I first came across To Hell With Publishing thanks to the storm in a teacup that was the Guardian’s Not The Booker prize recount. I am somewhat ashamed not to have heard of them before because I consider myself to be an advocate of everything independent in the publishing world, and that includes bookshops. It is fair to say, at this stage, that my love for everything To Hell With is still quite young and will require some nurturing, but I fell in love with the philosophy behind this ‘project’ as soon as I read about them.
To Hell With Publishing is a publishing company and bookshop. They implement all the principles that I hold dear to my heart and are a model for the kind of business I would like to run one day. The bookshop is the hub of the company, where they hold all sorts of literary events and actually do the editing on the books they are going to publish. They have set themselves up to be a part of their local community: a place where authors, publishers and readers can meet and interact. They run a literary award, publish a literary journal, have two imprints that publish discarded and forgotten classics, and first novels. The idea behind the latter being that since indie publishers who unearth the talents of unknown authors and always, inevitably, end up losing them to the conglomerate publishers who throw lots of money at them, To Hell With have decided to only ever publish the first book of any author and so being a kind of building block for authors before releasing them into the wider world of publishing.
To Hell With took their bookshop inspiration from the likes of City Lights in San Francisco, an independent bookshop, publisher and ‘place where booklovers from across the country and around the world come to browse, read, and just soak in the ambiance of alternative culture.’ It also uses as a model the great presses from the past like Olympia Press, best known for publishing controversial and avant garde works such as the William Burroughs novel Naked Lunch and Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, books that nobody else was willing or had the nerve to publish.
The bookshop will sell art prints from authors, as well as artist that have a literary connection, and besides running regular events on a monthly basis they will also have their own book club. The m.d. Laurence Johns has been dealing in antique and rare books for a long time so they will also specialise in rare, signed and first edition books. Besides this they will, of course, also stock their own books, such as The Cuckoo Boy by Grant Gillespie who has been shortlisted in the above mentioned Not The Booker prize. The Cuckoo Boy ‘charts the quiet destruction a suburban childhood might sometimes, unexpectedly, wreak’ and asks the question ‘Armed with the wrong set of circumstances, is there anything a child isn’t capable of?’ It is this eclectic combination of events, stock overall philosophy that sets To Hell With apart from other publishers and bookshops and has made me a servant to their cause.
If I lived in London I would be in their bookshop everyday, probably begging them to give me some sort of a job, anything. I would be that guy that is always first in the queue at literary events as well as attending every book club meeting. They would undoubtedly hate me, but hey, I am used to that. My advice to you: go buy The Cuckoo Boy and keep an eye on these guys. They might just revolutionise the literary world.
Check out Matthias Mueller’s excellent Cultural Constellations blog