Sunday, 18 December 2016

This week at Valley Press, #39: 'Reading material'

Dear readers,

Yesterday our 'reading group' gathered at Woodend to look at all the submissions you sent in during 2016. The header image above shows only one sixth of the envelopes we received – whoah. I don't know exactly how many there are, but it must be several hundred. Thanks so much for taking the time, buying the stamp (and book, if you didn't just stumble upon an entry form!), and trusting us with your precious creations; having now looked at each one myself, I can report there wasn't a single entry that would have embarrassed us if we published it. No time-wasters. Just a lot of very sincere and talented writers, from which I must choose a half-dozen to take forward into book form.

I am some way towards having a shortlist, but not quite there yet – at time of writing I haven't contacted a single person to let them know the result. I will be, though; you'll definitely hear from me before too long (within a month?) Sending positive emails and talking to excited prospective authors may be the best part of the job, while telling the other 99% they didn't make it may be the worst ... so naturally I'm hoping Mrs McGarry will help with that second part. (She gets all the glamorous tasks.)

This week saw the launch of Guests of Time, at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. I didn't attend personally, but it looks like an amazing venue – where else do you get the backdrop pictured below? (That's Kelley Swain in the foreground, photo by Amo Spooner. Almost a 'second presidential debate' vibe going on...)

A few people have commented that they're interested in the book, which includes poems from Kelley, John Barnie, Steven Matthews and various historical figures – but find the £24.99 price a bit off-putting. 'Hey Jamie, why is it so pricey?' they cry. Well, it's a hardback (with ribbon marker and all the trimmings), featuring 18 fantastic, creative, full-colour photographs printed on the best paper I could find; and it's a limited edition, I've only printed 200 and won't be doing any more to that standard. Plus, I've just re-activated the code that gets you £5 off, until the end of the year – just enter OXFORD at the basket.

I like to think we price fairly here at VP: Norah Hanson's Sparks, also launched this week (at the same time we were reading the submissions), is only £7.99, as it's a paperback containing nothing more than black words on cream paper ... in a format I plan to keep reprinting until the cows come home! Norah's debut collection, produced in my first year of professional publishing, has been reprinted seven times, so there's a lot to live up to.

Talking of printing: I've now taken legal advice in the infamous case of the Antony Dunn hardbacks (where I was led repeatedly astray, paid the offending company in full, but still haven't got them). In an official letter, I gave the printers a firm deadline of Wednesday, or else, so let's hope they meet that ... giving us a slim chance to find an open post office and get them to patient pre-orderers before the sun sets on 2016. (By the way: please place all Christmas orders by Wednesday lunchtime, folks.)

I'm going to finish this week's newsletter, and indeed the year's correspondence, with some very good news – on Tuesday, The Emma Press won the Michael Marks Award for best pamphlet publisher (after being shortlisted repeatedly in the past). You'll know me and Emma share this blog, and you can read the inspirational speech she gave on winning here; you may not know that she's one of my all-time heroes, not just in publishing but in the world generally. I don't know anyone who works harder, and stays so kind and positive (an old word would be 'chipper'), whilst doing more good for the literary community.

People say 'oh that Jamie McGarry, he's so enthusiastic about publishing' – and I am, of course – but compared to Emma I'm a cynical old grump. She's a legend! Tributes have been pouring in on Twitter, and hopefully this will be the moment when the Emma Press slips into the mainstream artistic consciousness of the UK. Check out her books, if by some miracle this is the first you're hearing of her. (We love Rachel Piercey too, of course.)

Next Sunday is Christmas Day, it turns out, so I'll be firmly off-duty ... but I might find a little something to pop on the blog. Other than that, I'll be taking a short break in the new year, but will be back before long for another amazing, exhausting programme of potentially award-winning new literature. I've got a good feeling about 2017!

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

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