Publisher of the Month: Fidra Books
Fidra Books is a publisher specialising in reprinting unjustly neglected children's fiction that deserves to be back in print and accessible to a new audience. Our books range from 1930s adventure stories to iconic 1960s fantasy novels and from pony books by Carnegie Medal winning authors to contemporary boarding school stories.
Before setting up Fidra Books I was a bookdealer, specialising in rare and collectable children's books. I knew that there are plenty of books that collectors were hunting for and which they had little chance of finding unless they were very lucky or had deep pockets – often both. I knew some of these scarce books from my own childhood but when I read others as they passed through my hands, the realisation grew that these books were so good that there must be a market for them. Ransome and Blyton are still in print and selling so obviously these books weren't too dated. But how to achieve this? I talked this over with friends and fellow booksellers and Fidra was born as the result of a rash declaration that 'it can't be that difficult!' If pressed, I would have to admit that when the aforementioned rash declaration was made alcohol may have been taken…
Fidra Books was set up very simply – just me – and although not actually difficult, it has been the most daunting project that I have ever taken on with a vertiginous learning curve. I have discovered skills I didn't know I had and, with no background in publishing, I have had to learn some new ones fast. I am sales manager, financial controller, contracts co-ordinator, production manager, marketing department, rights department and tea-lady!
Getting to a stage where we could start publishing was a long process. We agreed terms with Olivia FitzRoy's husband only for him to die before he signed the contract, leaving us to start from scratch trying to find the new copyright owner. This has turned out to be Olivia's sister who has been an enormous help and we hope that Sir Geoffrey would have been pleased with the end products: Orders to Poach and Steer by the Stars. Another author's children agreed terms verbally only for discussions to be overtaken and ultimately scuppered by sibling rivalries. Tracing some authors has been laborious, involving copies of Wills, scouring Directory Enquiries and hours on the phone – at times I have felt more like a private detective or a stalker than a publisher! Truly, Google is my friend.
Our first book, The Far Island by M Pardoe, came out in late 2005 and we have now published twelve titles. Our books are high quality trade paperbacks with gorgeous creamy paper – they smell fantastic! We use the unabridged first edition text and illustrations and the covers, designed by Emma Quinn, use the images from the original dustwrapper. As many of our authors are not well known, we also include introductions about the authors.
Thus far, our books have been sold via a network of booksellers many of whom are dealers specialising in rare children's books, just as I was. We also sell via our website and we're stocked by some independent bookshops and a growing number of school libraries are taking our books. Many of our books don't have mass market appeal but we are delighted to find that by dint of constant effort to tell as many people as possible about our books, sales are growing steadily, we're making a profit and we're managing to achieve our goal of bringing these unjustly neglected books to a new audience, quite apart from the collectors who are delighted to finally acquire books that they've been searching for for years. As we've grown, my husband Malcolm has taken a greater role and now deals with technical matters, building and maintaining the website and co-ordinating production.
We've now reached a stage where we're spreading our wings a little. Our books are now stocked by one of the bigger wholesalers which means that more bookshops can stock them - and BooksfromScotland.com of course. There has been some very positive media coverage of Fidra Books in publications as diverse as The Economist, The Herald, Scots Magazine and SFX. We have new authors in the pipeline and with advice from our commercial consultant we're about to bring out a mass market edition of our best-selling title – The Winter of Enchantment by Victoria Walker.
Two years ago I was questioning my sanity for taking on this project – now; I'm enjoying what we've achieved so far and looking forward to the future of Fidra Books.
- Bunkle's Brainwave - - Paperback
A chance encounter with a Scottish cousin leads to surprising developments, and once more Bunkle and his mother and father get involoved in an amusing and exciting adventure in which he and three young Scottish cousins play a major part.
- The Far Island - - Paperback
Owing to the sudden death of their father, Jean and Dick Fraser are thrown unexpectedly upon the care of their very old great-grandmother. Unable to keep them in her tiny London house, the old lady sends them to a far northern island which she owns.
- Fly-By-Night - - Paperback
Fly-by-Night was not the best choice for an 11 year-old girl who had never ridden before, but as soon as Ruth Hollis saw the lively pony she knew that he was the only one she wanted. But having taken possession of him, Ruth was about to discover that her problems had only just begun.
- The House In Hiding - - Paperback
Ian and Sovra are delighted when their father, Dr Kennedy, buys them a boat. They decide to cross the loch and explore Castle Island. There they find a little shieling - the ideal place to camp. They row over to Fionn-ard and see the deserted village of Kindrachill.
- The School On North Barrule - - Paperback
When Voirrey and Andreas Quilliam learn that they are going to Barrule House, a co-educational boarding-school in the Isle of Man, their feelings are very different. Voirrey has always longed to visit her father's native island, but Andreas dislikes the thought of boarding-school - especially with girls!
- We Met Our Cousins - - Paperback
Antonia and her brother John go to spend the summer with their cousins Angus, Morag and Hamish in the Highlands of Scotland. Their adventures begin on the night train on the way up, and after that it is one thrill after another, and one scrape after another.
- The Winter Of Enchantment - - Paperback
A magic mirror enables Sebastian to travel from his Victorian world of winter snow and Mrs Parkin to a magic world of Melissa, Mantari the magical cat, a wicked Enchanter and many other exciting people.