I know! I know! It's ridiculously brave of us to put out a newsletter in the week when Gwyneth Paltrow's new Goop shop has opened. Why would you want to buy world changing literature when you could be buying $30 cannisters of gem-infused aromatherapy vampire repellent?
And talking of repellent spray, I'm also aware that as this letter goes out, over in Florence, the UK Prime Minister will be gassing through her latest vision for destroying the UK economy and alienating us from our friends and neighbours... So I may not have caught you in the best of moods.
But! Hey! Look at this:
Yes! It's Offred from The Handmaid's Tale. In full crocheted splendour. Katie Clammer - the writer Jim Clammer's multi-talented wife - turned up to our launch party for We that are young last month bearing Offred as a gift for Elly. She now has pride of place on our mantelpiece, and Katie is taking orders. So if you want one for yourself, the best person to get hold of is Jim himself, over on Twitter (@jamesclammer). Everyone needs an Offred - not least as a reminder of the sort of shit that can go down, especially in a time when women are up against people like this:
And nappy-changing-refusnik MPs like this:
(That's Jacob Rees-Mogg, in case you were wondering.)
Okay. To business! Firstly, a huge thank you everyone who entered our short story prize. We've gathered together submissions - and have now settled down for a long autumn of reading. And of course we can't say much else, at this stage - but rest assured: It's shaping up to be another very fine year.
We're also busily reading the submissions that came in when we opened our window back in July. And we'll be opening that one again in November, so watch this space.
In the meantime, our writers are bringing us a lot of happiness. Preti Taneja has been getting so many well-deserved endorsements recently that it's impossible to list them all. But let's try for some. The Sunday Times said We that are young is: "Revelatory... Urgent and irresistible... One of the most exquisite and original novels of the year". Yes, that's right. And then the Guardian called it "a brilliant page turner that is also unabashedly political". And the Irish Times chipped in with "a remarkable portrait of modern India" and the New Statesman with "sharp, cogent, and evocative". The TLS and Literary Review coverage are on their way (fingers crossed for good ones!) and - as if this isn't enough - while we wait, we've had other writers and publishers come along with yet more praise. The wonderful Maureen Freely - translator of Orhan Pamuk and all round force-for-good - has called We that are young "enthralling, brave, and very important"; the poet Rishi Dastidar proclaimed it "an instant classic"; film director Vishal Bhardwaj thinks it "a poetic tour de force"; and John Mitchinson, on the Backlisted Podcast, has just called it "the best Indian novel... since A Suitable Boy."
Anyway! We still have a few limited edition copies left - but not many. We've set the counter in our webstore - and once they're gone, that's it. Hopefully they will be a very sound investment, as well as a beautifully thick slab of reading joy.
(And we also have our beautiful orange editions in store. As do all good bookshops. Here's a pleasing image from our local Norwich Waterstones:)
The support people are showing this book is wonderful. We've always thought it was important - but to see Preti getting some of the success she deserves is as satisfying as job satisfaction gets.
Okay! This is going to be a long letter. I feel like we might even need a contents system, just in case you want to have a black mark cast on your soul and throw your moral future into a dark bubbling hell pit and to not read every. single. god. damn. word. Let's move into the first person plural too. Because Elly wrote a lot of this letter and needs some credit. And also because there's a bit about me (henceforth: Sam). That bit would be too weird in the first person singular.
So! Here's what's down below: We're going to tell you what we have coming up over the next two months, namely - Gonzalo C. Garcia, with his debut novel We Are The End, and Megan Dunn, the first instalment of our brand new non-fiction list, with her Ray Bradbury-infused Tinderbox. We going to ask for your advice about a Kickstarter campaign we want to run and about finding a sponsor for the short story prize - so that it can continue to flourish and also (most important) offer even more for new writers. And finally we want to talk to you about a new project we're planning, which involves a Galley Beggar School and a small selection of writing courses - launching next spring, if all goes well.
Megan and Gonzalo.
Okay, so I'm going to keep my powder-dry when it comes to talking over how much we love the two books we've got coming out in the Autumn for now. I know I probably bust through my annual adjective allowance some time in the spring, anyway. But even so. Look out for the next newsletter for a full discussion of their GLORIES. But! I do want to alert you to the fact that they are on the way. They are wonderful. And we're going to be celebrating their launch - probably on November 8th, in the middle of London and you're welcome to come. More information on the way soon. Look out!
If you want to find out more about them in the meantime:
And here's Megan.
(Oh and we're very pleased to say that Gonzalo will be appearing alongside by Pajtim Statovici and Anneliese Mackintosh at Gower Street Waterstones at one of their very special debut author showcases on 19th October.
And here's an interview with Gonzalo too. Oh, Switzerland!)
