea garden of Assam.

Patrick Nash
Patrick Nash

1.Is it necessary to have an agent to submit a novel to you? 2.If not,what are your submission requirements? Many thank and kind regards Patrick F Nash

Mohammed Abdulhaque
Mohammed Abdulhaque

writing is a art and to be a artist patience is needed. © Now I am going to make you laugh, I have about 30 novels and I am writing, but I am not a published writer because, publisher don't like my story, as I am muslim. Time will come and the gloomy moon will shin. © I also write poems.

Michael Chukwuemeka
Michael Chukwuemeka

I have just completed a book. It's based on the seemingly unending religious crisis in the city of Jos, Plateau state of Nigeria. I am currently seeking a publisher for the finished work and I have no doubt that i will find one in spite of the avalanche of rejections i hear every day that tumbles down on new and previously unpublished writers. No one is immune to rejection anyway except if you are not a writer. But it shouldn't kill our spirits.

ridendick mitro
ridendick mitro

i complete six novels(60, 200+,200+,86,71,61, on DTP pages respectively) on world peace and innumerous poems and novels. if u read that that works r not world standred u will desrtoy it with abusing. i m journalist by profesion. kolkata, india. mobile:0091 9333111543

Rimsha
Rimsha

Hi!! i just completed my book. Its a fantasy book, and I want publishers to publish my book, am searching from a publisher, from quiet a while I really hope i get a response from here...

Jade Naylor
Jade Naylor

I have just finished writing a fantasy book and im looking at publishers at the moment, i have had a few interests but i thought maybe you would like to read it if you wouldnt mind? I look forward to hearing from you. Kind Regards Jade.

annarita
annarita

surely you are a good publisher, though, would like to know more about you, i;m still waiting to publish my poems book, tell me more.

Jessica Kay
Jessica Kay

There is also Other Criteria - a fantastic Art Publishing Company - www.othercriteria.com - web based and with shops on Bond Street and Hinde Street in London. You are best visiting Hinde st to get a better selection of books, posters and small, affordable artworks!

I. Sinclair
I. Sinclair

The Swedenborg Society on Bloomsbury Way has been an active publishing house since 1810. Still publishing GREAT books of essays discussing the influential ideas of Emanuel Swedenborg, the 18th century philosopher and mystic, who inspired Blake, Yeats, Baudelaire, Dostoyevsky among others. Their books boast v. attractive and modern production/artwork also. See www.swedenborg.org.uk or visit the bookshop in Bloomsbury, just around the corner from the British Museum.

K.N Jonathan
K.N Jonathan

I believe that there is still room for plenty. Rejections should be working as the catalyst to boost the energy in you to move forward with your dream. Any writer who takes in rejections as a stepping stone to sucess and still keeps on trying till he gets his work published will ultimately prove to be a Super Hero.

M. R Rambler
M. R Rambler

The month of May,2008, is slushing the stock pile of manuscript and shredding it into dust bin, but I do not know about the month of June, 2008. You will be never published, if you are a first time fiction writer, no editor likes your query letter, what to say about unsolicited manuscript,then, why waste your time,money and energy in writing a magnum opus?