Chatting to independent publisher, Freight Books

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As part of my feature on the inaugural Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses I invited those publishers whose books made it through to the shortlist to answer a few questions or write a guest post for my blog. Today I am delighted to welcome Adrian from Freight Books. I review their contender for the prize, Treats by Lara Williams, here.

An introduction – who are you and what you aim to achieve?

Freight Books is a Glasgow based independent publisher, with a focus on fiction, poetry, illustrated and narrative non-fiction (and we publish humour books from time to time too). We have won or have been shortlisted for quite a few literary and design prizes for our books, and we were Scottish Publisher of the Year in 2015-16.

Our principal objective is to give a platform to talented writers, whether they be debuts, mid-career not receiving the attention they deserve. We publish writers from around the world but also enjoy celebrating work connected to this part of the world.

We sell books nationally and internationally and have sold rights to a significant number of our titles to international publishers in the US, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Australia and many other parts of the world. We’re particularly committed to the short story and try to publish at least one or two collections a year. I’m a huge fan of the short form.

How have things changed in publishing since you started?

Although we published our first book in 2001, Freight Books was formally established in 2011. In the five or so years we have been publishing ‘properly’, it’s been mostly about us learning how to create a sustainable business. In the wider industry the hysteria around ebooks has died down and there’s less doom and gloom, but it’s still tough to sell books in any kind of volume. Retailers are still very risk averse. It’s harder to sell ebooks via Amazon, as they’re far more guarded about handing out promotions. We try to be as professional as possible and honour the work as best we can. But in that time we’ve also invested heavily in our network and infrastructure, in international selling, so I think people know us better too.

Your experience of prize listings – what are the costs and benefits, monetary or otherwise?

Prizes are hugely important to the industry as it’s a great way for readers to discover books. Publishing is so competitive, anything that identifies a book as ‘special’ will help. It’s also great for the writers as its real affirmation. We’ve been lucky in that two of the first three books we published were shortlisted for national literary awards, including the Author’s Club Best First Novel for Elizabeth Reeder’s Ramshackle. Subsequently we won the Green Carnation Prize (for Anneliese Mackintosh’s brilliant Any Other Mouth) and the Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize (for Kirstin Innes’s controversial Fishnet). We’ve also been shortlisted for prizes like the Jerwood Encore, the Edge Hill Story Prize, the much-lamented Frank O’Connor International Story Prize and, in poetry, the Seamus Heaney Best First Collection, the Forward Best First Collection and the Aldeburgh Best First Collection. We really chuffed that Lara Williams has been shortlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize which we think is a great idea and wholly ethical. The more focus on independent publishing the better.

The issue with prizes are some of the punitive costs if you are shortlisted or win. I think there’s an assumption that publishers are rolling in money and are a legitimate source of funding for a prize. Personally, I’d be embarrassed if I was running a prize and had to chin the winners for cash to pay for my prize. Seems like a scam to me. Admin entry fees are fair enough but some, like the recently deceased Guardian First Book, had entry fees way beyond what’s acceptable. Clearly these claw-backs are targeting the larger publishers, not recognising that a) some of the best work comes from indies and b) there’s no way indies can justify these costs.

The future – where would you like to see your small press going?

Our ambitions are modest but achievable – that is to still be publishing great work in ten years and to be able to make a living doing so. We clearly want to be as successful as possible and winning one of the major prizes might be a way of propelling us up to the next level – but a huge amount of luck is required to get that. In the meantime, is up to us to keep our heads up and focus on doing the very best job we can for our writers.

treats

Click on the book cover above to check out what others are saying about Treats. You may also wish to buy the book.

Book Review: Treats

treats

Treats, by Lara Williams, is a collection of twenty-one short stories exploring the challenges of navigating modern life in the twenty-first century. With insight, poignancy and wit the author presents her cast of independently minded, mainly youngish adults who are each searching for love, meaning, or simply a way to get through each day in a British city.

My favourite story was the first in the collection, appropriately titled ‘It Begins’. In this an arts graduate returns to the parental home ready to start the next stage of her journey. All too soon she is assailed by reality.

“You get an office job. You assimilate with business graduates, with their hearty sense of cynicism, a premature world-weariness, worn with a badge of honour. So pleased with their early resignation, their: this, this is life. […] Imagine being that lacking in wonder, aspiring to jobs in logistics or IT services, imagine never entertaining frothy careers […] Did it make the heartbreak easier or earlier? You grip your rosy ideals, your soppy security blanket.”

Subsequent stories look at the excitement of lust, falling in love, and the inevitable disappointment. There are attempts to make a solitary life enough. For all the progressive ideals the various characters espouse there are still expectations to be met, small lies being told, frowned upon behaviours downplayed in order to impress. There is the hankering after a mate despite the recognition that this is unlikely to fill any void more than temporarily.

Dates are recognisable. There are backhanded compliments, men whose eyes linger on vaporous women passing by, excuses pouring forth for behaviours deemed inappropriate as these condescending alphas attempt to maintain the false idea they have formed of the woman they asked out.

Throughout each story the protagonists endeavour to mould themselves and those granted access to private spaces and lives. There is a strong desire for acceptance.

The freedoms offered by contemporary life in a metropolis come at a cost which these stories present with acuity and compassion, concisely voicing the equivical experiences of many. Although sharp in focus, harshness is avoided. This is an empathetic, satisfying read.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Freight.