Writing Wales

Flying The Flag For Independent Welsh Publishers

As small independent presses in the UK fear whether they can ride out the effects of the pandemic on their businesses, there’s no better time to show our love for these bastions of creativity and originality. Thanks to the initiative of two bloggers, Karen from kaggsysbookishramblings and Liz from the liddysiddal book blog, we have the perfect platform in the shape of their Reading Independent Publisher’s Month.

Many wonderful small presses have sprung up in the UK in recent years but I thought I’d highlight some from my own part of the world. Though the publishing sector in Wales is tiny in comparison to that of England, we do have a few publishers to champion the cause of authors who might never get a look in with the big corporate publishers.

Honno Press

It astonishes me that Honno isn’t better known. It’s one of the longest-standing women’s imprints in the UK, a smaller sister in a sense to Virago. But crucially it has retained its independent status. Formed as a co-operative in 1986 with an ethos of publishing the best in Welsh women’s writing, Honno has remained true to its roots. Today from their base in Aberystwyth, they publish novels, autobiographies and short story collections by contemporary women writers in Wales as well as out-of-print classics in Welsh and English.

I’ll be sharing more details about Honno in an upcoming post but for now I’ll leave you with a taster of their latest titles. The Heart Stone by Judith Barrow is due for publication on Feb 22 (look out for my review) and Advent by Janet Fraser which I reviewed here a few days ago.

Seren Books

Closer to my home is Seren Books which I hear is based in an attic behind a sandwich shop in the centre of Bridgend. One day I shall have to pay them a visit to see if that’s true!.

Seren specialises in English-language writing from Wales but also has a strong commitment to the Welsh language. Their philosophy is to focus on books that have “a good story told well or an idea or history presented interestingly or provocatively”. Their authors are international, with origins in Poland, Bosnia and South Africa though of course there is a strong representation from Wales. They have an impressive track record of literary awards for their poetry, prose and non fiction works.

I’ve read a number of their books and have plenty more on my shelves including Nia by Robert Minhinnik, a novel about a family in a fictitious Welsh coastal town, that I’m planning to read for the Wales Reading Month in March.

Proving that the publishing world didn’t stop when Covid struck, their latest publication is Lockdown Wales, a collection of stories about the reactions of ordinary people in Wales to the virus and how it has affected their lives. Coming out later this spring are two new poetry collections. February brings Inhale/Exile, the debut collection by Abeer Ameer, a poet of Iraqi heritage who lives in Cardiff, Wales. April will see publication of Still by Christopher Meredith, a poetry collection that meditates on the paradoxes of stillness and motion.  

Parthian Books

Parthian is a name found frequently on literary award shortlists. Hello Friend We Missed You by Richard Owain Roberts was the winner of the Guardian’s Not The Booker Award in 2020 and another of their authors, Alys Conran won the Welsh Book Of The Year with her debut novel Pigeon.

What’s interesting about this company is that they give strong support to writing and authors from Wales (their collaboration with the Library of Wales has resulted in 50 titles) but also have a very clear international focus. Their series of fiction in translation has included novels translated from Basque, Catalan, Slovakian, and Turkish.

New releases include Hana by the award-winning Czech author Alena Mornštajnová. Coming later in the year is The Hungry And The Lost by Bethany Pope which is set in swamplands of Tampa. I’m intrigued by the blurb which describes it as written in “true Southern Gothic style “, something I’ve never heard of previously. This month sees the publication of a new novel by Stevie Davies, an author who as been longlisted for the Orange Prize and the Booker Prize. The Web of Belonging sees a woman’s peaceful life in Shrewsbury turned upside down, pushing her to question the entire basis on which she has lived.

I hope I’ve convinced you that these companies are well worth keeping on your radar.

I don’t for a second want to leave you with the impression that these companies are in any more of a precarious position than any other publisher. In fact a survey by The Bookseller in summer 2020 found that A significant proportion of the UK and Ireland’s smallest independent presses say their businesses are at risk as a result of the coronavirus lockdown”.

It’s clear that all independent publishers need our support. Buying books published by these indie presses will help them keep discovering and bringing to light, new, unique and inspiring authors. One thing extra we can all do: buy direct from these publishers instead of a third party.


What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

27 thoughts on “Flying The Flag For Independent Welsh Publishers

  • alexcraigie

    All power to you!

  • Another great post, Karen. Smaller independent publishers deserve recognition and the support from the book blogging community.

    • We can have such a positive effect on them just by bringing their titles to people’s notice. The small presses typically have miniscule budgets for marketing so can’t afford to do the kinds of push that the big guys consider as standard

      • Yes. And now COVID will make finances and budgets even tighter.

  • Wonderful post, thank you for sharing these publishers. I think I have at least one book published by Seren on the shelves, but they’re all presses I’d like to support!

    • You already do so much to support the Indies Karen. Did you see my hint about making this an annual event????

      • I did! It will depend how things fit in with Lizzy and my plans, but I think she’s keen. I certainly want to keep supporting the indie presses.

        • I’ll keep my fingers crossed that she says YES. I think you’ll have great interest

    • It must be a nightmare to be a sole trader at the moment, particularly because of the uncertainty of when trading will be allowed via retail units

  • Of course I don’t know these publishers, but I’d be interested to know where the actual presses are. Do they use local printers? And for that matter, do they do they do print runs or print on demand?

  • What a great selection Karen, I’ll keep an eye our for books from these presses.

  • Angela Johnson.

    I have recently been published by the new Welsh publisher Black Bee Book,s based in Llandeilo,run by Seonaid and Huw Francis. They also have a well established Scottish company: Thunderpoint Publishing.

    • I just saw your comment on my Facebook page. A very interesting sounding venture. So good to hear of businesses starting up at a time when all the news seems to be about business closures.

  • Great post, I have joined Seren’s newsletter and they offer a 20% discount on all book purchases if you set up an account with them, which seems jolly good. The Lockdown Wales seems an important one for me to buy, as I’ve been working through lockdown on transcriptions for a book about Wales and the Miners’ Strike, and most interviewees had something to say about lockdown, so feels apt! I’m looking forward to Reading Wales month, too, as I have one book (and maybe that one) to read for it all set up and ready to go.

    • That’s fabulous Liz that one of the new titles exactly fits your interests right now. I’m very curious about the book you’re working on having lived and worked in the south wales coalfield area so experienced the way the miners strike destroyed some communities. If you can’t share any info publicly would you mind sending me a DM via Twitter with some info?

  • Great post, Karen. I have an indie practically on my doorstep (Handheld Press) and I know from brief – socially distanced – chats with Kate when she’s delivered books to me that buying direct helps indies a lot. They also tend to publish more interesting books than the conglomerates as you’ve illustrated here.

  • A wonderful post. I’m always looking for new-to-me independent presses to try and you’ve provided me with two brilliant-sounding addresses here. Thank you for drawing attention to them!

  • There are two books which I would love to read Heartstone by Judith Barrow and The Web of Belonging by Stevie Davies. just hoping that they come to this side of the world.

    • Thank you so much, Villabijou, I hope The Heart Stone does come your way.

  • Thanks, Karen. Small presses deserve support in these difficult times.And, as an author supported by Honno for the last twelve years, I can only say thank you. But there are so many brilliant authors in the Honno family who also deserve publicity – and reading!


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