Digital publisher Whittrick Press launches

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Northern Ireland’s newest digital publisher Whittrick Press launches this week with their first publication by award-winning novelist and playwright Bernie McGill – and a responsive website and submission portal created by Bookswarm –

Launching as part of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival 2013, Whittrick Press is releasing Sleepwalkers, a collection of short stories that has already been long-listed for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize.

Darkly moving and beautifully written, McGill’s debut collection of short stories explores the lives of women across the generations. From the storm-battered coastline of the north of Ireland to the sleeping villas of Andalusia, McGill’s characters grapple with the consequences of affairs, bereavement, alcoholism, illness and murder.

Founded by David Lewis and Hugh Odling-Smee, Whittrick Press sets out to bring new writing and new ideas to readers in innovative and interesting ways. It is also one of the latest recipients of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Creative Industries Innovation Funding (CIIF) that aims to stimulate innovation, research and development and creativity in the Northern Ireland economy.

David Lewis explains the background to the new company: ‘Both Hugh and I have talked about setting up a publishers for years. With the advent of digital technology, it’s now possible to produce e-book titles relatively cheaply and distribute them to readers around the world through platforms such as Amazon, iBooks and Kobo.

Whittrick Press brings the traditional values of literary publishing to the digital age, working with writers to package their work in the most appropriate formats, whether that’s an e-book, an app or a limited edition print copy.

With an eye-catching brand created by renowned artist and designer Rory Jeffers and submissions already pouring in, the team intend Whittrick Press to become synonymous with quality, interactivity, innovation and literary excellence.

Odling-Smee explains the meaning behind the distinctive name. ‘The name is from the Scots word for weasel, “whittrick”. We chose the name after being inspired by the title of a poem of the Scottish poet Edwin Morgan “Whittrick in 13 Dialogues”.

‘The poem is about the joy and colour that art brings to our humdrum lives. The rare glimpse of a beautiful creature such as a whittrick is the spirit we want to express in our publishing, creating a lasting bond with the reader.’

Whittrick Press intends to bring 20 e-books to the market by the end of 2014, with plans to develop a non-fiction imprint as well as developing new products to enhance the reading experience.

With backgrounds in digital communications, literature and event management, the Whittrick team are well-placed to bring about the company’s aims of ‘seeking out authentic voices and new writing talent, and producing high quality, thought-provoking and beautiful e-books’.

A new coat for The Thought Fox

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Bookswarm has created a new look for Faber’s blog, The Thought Fox, which was originally launched in 2009 as a home for writing by Faber’s authors, editors and other team members. The site is based on WordPress and uses a responsive WordPress theme to deliver a great user experience, whether the visitor is accessing it from an iPhone, a PC or a Smart TV.

Visit the new blog

Little Histories launches on World Book Night

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A Little History of the WorldTo celebrate World Book Night, and the inclusion of E. H. Gombrich’s seminal A Little History of the World among the World Book Night book selection, Yale University Press has today launched a new website for the Little Histories series, designed and made by Bookswarm. The site includes a catalogue of the titles, details of authors and information about some of the many remarkable figures in the history of the world, science, art and literature that feature in the books.

Visit the site at


Bookswarm sponsors Bookmachine Unplugged

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Bookswarm is sponsoring Bookmachine’s next Unplugged event in May, part of an event series which celebrates the culture of collaboration within the publishing industry.

Speakers are invited along to talk openly about their publishing experiences and the big projects they’ve worked on: what they’ve done well, what they’ve learned, and what they’ll do differently next time.

It’s a chance to meet others facing similar work challenges, in a strictly informal setting. Speakers at the next event will be:

  • Host – Anna Lewis (Inspirational entrepreneur; co-founder of Valobox and CompletelyNovel)
  • Robert Paul Weston (Published author with experience of working in publishing, film and TV)
  • Suzanne Kavanagh (aka @sashers; Director of Marketing at ALPSP with tons of publishing experience)
  • Paul Rhodes (15 years of publishing experience with experience of working with top games IP)
  • Showcase – Sophie O’Rourke (Business Development Manager at EMC Design; ad-hoc BookMachine contributor)

Come along to see them, and meet Bookswarm’s Simon Appleby too.

Book at

Faber launch Faber Social

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Over the past eighteen months or so, Faber Social has developed from a live literary and music events programme into a more ambitious forum for publishing experiment: Faber Social. It launched last week, with a responsive website created by Bookswarm.

Visit Faber Social

The future of Foyles

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A video showing some of the highlights of the two Foyles Bookshop Workshops that took place back in February. If you have 15 minutes and you have any kind of interest in the future of book retailing, as a consumer, bookseller, author or publisher, it’s well worth a watch.

Are you ready for Salted?

Bookswarm has created a new design for Salt Publishing’s blog, which takes on a new name: Salted. The new blog is designed to offer news and feature articles and to position the company as a key destination for ideas and information on creative writing, publishing and, of course, Salt’s own list.

ChrisEmery_300Chris Hamilton-Emery, Operations Director of Salt, said:

“Bookswarm’s technical and aesthetic experience clearly shines through in their work. When this is matched with a clear understanding of books and readers, it’s a powerful combination. We’re delighted with the results.”

Visit the new-look blog

The Nudge List in the news

Today’s been a big day for coverage of The Nudge List, the curated book discovery app launched by our sister company, AMS Digital Publishing, in late January. Bookswarm designed the app and developed the means to feed content to it using our favourite platform, WordPress; our friends Aimer Media developed the app itself.

First of all Simon popped up over on The Literary Platform today talking about The Nudge List. After that starter, the main course is a piece on Publishing Perspectives based on interviews with both Simon and AMS co-founder Alastair Giles.

