Have Myriad Editions, Peirene and Persephone a place in the world of publishing?

March 15, 2013 § 2 Comments

In recent years, many independent publishers have become incorporated into large ones. Yet, against all the odds, small publishers still emerge: Myriad Editions, Persephone and Peirene Press.

On Wednesday night (13th March), I attended a Salon devoted to these small presses. At first glance, Persephone and Peirene have much in common. Their names derive from greek mythology, their books are somehow more than books, and their authors come from a limited class: Persephone reissues the work of  mainly women writers, often of the inter-war period, and Peirene publishes its own English translations of contemporary European novellas.

When Meike Ziervogel was embarking on Peirene, she passed in review other small publishers. Persephone, with its strong brand, was the one that caught her attention.

Brand out from the crowd. I believe, Tom Peters says: Persephone and Peirene have done just that. Each press produces a distinctive cover for its books. You need see only one or two Persephone and Peirene covers to recognise the brand. Inside Persephone’s covers, endpapers echo the period in which the book was written. Some people, Nicola Beauman told us, buy the books for the endpapers.

Peirene, like Persephone, came into being because there was a gap in the market that no other publisher was catering for. Meike Ziervogel preferred German translations of European writers to the English ones. She saw a need for good English translations: to this end, Peirene was formed. Meike Ziervogel believes there are two ways of tackling translating: Either a literal translation which keeps the linguistic idiosyncrasies of the original in the English or an approach that aims for a translation that safeguards the soul and the essence of the original but finds a way of recreating the text in English so that it reads well. Meike Ziervogel opts for the second one. She aims to reach a wider audience. Peirene’s process of translation is involved. Does it amount to rewriting a book? (Meike Ziervogel’s own book, Magda, published by Salt, will be released in April.)

Meike Ziervogel does much more than publish. As her authors live abroad, she is the one who must bring them to readers’ notice. It isn’t just about books. You can sample the literary life in her Salons, and coffee mornings. Or on a Saturday, you could go to Peirene’s roaming store, outside Budgens (Crouch End). On the way to the tube, perhaps you will be handed Peirene’s newspaper (Your Journey Starts Here). Meike Ziervogel could give many novice writers a lesson in how to market their books. A lesson they need because Publishing houses aren’t keen to spend money marketing unknown writers. If only they had a Meike Ziervogel to do it for them.

Which are large publishing houses less keen on, marketing or editing unknown writers?

Myriad Editions was not so much the brainchild of one person as Persephone and Peirene were but an evolution. Myriad (publishers) evolved from Myriad (packagers). Unlike Persephone, whose authors are not living, and Peirene, whose authors live abroad, Myriad’s authors are alive and living both in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. (Myriad represents some US authors.)

Myriad Editions is based in Brighton. Myriad became publishers because, Candida Lacey told us, there were many talented writers who needed help to achieve publication. Therefore, Myriad, unlike many large publishing houses, does a great deal of in-house editing.

Corinne Pearlman who oversees the design of Myriad’s acclaimed ‘state of the world’ infographic atlases is establishing an impressive list of graphic novels. Ten of Myriad’s twenty six titles have won or been nominated for prizes.

Nowadays, very few publishing houses welcome unsolicited submissions: Myriad is an exception. You can approach Myriad directly; you do not need to go via an agent. For some unpublished writers who can’t interest literary agents, Myriad will be their salvation.

Myriad published Elizabeth Haynes’ first two novels. Her first novel Into the Darkest Corner was initially a word of mouth discovery, later a New York Times bestseller.

Myriad is competing with the ‘big boys’ (the large publishers) but without their resources. However, Candida Lacey is philosophical about Myriad’s working with authors that may later sign with a big publishing firm. Apart from nurturing its authors, one of Myriad’s primary aims is to look for new talent and to launch writers’ careers.

Small presses like, Persephone, and Peirene, and Myriad make the future of publishing look bright.


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