What caused a small vibrant Birmingham-based book publisher to go to the wall and be sold to a London firm?
From our arts desk
Birmingham’s only book publisher, the prize winning Tindal Street Press, has been sold to a London firm, ending a hopeful era that the city could sustain an independent company in the world of the written word.
It has been bought by London-based Profile Books.
Tindal Street Press Director Alan Mahar said: ‘We’re proud of what we’ve achieved during Tindal Street Press’s fourteen years of independent publishing in Birmingham. ‘
‘We found new English writers and published them with conviction and flair, earning prize-listings for the Man Booker, Orange and Commonwealth Writers’ Prizes, a British Book Award and two Costa Prize winners. We built the Tindal Street name outside of London, with a tiny dedicated and talented publishing team and a voluntary board.
‘We had a close connection with our authors, an independent ethos and a vision for our English regional list, in all of which we were supported by the Arts Council England.’
Profile will take on the Birmingham company on Thursday and keep the Tindal Street imprint. But it means the city will lose its presence as a book publishing centre outside the M-25. And that will inevitably raise eyebrows about whether the city backed the small publisher enough in its decade and a half existence.
Prof. David Bailey, of the Coventry University Business School, said it was a ‘great shame’ that Tindal Street will be gobbled up. ‘To succeed these days, you have to be niche in a market such as publishing. It’s difficult to be small.’
Some indication of why the firm did not survive comes from one of the founding members of Tindal Street Press.
Penny Rendall said: ‘I’m not sure whether the city and region ever fully appreciated Tindal Street. Our prize-winning books achieved positive publicity across the world. We put Birmingham on the international literary map and we found and developed local authors and launched them on their literary careers.’
‘We provided so many other opportunities – for cover designers, copy-editors, and so on, work experience for dozens of young people … We inspired writers’ and readers’ groups. We gave workshops and masterclasses in creative writing. We contributed to all the local initiatives – the City of Culture bid, Artsfest, Birmingham Book Festival every year and lots of smaller events and projects.
‘Yes, they could have done more. It’s true that they gave us small grants from time to time, and they saved us from a crisis once in the early days with some emergency cash.’
‘But we didn’t fit the available funding ‘pots’ – because we were unique. So if the city was going to help with funding, we always had to set up some new project that took huge amounts of staff time and energy away from the books themselves.’
‘In the last couple of years, times have been very tough for Tindal Street Press, along with everyone else. But the general crisis was exacerbated for us by the huge changes in the publishing industry and the Arts Council cuts. And they’ve been no help at all.’
Profile Books MD Andrew Franklin said: ‘It’s always sad to see the end of an independent publisher but we’re very pleased that Tindal Street’s publishing programme will be finding a home at Profile.
‘Tindal Street have always punched way above their weight and we will make sure they continue to do so. Profile and Tindal Street Press share the same ideals for independent publishing.