Saraband has won the Saltire Society's Publisher of the Year award (see here). I'm not remotely surprised. I have, over the past eight years, been published by four different publishers: the tiny poetry pamphlet and magazine publisher Essencepress, the tiny Hebridean-based literary outfit Two Ravens Press, the huge London-based subsidiary of multinational Random House, Virgin Books, and Saraband. Saraband has been in every way the best publisher of them all. They published Bear Witness, my second novel, earlier this year and this autumn will see the release of Into the Forest, an anthology of tree poems.
Saraband is based in Glasgow, so they're right at the heart of Scotland's book scene and much easier to reach than London, so that means I have experienced for the first time a publisher being both accessible and guiding me into where the buzz is. They have been a delight to work with: never remote, always enthusiastic, consulting me on all phases of the books' development and proactive about promotion. These are all good things, but there are three main aspects of Saraband's approach that really stand out.
First of all, they make the most beautiful books. That's why I first approached them with the idea for Into the Forest. Their design work is the best in the country - from gorgeous coffee-table books like Woodlanders and the Panda book, to the elegant and workable pocket guides to Scottish trees and Scottish wild harvests. They also do adventurous and unconventional, like The Cottage Garden Diaries, with its cloth cover and old-world style that so fits the story within. Like every writer, I long for my work to be made into really beautiful books, and Saraband does just that. The design and illustrations for the tree poetry anthology is in process just now, and it's looking gorgeous.
The design of Bear Witness also illustrated the second great thing about Saraband: as a publisher of books about nature, sustainability and eco-literature, they really walk the talk. In my day job I campaign for sustainability in the paper industry. Before I was taken on by Saraband, Sara Hunt had already read my book Paper Trails so she knew how I feel about this issue, and to my delight, she has always proactively worked to ensure that my books are made from the most sustainable paper available. This means 100% post-consumer waste paper, both inside and for the cover, and she has made sure it hasn't reduced the aesthetic quality of the books one bit. I have lost count of the people who have commented on how lovely the paper feels. But Saraband didn't stop here. The cover card that would have been offcut at the printer was used to create special bookmarks for the book, to make sure nothing was wasted - a nice marketing touch but also an indication of just how thoughtful the whole team is about their use of natural resources. So the books they produce are 'eco' to the very core, not just in the words they contain.
But most of all what I admire about Saraband, and the third thing I want to praise them from the rooftops for, is what lovely people they are. I feel that I fall into step so easily with everyone I meet who has a link with them. They're kind and good humoured, generous with time and altogether human. They put a lot of effort into praising people who are doing the right thing, and reaching out to co-operate with other people and organisations in Scotland's literary world. I know that many people, not only those of us lucky enough to be directly involved with them, will be delighted by the recognition they have received. Isn't it good to know that sometimes it really is the best team, with the nicest people, that wins?
The Saltire Award was given this year to honour the memory of Gavin Wallace, who did so much to help literature in Scotland. I feel sure he would have been pleased with Saraband's win, and I'm proud that Into the Forest will also be dedicated to his memory.