February 3, 2012
New indie rethinks the traditional publishing model
by Ellie Robins
We’ve written before about the difficulties faced by literary translators: low pay, lack of recognition, frequent black eyes from the slamming shut of publishers’ doors. So it’s heartening to see the acclaim being heaped upon new UK indie publisher, champion of fiction in translation, and friend of Melville House, And Other Stories. A Guardian article yesterday described their publishing process: they produce a shortlist of appealing works from a specific language, and have an open call for readers of that language. Respondents read and meet to discuss these untranslated works, and their discussion informs (though doesn’t ultimately determine) the decision as to which titles to acquire. This means that before buying any rights, the And Other Stories team have extensive, detailed and often spirited feedback from a variety of readers. It’s also a great thing for the readers, who find themselves members of a dream of a book group.
This isn’t crowdsourcing the acquisitions process—the decisions are ultimately made in-house by the polyglot staff—but it is a great example of creative thinking in putting readers’ passion to good use. Are there any other book groups out there putting their discussions to practical use?
Ellie Robins is an editor at Melville House. Previously, she was managing editor of Hesperus Press.