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Mon, 07 Dec 2009 06:36
Based in Farringdon, Duckworth is an independent publisher with a general trade list and an academic list. Founded in 1898 by Gerald Duckworth, Virginia Woolf's half-brother, Duckworth publishes literary and commercial fiction and non-fiction, including history, biography and memoir, by authors including Beryl Bainbridge, John Bayley, Nigel Lawson, Max Brooks and Arthur Phillips. Duckworth Academic, which incorporates the Bristol Classical Press imprint, features scholarly monographs and student texts in Archaeology, Greek and Latin Classics, Ancient and Medieval History, and Ancient Philosophy. Its extensive backlist includes school and university texts in Latin, Greek, Russian, French, German and Spanish language and literature. Duckworth is owned by Peter Mayer, former CEO of Penguin, and is associated with the Overlook Press in New York.
The Book Depository: What/who do you see as your primary market?
Duckworth: It really depends on the book. Over the academic and general lists we publish such a huge range of titles that there is something for all kinds of readers, whether they are interested in history, politics, contemporary fiction, science, biography, current affairs... or zombie hordes. There is a certain eccentric Englishness about our heritage as a company, and we have brought back into print a number of Duckworth's older titles, such as the beautiful editions of Heath Robinson's collected illustrations.
The Book Depository: What are the principal challenges/opportunities you see at the moment in the business of publishing books?
Duckworth: As a small business we have always faced the kinds of restrictions that the larger companies are only now starting to experience in tough economic times. We don't pay huge advances, so rather than competing with celebrity memoirs, we are forced to be innovative and imaginative, and sometimes to go against the grain -- for example in publishing Nigel Lawson's An Appeal to Reason, which challenged popular opinion about climate change. As an independent we have a lot of freedom in that sense. We are always on the lookout for good books that have been overlooked by larger houses, and for example in the case of the recent Buffett: The Biography, bringing acclaimed titles back into print for a new generation of readers.
The Book Depository: What brings you to the decision to publish a particular title/author?
Duckworth: It could be summarised as "instinct", really -- sometimes it's simply that we feel so strongly about an author's writing that we want to give copies to everyone we know; sometimes it's that a book addresses a specific issue in a timely way; sometimes it's a compelling and original idea. Ideally, it's all three.
The Book Depository: What books are you most proud of having published?
Duckworth: We are of course proud of all our books. But we are particularly pleased to have on our list Arthur Phillips, whom the Washington Post called "one of the best writers in America"; also the young writer Eleanor Thom, whose debut The Tin-Kin has just won the Scottish First Book of the Year; we are delighted, too, to be re-issuing the wonderful spy novels of Charles McCarry.
Julia Child's charming memoir My Life in France has delighted many readers, and Max Brooks's hugely popular zombie titles have now sold over a million copies worldwide. And, of course, we are immensely proud of our highly respected academic list.
The Book Depository: What books are you working on right now?
Duckworth: We have just published Max Brooks's Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks, our very first graphic novel, and Richard Neville's classic memoir of the 1960s Hippie Hippie Shake, updated with a new introduction and a fantastic new cover.
On our spring list we're looking forward to Number Freak, Derrick Niederman's addictive book packed with number trivia, amusing facts and puzzles, Iain Hollingshead's new novel Beta Male, about four commitment-phobic men who live in fear of turning thirty, and Anil Ananthaswamy's The Edge of Physics, which blends enthralling travelogue with an investigation into cutting edge cosmology.
And looking further into the future, J.J. Connolly's Viva La Madness, the fantastic long-awaited sequel to Layer Cake.
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