September 16, 2019

Gomer ceases publishing new books; focuses on printing


Wales: due a language renaissance? (via Pixabay)

Sad news from the valleys last week, as one of the biggest publishers in Wales, Gwasg Gomer, announces it is ‘winding down’ its publishing operations to focus solely on printing. In a story reported by BBC News, the ‘largest independent publisher in Wales’ announced their decision following a strategic review.

Gomer, established in 1892 and based in Llandysul, West Wales, continues to publish at a rate of around 36 books a year, in both English and Welsh. Current managing director Jonathan Lewis is the great-grandson of the company’s founder, and the company has long been considered one of the most important outlets for Welsh culture. They publish, among many others, Meleri Wyn Jones, whose book Na, Nel!: Un Tro… was the first Welsh-language book to be included as part of World Book Day’s £1 book promotion in 2018.

The news was met with dismay from many Welsh writers, among them novelist and poet Jasmine Donahaye, whose tweet was also quoted in the BBC article:

“Wales can’t afford to lose a publisher in either language, but the bad news that Gomer has decided to stop publishing is hardly a surprise. Sympathies to staff and authors in what must be an anxious time.”

Hayes also added that Gomer’s scaling back was a ‘troubling’ sign for a printer-publisher model ‘particular to Wales’. Several other Welsh-language publishers also operate in this way, with Y Lolfa, based in Tal-y-Bont, another example of the format.

In the meantime, Gomer promised to honour the books scheduled for release – as well as making efforts to keep their backlist in print, with the help of the Welsh Books Council. A press release to Nation.Cymru read:

“…Gomer will continue to work with authors and the Welsh Books Council to publish titles which are already in progress, as well as operating as a publisher for the 3,500 titles that are already in print, and ensure that royalties are paid to authors, as well as republishing popular titles when the need arises.”

These are uneasy times for the Welsh language as it seeks to maintain a foothold in the country and increase speaker numbers. Language group Cymdeithas yr Iaith last month highlighted a worrying lack of visibility online. Yet there is also cause for cautious optimism: Welsh indie duo Alffa recently became the first band from the country to rack up a million Spotify plays.

Is it too much to hope that Welsh pop’s apparent renaissance will spark a fresh love for the printed word too?

Tom Clayton is publishing executive at Melville House UK.