While we’re rounding up coverage, here’s the review of the app by Stuart Dredge of The Guardian.

Have a read, and when you’re ready, download the app (it’s free!).

Simon and Molly take to the Writing Platform

Launched in beta today, The Writing Platform is a free online resource for all writers and poets ­ emerging, established, not yet published, traditionally published and self-published ­ who are looking for neutral and best practice information about writing in a digital age in order to inform their practice and career choices.

It launches with contributions from Bookswarm Director Simon Appleby, who has written a piece about Ten Author Websites That Do The Business, and Bookswarm collaborator and social media maven Molly Flatt, who shares Ten Myths About Social Media.

So what does the bookshop of the future look like?

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To Foyles, where our own Simon Appleby took part in the first of two workshops designed to give the wider trade an opportunity to come up with cunning plans for how the venerable London bookshop’s shiny new digs should look and work when they move next-door-but-one.

It was with a slight back-to-school feeling that I climbed the stairs to the Gallery on the third floor of Foyles, Charing Cross Road. With a range of possible assignments in my bag, plus the floor plans of the new store, I had no idea which tasks I would be tackling or who I would be tackling them with. I also felt, well, rather bereft of inspiration. Fortunately, this feeling didn’t last long!

After opening remarks we were quickly working in our groups – Group Five included a member of the TBS team from their Frating Green distribution centre, a bookseller from Washington DC (who made the trip specially!), a literary agent and a publisher. Needless to say, a dream team!

Our topic was ‘Diversification of Products and Services’, and inspired by photos of the existing shop as it was in the olden days, we named our team Bazaar (though based on some later pipe-cleaner exploits, Bizarre would have been equally applicable). Our central idea was that a 21st century destination bookshop must course be diversified, but that doing so in a way that weakens the brand, or wastes the talents of great booksellers, is a major no-no – so we hit upon the idea of adapting the concession business model used by Selfridges to such great effect. Our Foyles would have diversification handled by a mixture of carefully chosen permanent and pop-up concessions – with the pop-ups taking advantage of a flexible interior layout, especially on the ground floor, and being collated and scheduled to tie in to the programme of cultural events that we also felt was essential to the store’s existence.

When we talked about concessions, we don’t just mean stationery, DVDs and a cafe, important though they are – we were thinking about things like a crèche (integral to the Children’s department, naturally), seasonal ingredients in the Cookery department, a boutique travel agency situated with the travel books and even the opportunity to peruse possible puchases while getting a hair cut (I am assured getting your highlights done can take long enough to break the back of a Jeffrey Archer). The people running these concessions can’t be any old businesses though – they have to fully understand and subscribe to what makes people come in to Foyles.

There is scope for services as well as products, of course – personal shopping, creative writing courses and more. You may feel that there is a risk this bazaar approach would undermine the peace and tranquility of the current store – and we accept that it might. However, we felt that, firstly, this atmosphere would need to be preserved in key places through careful provision of calm and classy reading and writing spaces (writing your novel in the Writing Room at Foyles could be the 21st century equivalent of writing it in the Reading Room of the British Library); and secondly, that only by accepting some degree of commotion could a truly family-friendly destination store be created. The atmosphere of a library is not going to be the norm in our new Foyles.

The rest of the groups were working on this issue and others, including the bookshop as a cultural destination and the challenge of discoverability and choice, not least the vexed question, in an increasingly digital world, of just how much stock a flagship bookshop should carry, and how digital products should be integrated in to the offering. Many hours, many sandwiches and many cups of coffee later, each group had four minutes to present the essence of their conclusions to everyone else. Some amazing, wonderful and downright futuristic ideas flowed forth – too many to do justice to here – though Group Two’s ideas about the new Foyles as a the high temple of the cult of books, presented by Osprey’s James Spackman, were particularly arresting (not least the conveyer belt of books!).

All in all, it was a fantastic afternoon – loads of stimulating ideas and the heartening sight of the trade coming together to show that it recognises the vital importance of the bookshop as the showroom that still drives much discovery of books. Hopefully, some of the big ideas that make it in to the new Foyles will trickle down to larger chains and independent bookstores too.

This piece only scratches the surface of what was discussed, and there’s another session on Friday – so keep an eye on The Bookseller and Foyles for more coverage!

Literary events: going where the people are!

On Sunday Bookswarm’s Simon Appleby went to a literary event – in a rural pub! A perfect combination, especially given that the book in question was Pete Brown’s Shakespeare’s Local (Pan Macmillan), Pete’s history of The George Inn on Borough High Street. Pete talked about what made him want to write a social history of a pub and why he picked this one, and told a paying audience of around fifty people some of the controversy about how the pub is dated (and what that has to do with the Sugababes and Only Fools and Horses!). A good laugh was had by all (and quite a few pints, no doubt).

It’s not uncommon in London to find literary events and book slams in pubs and bars – but elsewhere, it’s perhaps less common. It’s nice to see that there’s an appetite for bookish events in the right non-traditional venues – because while we love bookshops, libraries and lit fests, not everyone takes the time or has the opportunity to go to them.

So here’s to seeing a more diverse range of venues featuring in author tours in the future… and for those in need of a decent pint and locally sourced food, the hostelry in question was the excellent Thatcher’s Arms in Mount Bures, Essex.

In-company training for Reed Elsevier

Bookswarm’s Simon Appleby has been delivering in-company training to Reed Elsevier’s Clinical Solutions team this week – working with them on the digital product lifecycle and how to create user-centred digital products. If your business is interested in this kind of training, then Simon and co-tutor Zelda Rhiando can be booked to deliver the course ‘Developing Digital Products the User-Centred Way’ at the Publishing Training Centre.

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