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Booker shortlist success for High Wycombe publisher of Deborah Levy's Swimming Home
IT’S not every day a fledgling book publisher, run out of a High Wycombe flat, sees one of its first novels shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the holy grail of English language fiction awards.
In fact, it has never happened before to any publisher quite the way it has to And Other Stories.
Deborah Levy’s novel Swimming Home, published by the Wycombe-based firm, was one of the six shortlisted novels and has been hugely acclaimed.
While she may not have won the award this week– which went to Hilary Mantel for the second time for her historical novel Bring Up The Bodies – the achievement is enormous.
Swimming Home tells the story of a group of middle class holiday-makers who find their lives start to unravel when they encounter a young woman swimming in a pool in their villa in France – it is an unsettling, darkly humorous tale of depression and inner turmoil.
And Stefan Tobler, founder of the publishing house that first brought it to the public, has been understandably thrilled with the success.
He said: “It’s a bit of a record because we launched it in our first year. No other publisher has been shortlisted in its first year.
“It makes a massive difference – it’s the largest prize in English speaking fiction. It brings us to a whole new batch of readers”
The firm publishes a range of literary novels in different genres, aiming to support the sort of books larger, more cautious publishing houses may not take a risk on.
It is set up as a Community Interest Company – and not-for-private profit – and was set up through Arts Council funding.
It also offers readers the chance to subscribe to selected books for a fixed fee – in return offering each reader a unique numbered first edition and their name printed in the book as a thank you for their contribution. It is now offering readers to subscribe to a new volume of Levy’s short stories, due out next year.
But to make sure that Swimming Home could be brought to as many readers as possible after its Booker nomination, Stefan joined forces with publishing giant Faber & Faber to bring the book to a larger market.
He said: “We wouldn’t have been able to grow as quickly as this book has been able to grow.”
And the story behind Levy’s struggle to bring her acclaimed novel to print also means that Stefan’s company has been finding fame itself – with a growing pile of manuscripts thumping down on the publisher’s doormat.
“Every day now we’re getting submissions.
“The fact that she (Levy) had not written a novel for 15 years and had not had Swimming Home accepted. That story led to a lot of people finding out about us – on the whole it’s great.”
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