Our latest anthology is the first to be published by leading Bristol independent publisher, Tangent Books. We’re pleased to welcome Richard Jones, Tangent’s Publishing Director, to the website to tell us a bit more about his publishing career and Tangent Books.
What led you to starting up your own publishing company?
I’ve always worked in print. I did my school work experience on the local newspaper – The Kingswood Gazette – and got a job there as a reporter in a gap year and again when I finished University (where I helped produce a newsletter called Red Letter). I spent 10 years working on various newspapers, another 10 as a magazine editor at Future Publishing and I’m now in my 11th year as a book publisher. I suppose that means it’s time for a change!
So ‘disseminating information’ is what I do – whether it’s through newspapers, magazines or books. I’m moving into digital and have done three Apps and many ebooks, but print is what I know best.
I set up Tangent Books with my business partner Steve Faragher after leaving Future. We were producing contract magazines and decided we wanted a business over which we had more control. We thought that there can’t be much difference between producing and selling mags and books – we then discovered that the two are different in just about every way.
What are the main aims of Tangent Books?
One of Tangent’s straplines is ‘quality books for the discerning punter’ which was done as a joke, but is actually quite accurate. Given all my experience of editing, production and print, I hope I am able to identify and produce a ‘quality book’.
But Tangent is also a populist publisher which is where the ‘discerning punter’ comes in. Some of the books I publish are niche and occasionally esoteric, but the vast majority are aimed at a wide readership, whether they are fiction, political, art, sport or autobiography titles.
I like to think that Tangent is a radical publisher. That’s not to say that everything I publish is radical. Some titles such as Bash The Rich, Politics & Protest, Memoirs of a Black Englishman or Drowning on Dry Land are overtly political. Others, such as the new Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology, are empowering. Tangent is able to provide a platform for new writing, imagination and expression. That’s very important to me.
You have published acclaimed short story collections by great writers like Tania Hershman and Stanley Donwood, of Radiohead fame – what attracted you to publishing the Bristol Short Story Prize anthologies?
I was one of the founders of the Bristol Short Story Prize; the anthologies were published by a collective of Bristol publishers under the banner of the Bristol Review of Books magazine. Unfortunately, the ‘Review ceased publishing in 2013, and I was asked if Tangent would be interested in publishing the anthologies. I was really delighted to take the opportunity.
The quality of work in the Bristol Short Story Prize anthologies is outstanding and it’s always a buzz to be associated with such talented and imaginative people. Also, it fits with my plans because I’m hoping to produce more fiction. One of the upsides of book publishing at the moment is that prose and ebooks are thriving whereas I’m finding art books increasingly difficult to sell. So the time was right for Tangent to publish the anthologies.
Who are your favourite short story writers?
Well, I’m a big fan of Stanley Donwood and Tania Hershman so I’m very proud to have published their work, but my two all-time favourite short story writers are Dylan Thomas and Guy de Maupassant. Thomas for the power of his description, the poetry of his prose and his love of the ordinary; Maupassant because of his succinct writing style, his plots and the way in which they reflect the politics of the time. Apart from their literary genius, I’ve always found a rhythm in their writing – particularly when my French was good enough to read Maupassant in his own language.
In a rapidly and unpredictably changing landscape, what does the future hold for the publishing industry?
I wish I knew! From Tangent’s point of view, the traditional high street is becoming less relevant in terms of book sales, which really is a terrible shame. At the same time Amazon sells more of my books every day. This is a thoroughly bad scenario, but it’s the reality of bookselling.
On the plus side, I’m selling more books through independent retailers and from www.tangentbooks.co.uk. I suppose that 2013 and 2014 were the years in which I worried about the demise of the large high street booksellers and did my best to work with them, 2015 is the year I will be producing more ebooks and working with partners such as the Bristol Short Story Prize.
It’s also now possible to print shorter runs of books at a low unit cost and ebooks are a significant factor. So there are many positives and the high street may recover, but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to work with traditional high-street booksellers.
Which books, if any, do you wish you’d had the chance to publish?
The complete works of George Orwell. Orwell has probably made more impact on me than any other writer. I read everything when I was quite young and recently re-read 1984, Animal Farm, Down and Out in Paris and London, Homage to Catalonia and Inside the Whale.
Orwell had a sense of decency and honesty coupled with a very strict view on how to write which appeals to the journalist in me. He’s a great technician, but so much more than a technician.
What will you be publishing next year?
The first title on press should be the North Bristol Writers Group anthology, North by Southwest. I’m hoping that a Stanley Donwood pulp fiction novel will be ready very soon and I’ve got a major art and political project with the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft which I’d really like to complete this year. And, of course the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology Volume 8.