Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Part One of Guest Blogger: Gwen Davies

Not Quite West Belfast

Gwen Davies, editor of Alcemi has written a two-part blog for the site providing a fascinating 'behind the scenes' insight into the workings of one of the most exciting, and up and coming Independent Publishers.

Alcemi is so small there is only one of me, and only four titles – mainly novels – a year. But we are housed in a commercial, and primarily Welsh-language publishing and printing house, Y Lolfa, which makes my little enclave of English literary fiction seem a strange little setup at first sight. And yet it is a happy one, since I can draw on all the expertise I need in terms of printing, typesetting and design, warehousing, sales, cashflow and teamaking. And the village of Talybont where we are based, in the old police station, 6 miles north of Aberystwyth, despite being a company town dominated by political murals (not quite west Belfast though), is beautiful, friendly, cultural and lively (apart from the postmistress down the Spa who will talk to you in English about line-dancing but clams up when you try and speak Welsh to her).

Our (two) publishing highlights are in May and October, so I am entering the busy phase of balancing the correction of last-minute proofs of Faith, Hope and Love by Llwyd Owen (an Exclusively Independent selection for May-June) with checking that Bumping by Tony Bianchi (also in the selection) is safely in bed at the printers downstairs. Having printing facilities closeby is handy, but it has its downside, especially when the typesetter is fiddling to find a fancy font for a wedding invitation. Other asides are trying to gather titles for our bid for revenue status with our funders, the Welsh Books Council (former Arts Council Wales grants to publishers, indeed most of the publishing sector funding was transferred – by one Tony Bianchi! - to the WBC a good few years ago). Also trying to do my main job – editing! I’ve got Perfect Architect by Jayne Joso on my desk, a May 2011 title, which is reading wonderfully, but keeps getting buried under press releases and mailout labels. I’ve just heard from the designer of the Faith, Hope cover, Jamie Hamley, who’s done us a beautiful three-colour illustrative design of a Cardiff city cemetery, where much of the novel’s action is set (though probably more in the pub!). Unfortunately Jamie’s computer’s died on him so there will be a slight delay in our receiving the artwork, but since I don’t need to sign off the book until mid next week, to catch the 13 May publication date, all should be well.

Tomorrow, part two of Gwen's blog will be posted up - visit us tomorrow and don't miss out!

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