Welcome to the Fox, Finch & Tepper blog – your first port of call for all the foxy news on our current titles and our exciting new releases. There’s plenty of publishing action going on at FFT towers and we hope to bring you news of our 2015 publications in the near future; but for now we thought we’d offer a little insight into the humble beginnings of our young publishing company. Here’s the story of how a team of indie booksellers from award-winning Bath bookshop Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights inveigled their way into the cut-throat publishing industry…
Everyone knows that with any successful venture it’s not what you know, it’s who you know – and fortunately for us, this turned out to be the case when we set about creating Fox, Finch and Tepper, because we surely knew very little about publishing, but we do have some pretty good friends.
We had tentatively dipped our toe in to the publishing pool a couple of times prior to Fox, Finch & Tepper, by collaborating with proper publishers to create limited edition hardbacks of two of our favourite novels. From our friendship with the lovely folk at Canongate came Finnish folk tale “The Howling Miller” and with our buddies at Orion we co-published a beautiful edition of war-time classic “Rogue Male” with a cover design from artist Stanley Donwood. Both books sold out fast and gave us a tantalising taste of what it might be like to publish our own titles.
And so, in January 2014, Nic and I called up our Canongate mates and asked if we might pick their brains. Nic headed to London to meet with Canongate MD Jamie Byng to chat contracts and negotiations and I took the first ever Mr B’s business flight (a la Easyjet) to Edinburgh to get the inside scoop from the production, editorial, publicity, finance and sales departments. The folk at Canongate could not have been nicer to us, dolling out advice on the ins and outs of the industry and we both returned from our respective school trips buzzing and ready to get started.
One of our first challenges was to find a name for this brand new, cutting-edge publishing company that we planned to start. We quickly stumbled upon the premise of naming ourselves after three of our literary heroes to create a house whose name mimicked the structure of old-fashioned NY publishers and to introduce some of our own core principles through our favourite bookish characters. There were many candidates for the roles and all of our team went to battle in a fierce bid to secure one of the allusive places for his or her personal literary VIP. Top of our list was the quick-thinking wannabe assassin from “Rogue Male” and then we realised that Household’s hero remains nameless throughout! Huckleberry Finn, Logan Mountstuart and Dino (surnameless) from Pietro Grossi’s “The Break” were all considered and disregarded. And obviously, Ed made a strong case for his favourite American Noir writer Dashiell Hammett – a name he had imagined for all three of his children, before being blessed with three gorgeous baby girls. Sadly for Ed, Hammett didn’t make the grade this time either and so he resorted to buying a dog and calling it “Dash” to compensate. Much deliberation (and coffee drinking) followed before we finalised our heroes and named our company, the winners were Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox who is tenacious in the face of adversity and endlessly inventive; Scout Finch – a brave innocent who is confident in following the beat of her own drum; and the star of Calvin Trillin’s brilliantly oddball “Tepper Isn’t Going Out”, Murray Tepper. Tepper loves to read, has great insight into consumer preferences and a real love of life’s less obvious delights – specifically, a good parking place!
Name chosen, what followed was a whirlwind of activity as Nic dusted off his law certificates and set about negotiating contracts, Ed drew a fantastic logo on the back of an envelope, we sourced and briefed brilliant local artists to create our distinctive covers, we had long, detailed (possibly very boring) conversations about paper type, binding styles and cover finishes, I typeset the text and we had many, many long phone calls with the printer.
And then, on a magical nerve-wracking day in October a truckload of boxes arrived at Mr B’s, each one packed to the brim with our very first publications: “The Shiralee” by D’Arcy Niland and “The Next Step in the Dance” by Tim Gautreaux. It felt surreal and elating to finally hold these books we had spent the last nine months nurturing – our babies had arrived and like any proud new parents, we couldn’t wait to share them with the big wide world. We had a party, lots of lovely people came, there were canapés, a cake and lots of prosecco. We gave presentations on our new titles with readings from the books from Juliette, Lucinda and Naomi – Juliette even read in an impressive Louisianan drawl! And when it was all over we ate pizza, we drank more prosecco and we grinned at each other like idiots. We were publishers – and it felt fantastic!
Keep an eye on this page, where we’ll have more news on our publishing ventures soon, but for now it’s back to the type-setting for me, as I whip book no.3 into shape…
By Kate Morris-Double