Now on to the money stuff. Namely: Running a small press can be challenging. As you already know. And we know you know because we never shut up about it. We love running a small press more than we love to moan about it. We truly do. But, yes, we do also moan. There's also no getting around the fact that, as chain store discounting continues to climb and the returns system - or at least the misuse of it by some corporations - runs amok, there's never a time when finances aren't tight. And this has only been exacerbated post-Brexit, with a weakened pound and spiralling print costs. Let us give you an example. When we first started out, in 2012, our 1000-run of Simon Gough's White Goddess (which was 612 pages long! ...) came in an £1.40 a unit. Now, and especially over the last 18 months, we are routinely faced with quotes of £3.00 a unit and up. When you factor in discounts of 50-60% and more for the bigger stores (not you, indy booksellers, we love you! ... But yes, you, Amazon, you ravening bringers-of-night), a returns system that can sometimes send back 70% of orders, and so on - then we're faced with the stark reality that for every book we sell on Amazon or in other large outlets, we very often make a loss. That's right. It can cost money to get books into shops. Many stores are wonderfully supportive - and we'd be nowhere without Waterstones. But. Something has gone wrong, clearly. The most important thing is changing the culture around discounts and returns and selling books at a fair price so everyone benefits...
... But that also involves bringing down the insane Milton Friedman inspired economic consensus that is rapidly destroying our world. Ending all that would be good. But also quite complicated.
Anyway, until we rejoin the EU and stop selfish rich old men forcing their "discipline of the free markets" bullshit on us, we need to be able to fund ourselves and our writers in other ways. This essentially means building up our subscription scheme and increasing our direct orders. And rather than sending out SOS messages every other month, when the well drains dry - we're instead going to try our hand at a yearly Kickstarter campaign. We're hoping to do this in spring 2018 - but as we've never tried our hand at this before, we're appealing for advice. Firstly, we want to know what rewards might make it really worth your while to fund the Kickstarter. We want this to be a two way thing and bring real benefits to our readers as well as our writers. Secondly, we're also hoping to have a helping hand from a film-maker - one who can be paid either in instalments, in a life-long honorary subscription to Galley Beggar, or some sort of work-in-kind that we can offer. So that's it! (Although hey! If you're reading this, aren't a film-maker or a Kickstarter aficionado but want to help - then you could always just go ahead and order some of our super books now, or become a Galley Buddy by clicking here.)
Erm, if any businesses or beautifully kind rich people want to sponsor our short story prize next year - we'd be mighty glad. We're hoping to use the money to increase the prize value - and so it will go direct into the hands of writers. (Rather than a holiday in Barbados for us. But hey! If anyone wants to sponsor that too, we probably wouldn't say no.)
Galley Beggar School.
Phew! Are we finished yet? Not quite. One more thing. In late spring next year, we're going to be launching a modest series of classes (a good proportion of the profit from which will go towards those costs we've been talking about). The first is based on a very popular critical reading class that Sam devised and has been teaching on university creative writing courses for a number of years. In each lesson, he takes a piece of writing he admires - say, Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea - and pulls it apart from an editorial perspective. The idea is that you get a great insight into to some enjoyable and important novels. And also into the creative processes behind them. This in turn helps your own writing. If you want to hear Sam bang on about the importance of thinking about tenses properly, this is a golden opportunity. It's also a chance to speak to like-minded people in detail about books that matter. About art and literature and how it works. And how it doesn't work. And how sometimes the people writing books are just weaving crazy magic and all we can do is look on in amazement...
Anyway! We tell you this because we're excited but also - most important - because we think a number of people reading this will be writers and have taken some sort of course. We're hoping to tap into that experience: Please do get in touch; tell us about anything you've especially enjoyed, or a course that you always wanted to attend but hasn't been on offer. Because we want to make sure that we're providing the sort of things that are genuinely useful to writers and readers.
And that's it. I've written so much that I'm almost too tired to think about Jeff Bezos and the ongoing revelations about the way Amazon is destroying our world by failing to pay a fair share of taxes... Besides, when I start to get angry nowadays an image of the stilton-brained man-sized bollock Nigel Farage always floats into my head - like a stupider and fartier version of Bob in episode 17 of Twin Peaks, Season Three. And what I would give for a magic gardening glove that can smash him back to the 19th century... This is getting quite niche-Lynch, isn't it? But oh boy! At least I've got back to art, and better thoughts. That series of Twin Peaks may well have been the best thing that ever happened to TV. So! Joy! There are good things happening in the world. There are people who can make it all more interesting. One of the delights of being a publisher is that you get to meet some of them. And to send them newsletters. That's better. I've got more love than The Beatles now. And mainly it's for you. Awwww...
Sam (and Elly too.)
PS Back to first person singular! Just in time for a massive ego-rush. Here I am flapping my mouth in Shakespeare & Company. On camera! I still can't quite believe that this happened. But I sure am glad that it did.
PPS Thanks to Essi Viding for the photo of the Tory. We love you Essi!