In light of the recent lack of bookshops, I’ve started a new series in which I profile my favourite independent publishers. These are some of the most exciting addresses when it comes to finding original ideas, literature in translation and voices that are underrepresented in the mainstream. Each one is more than deserving of support – in times of crisis and beyond.
Fourth in the Independent Press Profile series is Inspired Quill.
Let’s start with the basics: when, where and who.
Inspired Quill was founded by Sara-Jayne Slack in 2011 off the back of a successful book review blog and an entrepreneurial award. As with many traditional independent publishers, the idea was to bring more inclusivity and fairness into publishing, giving a voice to authors who otherwise might not be picked up by the more commercial houses. Starting as a one-woman show – which it still largely is – Inspired Quill has gradually developed into a small remote-working team and currently publishes six new titles a year. Thanks to their pledge of diversity, inclusion and collaboration in their publishing model, the press has gone on to become a social enterprise, working in partnership with several non-profit organisations and also offering mentorships and workshops.
Where have I heard that name before?
You quite possibly haven’t: Inspired Quill is definitely one of the smaller presses featured in this series, but making increasing amounts of noise in the independent publishing scene. Tireless in their championing of representation across the industry, you’ll find them taking part in events such as the Women in Publishing Summit. And if you follow awards such as the Polari Prize (whose current longlist was unveiled just this week) you’ll have found Inspired Quill authors like Anne Goodwin listed for her 2015 debut novel Sugar and Snails.
What’s the publishing philosophy?
The press has long operated under the motto ‘positive publishing’, and claims to be ‘dedicated to quality literature, skills development and social/environmental causes’. It sets a lot of store by its Diversity Pledge – rarely seen set out in so many words – which covers everything from authors and literary subject matter to the reading community. Hoping to encourage others to follow their lead, Inspired Quill is paving the way for an inclusive publishing hub that seeks to stimulate change in the industry and will be appearing as the ‘Publish Better’ campaign.
What can I expect to find in the catalogue?
Inspired Quill’s range spans the entire gamut, from literary fiction to fantasy, crime to non-fiction. In their online catalogue you’ll also find an array of categories such as LGBT, steampunk and dystopian, while books can be further sorted by issue-based theme. Although most of their output is for adult readers, there’s a healthy dose of teen and YA reading in there as well.
What about literature in translation?
Unfortunately translation isn’t something that Inspired Quill has covered yet, but as they’re constantly seeking to try new things it’s definitely on the list of literature to explore. Translators take note – and keep an eye on the website for when submissions windows open.
Can I buy books directly from the publisher?
Yes, you can. Although available in a few (largely independent) bookshops, the best place to buy Inspired Quill titles is their online shop. Books are available in paperback or digital and ship to just about any location in the world. Bloggers can take advantage of a generous review copy scheme, but what is particularly appealing is the Suspended Books system – currently in the pipeline, this will allow readers to ‘pay it forward’ by purchasing a quarter, half or whole book, which will later be amassed and taken to where they are needed most, for example a library or shelter.
Any particular recommendations?
In the literary fiction department, authors such as Anne Goodwin, E. J. Runyon and Clare Stevens are worth investigating, writing as they do about themes including mental health, gender and identity. In the steampunk category, Craig Hallam is particularly popular, while sci-fi author David Wilkinson was shortlisted for an EMB Award for the first part of his Anjelican Saga, We Bleed the Same.
What’s on the horizon?
The rest of this year will see a mixture of cyberpunk and crime goodies coming your way from Inspired Quill, including Craig Hallam’s new novella Oshibana Complex, in which every character is gender-neutral, and a new title from fantasy author Alex Westmore. Crime fiction from Howard Robinson is also forthcoming, while beyond physical books Inspired Quill are working hard on their ‘Publish Better’ project. Very active on social media and their blog – which is particularly good on resources for fantasy fiction writers – authors and readers alike are actively encouraged to join the conversation and (when such things are possible again) get involved in events such as workshops and festivals.
If you have a favourite independent press you’d like to see profiled, please let me know in the comments – the best recommendations always come by word of mouth!