I thought it was very exciting news to learn that Bloomsbury is launching a new imprint next month, Bloomsbury Circus, which will specialise in literary fiction. After all the doom and gloom in publishing and the insistence that literary fiction doesn’t have a market any more, or not one that justifies a proper publisher’s time, I gave a big cheer to think that a mainstream business like Bloomsbury is daring to venture out into this territory. I asked if I could submit a few questions about the new imprint and was honoured to have them answered by Alexandra Pringle herself, one of Bloomsbury’s top editors and the driving force behind the Circus imprint. Here are her answers:
1. When every other publisher is reducing the number of literary fiction titles they produce, Bloomsbury is bringing out a new literary imprint. I can’t tell you how wonderful I think that is but how did you get it past the accountants?
We don’t need permission from accountants to publish anything at Bloomsbury. We did get a profit and loss account done to see how it might look in a couple of years. But all of publishing is gambling in the end. We work by instinct as much as anything. And at 26 years old, we felt it was time for Bloomsbury to branch out a bit.
2. ‘Literary’ is a word that provokes much debate. What does it mean in terms of the novels selected for the new imprint?
It means that novels which take more risks would naturally find their way into the imprint – like the work of Lucy Ellmann, for example, whose new novel Mimi we will publish next spring. Whereas those more traditional novels would be published under the regular Bloomsbury imprint, like, for example, the work of Sue Miller and Georgina Harding. But we have no hard and fast rules, we shape the list by touch as much as anything.
3. I noticed that several of the novels are by writers from Australia and New Zealand. Will a feature of Circus books be this more international flavour?
Yes it is in the intention of the list to be very international. We already have a lot of American fiction, as well as novels from Australia and New Zealand, but there will also be work from Iran, Africa, India, Pakistan – many different continents and countries.
4. The actual books themselves look gorgeous: smaller than a hardback, bigger than a paperback, lovely weight and heft to them. They make me think of Persephone novels (although they are by no means identical). What was the thinking behind the design?
We wanted the books to have the beauty of a hardback with the price and readability of a paperback. We also wanted them to look distinctive, unusual, collectable and modern. We were thrilled to be able to have those deep flaps, which in the past have been prohibitively expensive, and colour printing on the inside of the covers.
5. What does the future hold for the Circus imprint? Is there any particular direction in which Bloomsbury wishes to develop the list? When you look back in a year’s time, what would you most like to be able to say about the books you’ve published?
Who knows what the future holds, particularly in such a rapidly changing market place? We hope that people will want to collect these books, rather as they collected Picador titles in the early days. We want it to be a truly international list and to be a list that can take risks. When we look back in a year’s time I hope we will have a prize shortlist or two under our belts, a sense of having broken some established authors out of the ‘midlist’ as well as having launched some exciting new talent into the world. What more could a publisher wish for?
If you’d like to learn more, do have a glance at the new website.