By Megan Cooke, Mara Radut and Millie Kiel
EnvelopeBooks is a new independent publishing house founded in the summer of 2020. An offshoot of Booklaunch, a quarterly books and publishing freesheet that makes its way to 50,000 homes per issue, the EnvelopeBooks imprint is dedicated to working with authors to produce high-quality books.
Dr Stephen Games, the magazine’s founder, initially started writing Booklaunch as a means of showcasing new authors and bringing the bookshop browsing experience to the locked-down UK. It is through this that he encountered the first book he would publish: Postmark Africa.
“The first book to come my way was so promising that I first tried to get it sold to a mainstream publisher, then offered to do it myself.” stated Dr Games, “And it has grown since there.”
It was also through this initial publication that the idea behind the EnvelopeBooks imprint was brought forward as the title, Postmark Africa, inspired the envelope-oriented design that would become a staple for the publisher’s future titles. Every title since has had an envelope-style cover that represents the contents of the book with books set overseas being designed as an airmail envelope.
EnvelopeBooks intends to publish both fiction and non-fiction, however, the three books that are currently available from the imprint are all non-fiction memoirs.
EnvelopeBooks is a breath of fresh air, its authentic principles are very much in line with a prominent dichotomy within our current capitalist society: quality versus profit.
Dr Stephen Games is an enthusiast of unexplored dimensions – of both the mind and the world. The carefully picked and curated material of EnvelopeBooks is all his doing: he believes that opting for quality in something niche or unconventional far outweighs the risks of a potential failure. Fostering creativity in any industry heavily relies on the atypical and the less discussed, and these books are not afraid to talk.
A "postal service of the mind," EnvelopeBooks delivers to a high standard. Forever focused on quality, the imprint promises to provide only the best material.
Some comical, some serious-minded, the books do not offer the imprint a clear-cut commercial identity… But should there even be one? With a prevalent focus on history, colonialism and travel, the publications of EnvelopeBooks draw attention to resurgent issues of the past and their echoes in today's society without judging you, cancelling you or being in your face. They provide rare food for thought, an feast for the brain.
Alongside Postmark Africa, the list currently includes publications as varied as a debut novel from Kirby Porter on loss and memory, and a memoir of an Edwardian childhood and the trauma of the First World War.
The first book published by EnvelopeBooks, Postmark Africa, is at once a history and a memoir. Written by Michael Holman, the journalist and writer who served as the Africa Editor of the Financial Times between 1984 and 2002, it offers a unique insight on sub-Saharan Africa. Holman’s first-hand accounts of events, such as the atrocities in Rhodesia during the 1960s, appear alongside interviews with the leaders and people on the ground, and the result offers the reader a broad perspective. “I thought it was fresh and an eye-opener,” Dr. Games observed, “so I took it on.”
What is notable about EnvelopeBooks is the prestige it has already gained in its short time on the scene. Across its first three publications, the imprint has garnered high praise from a host of influential and informed figures, from John Githongo to Ed Balls, and even Gyles Brandreth.
The next title due to come out is Janina David’s The Hopeful Traveller. Described as “a world tour that is nostalgic for earlier times without being sentimental,” this collection of short stories follows a collection of single women narrators, each on her own journey around post-war Europe in the 1950s and 60s. In the changed world following World War Two, but prior to the birth of second-wave feminism, the women are at once cosmopolitan, confident and conventional in many ways, but never far from dislocation in the fractured world they are travelling through. The Hopeful Traveller is due for publication on 4 September 2021.
EnvelopeBooks’ offshoot, PostcardBooks, offers shorter manuscripts intended to convey simpler messages from eyewitnesses. The two titles currently on the list – Sand in my Shoes by Linda Lubbe, and Nell Norah Jane by Jane Reid – are due to be published soon.
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