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A New Year Letter

2 January 2017

Dear September Authors and Supporters

Happy New Year! It seemed a good moment, in the quiet first days of the year, to update you and look ahead. 2016 was our second year of actual publishing (as opposed to commissioning and plotting) and it was wonderful to see books by Sharon Blackie, Angela Kiss, PJ Kavanagh, Emily Stott, Simon Phipps, Jim Richards, Howard Spencer and the English Heritage Blue Plaque team reach the public. We’ve seen authors on BBC Breakfast, featured in the Telegraph, the Guardian, Time Out, the Sun, the Evening Standard and we’ve listened to them on Midweek, Robert Elms and Start the Week amongst many others. Some big sales surges have come from these traditional press platforms, but just as many have come from online influencers, whether it’s blogs and communities like Spitalfields Life and Londonist, or authors and tweeters like Melissa Harrison, or organisations like the Twentieth Century Society.

We’ve worked with some wonderful new designers, including APFEL (Brutal London), Sandra Zellmer (The Secret Life of Ceramics) and Jamie Keenan (Gold Rush & Sharks), and collaborated with new editors and publicists, such as Justine Taylor, Ed Griffiths and Fiona Brownlee.

2017 will see a bigger list, with new illustrated and narrative titles. It’s an important year – our first titles will be distributed in the USA via Global Book Services. We will publish our first fiction – an anthology of ghost stories with English Heritage – and we have new books with comedian and activist Mark Thomas and investigative reporter Conor Woodman. We will also publish Christopher Nicholson’s (author of Elephant Keeper and Winter) first non-fiction title; an exquisitely written account of a summer spent in search of snow in the Scottish Highlands which we feel confident will become a classic of the nature writing genre. There is an extraordinary memoir of London’s Columbia Road, a story of mid-century Midlands’ lives and artist Alice Stevenson’s second book Ways to See Great Britain.

Last year was made more difficult by print price increases post-Brexit. It was made more daunting by the rise of reactionary, protective, xenophobic politics, and by a new US president interested only in commerce and the protection of wealth. But publishers – the interesting ones – fight against insularity by looking ahead, then finding articulate, enlightening writers and creatives who will chime with our concerns, interests and desires AND broaden them.

This year we will start a new project with an artist and writer based in Paris, born in Serbia, inspired by the wisdom of her friends. We’re inspired by Edna Adnan who founded a hospital and university in Somaliland on her retirement, cashing in her WHO pension and building
from scratch on unwanted, tainted land. And last but not least I’ve been energised by two young aspiring writers who were refugees in Lisbon and the UK, from Portuguese West Africa. There’s a lot to look forward to.

It’s such a rich, rich world, with such varied lives and ways of telling – and it’s a privilege to work within an intelligent industry with so many terrific people. So many thanks from Charlotte and I, and the larger September community, for your work and faith.

Hannah

 

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New Year 2016 – publishers’ blog

In December I met a wonderful NYC-based publicist Lauren Cerand in a St Pancras station cafe that was twinkling with Christmas. She described September’s list as very ‘voicey’ (a word much used in the NY literary scene right now, she said). I thought it summed us upped beautifully … so I have been overusing it ever since.

Now we’re in January and it’s pretty chilly in September’s basement office as we still wrestle with the downsides of indie publishing (queuing at the post office, swearing at VAT deadlines), but we are relishing the expanding upsides of independence. This spring feels all about new growth; new opportunities and new voices.

In February and March we launch new books by two strong women – Angela Kiss and Sharon Blackie.

Inspired by her countryman, the classic humourist and bestselling author George Mikes, Angela has written a funny and affectionate portrait of the English.

Sharon Blackie’s book on the untapped power of Celtic Women is a rousing, inspiring exploration of Celtic landscape, myth and modern day challenges.

Both women are very different heroines – speaking with very distinct voices.

We are actively looking for authors speaking in new styles, of lesser known lives or areas. The diversity the publishing lacks – something much discussed in the UK publishing industry right now – will only come if books are published from a broader base of writers. How else will more people see the publishing industry as being relevant to them?

We are also actively looking for young non-fiction authors who wish to develop their skills and editorial relationships over time. The art of non-fiction is under-appreciated and discussed and we wish more people channelled their desire for literary self-expression into non-fiction.

Our current intern Allison from the Kingston University publishing MA has also been talking about how the majority of graduates on the course see their destination as fiction. There’s clearly more to be done by the non-fiction publishers of the world in encouraging young writers and young employees to realise the potential of the genre.

And finally … January has also seen our first set of royalty statements. More than half show advances earn out and royalties owing. This is good news for authors and good news for September as we commission further authors with strong track records (like Christopher Nicholson of The Elephant Keeper and Winter who will be writing of his summer search for snow in the Scottish Highlands in a new book for 2017).

Onwards. And – particularly if you’re Christopher – upwards.

Hannah

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Winter 2015 – publishers’ blog

A year since we started, it’s hard not to think in terms of lists, 4 books launched, 11 new titles commissioned, almost 10,000 books sold … But these numbers do little to reveal the work that’s gone in, the pleasure that the publishing journeys have brought, the joy of finally receiving physical copies, the pride the team and authors have felt at the five-star reviews and endorsements. The individual emails and exchanges highlighting the transformative power of a book.

Charlotte, Sue, Rebecca and I have a great deal to thank our authors and their agents for; they have participated in countless festivals, talks, bookshop appearances, workshops, gigs. They took a punt on publishing with a small start-up, but we like to think it has been rewarded.

There have been mistakes (struggles over illustrated ebook files, a terrible typo ‘navel’ for ‘naval’) and triumphs like multiple rights deals for Barefoot at the Lake and a full-page Guardian piece for P. J. Kavangah’s The Perfect Stranger.

Patrick Kavanagh sadly died in August of this year, swiftly, after a morning spent ridding the track to his house of nettles. He had no fear of the unknown and was buried next to his first wife Sally, as he wrote would happen in the opening pages of his memoir. He had celebrated signing his contract with September, ‘fifty years after it was first published!’, with a friend and a pint in his local pub, high in the Gloucestershire hills, where he now rests.

Working with such writers is a privilege, and one we share with each new reader we find.

Thank you to all our supporters and here’s to another enriching year!

Hannah