Q&A with ThunderPoint Publishing

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Today I am delighted to welcome Seonaid from ThunderPoint Publishing to my blog. I discovered this publishing house when I reviewed ‘Talk of the Toun‘, by Helen MacKinven. Look out for my thoughts on another of their books ‘The Bonnie Road’, by Suzanne d’Corsey, later this week.

Without further ado, let us find out more about this independent imprint whose aim is to publish books radical in ideas, concepts and message.

1. Why did you decide to set up Thunderpoint Publishing?

I am a literature graduate and Huw works in business, and for years we had talked about running a bookshop, but moving around the world and living in unusual locations (Hong Kong, Turkey, France and now the Outer Hebrides) this was not realistic. Following our move to the Hebrides and with a lack of job opportunities I signed up for a Masters degree in literature of the Highlands and Islands with the University of the Highland and Islands.

After graduation I was no closer to finding a job, so Huw suggested setting up a publishing company so we could combine my love of literature with his business skills. Hence, ThunderPoint!

2. How do you go about finding and signing authors?

When we started out we launched our website, Facebook page and Twitter account to put ourselves out there. Authors found us and sent us their manuscripts. We were lucky that some great manuscripts arrived in our inbox and we have signed an eclectic mix of authors over the years. We joined Publishing Scotland in our first year and this has also brought us to the attention of authors. We have had lots of manuscripts sent to us over the years, but we have always only picked authors whose manuscripts really grabbed us, that we would be proud to publish, that had a voice that grabbed us.

3. What sort of books do you want to publish?

We don’t really limit ourselves to a particular genre, if a manuscript grabs us and we want to read past the first few pages, we ask for the full manuscript and take it from there. You can see from our list that the titles we have published are diverse, and we haven’t shied away from challenging topics, or books written in Scottish dialect either. In fact, those can be the very reasons we have been attracted to the books in question.

4. There are a good number of small, independent publishers out there publishing some great works. Do you consider yourself different and, if so, how?

We have not set out to be different, per se, but every publisher is probably looking for the next great new book/author, whatever the genre. You could say we have not gone for the obvious. We have published books written with strong Scottish dialect, short stories, a novel revolving around the auld ways in modern Scotland, and magical realism, as well novels set in less well-knowns locations and dealing with challenging subjects (e.g. child abuse and mental health).

5. Is your experience of marketing what you expected when you started out?

Marketing is always hard work for new start businesses and publishing is a crowded, competitive market, with some large players dominating the marketplace. Bookselling is dominated by two main players in the UK, both of whom have near monopolies in their sector. Breaking into this has been challenging, frustrating and time-consuming and sometimes surprising. However, publishing and bookselling is an ever-changing market and there is always opportunity for new publishers and authors. Penguin changed the bookselling world when they brought out paperbacks, the chain bookstores changed buyers habits and Amazon has put more books within immediate reach of readers than ever before. This dynamic and changing market is good for independent publishers like us and we look to other Scottish publishers who are a few years ahead of us as an example. Sandstone Press, Freight Books and Cargo Publishing have all shown what can be done with determination and energy, and we hope to emulate their success.

6. Latest trend or totally original – what sells?

As to what books sell, it’s like any other product. Does it catch a reviewers eye, are the reviews well-written, are they seen by potential customers whose attention is caught? An author’s presence is also important and the more visible an author is the more books they will sell.

7. Ebook or hard copy – what do your buyers want?

We sell both hardcopy and ebook, through a range of retailers and wholesalers. Amazon dominates ebooks, but we sell through Kobo, iTunes and B&N too. We sell paperbacks through Amazon, Waterstones, Blackwells and a growing range of independents. We and our authors also sell books at literary events, readings and any (non-bookshop) outlet that will stock a title. Our books are even sold on some Scottish ferries.

8. Plans for the future? 

Looking forward we have six exciting new authors signed up and titles scheduled for publication forward to 2018. We’ll have more Scottish crime fiction, and we also have some amazing Scottish historical fiction, and our first title of 2016 will be a moving literary LGBT novel, Queer Bashing, that we will shortly begin promoting.

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Thank you to Seonaid for taking the time to answer my questions. You can find out more about this small press, including details of their books, on their website by clicking here: ThunderPoint Publishing

Keep up to date with all of their news via Twitter: ThunderPoint (@ThunderPointLtd)

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If you are an independent publisher and would like to be included in this series please check out my introductory post: Shout Out to Independent Publishers « neverimitate

Book Review: Talk of the Toun

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Talk of the Toun, by Helen MacKinven, offers a mordant look at 1980’s working class Scottish life for a seventeen year old Catholic girl whose aspirations go beyond what is regarded as possible within her insular family and community. Written using the local dialect and language of the time, the tale is raw and uncompromising. It is hard now to believe that many of the goings on were then deemed unavoidable. One can only hope that attitudes have progressed.

When the story opens the protagonist, Angela, is looking forward to the end of the school term and the beginning of the long summer holidays. Her best friend, Lorraine, is to join Angela’s family on their annual trip to a northern English caravan site. Lorraine and Angela have been friends since they were four years old. They tell each other everything, and Angela dreams of them leaving home together to live in Glasgow where she hopes to go to Art School. Her parents have other ideas for her future closer to home.

The reader is shown life through Angela’s eyes. When Lorraine cries there are tears but also snotters to be wiped away; father snores and farts, emanating pungent smells; bathroom odours and stains are described in unpleasant detail; rooms reek of sweat, carpets squelch, clothes are marked by spilled food and skids. The lack of cleanliness and hygiene is regarded with distaste but accepted.

When Lorraine befriends another girl from school Angela feels betrayed. She remembers how she once saved Lorraine’s life during a play incident in a quarry and wonders at her ingratitude. Angela sees everything as it affects her with little empathy for the lives others around her lead.

When the girls meet the handsome Stevie, just released from borstal, he is immediately attracted to the slim and pretty Lorraine. Angela, large and overweight, is used to such a reaction but wishes to have her share in Stevie’s attentions. She contrives to meet up with him alone where he brushes her aside. When Lorraine then starts to spend time with him Angela feels she must act, for Lorraine’s own good, and sets in motion a series of events which will have devastating consequences for her friend.

Family life is explored. Angela derides her talented and determined little sister, who also aspires to a life beyond her upbringing. She despises her parents with their soap operas and nail pictures, not noticing that they are doing the best they can for her. Angela is close to her grandmother but too preoccupied to take action when potential health issues are revealed.

The writing evoked a life that I found hard to stomach: the casual acceptance of priests ‘fiddling’ with alter boys; the culpability of young girls who went alone with a boy and were then raped; the coarse and cruel language of sexism, racism and bigotry that was prevalent and merely shrugged away.

The reader is given an insight into the poverty of attitude and aspiration that a lack of money can engender in some. However, I questioned if my desire for Angela to change was simply a wish that she should become more like those I am comfortable with, and acknowledged the conceit and intolerance this lays bare.

A strongly written, discomfiting, coming of age tale in a setting close to home yet unfamiliar. I am glad to have read it, and now need to work my way through the thoughts engendered.

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