Monday, 22 November 2010

An Unfortunate Incident At A Booker Party

At my writers' circle meeting on Saturday morning, we were fortunate to have as our guest speaker, Alan Maher, Publishing Director and Chief Executive of Tindal St Press.

Tindal St Press are known for publishing award-winning novels. It was originally set up in 1998 in the front room of a house in Moseley, Birmingham, in an attempt to prove that regional writing can be both literary and publishable.

Of the first 4 books that they published, 3 were shortlisted for various awards, but it was in 2003 that Clare Morrall's book, Astonishing Splashes of Colour was published, then long-listed for the Booker Prize. And when it was then short-listed for the Booker Prize, apparently, the phones didn't stop ringing!

In 2007, they published Catherine O'Flynn's, What Was Lost, which won the Costa First Book Award in 2007, won Waterstones Newcomer of the Year British Books Award in 2008, and was longlisted for the Booker Prize and the Orange Fiction prize.

It's not often that you get the chance to talk to directly to publishers, particularly those who publish such award-winning novels, but after a brief explanation of the history behind this Arts Council funded, not-for-profit company, Alan kindly opened up the floor to questions.

He explained that:
  • they receive 600 submissions a year (they are a small publisher) but only publish about 6 books a year, highlighting the size of the competition.
  • when a publisher likes a book, they then have to go around and encourage everybody else (Sales, Marketing, etc) to get behind the book too. If an entire publishing company doesn't love a book they are publishing, then it won't get published.
  • many of the books they reject, are brilliantly written novels, but they are just not right for them.
Tindal St Press publish regional, literary fiction. So, if they are sent a brilliant novel set in London, they will reject it. If they receive a brilliant novel set in the Black Country district of the West Midlands, but it isn't a literary novel, they will reject it. Which just demonstrates that even when sending out novels, you have to know your market.

It was a great opportunity to chat to someone like Alan and it's one of the reasons why I encourage all writers to go to a writers' group, or a literary festival, because you never know what opportunities may arise from the meeting.

You'll be able to gain some inside knowledge and a few laughs too! Alan told us of a time when he was at one of the Booker Prize parties and was talking to John Carey, one of the judges, when his tooth fell out!

So, next time you get an opportunity to mix with the publishing world, give it a go. You never know what you might learn, or what opportunities may open up for you!

Good luck.


  1. Went to a Writing West Midlands day on Saturday and heard Luke Brown, someone else from Tindal Street, speaking. I think they do a great job, even if they did reject my novel ... See? I'm not bitter. (Swines.)

  2. Can I say swines? Maybe it's swine ...

  3. I see ex-head of MI5 Dame Stella Rimington is to chair the judges for next year's Man Booker Prize for Fiction. I have to say how disappointed I am with this years winner - The Finkler Question.