Timeline – Our Potted History
And Other Stories started off as the pipe dream of a publishing industry outsider. Even before the late 2000s recession made the output of the big commercial publishing houses risk-averse (i.e. boring), there weren’t many publishers choosing books solely for literary merit. Stefan Tobler, a translator and now And Other Stories’ publisher, had been suggesting brilliant writers like Brazil’s Raduan Nassar to publishers, who loved the writing but still said no on commercial grounds.
In 2009, Stefan met with fellow translators and writers to brainstorm the idea of setting up a collective to publish fresh, contemporary fiction. There was a lot of enthusiasm for his formula that Publishing = Supply + Demand + Magic, but it couldn’t just be a labour of love: the books needed to get out to readers.
And Other Stories was born out of this – although it never became a fully-fledged collective, it’s been a collaboration from the start: a special kind of crowdfunding that updates an 18th century idea for the 21st century: readers support risky, adventurous writing by subscribing to the books in advance of publication. And people loved it, with the first subscribers signing up in 2010. Professionals volunteered to edit, typeset and design our first books for free; subscribers spread the word. Sophie Lewis, ex-Dalkey Archive Press, moves to Rio de Janeiro and edits most of our books from there for a number of years.
The first four books came out in 2011. Of those four, Juan Pablo Villalobos’s Down the Rabbit Hole became the first translation shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, going on to be one of our most-read books, loved for its black humour and precocious and foul-mouthed child narrator.
Deborah Levy’s brilliant novel Swimming Home made it to the 2012 Man Booker Prize shortlist and delighted readers send us presents, including a set of coloured spoons.
We set up an office in the US, run by Sarah Russo, and started publicising and publishing many of our titles in North America. Meanwhile in the UK, our American writer Helen DeWitt’s Lightning Rods was shortlisted for the 2013 Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize, almost winning Helen a pig.
Tara Murphy, a veteran of Canadian indie publishing, moved to the UK after she and Stefan got engaged on Brooklyn Bridge at the end of Book Expo America. (As you do). As Tara Tobler in 2015 she became a big part of And Other Stories.
Growth has been organic, based on sales and supported by Arts Council England and other funders of the literary arts. We’re finally in a position to move out of a third-floor small-town flat, regularly flooded by book cartons and mailbags, and into an office. (Still in small town High Wycombe – for now.) We also take on our first full-time employee: the brilliant publicist (and translator from Swedish) Nicky Smalley.
Yuri Herrera wins the Best Translated Book Award for his Mexican migration novel Signs Preceding the End of the World! That 2015-published novel and his apocalyptical The Transmigration of Bodies (published summer 2016) were hits on both sides of the Atlantic, proving that the reading public does have great, adventurous taste.
And Other Stories moved to Sheffield, partly out of a wish to make publishing less London-focused but mainly because it’s a great city. We launch the Northern Book Prize with partners New Writing North and rent our first Sheffield office in the Central Library. (Nicky Smalley meanwhile gets a London desk – it’s still where the books media is.)
Our Year of Publishing Women – an effort to counteract the frustrating lack of women published in English translation. We kicked things off with unpublished and long-lost writing by the great Ann Quin!
11 Commandments of Book Selection at And Other Stories
We publish writing that is mind-blowing, often ‘challenging’ (Maureen Freely) and ‘shamelessly literary’ (Stuart Evers) – opening a space for exploration and discovery. It’s up for debate. Look at the authors we’ve read and published to get a feel for And Other Stories’ tastes.
Our focus is on fiction for now, but we are open to non-fiction too, particularly narrative non-fiction. Our first work of literary non-fiction was Now and at the Hour of our Death by Susana Moreira Marques. A very funny and wonderful poem by Deborah Levy (An Amorous Discourse in the Suburbs of Hell) has come out too.
We publish mainly contemporary writing, which for us means written in the last 40 years or so. There are a lot of good writers to catch up with from other literatures. Books can have slow fuses.
We focus on new publications, but don’t rule out great books published only in another English-language country.
We publish world-class writing, not ‘world writing’. So far we have concentrated on translations because there are so many amazing writers currently not available to readers in English. We’re reading a lot of English-language fiction too, and publish what we love, such as Deborah Levy’s Man Booker-shortlisted novel Swimming Home and are happy to consider submissions from authors and agents. Hence . . .
Suggestions and tips are encouraged – send your suggestions to Stefan Tobler via the Contact page. (For a submission, visit our Submissions page.)
We will read as much as we can. But this is fitted in outside of (normal) working hours, so bear with us. Responses to submissions cannot always be quick.
Reading groups keep our lifeblood pumping (ie books!) – if you would like to initiate one and choose its titles with the core team, get in touch (via the Contact page). They are open to everyone on the mailing list and allow readers to have a say in our editorial decisions.
We spread the love. Names of authors or books generating excitement in reading groups (not necessarily unanimous) should be suggested to the core team for inclusion in their next acquisitions meeting.
Final decisions are made by the core team – ultimate responsibility and blame rests with the publisher, Stefan Tobler. And Other Stories is a balancing act: a publishing house that must act as the core team deems best, and yet whose direction and choice of titles is guided by its active supporters’ intelligent, normally civilised, and always passionate debate.
