Welcome to Ask a Publisher! After the success of our Ask a Bookseller series, we’ve been reaching out to a bunch of our publishers with some questions about what they do. Up next we have Candida Lacey from Brighton-based independent Myriad Editions, who publish a range of books from literary fiction to graphic novels and memoir.
Tell us about your publishing house in a few sentences.
Myriad has grown organically from a packager of political atlases to a publisher of literary fiction, graphic novels and feminist nonfiction. The company was founded in 1993 to produce the State of the World Atlas series, including Joni Seager’s classic, The Women’s Atlas, the fifth edition of which we published last year. In 2005 we started publishing original fiction and graphic novels, working mainly with local debut authors. Since joining forces with New Internationalist in 2017, we’ve been able to expand, reach wider audiences and publish a more diverse list that also includes nonfiction and memoir.
What is your role and how long have you worked there?
I was employed on a six-month contract when I was between jobs, between children, and pregnant with my second child. He is now in his twenties and I’m the Publishing Director of Myriad. It has been an extraordinary and unexpected journey, and a great privilege.
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
In a triumph of hope over experience I start each day expecting to cross items off my to-do list. Instead, or at least at first, the morning’s emails bring news that a printer needs a cover resupplied, a reviewer wants another copy, there’s an opportunity to suggest an author for an event, a colleague has spotted a typo in the catalogue that has just been sent to press, and so it goes. I might be working on next year’s budget or publishing schedule, catching up with one of our authors or meeting a new writer, negotiating a contract or looking at edits; there may be an exciting manuscript to share, a book launch to prepare, notes or blurbs to write, cover visuals to circulate and discuss.
Myriad is made up of a core team of 10 and many of us have worked together for years. Recently we’ve enjoyed the support of New Internationalist colleagues too. We lead peripatetic lives between Brighton, London and Oxford but Thursdays are the nearest to typical a day gets: four or five of us get together every week to plan upcoming events, review recent publicity, and discuss opportunities for promotion and marketing. We usually meet around one of our kitchen tables, drink lashings of tea and coffee and eat far too many sweet treats, but there’s always a tremendous sense of bonhomie, energy and pride in what we do.
What are you reading right now?
My New Year resolution was to read one book at a time but I’ve been failing badly of late. At the moment I have five on the go: Natalia Ginzburg’s Family Lexicon, Elif Shafak’s 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World, Agnes, Murderess by Sarah Leavitt, The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell and Masterpieces by Dianne Dwyer Modestini.
What is the one book you wish you had published?
It has to be A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing. Reading Eimear McBride’s astonishing novel was a startling and quite physical experience. The pulsing language makes you want to read the sentences aloud. The tenderness and tragedy of the story corner you with a visceral immediacy, and the heartbreak never quite lets you go. Galley Beggar published this debut novel with commitment and courage, and it was thrilling to see not only the author but also a small publisher reap recognition and rewards.
What do you look for in a book? What makes a book amazing?
Whether it is written or drawn, fiction or nonfiction, I want a book to grab my attention with remarkable language, compelling characters or an extraordinary story. I want it to move me, to tears or laughter or both, and to linger in my mind after I’ve finished reading it. I want to be enthralled, especially by fiction; I want a memoir to be bigger than the author’s own story; I want to be entertained and/or educated, to see something new or differently – a moral dilemma, a real or imagined place, a pressing issue. One of the pleasures of publishing nonfiction is seeing how a book can develop from a germ of an idea that came up in conversation, and watching the author run with it.
What is your proudest publishing moment?
There have been many, and many of these shared with colleagues when we see one of our authors winning an award or speaking at a literary festival, or a fabulous review of one of our books. This year it has been a joy to publish New Daughters of Africa: to work with Margaret Busby again, 26 years after publishing her original landmark anthology, and to see her win richly deserved acclaim. Thanks to the generosity of the 200-plus contributors who waived their fees and the support of SOAS University of London, New Daughters of Africa has seeded a scholarship to support a new generation of women writers of African descent; launch speeches don’t come much prouder than this.
What are your favourite publishers and what do you love about them?
I’m a huge fan of Graywolf Press in the US and treasure so many of its books – those by Edwidge Danticat, Maggie Nelson and Claudia Rankine, in particular. In Australia, Text combines literary and commercial publishing, and shows exemplary good taste. In South Africa, Modjaji Books consistently punches above its weight to discover, nurture and champion groundbreaking women writers.
What would you like to see more of in publishing, and what have you seen enough of?
We need more bookshops in the UK! Readers as well as writers suffer when single chains flourish at the cost of independents. Bookshops like City Books in Hove, Much Ado in Alfriston, Page 45 in Nottingham and Jarrold in Norwich are beacons of dedication and excellent curation, and I’d love to see their like on every High Street. We don’t need any more discounted and therefore devalued books. Please can we agree to fix prices and bring back the Net Book Agreement?
And finally… name three of your absolute favourite authors.
This is so difficult. I’m going to narrow the range by choosing only from contemporary authors and say that I wait in eager anticipation for new books by Jackie Kay, Lorrie Moore and Ali Smith.
Thank you, Candida!
Myriad have a bunch of fantastic books out this year including a milestone graphic telling on LGBTQI+ history, and a memoir on living with autism. Head to the Myriad website for their full list and you can follow them on Twitter @MyriadEditions.