Quality pays off for small presses

Ebooks can be a difficult market for literary publishers caught between 99p offers and the Dan Browns, so it’s good to see a couple of small presses leap into the Amazon UK ebook best-sellers with relatively little-known writers at relatively high prices.

Pushkin Press published Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman in hardback in the UK in February this year and the collection of short stories received widespread praise. The paperback edition (£6.74) followed in July, together with a Kindle edition (£5.99), with the ebook hitting No 4 on the Kindle best-selling chart this week.

Edith Pearlman published her first collection of short stories in 1996 at the age of 60 and won the National Book Circle of Book Critics Award for Fiction in 2011.

White Truffles in Winter by Nicole Kelby (£4.52 ebook, £5.99 paperback) is published by Alma Books and was at No 9 on the Kindle list this week. It’s a highly acclaimed a novel about celebrated French chef Auguste Escoffier who revolutionised dining with his restaurants at the Savoy and the Ritz.

Alma Books was set up in October 2005 and the firm publishes about 20 books a year, specialising in contemporary literary fiction, with around half in translation. The firm won The Bookseller award for Independent Publisher of the Year 2013.

Looking at the two publishers’ websites, one of the strangest facts is that neither of them so much as mentions the word “ebook”. Hardbacks, paperbacks, mass market paperbacks, they all get listed but no information at all about ebooks.

Ebooks also don’t get much of a mention at another literary house, Faber & Faber, where an ebook version of Michael Frayn’s classic novel of journalism, Towards the End of the Morning, rocketed from around 23,000 on the Kindle UK charts this week to No 121. Again, this isn’t a cheap ebook, priced at £4.79, with the paperback at £7.99.

Faber is actually an innovator with ebooks, having produced, among other things, an interactive edition of The 39 Steps by John Buchan and an app of T S Eliot’s The Waste Land. The company also operates Faber Factory, which is an ebook production and distribution service for independent publishers, but all it says about its own ebooks generally is a small notice saying many of its titles are available as ebooks on Amazon, etc.