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Wed, 29 Jul 2009 08:41
Myriad Editions was founded in 1993 as the producer of the award-winning State of the World Atlas series. In 2000, the company moved to Brighton and a couple of years later we published an anthology to celebrate the city. The Brighton Book, with its mix of fiction, reportage, photography and graphics, was supposed to be a one-off. In fact, we went on to publish three of the authors included in that book: Martine McDonagh's novel, I Have Waited and You Have Come, Lesley Thomson's crime thriller, A Kind of Vanishing, and Woodrow Phoenix's brilliant graphic road book, Rumble Strip. We then justified publishing two non-fiction books because they shared the political sensibilities of the atlases -- Kate Evans' Funny Weather and Michael Norton's 365 Ways to Change the World and, before we knew it, we had organically grown a completely new strand to Myriad's core publishing activity. Earlier this year, we were fortunate enough to receive an Arts Council England grant which means that we can continue in earnest what we've started -- seeking out and nurturing new writers and showcasing original, home-grown talent.
The Book Depository: What/who do you see as your primary market?
Myriad Editions: Women are voracious buyers and readers of fiction, with recent studies showing that they account for nearly 60% of book buyers and 65% of all sales. Many more women than men belong to book groups and sign up for creative writing courses, too. We set out to publish new writers and debut novels so it didn't come as a surprise to see that most of the submissions we receive are by women. But while the demographic is clearly mainly female, two of the six novels we will be publishing in 2010 are by men and we certainly hope that men will be reading these as well as those we've already published.
The Book Depository: What are the principle challenges/opportunities you see at the moment in the business of publishing books?
Myriad Editions: One of the biggest challenges we face is to get books into the shops, and to keep them stocked. We're getting excellent support from local bookshops, especially the independents such as City Books in Brighton and Much Ado Books in Alfriston, but the large chains will order single copies only and it's really demoralising for authors to go into a bookshop and not see their books there. On the other hand, there are tremendous opportunities for online marketing, not just through Amazon but by word-of-mouth and blogging. The word spreads faster and further in cyberspace, and we're making the most of it by blogging, tweeting, building a fanbase on Facebook and encouraging all our authors to do the same. Online retailers give us the opportunity to get our books much farther afield and the free worldwide shipping from The Book Depository has meant that we can add some African dates to the Virtual Book Tour we have just launched for The Cloths of Heaven.
The Book Depository: What brings you to the decision to publish a particular title/author?
Myriad Editions: We publish books we want to read ourselves. Excellent writing, authentic story-telling, and good characterisation are all high on the list but originality of voice is key. With Isabel Ashdown's debut, Glasshopper (out in September), we were immediately struck by the poise and polish of her writing, and impressed by the elegance of the narrative structure of the book. More than anything we were won over by the characters and the compelling drama of their stories. The fact that Isabel was a new writer and a Creative Writing MA student at Chichester, and so exactly fitted our Arts Council-funded new fiction plans, sealed the deal.
In our submissions guidelines we've always said we don't publish genre fiction -- historical, crime, sci-fi, thrillers -- but in fact we've recently been forced to bend our own rules for books that could officially be categorised as genre, but which were so brilliantly written, and telling such engaging stories, that we just felt we had to publish them. Whatever guidelines we put in place, that sense of absolute compulsion is what we're looking for, and what makes publishing such an exciting business to be in.
The Book Depository: What books are you most proud of having published?
Myriad Editions: I Have Waited, and You Have Come by Martine McDonagh was the first novel Myriad published and I am struck as much now as then by the post-apocalyptic vision the author has created. The novel visualises a near-future better than anything else I've read and certainly beats the films that have covered the same ground. It would make an excellent film. Another book I'm proud of having published is Rumble Strip because Woodrow Phoenix opened up for me a whole new world of graphic fiction and the interplay of words and pictures. Part philosophy and part memoir, this must be the only book about driving, speed and power without a picture of another car or another person. Woodrow's philosophy is as black and white as his drawings -- reading Rumble Strip is a bit like getting behind the wheel of a very mean machine and embarking on an exhilarating and contemplative trip. Most recently, I've felt privileged and extremely proud to have published The Cloths of Heaven by Sue Eckstein. I loved the novel when I first read the manuscript two years ago but, at that time, I wasn't sure if we would be in a position to publish any more fiction. So for me this novel is closely linked to our news of the Arts Council England award and the beginning of a new era in Myriad's publishing.
The Book Depository: What books are you working on right now?
Myriad Editions: We're involved in the challenging but thoroughly enjoyable process of editing The Clay Dreaming. This is a hugely ambitious novel set around the time of the Australian Aboriginal cricket team's historical visit to London 1868. It explores an extraordinary friendship between one of the cricketers and a bookish young English woman and their mission to uncover the mysteries of his ancestry. Different story lines, original documentation and various texts within texts mean that Vicky Blunden, Myriad's fiction editor, and the author Ed Hillyer have a hard task to cut down the manuscript from over 1,000 pages to a more manageable 700 or so.
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