Pub Chats is back! After an extended hiatus, the Poetry School’s long-running series of interviews with indie publishers returns with a fresh round of innovative small presses. Joining us today in our imaginary theatre pub somewhere in London’s docklands is Bernadette Jansen op de Haar of Holland Park Press.
Hello there! What are you drinking?
Bernadette: A nice glass of wine, red or white.
How long has Holland Park Press been running?
Bernadette: I founded the company in March 2009.
What were some of the practical things you did to get started?
Bernadette: Decide on a name. Incorporate the company as a Private Limited Company. Open a business bank account. Select the founding books. Write a business plan. Buy Clarke’s Publishing Agreements. Do lots of research.
Does your personal background lend itself being an independent publisher?
Bernadette: Yes, very much so, after working for traditional and electronic publishing companies in a range of positions. Working at director’s level I gained plenty of experience about the ins and outs of running a business. Apart from that I’m quite well organised and like multitasking.
Where does the name Holland Park Press come from?
Bernadette: I wanted a name that sounded quite established and I also looked for a name that indicated a Dutch connection. I’m Dutch but I’ve lived here for more than thirty years.
Could you describe the sort of poetry you publish?
Bernadette: First and foremost, the poetry needs to be good. We like the poems in a collection to belong together and have an underlying theme or take readers on a journey.
How are you different from other independent publishers?
Bernadette: We accept unsolicited manuscripts all year round with a turnaround time of 4 to 6 weeks. We publish Dutch authors in English and Dutch. We run a pop-up bookstall on markets and book fairs.
What have been some of your biggest successes so far?
Bernadette: Our most successful poetry book is 100 Dutch-Language Poems – From the Medieval Period to the Present Day: it is a poetry bestseller and has won the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize.
We are also proud of Diaspo/Renga, a collaboration in alternating Renga by Marilyn Hacker and Deema Shehabi which also sells very well.
What’s the best thing you’ve found from the unsolicited pile?
Bernadette: For poetry, the titles mentioned above. We also published some notable successes for our fiction books.
How important is the physical book design for you?
Bernadette: It’s important. Books should look nice, inside and out. We are very lucky to have the excellent people at Reactive Graphics who design the covers and do the layout of our books. This means that our books share a look and feel which helps with the branding and encourages repeat sales.
Who prints your books?
Bernadette: CPI (Group) UK Ltd prints our books in the UK.
Could you describe your editing process? And how long does it take start to finish?
Bernadette: All our editing is done by tracking changes in MS Word. How long it takes varies quite a lot. Some manuscripts are a lot cleaner or more complicated than others. It takes as long as it takes.
What’s your submissions policy?
Bernadette: You can find our submissions policy here.
Where do you look for new writers?
Bernadette: In most cases writers find us either through the various directories in which we are listed, or by referral from other authors. We have also found some new authors through our annual competition. We’re currently running the Brexit in Poetry competition.
How do you pay your writers? How does remuneration work?
Bernadette: We pay royalties.
Do you work full-time as a publisher?
Bernadette: Yes, I think you serve your authors best by working on their titles full-time.
Who distributes your books and where can I buy them?
You can buy our books online and in bookshops, and of course from our own website and our pop-up bookstall.
Do you have any staff? If so, how many?
Bernadette: I run the company with my brother, Arnold Jansen op de Haar, who is a published author of prose and poetry in English and Dutch.
Apart from books/pamphlets, what else do you make?
Bernadette: For poetry we publish full collections and anthologies in print but we do not publish pamphlets. We also publish literary fiction: novels, novellas and short story collections.
What other indie publishers do you like?
Bernadette: I like And Other Stories, Comma Press, Five Leaves, Peirene Press, CB Editions and Istros. Actually, I admire most small presses which publish literary fiction and poetry. Here in the UK, we are a member of the IPG and, in the US, we are a member of CLMP.
How optimistic are you about the future of independent publishing? Are you satisfied with your own solutions to the problems it currently faces?
Bernadette: I believe in the future otherwise why would I be putting in all this effort? Our aim is to publish books that are still read in a hundred years’ time. Yes, there are challenges, but a printed book, poetry or fiction, remains to this day a wonderful companion and a comparatively cheap and sophisticated present.
What advice would you give to someone starting their own independent publishing business today?
Bernadette: Don’t do it if you want to get rich. But if you want to have a very rewarding career and the opportunity to add something lasting to our cultural legacy, it’s a great opportunity.
Tell me something about being an independent publisher that most people don’t know.*
Bernadette: Having a thick skin is essential.
Holland Park Press Ltd publishes literary fiction and poetry and places special emphasis on bringing the work of Dutch authors to the English language market.
We work in partnership with our authors. We use the latest technology and the internet to power our innovative publishing process and to encourage the interaction between authors and readers.