we welcome Sarah Quirke to the blog. Sarah will be known to members through her
work with Ulverscroft.
Sarah. Many authors know the name Ulverscroft but can you tell us something
about the company?
Books has, under its umbrella, F.A. Thorpe Publishing, Isis and Magna – so
between us we produce both large print and audio titles. I work at F.A. Thorpe, which has been around
for a while now; in fact, we celebrated our half-century earlier on this year!
a battle on his hands at the time. Publishers were reluctant to risk allowing
their authors’ work to be reproduced in this new medium, but a chance meeting
with Dame Agatha Christie changed that.
She thought the idea a great one, and gave Fred Thorpe permission to
reproduce her titles in large print which, in turn, helped break down
resistance throughout the industry. Today, the Ulverscroft Group is owned by a
charity, the Ulverscroft Foundation, which supports research into and treatment
of eye diseases. For example, the Foundation funds the Ulverscroft Unit at
Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children.
does your job entail?
the Publishing office (four of us, including me), so we work quite tightly
together. I’ll be setting lists, while someone else is sorting out the cover
artwork and editing down back cover blurbs.
is sifting through the titles that are submitted to us (we’re surrounded by
book-mountains in our office!) and deciding which ones to go for. There’s the
nitty-gritty part of that – looking at production costs and sales figures and
working out our margins – and the more mundane part: do we really need any more
non-fiction titles on our ‘bought’ shelves at the moment? No, but we could do
with getting some more mystery titles before next month…
base my decision on an author’s previous sales records, and we have people who
read submissions from authors we’ve not published before and write reports for
us, which is very useful. But sometimes
a book will just grab you, and you know it’s worth offering on straight away.
That was the case with Vikas Swarup’s Q&A
(which eventually became the hit film Slumdog
Millionaire), and with Emma Donoghue’s Room,
which I knew was a winner the second I read the strapline on the proof’s cover.
acquire a title, there’s the bidding process.
For the larger titles, it can sometimes be a case of a one-off bid
securing the large print rights, but more often there’s an auction. It can be
galling to wave good bye to a title you’ve set your heart on acquiring, but we
win a lot of the auctions too!
kinds of books do you accept for large print?
publisher, we really only want to publish work that’s either already been
published in standard print, or has been accepted for standard print
publication. There’s also the practical consideration of word count, which has
a bearing on whether a title will be suitable for our lists. We have our genre
fiction lists – the Linford Romance, Mystery and Western imprints – which are shorter
reads, and our Ulverscroft and Charnwood imprints. These latter two contain
longer fiction and non-fiction titles, of varying genres.
there any subjects you avoid?
was a glut of ‘misery memoirs’ which, for the most part, I tended to avoid;
there were also an awful lot of books with suspiciously Da Vinci Code-esque
plots… I’d say the main criterion for our titles is that they have mass
appeal, and I do think we have a good, wide selection of titles: light-hearted
reads, thriller titles, serious and not-so-serious non-fiction, the occasional
horror, a goodly amount of crime, some family sagas – basically, I think
there’s something for everyone. I can’t walk through a bookshop now without a
running commentary going through my head: ‘We’ve got that one… Oh, and that
one. Bidding on that one, fingers
is your typical reader?
‘typical’ reader. Our titles are, of
course, intended to be read by those with poor or failing eyesight, but just as
there isn’t a typical person affected by macular degeneration, so there isn’t a
typical reader. This is why we try to
get titles with a broad range of appeal into our lists. It’s a shame that all books can’t be
reproduced in larger print, but I think it’s great that we can provide a good number
of titles, so that anyone who needs to make use of large print has a range to
choose from when they head to their library.
many books are submitted to libraries each year?
publish 36 titles per month across all our imprints, so that’s 432 titles per
year available for libraries to buy. We also do one-off Special Collections –
for example, we re-published almost all of Agatha Christie’s titles a few years
ago, and we’re looking at doing something similar again with another author
(yet to be confirmed!)
you write yourself?
would we submit to you?
submitting titles for consideration for our Linford Romance series tend to
email me. As many of you will know, we no longer set titles directly from the
D.C. Thomson booklets. Instead, we now need to see the manuscript, so it’s
helpful if this is attached as a Word document.
Sarah can be contacted
time to answer our questions, Sarah.
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