Category Archives: Book festival

Literary 2013

A very exciting look ahead to 2013 in books:

What are you most looking forward to?


Afternoon Tea with Persephone Books

For the second event at the Durham Book Festival 2012, Nicola Beauman, the founder of Persephone Books, joined some of her devoted readers for a wonderful afternoon tea at the stunning Bowes Museum.

As the intimate audience of about sixty Persephone Books fans tucked into tea and warm scones (with jam and cream of course!), Nicola Beauman took to the floor to talk about all things publishing, beginning with a question of taste. This big question is what brought Persephone Books into existence, as Nicola Beauman felt there were high quality books, written not so long ago, that had been shelved by publishers and left remarkably difficult for readers to get hold of. Due to producing high quality productions of some such titles, Persephone Books has developed a wide ranging readership. Ashamedly, I have only quite recently discovered the pleasure of Persephone Books, but there are some readers who have taken the twelve year journey alongside this quaint publishing business; one lady in particular has collected every single one of the biannual mail catalogues of Persephone Books. This just goes to show that once you experience one Persephone Book, you are sure to want another!

From a publishing perspective, the most interesting topic discussed was of how Persephone titles are chosen. It is a big undertaking to publish any book (both financially and emotionally) and so the publisher must feel absolutely sure in the decision making process. Persephone Books is able to function because of the copyright law and by choosing books that are still in copyright but are no longer in print. Nicola Beauman said that she checks Amazon for titles before even considering whether to publish, because if a book is available for just pennies (or free as an e-book) it is difficult to breakeven from a reprint that is required to sell in the thousands at a considerably higher price.

When one thinks of beautiful books, one naturally thinks of Persephone, and so design was inevitably another theme of discussion. The love that has been poured into every single Persephone book is evident and this is presumably why the Persephone market for gifts is thriving. It seems odd that such well put together and intricately designed books should be a standard grey colour and the audience at the Afternoon Tea were very amused when Nicola Beauman mentioned a sign next to one bookshop’s collection of Persephone Books stating: ‘one shade of grey’, but it is true that the bland grey colour stands out on any bookshelf.

Although I have admired the endpapers of many a Persephone book, I must admit I never really gave much thought as to how each was chosen. It turns out that a lot of thought and research goes into the selecting of the pattern that will appear as the endpaper, as they are in fact fabrics or textiles that were designed at the same time that the novel in question was written.

If you have never heard of Persephone Books before and are considering which to purchase, the favourite author of many people in the Afternoon Tea audience was Dorothy Whipple, but I don’t recommend her work for the faint hearted! If Whipple doesn’t take your fancy, Persephone Books is sure to have something for you as they are now celebrating the publication of their 100th title, giving readers lots to choose from!

Should Kindles really be banned at Hay festival?

We stumbled across this controversial banner during a lovely weekend in Hay-on-Wye.

It lead us to consider whether Kindles should be banned from the Hay festival: a festival where the written word is celebrated by book enthusiasts. According to one bookseller, Kindles turn readers into “robots in another world” but, sadly, we did not see any cyborgs in Hay…

So are Kindles really the enemy of printed books? We saw several brave readers reading from Kindles, and they weren’t sent to the stocks or anything…

What do you think? Should Kindles be banned from the Hay festival:

Making Hay

I am fortunate enough to live near Hay-on-Wye in Wales, home to the famous Hay Festival. During my search for publishing work experience earlier this year, I called by the Hay-On-Wye offices to see if they were able to offer me anything…and they said yes! For two weeks I was a resident in their offices and what a lovely place to be!

The offices themselves are located in an old hall with beautiful wooden floorboards and large windows. Book cases and posters lined the walls (plus a coffee machine right by my desk!); I can honestly say I was in heaven. Also, the people were nice – a big point I guess!

I was assigned the task of reading a book, the author of which would be appearing at the festival and providing interview questions. It was a good book and I, for one would not complain if this became my full time job. Aside from this, I spent my time organising press clippings, creating spreadsheets and trying my hand at proof reading.

Proofreading opened my eyes to the skills that I certainly need to work on; such detail went into the program, it quite astounded me. It also developed my grammatical skills – a target to work on in the future. It was great to experience ‘office life’ a bit more and to understand how the place is run. Everyone was lovely and always willing to answer any questions that I threw at them, which contributed to a pleasant two weeks there!

I thoroughly enjoyed working at the Hay Festival and am going to make every effort to return and try to learn more about their international festivals (they run internships). In the mean time, onwards towards some more exciting ventures…