Small Presses, Self-Publishers, and Specials

He’s back! Say hello again to guest blogger and rising star Dan Holloway, author of several novels including the Oxford-set crime novel The Company of Fellows. Dan participated in the Rising Stars panel at the Blackwell bookstore on Broad Street last week. His next event is called Nightmaring Spires and will take place 10 August at the Albion Beatnik Bookshop.

It’s been a good week for literary Oxford thanks to the Guardian’s First Book Award. This year, for the first time, the paper decided to open up one place on its longlist of 10 to a book nominated by readers. To small presses and self-publishers this was wonderful news. After all, we’ve been saying for all these years that all we ask for is that people look at our books – the words on the page would do the rest.

The Zoom Zoom by Penny GoringNow it was time to suck it and see. And, sure enough, it turns out we weren’t spouting rubbish all that time. Out of close to 100 books nominated, The Guardian selected one title, Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos, and singled out for praise just three more, including Penny Goring’s The Zoom Zoom. Both of those books come from small presses with an Oxford connection. Down the Rabbit Hole is one of two titles from And Other Stories, an innovative in-translation press that hold regular evenings, the Jericho Sessions, at Oxford’s Albion Beatnik, which bring together writers and their translators to talk to always-enthusiastic crowds. The Zoom Zoom is one of three titles I publish through my imprint eight cuts gallery press.

It’s thrilling to see vindicated what we’ve been saying for so long about the wonderful books bubbling away under the surface. To celebrate, and to give something back to the wonderful Oxford readers who’ve been so supportive of the books and events we’ve held at eight cuts gallery, I’d like to offer a £2 discount on the cover price of £8 on all three of our books (The Dead Beat by Cody James, Verruca Music by Stuart Estell, and The Zoom Zoom by Penny Goring) to those supporting the Oxford World Books Capital bid – simply take a printout of this post to The Albion Beatnik bookstore in Walton Street, and show it when you make your purchase.

Blackwell's Rising Stars

Blackwell's Rising Stars

It was also an exciting week for me as a self-publisher. After my novel, The Company of Fellows, was voted “favourite Oxford novel” by Blackwell’s readers, I was invited to sit on a panel called “Rising Literary Stars” on July 28th alongside four fabulous, traditionally published authors (Lee Rourke, Naomi Wood, Rachel Genn, and John Butler).

With an audience of over 50 drummed up by the wonderful staff at Blackwell’s, it was great to get to read, talk about publishing and the writing experience, and share anecdotes alongside writers whose background is so different. And there was no hint of division or condescension – I was accepted as a writer just like the others – however my words got into print.

And afterwards we all got to do the real writerly thing – head to the pub for a pint and a gossip. As a self-publisher of my own work, and coordinator of a small alternative press publishing other people’s work, as I said at the start all I’ve ever wanted is to have people open my books and read page one. For years it’s been pretty much impossible to get someone in the cultural media to do that. They didn’t look at your work, say it was bad, and then dismiss it. They just didn’t bother looking. With Blackwell's Rising Starsthese two events coming in such quick succession, it feels like maybe that could be beginning to change. And if so, from both the gatekeeping side thanks to the likes of Blackwell’s, and the production side, Oxford would appear to be at the heart of the change.

The Dead Beat by Cody James and Verruca Music by Stuart Estell are amongst the books in the running for the Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize. To read them, and for details of how to support their campaign, go to

2 Responses to “Small Presses, Self-Publishers, and Specials”
  1. rozmorris says:

    ‘For years it’s been pretty much impossible to get someone in the cultural media to open an indie book…’ Warmest congratulations, Dan, for rocking the status quo.

  2. danholloway says:

    Thanks, Roz! All we ask is that they open the books – it’s up to us to make sure what they find inside proves it was worth their while!

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