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Mon, 15 Jun 2009 03:23
Gallic Books was founded by Managing Director, Jane Aitken, working with Editorial Director, Pilar Webb. Colleagues for many years at Random House UK, they are both committed francophiles. They published their first books two years ago in the belief that English-speaking readers would welcome the chance to read new French writing in translation. And this has proved to be true notably with the success of Muriel Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog.
The Book Depository: What/who do you see as your primary market?
Gallic Books: Our core market are independent-minded readers who are looking for something a bit different. Our books do not have massive marketing campaigns, so are not necessarily the most visible in bookshops but have a good web following and do well in independent bookshops where the booksellers can get behind them. I think our books can be categorised as quality fiction, although not necessarily literary, and we have a range of genres from historical crime and historical fiction through contemporary fiction to black comedy.
The Book Depository: What are the principal challenges/opportunities you see at the moment in the business of publishing books?
Gallic Books: I think the major challenge is to get your book noticed amongst the heavily promoted celebrity bestsellers. Over Christmas for example the whole retail trade was sucked towards, Parkinson, French, Walters et al, and many of the promotional slots were taken up by celebrities' biographies or recipe books.
But this dominance does create an opportunity for independent publishers to provide the antidote in the form of interesting or quirky fiction. And the vibrancy of independent publishing shows that smaller publishers are responding to the opportunity -- publishers like Snow Books, Tindal Street, Myrmidon, Maia, Hesperus... and, of course, Gallic!
The Book Depository: What brings you to the decision to publish a particular title/author?
Gallic Books: I think the main criteria are that we must have really enjoyed reading a book in the original French, and that we feel it has a potential UK market. Apart from that we're not too prescriptive in how we choose.
We found our first books by immersing ourselves in the French book world and scouring French bookshops both in London and Paris. We were looking for good stories with a French twist; we started by reading anything that looked interesting and found ourselves drawn to historical crime, which remains a very important genre for us. Of course the quality of the writing was important, but we also chose authors who had enjoyed recognition in France.
The Book Depository: What books are you most proud of having published?
Gallic Books: That's a tough one, but we'd have to go for the first two titles with which we launched Gallic Books.
Firstly, Murder on the Eiffel Tower by Claude Izner, the first of the Victor Legris Mysteries set in belle-epoque Paris, and very successful in France but which would never have been picked up for translation. We designed and positioned it and the series has really established a following in the UK. There's now even a US edition.
The second title was The Chatelet Apprentice by Jean-Francois Parot, the first in the Nicolas Le Floch series of crime in eighteenth-century Paris. Much darker than the Claude Izner, it's massive in France where they've just launched the TV series. We launched it in trade paperback which was a gamble that paid off. It may take time, as it did in France, but the signs are that the UK public is starting to see what a fantastic read Commissioner Le Floch's investigations are.
And of course we're tremendously proud of being the UK publishers of the million-selling French phenomenon The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, which has been getting a lot of attention in the UK.
The Book Depository: What books are you working on right now?
Gallic Books: Lots! Our first non-fiction title is out in July -- Anna Sam's Checkout: a Life on the Tills. Anna spent eight years working as a checkout girl and her book is a witty look at what it's really like to work in supermarket, and what customers reveal about themselves as they pass through the till.
We're also publishing The Gourmet, Muriel Barbery's first book in September. It features one of the characters from Hedgehog, an important French food critic. As he lies dying he is tormented because he is unable to recall the most delicious food ever to pass his lips. Desperate to taste it one last time he looks back over the years to see if he can pin down the elusive dish.
Another exciting project for us is the publication of Napoleon's only novella, Clisson and Eugenie, which Napoleon wrote when he was only 26 and before miltary preoccupations put an end to his writing career.
Finally, we are embarking next year on a new fiction series about a young psychiatrist named Hector. In the first book, Hector and the Search for Happiness, Hector sets off round the world to find out what makes people everywhere happy (and sad) and whether there is such a thing as the secret of true happiness. It's another book with a massive international following that has not previously been available in English. We will publish the second title in the Hector's Journeys series in February 2011 -- Hector and the Secrets of Love.
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