It’s not really possible to start a new publishing house.
As a small press, if you want to be sold through the big chains, you’re going to be selling your books through a distributor, which cuts further into your rapidly diminishing profits. Amazon will buy directly from you, but they charge you for the privilege of selling to them, meaning that most of your sales will earn you no more than 40% of the cover price. So, if your book costs £6, that’s £2.40 to pay for printing, author royalties, book design, advertising, administration, delivering the books to the distributors, getting the ISBN number, sending out review copies, mortgage payments, rent when you lose your house, telephone calls to your wife’s mother, hiring a divorce lawyer, the bus fare to go and visit your children, and paying somebody to pulp the unsold copies of your books.
Charles Boyle has started a new publishing house.
It’s called CB editions, and the first four books were published late last year. They’re an eclectic mix, but they’re linked. As Boyle puts it on his blog: ‘They have sentences in them that will do things to you that nothing else can, and you think: how did he, or she, do that, with those words?’
In other words, he publishes books that do exactly what all writers should aim for: to transcend the written word, and make contact with the reader’s mind in a way that he or she can’t directly connect to the words on the page in front of them. To come to life.
Boyle, editor and poet (or perhaps he would prefer ‘poet and editor’) is hardly new to the publishing world. Others—including Faber and the London Magazine—have published his poetry, and he’s worked in publishing houses himself.
Of the four launch titles, only three are currently available; Jennie Walker’s 24 for 3 has been picked up for reissue by Bloomsbury, and the CB edition is no longer for sale. Of the other titles, I’ve already reviewed Days and Nights in W12, and the other two are waiting on my desk.
You can order one or two of these books through Amazon, but as CB editions haven’t signed up for Amazon’s Small Publisher Fleecing Program, Amazon will grumpily charge you—the customer—a £1.99 surcharge instead. Better to buy directly from the CB editions website, and encourage what looks like a particularly exciting new publisher.