Fledgling Press - Publisher of the Month
Fledgling Press is a small Edinburgh-based publisher, which I, Zander Wedderburn, set up when I retired from university teaching in 2000. I had already published my wife's cook book of family recipes for our four children leaving home in 1993, but I found the publishing process slow and cumbersome.
My main aim initially was to offer authors publication as downloadable books, sometimes supported by printed versions, to speed up the whole process. If people's reading habits had changed as fast as their music listening, the book industry might now be swirling in a multi-format market, like the music industry. But people love old-fashioned books, and so do I. So I now work with a combination of printed books and downloadable ones. Downloadable ones are ideal for people who have to carry a pile of books around, because of the cheapness of computer memory on laptops and handhelds. But in my opinion, the book-like electronic book devices have not yet met the market tests of usability and cheapness.
My passion is for high quality writing on themes that illuminate the human condition, which is a wide brief. In my view, you need good writing to carry the reader along, and if it fails to deal with the big perennial issues of life, love, death and choice, then it is perhaps verging on the superficial and ephemeral.
I publish about three printed books a year. I am particularly passionate about Malcolm Archibald's Boer War trilogy, which follows a young Border Scot into the army and the Boer War, and eventually back to the Borders. Malcolm is a first-class historian, and began writing fiction when he discovered a war diary written by a relative: this is printed, in all its terse soldierly brevity, in Aspects of the Boer War, his brief accompanying factual history. So if you need a gripping tale on a long journey, try Malcolm's books. I've browsed enough airport books to know he compares very favourably with other writers, and is highly readable.
I have a new novel by Malcolm Archibald in the pipeline, combining post-devolution Scotland, ancient history, and modern television in a racy story that is still searching for its name. It will be out before the Edinburgh International Book Festival, an important showcase to the book-loving world. I also published his wonderful Dundee novel, Mother Law, which combines history, ancient history, and life in modern Dundee in a panoply of humanity below Dundee Law.
I've also published some Fine books: 4 books by Brian Fine. He describes his writing as "putting together the body parts of his friends," an interesting metaphor. He has recently written a lovely autobiography, Who am I? which should be out this summer.
The first two books I published were Stella Maris and Bag Lady by Nan O'Dell, who once taught creative writing in Edinburgh. Stella Maris is a novel about growing up in Edinburgh in the 1920s and 1930s, with some brilliant observations and touching accounts of poverty, bigotry, snobbery and domestic service. It won the Constable trophy in 1986. Bag Lady is a collection of her short stories and poems. Both were edited and brought to publication after her death by her husband, Glenn.
A self-styled publisher of new authors picks up many strange submissions. One of Fledgling's most unusual ones was Everyman's Worst Nightmare - cancer of the penis by Stacey John describing in everyday language one man's experience of a rare but treatable cancer. He is a brave man, who recently agreed to republish it under his real name in future editions.
Last year, I published a small book of poetry by Christine Tindall, Inner Thoughts. She has been a frequent winner on my CanYouWrite.com's monthly competition, and writes skilfully and elegantly about important issues that challenge young people.
Poetry is hard to sell, and my bestseller has been Ilsley Ingram's Four Score, a selection from his eighty years of life as a polymath professor of haematology. Sadly, it was the mention of this book in his many obituaries that boosted the sales.
I am also waiting with excitement for the completion of a crime novel The Sinkable Wife by a new pseudonymous author, Willie Stubble, that sprang from Radio Scotland's Book Café crime-writing spree in February. I am told it might be ready by the August book festival, but it can be tricky to tie up all the threads that crime novels trail. There is also an astonishing autobiography of an American, China Chin's Exploits, that is nearly finished. I hugely enjoy nurturing new writers, and helping them to get off the ground.
I also run a co-operative site called www.canyouwrite.com, where poems and short stories can be posted, and are then reviewed by fellow-writers. It has a small monthly prize, and over the years has provided a lively forum for its fans.
The downloadable books are available in Portable Document Format, which gives the clearest appearance, and are normally priced at half the printed price, with 50% of sales revenue going to the author. This is possible because the hefty cuts taken by bookshops, wholesalers, and "bargain" web sites are completely side-stepped. I also have a policy of leaving the downloads unrestricted, with a simple reminder that copyright laws still apply. Complicated technical restrictions seem to me to be obscurantist in the era of scanners and photocopiers.
To finish where I started, the 2006 updated version of my wife Bridget's cookbook, The New Fledgling Cook Book is my steady best-seller. It is ergonomically designed, with wire binding so that the pages stay open, and lovely thick paper, in case you spill on it. I use it myself every day.
- Add to BasketBag Lady - - Paperback
This collection of short stories and poems covers a wide range of subjects including humour, love, tragedy, murder, homosexuality, poverty and cancer. Travel from Edinburgh in 1930 to Chicago in 1948 to the Altiplano of South America today.
- Add to BasketEveryman's Worst Nightmare: Cancer Of The Penis - - Paperback
The personal story of an ordinary man who went from finding a black spot on the end of his penis, to diagnosis and treatment for cancer on it. He writes about his early denials, and about the traumas, hopes, disappointments and successes that followed.
- Add to BasketHorseman Of The Veldt - - Paperback
Drew Selkirk, newly commissioned, is given his own irregular horse group, and uses his Borders horse skills and cunning strategies to pursue new adventures in the Boer War.
- Add to BasketSelkirk Of The Fethan - - Paperback
Captain Drew Selkirk leads his Reivers on another savage mission as the Boer War grinds to a bitter end. He returns home a different man, but will the Fethan Valley welcome its prodigal son?