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Visiting speaker programme

Between the Caribbean and the U.K.

December 11th, 2017 by Lucie Santos | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Between the Caribbean and the U.K.
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“Create tastes rather than following them” Jeremy Poynting

The best part of being a small and independent publishing company based in Leeds with a special interest in poems and Caribbean literature is that they can create taste instead of following trends.

Jeremy Poynting introduced a poetry small press: the Peepal Tree Press where two people are involved in full-time supported by six part-time helpers. Their aim is to encourage the authors and work with professionals in order to have the books in the hands of the consumer. This is why, currently, they publish fiction, poetry and general academic titles. The key point is to encourage books to be accessible to a more general reader. They publish writing directly from the Caribbean and this makes them actually the biggest publishing house in the United Kingdom for Caribbean literature. They operate because books should make a difference and take part of a dialogue about society as they think the process of working with authors is important and they can afford to take their time.

Because they are helped with funds from the Arts Council, they do not need to be market oriented. One of the objectives is to have “Great Art for everyone”: they do not only publish books but they are involved in social media events and one important part of a cultural company is the connection with people. The objectives are different than a big publishing house; they cannot have economy of scale but they try to keep the backlist alive.

So, one huge value brought by an independent publisher is the capacity of doing new things even if the audience is limited for a poet. Besides, because they are outside of London, they can develop a very international target market. They want to bring international writing into the country and to print diversity literary travel.

The story began in a garage and crossed the sea to the Caribbean

The objective is not only selling books in the U.K. but also selling books in the Caribbean because they want to nurture the roots from which they are coming from. The Caribbean’s literature is an essential part of British and Scottish culture.

Why is the area producing a Nobel Prize but does not have a publishing industry developed?

Shivanee Ramlochan explains “It is really difficult to be published in the Caribbean”. It is hard to get recognition of your work, and even harder if you write poetry because poetry is not old in the Caribbean. She is a poet from Trinidad and she wants to learn publishing skills from manuscript to print books and eBooks. Now she would like to teach others back to the Caribbean.

The publishing sector in the Caribbean is focused only on two parts of the market: university presses and professional but not fiction. Moreover the market size is very little and the number of booksellers is very small. There are few proper bookstores, the products are more focused on Christian books and schoolbooks.

The publishing sector is living through history of colonialism and there are a few people interested in Jamaican books; in Grenada for instance. There is no distributor in the Caribbean and it is difficult to reach every single island coming from the others. They transit through Miami to go to others islands and there are no direct flights.

But Shivanee Ramlochan shows us that it is not impossible to write poetry and to be published.

“Books should make a difference and be part of a dialogue.” Jeremy Poynting

So what about discovering poetry from Caribbean ? It is also a way for us to remember all the links we have with the Caribbean people. They are part of European history, indeed not the easiest part we’d like to face.

By Lucie Santos

Gaelic Publishing in the 21st Century: a Lecture by John Storey

May 11th, 2013 by Amanda Losonsky | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Gaelic Publishing in the 21st Century: a Lecture by John Storey
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Amanda Losonsky reports on John Storey’s visiting speaker session:

On 11 April, John Storey of the Gaelic Books Council, Comhairle nan Leabhraichean, came and spoke to the publishing students at the University of Stirling. His topic of discussion: Gaelic publishing and publishing in the 21st century.

In the country of the language’s birth, Gaelic is currently a minoritized language, meaning that it still isn’t widely spoken. In 2011, only 1.9% of the population have some ability in Gaelic while 0.9% can read the language, a percentage that has gone up since 1991. Yet despite these low numbers, there is a worldwide interest in the Gaelic language, with supporters and learners from countries such as the United States, Canada and Australia.

Because there exist so many who are interested in the language, Gaelic publishers must ensure their content will be well-received by many different markets; they cannot solely be thinking in terms of Scotland. Otherwise put, Gaelic publishers must follow and adhere to the principles that Storey termed as “The Beiber Effect”, which simply means “it must be cool”.

The Gaelic Books Council exists not as a publisher of Gaelic pieces, but as a council that supports and offers aid to those who wish to write and publish in the language. Their main aim is to build a capacity within the Gaelic publishing industry. They do everything from identify and support Gaelic authors, commission new pieces, develop content, market and design—all with just five staff members! In addition, the Council covers not only Scotland’s interest in the language, but overseas as well. In a world where Gaelic is so often overlooked and forgotten, it is the Gaelic Books Council’s job to remind people of the language’s presence and significance.

There have been a number of developments and innovations within the market in the past few years. In the 20th century, Gaelic publishing focused primarily on poetry, yet the 21st century saw the rise of “Gaelic punks”. Since then, freedom of expression has continued to grow within the Gaelic market. In April 2013, the very first Gaelic Science Fiction novel written by Tim Armstrong was published by CLÀR, which shows the versatility of the Gaelic market. There have also been a number of translations of well-known English titles into Gaelic as well. Some of these include: “Peter Rabbit”, “The Gruffalo”, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and “MacBeth”.

But Storey states that one of the most important developments for the Gaelic language is Ur-Sgeul. Started in 2003, Ur-Sgeul promotes new Gaelic fiction and also established opportunities for new writers. It encourages new Gaelic writers, as well as a new generation of authors. There have also been collaborations with musicians as well. In addition, Ur-Sgeul also had the first ever German-Gaelic collaboration as well. Ur-Sgeul really helped set the bar in terms of the quality of writing.

Yet there also exist a number of complications within the Gaelic publishing market. One of the biggest issues is that the market itself is quite fragile. While there do exist a few Gaelic publishers, such as Acair, CLÀR, Leabhraichean Beaga, Scottish Gaelic Texts Societ, and Padua, the market for Gaelic books is currently small, which makes it difficult to be profitable.

In addition, the quality of content can also present a problem for the market as well. Because the market is small, there is always a struggle to find quality Gaelic writing, which raises a number of questions and dilemmas for Gaelic market. How do you afford Gaelic authors freedom while still maintaining standards? What role does a publishers play in this issue? How do you discourage Gaelic authors from running to Amazon?

Speaking of Amazon, another issue is the limited avenues for minority languages to sell their products. Amazon still discriminates against minority languages, as was seen recently with Amazon’s lack of support for Welsh pieces on Kindle readers. The most recent statistics taken for the Gaelic market regarding ereaders showed that only 16% of Gaelic readers were interested in ereading, however, these statistics were taken in 2010 and current demands hint to the fact that these numbers have increased. With lacking support from such a well-known source like Amazon, how can Gaelic push its way into the digital marketplace? Or can Gaelic forge a digital path for itself without Amazon’s support?

And, of course, with 2014 approaching and a big decision on Scotland’s independence to be made, what will come of Gaelic publishing in the future? No matter what the outcome of the referendum, a New Scotland is on the horizon, and with it comes a new future for Gaelic and publishing.

It’s an important time for Gaelic publishing, Storey concludes, but this is just a crossroads. The 21st century affects Gaelic publishing just as much as it affects English publishing, but it also invites a mix of its own problems as well. Gaelic publishers must offer added value in their products. They need to be innovative in their approach to present content. They need to understand the brand and have strong imaginative interaction with audiences, but there are many opportunities available to make the market stronger.

In collaboration with the Gaelic Books Council, the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication is offering a fully-funded scholarship for a Scottish Gaelic language student. Full details are available here.