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Adrian Searle from Freight Books paid us a visit

October 21st, 2014 | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Adrian Searle from Freight Books paid us a visit
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Adrian Searle, Image source

The third person on the Visiting Speaker programme was Adrian Searle, publisher at Freight Books and director of Freight Design.

He gave us his view on publishing, delivering a humorous and informative presentation, as well as some insight into Freight Books and its perspective on publishing.

Having a diverse background, with experience from advertising and design, as well as having studied Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow, it should come as no surprise that Searle has diverse knowledge of and expertise in the field of publishing. He co-founded Freight Design in 2001 and in 2011 Freight Books found its way into the world, picking up an impressive number of shortlistings for a fairly small publisher. These include the Saltire First Book Awards, the Saltire Scottish Publisher of the Year 2013 and 2014, and UK Drum Design Award. Searle does not let that go to his head though, stating that “one man’s Booker Prize is another man’s doorstop”. He equates book publishing to gambling, alluding to Dostoevsky and his view on gambling – if you do it once and win, it is easier to become addicted. He also made it clear that there are other businesses where you could earn money more easily, in his case design, but he finds publishing to be more fun, saying “I love publishing”.

101-uses-of-a-dead-kindle-2_270One of the titles released by Freight Books is 101 Uses of a Dead Kindle, written by Adrian, with illustrations by Judith Hastie. The title is a play on the title of a book released in the late 80s, 101 Uses of a Dead Cat, by Simon Bond. They had high hopes for the title, and a retailer had ordered a large number of copies. Unfortunately, this was a real life example of the sale or return policy followed in the book trade, as almost all the books were sent back by the retailer, with Adrian having seen only one copy in one of their shops.

What happened with 101 Uses of a Dead Kindle has not put Freight Books off publishing humoristic titles, however, with If Dogs Could Swear reuniting Adrian and Judith for a second time. Simple, but effective, and, according to Adrian, if you add a content advisory label on the front it will induce more people to buy the title! Other humour books in the works for Freight Books are Throne of Games and Cyclists: A Spotters Guide.

Adrian also talked about risk, saying that publishing is all about risk, alluding back to the gambling analogy. He said that when you publish a book you want to lower the risk to the reader, making them think at first glance that the book you are selling is worth their time. He also explained some of the ways in which this can be achieved. This ties in with the content advisory on If Dogs Could Swear but he specifically mentioned endorsements by famous people, or quotes by people in general. According to him the fact that someone other than the publisher says a book is good makes the reader more likely to purchase that title. Another thing to use in promoting books is any prize nominations and wins the book has received. Both the quote and the prize nomination will give the book more credibility than the book would have on its own.

Freight Books also publish Gutter, a magazine published twice a year, with short stories and poetry from writers with ties to Scotland. As poetry and short story anthologies are fewer and further between than the people who write them, this is a good place for writers to try to get their work out to readers. Their Scottish point of view underlines Adrian’s contention that “London is the Death Star” (for publishers). He says that anything coming from outside of London is viewed as provincial, and explains that Freight Books is sometimes asked to remove “Scotland” or “Scottish” from their advance sales information.

Adrian Searle is the type of person who gets a lot said in little time, and hearing him speak so enthusiastically about his work, while still cautioning that it is hard work, was interesting and enlightening. The fact that he still says he loves publishing is encouraging, as it shows staying power – even for someone with his diverse background. Freight Press’s achievements in a very short time are impressive, and we can only wait to see what more might come from their small office in Glasgow.