Along with Eloise Millar, Sam Jordison is co-director and co-editor at Galley Beggar Press, and writes for The Guardian, UK. Galley Beggar is making waves as an ‘old-fashioned publisher for the 21st century’, prioritising ambitious, exciting work with literary merit over what might make it into the supermarkets. You may know them as the people who found and published Eimear McBride’s A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing, after nine years of rejections from other publishers. It is a stunning, challenging, defining piece of fiction, which went on to win numerous prizes including the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, and is now published by Text Publishing in Australia.
Thanks for being brave in a world of yellowbellies, Galley Beggar!
And thanks for talking to us Sam!
Let’s start with an enormous question. In your opinion, what makes good writing?
This is impossible to answer! I guess the foundation is always going to be good sentences … But from there? Who knows.
What don’t you like?
I get annoyed when writers don’t think about tense. Too many people just slap it all down in the present, thinking it makes things seem more urgent, when for me it just makes things more boring and also cuts off many potential steps in time … often it’s like hobbling yourself before a race. And also the equivalent of donning flappy brown flares in the 1970s. Some time soon we’re all going to be laughing at authors who just write in the present.
What really gets you going/makes you sit up and pay attention?
Something I haven’t seen before, thought about before, read before.
Is there something you have seen done really well recently?
Well, Playthings by Alex Pheby, the last book we published was damn good. It’s also had some great reviews, so it’s not just me saying it … although, of course, you have to take my boasting with a pinch of salt. I love all our authors blindly—that’s why we got into the business.
Is there something you would like to see more of?
People buying direct from independent publishers. It makes a huge difference to us. Margins in bookshops are horribly tight. Amazon are just horrible. So if you buy from us, you’re the person who actually makes it possible for us to keep going and put more things out.
Do you have any advice for writers submitting work?
Always read submission guidelines very carefully and follow them closely. Also, don’t give up. Rejection doesn’t necessarily mean your book is bad. It just means it doesn’t fit with that particular publisher.
And finally: Why do you do what you do?
Hubris, folly, egomania. Also, I love good books and want to help bring them into the world.
Thanks Sam and Galley Beggar!