Contemporary writing publisher And Other Stories moved from High Wycombe to Sheffield in 2017 – on a mission to ‘open up the industry so that it doesn’t look like some posh freemasonry’. unLTD’s Jill Theobald caught up with founders Stefan and Tara Tobler to find out why they had ‘no doubt’ Sheffield was the place for their family business …
- Tell me a bit about the background to And Other Stories?
And Other Stories started off as Stefan’s pipe dream about ten years ago. He was a freelance literary translator, a publishing industry outsider.
The output of the big publishing houses was and is risk-averse. There aren’t many publishers choosing books solely on the basis of literary merit or going for more innovative writing.
Stefan started And Other Stories in 2010 out of frustration and idealism and, luckily, found that it could work as a business with readers’ support – a special kind of crowdfunding that updates an 18th century idea for the 21st century.
Readers support risky, adventurous writing by subscribing to the books in advance of publication, much like a magazine subscription. And people loved it, with the first subscribers signing up in 2010.
- What attracted you to the north of England when deciding to re-locate? And why Sheffield in particular?
And Other Stories had only been based in the South-East (High Wycombe) because of family commitments, and when, in about 2015 we saw that we’d be able to move in 2017, we had no doubt that it was going to be to Sheffield.
Stefan’s brother has been here since the year 2000, and so over the years we have come to love the city’s culture, which seems marked by a positive energy, independent spirit and defiance. Also, publishing is too London-focused and it’s good to be part of a change in the industry.
We run ‘Is Publishing for ME?’ days of talks and workshops as well as other events and people were hungry to have this happening in Sheffield. Our Northern Book Prize is part of that too, a showcase for the great writing in the North of England.
- How have you found Sheffield as a city to live, work and grow a business?
Incredibly welcoming. We rent an office in the Central Library for now and enjoy working with so many local partners, from other book publishers to the library services to universities to local tote bag makers and printers.
- What have been the highlights of your Sheffield story so far?
The highlight has to be the launch of the Northern Book Prize in all its parts – the hundreds of entries, the discovery of an amazing new novel through the Prize’s first competition (Amy Arnold’s Slip of a Fish), and the success it had with reviews locally and nationally once published. Not to mention the 2018 Prize’s party event being the closing finale for Sheffield’s Off the Shelf literary festival in 2018.
- What have you got planned for the next chapter?!
Having developed the Northern Book Prize, we are really keen to grow it into the ‘Booker of the North’, you could say. We have big ideas and a first media partner (Big Issue North). We’d love to discuss partnerships with interested folk in Sheffield’s and the North’s business community.