In praise of independent publishing and a link to my interview with Naveen Kishore of Seagull Books

It is no secret to regular readers of my blog that I am a great admirer of Seagull Books and that earlier this year I travelled to India, a visit in part motivated by a desire to visit the offices of one of my favourite independent publishers. Admittedly some of my non-bookish friends wondered at my choice of destination, the city as much as the country. Because there is a publisher you want to meet? But if Seagull’s presence in Calcutta offered me an excuse to spend a couple of weeks in a place I had only idly imagined I’d ever be able to visit, it was a trip I undertook on my own, at my own expense. And along the way, another independent publisher that I strongly believe was also part of my journey.

Passing through London on route to Delhi, I selected a flight schedule that would allow me to make a detour into the city for a short visit. (As much as I’d love to spend more time in London it is beyond my means.) There I had lunch with Susan Curtis-Kojakovic, the tireless publisher (editor, chief cook and bottle-washer) of Istros Books. Specializing in literature from the Balkans and South-East Europe, Istros is dedicated to discovering and promoting exciting, challenging new works from the region. Their philosophy is that “quality knows no borders.” Over the past few years, Susan has become a friend and inspiration. This year, because I wisely decided not to try to navigate London on my own as I did a few years back, we had time for more than a rushed coffee.  We managed to fit in lunch at the British Museum, a stroll through the Assyrian exhibit, tea with poet and translator Stephen Watts (whose partner has translated work for Seagull because, of course, it is a small world), and even a quick stop at the LRB Bookshop! Both of these  publishing ventures have several important things in common. They are willing to engage with their readers, booksellers and reviewers. They submit their books for awards. They are supportive of other independent publishers and understand the importance of facilitating connections, not building walls. They are not unique in this, but surprisingly there are some independent publishers who do not seem inclined to make the effort. And it shows. Translated and non-mainstream literary circles are very small and many of us who read and write about these literatures are relatively isolated from like-minded souls. The conversation is critical and it does help promote and sell books. And it helps make life just a little bit richer too.

This connection between reader and publisher (or rather the vision or philosophy that a publisher inspires) is one of the subjects I wanted to pursue in  the conversation I had with Naveen Kishore of Seagull Books, published earlier this week at 3:AM Magazine. He is, naturally, looking at the big picture against my individual perspective, and yet responds with the grace and wisdom he is widely respected for and that has served him well, against all odds, for over thirty-five years. You can find my piece here.


As an added note, Seagull has recently learned they have to relocate and are looking to find a new home in South Calcutta. I hope they are able to secure a suitable space soon. When they do, perhaps I’ll have to go back to check it out…

Author: roughghosts

Literary blog of Joseph Schreiber. Writer. Reader. Editor. Photographer.

9 thoughts on “In praise of independent publishing and a link to my interview with Naveen Kishore of Seagull Books”

  1. “Translated and non-mainstream literary circles are very small and many of us who read and write about these literatures are relatively isolated from like-minded souls. ”
    Ain’t that the truth! But what is amazing is the way the internet has brought us together from out respective corners of the globe, something I never even dreamed of when I was a young reader…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Lovely post Joe. I don’t read anywhere near enough translated fiction, but I do read and support small independent publishers. I can understand completely your going to Calcutta for that reason. Some travel to watch a football game. Is this any different? (Well, it is to us, but you know what I mean.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sue. My support of small publishers extends to English language work as well. For the same reasons, they take risks and support writers and books they believe in. It makes a difference. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post! As a bookseller for over 10 years, I have been introducing my customers to small presses and mostly foreign writers in translation. It’s quite a challenge, but always worth it when it appears you’ve opened the eyes/heart of a reader previously unaware of the vast currents offered by many of these publishers! The online review community has been utterly important in my own education. Look forward to reading the interview next. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. Getting involved with the online review community (as a blogger and now as an editor) has introduced me to a whole world of independent publishers, from the tiny experimental operations to long lasting literary specialists like Seagull. In preparing to downsize I’ve been purging my shelves of countless literary “bestsellers” that I bought and now know I’ll never read. My tastes, interests and values as a reader have changed (or becoming much more oddly idiosyncratic).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Same here. Naturally tastes and interests evolve, but the idea of values changing is perhaps more significant. Much of this literature represents the actual global community we increasingly live in, the presses represent wider endeavor than money making; independence, art, communication. Cheers and be well.


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