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Dispatches from the Publishing Front Line

April 2, 2014

My aim is to publish and sell beautiful books, not only providing a good read, but also adding something to our cultural heritage. Therefore I call myself a publisher as well as a bookseller. I think it is essential to be both.
On unexpected moments, this turns out to be an absolute joy, as illustrated by this happy customer who insisted his wife took a picture of making his purchase.

From day to day it’s a long hard grind. To get a book in a just perfect state, many people have to contribute their expertise. First of all and most importantly the author, it takes some time to write a good book, twenty years in case of one of the books I have published.

After this there are the unsung heroes of reading manuscripts, translating, editing, proofreading, layout, design, etc. Actually, if you want to have a peek behind the scene of some of these important tasks, come to the Editing, Indexing and Translating – the added-value activities behind publishing seminar at the London Book Fair on 8 April at 10am.

As the chair, I’ve been putting together a very exciting list of questions, and I’m looking forward to hearing the answers. Even better, you can come along and put forward your own questions to the panel of experts.

Reading unsolicited manuscript won’t be covered but that’s what we do at Holland Park Press, and I must say it’s one of the things I most enjoy. It’s like being a gold digger in the old Wild West or Australia, hard work, but when you have a find, it’s like pure gold. Nothing compares to reading a manuscript and thinking: this is something really special, so special in fact that I quite literally put my money on it.

And that has been the biggest gamble of my life. Because how do you make sure that people can discover your gem? There is so much noise, and plenty of shouting, whereas a literary book needs peace, quiet, and attention to be appreciated.

When I started out, I was convinced of this: get a book on a short list of a major prize, and you’ve made it. Now, having been there, seen it and made to buy the T shirt, I’m not so sure. You’re in quite a delicate position when you’re proudly small and independent. There may well be another blog in this.

I’ve always loved bookshops and try to buy all my books from them. So, when starting out, I thought a local bookshop and a small publisher are made for each other. Though this often is the case, I’ve come across some dreadful disappointments.

Take this local bookshop who wasn’t at all interested in stocking a book which featured a scene set in this very bookshop, which in its turn was based on an award-winning film. The bookshop has now closed, completely unrelated, of course, but both events are very sad.

Or this other bookshop, which I really love, and so does one of my authors who buys most of her books there. She lives around the corner of the bookshop and writes about the local area. Nonetheless, I could only persuade the bookshop to stock one single copy of their local author which they promptly put on one of their highest shelves.

However, the continuous state of flux of the book world also creates quite exciting opportunities for small players and watch this space for more initiatives.

For the moment I leave you with just one. One of our authors, Arnold Jansen op de Haar, will launch his stand-up writer act, very appropriately, on 1 April. You are all very welcome at 7pm in Great Western Studios. As matter of fact, you can watch his invitation.