A guide to publishing companies in Scotland

A guide to publishing companies in Scotland

Cargo Publishing

The innovative companies keeping the Scottish literary scene buzzing

If one press has led the way in Scottish publishing, it’s Canongate. The team may be relatively small, but since Yann Martel won the Booker for Life of Pi in 2002, its global impact has been difficult to ignore. Canongate now publishes Barack Obama’s autobiographies as well as work by Nick Cave, Philip Pullman, Alasdair Gray, Margaret Atwood and David Shrigley.

But where once Canongate was a bold but solitary outpost of indie British publishing success, the Edinburgh-based outfit has gained some vibrant contemporaries. Diversity and innovation are mounting, and with them the hopes of a rosy future for books in Scotland.

Luath Press is just one of the creative organisations bringing variety to the nation’s bookshelves. Director Gavin MacDougall has focused on a mix of genres, meaning that a spine bearing the Luath logo might hold anything from poetry to tourist information. By way of example, in his Edinburgh office MacDougall passes me a cross-section of recent titles: a walking book, a new adaptation of Ivanhoe, a collection of poems by Bashabi Fraser

Operating from a cluttered eyrie at the top of the Royal Mile, MacDougall is philosophical about the future of publishing, despite a bleak outlook for high street bookshops and a glut of pulp-worthy books saturating the market. ‘There are already too many books published every year,’ he says, ‘partly because anybody can publish a book incredibly easily and incredibly cheaply.’

But what sets small companies such as Luath apart from the masses is a ready and genuine friendship with authors, combined with a sideways look at the market to find new seams to explore. One of Luath’s most successful recent books was a Japanese-language guide to Scotland, aimed at bewildered visitors.

Adrian Searle of Glasgow’s Freight Books (publisher of Gutter magazine, Toni Davidson and 101 Uses of a Dead Kindle) is adamant that small Scottish presses have their advantages in a recession, and that perhaps, finally, their time has come to shine. ‘It’s a far more level playing field,’ he says, as the office dog wanders in to shove a wet nose against my ankle. Because bigger houses have scaled back in the wake of economic uncertainty, ‘it’s far more affordable to pick up talented fiction writers than it was two or three years ago.’

Small companies have inherent benefits. ‘Independents tend to be far more energetic in terms of their marketing, and more imaginative,’ he says. ‘They have a much closer relationship to their authors.’ Searle’s first love is Scottish literary fiction – he has an MA in creative writing – and he draws on this love daily in looking after his growing stable of writers.

Having operated previously as a design company, Freight started printing novels only in 2011. It joins another new Glasgow company, Cargo, founded just three years ago by director Mark Buckland. Then a gardener with £800 and zero publishing knowledge to his name, Buckland’s passion for books has led to a rapid six-figure turnover, the launch of an eBook label and responsibility for work by over 100 international authors.

Building such a portfolio wasn’t easy. ‘I think we’ve got through it by just showing people that we’re passionate about books, and that’s very simple,’ Buckland tells me over drinks in Stereo café as Cargo doesn’t run an office. ‘If there’s no money in it, the people involved are still going to do it because they can’t help themselves; they love it so much.’

This attitude may well prove a blessing for new writing in Scotland. Canongate’s success, the dynamic landscape of Scottish publishing, is passion-driven rather than profit-obsessed. For Buckland and Cargo, the future is bright as long as they keep that in mind. ‘It’s a really tough time to sell books, to be a writer or to be involved in publishing. So as far as we’re concerned, we’re going to keep doing what we love, and we’re going to keep doing it bigger and better. Simple as that.’

Comments

1. maurice briggs21 Aug 2015, 9:58pm Report

I am currently writing a book of fiction. I would appreciate a contact with a suitable publisher.
Can supply a precis if you are interested. The proposed title is "Glencoe Revisited"

Maurie Briggs

2. maurice briggs21 Aug 2015, 10:00pm Report

This would probably be of interest to supporters of the SNP living here or abroad.

3. Emma Mckerry24 Aug 2015, 7:43pm Report

i am writing a childrens book and i am looking for publishers in Scotland that might be interested thankyou

4. Valerio Brunetti23 Jun 2017, 11:43am Report

Dear Sirs, thanks indeed for having replied, I'll be waiting for your information from the moment I'm very interested to get in touch with editors. Best wishes, Valerio Brunetti

5. Valerio Brunetti23 Jun 2017, 11:48am Report

Dear Sirs, thanks indeed for having replied. I'll be waiting for your information, from the moment it's the first time I've got a former reply, presuming I'm going to receive some more indications, best wishes, Valerio Brunetti

6. Pat Forsyth3 Jul 2017, 12:56pm Report

Hi, I have been reading an Australian author Sulari Gentill, and was wondering when she would be publishing in the UK as her books are so expensive on Amazon or Ebay and she came back with "Thank you Patricia - we're working on it. In the meantime if you know a British publisher feel free to mention my name" so I am mentioning her name to any publisher who would be interested. Kind regards

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