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August 3, 2011

Booker Notoriety Sparks Rights Run at Cinderella Indies


Since hitting the longlist of the Booker Prize, indie publishers Seren Books, Sandstone Press and Oneworld are seeing global interest in their titles as never before.


By Roger Tagholm

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LONDON: Last week the Man Booker Prize judging committee surprised many observers by including numerous independent publishing houses on the 13-strong longlist for this year’s prize. The list included a trio of titles from smaller, lesser-known presses including Patrick McGuinness’ The Last Hundred Days (Seren Books), Jane Rogers’ The Testament of Jessie Lamb (Sandstone Press) and Yvvette Edwards’ A Cupboard Full of Coats (Oneworld).

The intervening days have been enjoyably crazy — but crazy nonetheless — for those lucky publishers with rushed reprints, foreign rights inquiries, global coverage. This frenzy is not only testament to the power of the prize, but also to the speed with which news travels in the age of the internet and Twitter. Coverage proliferates which increases inquiries which amplifies coverage, all in a kind of benign circularity that didn’t exist in slower, analog times.

Yes, the large number of independents on the longlist — which also includes books from Canongate, Atlantic, Serpent’s Tail, and Granta — may very well be the most ever, but there are at least two other firsts for the list as well. One of the publishers, Robert Davidson, founder and MD of Scotland’s Sandstone Press –- the rare MD who answers the phone since, after all, there is only one other member of staff (a part-timer at that) –- is also a published novelist and poet. In the award’s long, 42-year-history, has any other publisher of a Man Booker nominee themselves been a published writer?

Another publisher, Mick Felton of Seren Books his Brigend-based company is the first Welsh house ever to be represented on the list, another small landmark in the history of the prize. more



July 27, 2011

Booker Prize pits tiny Highlands publisher against literary giants

By Rob Sharp

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A publisher operating out of a bedroom in a flat in the Scottish Highlands has had one of its novels longlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction.

Sandstone Press was set up nine years ago to publish poetry and has only published seven novels. Its book The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers, released in February, is set to take on the country’s biggest publishing groups for the world’s most prestigious literary prize. The winner gets a £50,000 cheque.

“We are all thrilled,” said Sandstone founder Robert Davidson, 62, a retired former engineer who lives in Dingwall, 15 miles north of Inverness. “We are happy for Jane and for this wonderful book. Hopefully this will begin our progression into a British publisher of note.”

Rogers said: “I am completely stunned, and amazed. I’ve been doing my mother-in-law’s garden and got back in the car and saw I had six messages. I am speechless.”

Her book is the story of a “near future” where pregnant women are dying from an incurable disease, praised by The Independent for being a “small, calm voice of reason in an nonsensical world”.

According to an awards spokesman, all but four of the 13-strong longlist are from a “non-conglomerate” publisher, the highest number ever represented on the longlist. The judging chair, Dame Stella Rimington, denied that there was any agenda to represent smaller publishers. “It was a competitive shortlist but we didn’t have any specific agenda in mind,” she said.

This year’s longlist is headed byAlan Hollinghurst with The Stranger’s Child, the bookies’ favourite to win. Hollinghurst won the award in 2004 for The Line of Beauty. Dame Stella said his latest novel was “interesting” with a “fascinating central character.” more

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