These aren’t really commandments. Not rules but rules of thumb. Expect And Other Stories to publish a poet or a book of non-fiction or a book many readers dislike or books you wouldn’t think we would publish. There’s always an exception to the rule.
And Other Stories has been set up as a Community Interest Company (CIC, pronounced ‘kick’ not ‘sick’, though we can be really sick). This means we are a not-for-private-profit company. Any profits are re-invested. But what really gives us a ‘CIC’? (Couldn’t resist!) We make our decisions based on what we think is good writing and a good way of working. This sets us apart from shareholder-driven publishing companies where all decisions are ultimately about increasing profits. Of course, in order to be able to continue our work in the long-term, we certainly can’t lose money. It goes like this:
- Our supporters and subscribers can take part in our reading groups to discuss books we should publish.
- We are ecologically and ethically minded. We use Forestry Stewardship Council paper from local printers. We minimise our carbon footprint wherever we can, including by reducing travel and printing wherever possible. We also bank with an ethical bank, the Co-operative Bank, that does not invest in sectors such as oil exploration or the arms trade.
- We pay translators properly. Currently this is GBP £95 / 1,000 words of prose. (We value translators highly, for their knowledge, skill and dedication to the books over many months of translation, as well as their promotional work for the books after translation.)
- The company cannot be swallowed (bought) by a larger fish, if that fish’s objectives are commercial. So there’s no danger our aims will suddenly change. (Not that hedge funds tend to buy literary presses, admittedly . . .)
- We do what we can to promote a diverse literary culture, e.g. by supporting fellow independent publishers and bookshops. We organised a forum for independent UK fiction presses to help each other.
- We are a charter member of Equality in Publishing (EQUIP), which increases access to opportunities within the publishing industry.
- We make a point of looking for and mentoring the best new talent. Of giving people a foot in the door. We have given a number of authors, translators and editors their first books, have run competitions to find translators, and founded the Northern Book Prize in order to celebrate ambitious Northern writing.
Publisher Stefan Tobler founded And Other Stories out of frustration at the great books not being published in English. With English and Swiss parents, he was born in the Amazon. In his mid-twenties, he lived in Dresden for some years. His translations include the 2015 Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize shortlisted Água Viva by Clarice Lispector and the 2016 Man Booker International Prize longlisted and Premio Jabuti-winning (Best Foreign Publication category) A Cup of Rage by Raduan Nassar. Other translations include the poetry collection Silence River by Antônio Moura, Rodrigo de Souza Leão’s All Dogs are Blue and Arno Geiger’s The Old King in His Exile. He loves to read in French and Spanish too and subsidises literary publishing with his fashion shops & Other Stories and his Toblerone chocolate factory. He’s also on Twitter @stefantobler.
Nicky handles our publicity, marketing and sales in the UK. She’s also a translator and lover of Swedish and Norwegian literature, and an escaped academic – in 2014 she finished her PhD in Scandinavian Studies at UCL with a thesis rather nattily titled ‘Contemporary Urban Vernaculars in Rap, Literature and in Translation, in Sweden and the UK’. Her translations include Jogo Bonito by Henrik Brandão Jönsson, a Swedish book about Brazilian football (Yellow Jersey Press), and How to Fall in Love with a Man Who Lives in a Bush by Emmy Abrahamson (Borough Press). She’s lived in Berlin, Stockholm and Rio, but London is her home. You can find her (very occasionally) on Twitter @tallnicky.
Tara Tobler is the principal editor at And Other Stories, currently on maternity leave. Originally from Canada, she worked for many years as Marketing & Publicity Director for the Canadian independent publisher Biblioasis. Books she has edited include two of the titles shortlisted for the 2017 Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize, of which Frank Perry’s translation of Lina Wolff’s Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs went on to win. She is also a writer, freelance reviewer, and mother of two young children. She lives in Sheffield.
Catherine Taylor is doing publicity at And Other Stories while our Publicity, Marketing and Sales Manager Nicky is on maternity leave. She has previously been deputy director of the literature and freedom of expression charity English PEN and publisher at the Folio Society. She has also worked for The British Library, Amazon and Microsoft, been a judge on the Guardian First Book Award, Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize, European Union Prize for Literature, Harvill Secker Young Translators’ Prize and the British Book Awards. She has held two Turin Book Fair fellowships and one Rome Book Fair fellowship and is a regular contributor on books for FT Life & Arts, The Economist, TLS, Irish Times, The Guardian and New Statesman. Though London has been her home for many years, Catherine grew up in Sheffield and is currently writing The Stirrings, a cultural memoir of the city in the 70s and 80s.
Associate Editor Briallen Hopper is proud to represent And Other Stories in the United States. Briallen holds a PhD in English from Princeton, taught writing at Yale and in summer 2018 moved to Queens to be assistant professor of creative nonfiction at Queens College, CUNY. Her writing on books, movies, religion, and politics has appeared in publications including Los Angeles Review of Books, Killing the Buddha, The New Inquiry, and The New Republic, and her smart book of essays on love and friendship, Hard to Love, is coming out from Bloomsbury in February 2019. She is on twitter @briallenhopper.