Today
we welcome Sarah Quirke to the blog. Sarah will be known to members through her
work with Ulverscroft.

Welcome,
Sarah. Many authors know the name Ulverscroft but can you tell us something
about the company?
Ulverscroft Large Print
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!
Sarah Quirke
Thorpe Publishing was founded in 1964 by Dr Frederick Thorpe, who had a bit of
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.

What
does your job entail?
We’re a small team in
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.
A big part of what I do
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…
Much of the time I’ll
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.
Once I know I want to
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!

What
kinds of books do you accept for large print?
As a second rights
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.
Are
there any subjects you avoid?
Some years ago there
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
crossed…

Who
is your typical reader?
I’m not sure we have a
‘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.

How
many books are submitted to libraries each year?
At F.A. Thorpe, we
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!)
 
Do
you write yourself?
Not yet!

How
would we submit to you?
Those authors who are
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
on: s.quirke@ulverscroft.co.uk
Thank you for finding
time to answer our questions, Sarah.

 

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4 Comments
  1. Author
    angela britnell 4 years ago

    Interesting to read the story behind the story as it were! I've had the pleasure of working with Sarah several times and love the idea of our stories getting into the hands of even more readers!

  2. Author
    Cara Cooper 4 years ago

    Ulverscroft are always lovely to work for. They're professional and approachable. I think providing books for those who love them but have difficulty with small print is so important.

  3. Author
    Beth Elliott 4 years ago

    Thank you for sharing how you work and select such a range of books for readers who need large print. The librarian in charge of Large print books at our main library in Reading is a very busy person – that says the demand is high.
    And I totally agree with Cara cooper's comment.

  4. Author
    Anna Jacobs 4 years ago

    Very interesting to look behind the scenes of LP.

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