The publishing world is in flux - exciting times as writers, agents and editors explore the potentials of new technology. How might ebooks bring new readers to brilliant out-of-print books or strong contemporary titles that haven’t been given a fair chance?
I’ve just finished Sarah Salway’s compelling novel, Getting The Picture. It’s one of the launch titles from a brand new digital publisher, Dean Street Press established by literary agent, Rupert Heath.
Dean Street Press aims to devote itself to 'producing, uncovering, and revitalising good books.' Not surprising, then, that Getting The Picture is one of the first titles. It was published in America as a physical book about three years ago but hadn’t come out in the UK. Getting The Picture is an entertaining read that manages to be poignant, witty, lighthearted and dark, as it explores the ramifications of a long-abandoned love affair.
Maureen is now dead but her one-time lover, photographer Martin, is very much alive. He's keeping his eye on Maureen’s family – husband George, two daughters and a teenage granddaughter - just what are his intentions? In this jigsaw of a book - made up from emails, voicemails, letters and photographs – all is not what it seems. Salway keeps us guessing as she feeds out these snippets. We, the reader, must piece together the picture.
It’s wonderful that this ingeniously structured novel will now reach more readers.
I was keen to know more about Dean Street Press, so I asked agent-publisher, Rupert Heath, a few questions.
PJ: Agent turned publisher - what's going on?
RH: We're not alone - several other agencies in the UK are involved in digital publishing programmes, whilst others are doing 'agent-assisted publishing' which is a kind of hybrid of self-publishing and publishing. Dean Street Press is certainly not intended as a criticism of mainstream publishing - we just saw the opportunity to publish books we liked, be light on our feet, and as eclectic. The list, so far, is a mixture of contemporary titles which, for some reason, hadn't yet found a mainstream niche, and out-of-print books which deserved a new publishing life. Our bestselling titles so far (in the month we've been publishing - early days) are a reissued biography of Oasis by Paolo Hewitt, and Memoirs Of A Professional Cad by George Sanders, originally published in 1960. Who said ebooks were fiction-centric?
PJ: Can you say more about your editorial policy - what is it you’re looking for?
RH: We're as eclectic as we want to be - one of the advantages of being independent. That said, I think we could define our main areas of interest, so far, as crime fiction (including a lot of classic crime, much of which will follow over the next few months), literary fiction (both contemporary and classic), entertainment (primarily film and music related), plus serious history and the arts. We are keen to publish more women's social history titles.
PJ: How will this change your relationship with the publishers you'll still have to deal with?
RH: We maintain a pretty strict divide between what Dean Street Press and the agenting side of things. There hasn't been any conflict so far, fingers crossed.
PJ: Why the name - conceived in Soho?
RH: Exactly. The name was conceived in Quo Vadis in Dean Street. We also wanted a name we wouldn't get sick of saying and seeing written down a million times.
PJ: How many books a year do you plan to publish?
RH: No fixed plans, but our current programme is 6-7 books per month, so I suppose about 80?
PJ: What's coming next?
RH: March brings us the aforementioned George Sanders, plus his two crime novels from the 1940's and a cult biography of Jaws actor Robert Shaw. In May and June we're excited to be bringing back amazing crime writers from the golden age, Ianthe Jerrold and E.R. Punshon. In the autumn we'll be republishing an amazing social history of the English calendar of holidays, The English Festivals by Laurence Whistler. And much more besides!