London's small book publishers
SnowbooksThe Snowbooks team’s Pentonville Road office might be small, but in this cramped space they’ve produced enough notable books to win Small Publisher of the Year at last year’s British Book Trade Awards. Snow had an unlikely start, created as it was by two people with no previous publishing experience. Thirty-two-year-old managing director Emma Barnes worked (unhappily) in management consultancy before founding Snow in 2003. Before that, she worked as a buyer at B&Q and at Superdrug, where she met Snow’s co-founder and chairman, Robert Finn. ‘We would hatch plans together and it took ten years for them to come to fruition,’ she says.
Snow’s three full-time editorial staff are involved at every stage of the publishing process, from cover design and typesetting to publicity, though each book is overseen by a single editor who treats it as his or her ‘baby’. For instance, with new SF release ‘Lint’ by Steve Aylett, Snow’s James Bridle not only approached the author in the first place but went on to design the eye-catching comic-style cover. Such is the scale of this job that Barnes prefers to call her trio of editors ‘publishers’.
Snow’s list contains crime thrillers, chick lit and martial arts books, but Barnes doesn’t take on poetry or children’s fiction, believing those genres to require specialist skills. They’ve also built up fruitful relationships with behemoth retailers such as Waterstone’s, initially by doing something as simple as sending them a clear and well-illustrated spiral-bound information pack of their titles.
‘It’s absolute bollocks that retailers don’t look after small publishers,’ says Barnes. ‘When we posted Waterstone’s our info pack they rang up and said ‘who the hell are you? The pack is amazing. Come in and talk to us.’
Snow accepts unsolicited manuscripts, as long as they’re submitted by email. In fact, this ‘small but nimble’ publisher goes further, and even dares to question the need for the literary agents who traditionally act as brokers between authors and publishers.
Bestseller ‘Adept’ by Robert Finn (50,000 copies).
Snow Books (020 7837 6482/www.snowbooks.com).
Other petite publishers
Arcadia Books‘World writing’ is this Fitzrovia-based firm’s specialist field, from translated fiction to memoirs and gay and gender studies. Incorporating the imprints of BlackAmber, EuroCrime and Bliss.Arcadia Books (020 7436 9898/www.arcadiabooks.co.uk).
Bitter Lemon PressLaunched in 2003 and based in W11, Bitter Lemon Press has carved a successful niche as a provider of classy thrillers from overseas, including the US, Australia, Latin America and continental Europe.Bitter Lemon Press (020 7727 7927/www.bitterlemonpress.com).
Black Dog PublishingThis small Shoreditch publisher specialises in illustrated books, with an emphasis on high production values. It covers a wide remit of non-fiction subjects from architecture to music and fashion. Black Dog Publishing (020 7613 1922/www.bdpworld.com).
Haus PublishingEstablished itself as a publisher of quality biographies in 2002. Its ‘Life & Times’ series details the lives of people who have changed the world, ‘from Beethoven to Marie Curie’. In 2005, Belgravia-based Haus branched into travel literature (rather than guides) with the Armchair Traveller series.Haus Publishing (020 7584 6738/www.hauspublishing.co.uk).
Pushkin PressHas a loyal following for its elegantly presented books. Focusing on English-language versions of classic but neglected European titles. Located next to Regent’s Park, Pushkin celebrates its tenth birthday this year. Pushkin Press (020 7730 0750/www.pushkinpress.com).
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