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Notes from the North

Spotlight: Mayfly Press

Following on from our spotlight on New Writing North in our last issue, in this week’s Notes from the North we turn our focus to its publishing house, Mayfly Press. 


Mayfly is a rather unusual publishing house as its profits are reinvested not only into its business but also its charitable work. Revenue is split between its trading partners, Business Education Publishers Ltd and New Writing North, with the latter using profits to help support its literary programmes and promote more northern writing. The publisher is also supported by the work of the Northern Fiction Alliance, which it has been a member of since 2016


Mayfly currently has two imprints. The first is Moth Publishing, which publishes crime writing and has launched the careers of several authors in this genre, including Rebecca Muddiman and Helen Cadbury. Moth runs in conjunction with the Northern Crime Competition, the winners of which are printed by the publisher. Recent releases include Jude Brown’s His Dark Sun, which was longlisted for the Mslexia Novel Competition last year. Mayfly’s second imprint is Mayfly Books, which focuses on literary fiction and trade publications. Its books include Cree, a graphic novel by bestselling writer Una, and a commemorative edition of Crocodile Soup, the Orange Prize nominee by Julia Darling.


The range of books across both imprints include an interesting variety of up-and-coming northern writers and established popular authors, allowing the publisher to highlight both debut titles and anticipated releases. 


Review: Up North Podcast

The past fortnight saw the announcement and first episode of Up North Books, a new podcast started by Kate Baguley and Beth Barker, two of our very own industry hopefuls. The project is yet another in a recent string of initiatives aiming to give more airtime to northern books and publishing, and its announcement was received with much support on social media.


Their first episode might only be thirty-two minutes long, but Kate and Beth cover a record four books published by northern authors and presses that they have recently enjoyed. The first is Jessica Andrews’ Saltwater, last year’s acclaimed debut by the Sunderland-born author, which won the 2020 Portico Prize. The novel addresses the class barrier of attending a prestigious university as a working-class woman, and Beth observed how the book spoke to her own experience of starting university, appreciating how Andrews gives voice to a topic hitherto overlooked in literature.


Next up is Luke Brown’s Theft, a novel partially set in a run-down seaside town close to where both Kate and Beth grew up. They were delighted to see the town featured in a novel, and Kate suggested the feeling of seeing your little-known hometown appear in literature is like finding your name on a keyring in a tourist shop as a child.


Third on the list is The Book of Sheffield, which Kate received as a present upon leaving the city, where she attended university. She adored the book, published by Comma Press, noting how the stories in the anthology made Newcastle something tangible for her. 


The final book on Kate and Beth’s list was the much-hyped Boy Parts by Newcastle-born Eliza Clark, a dark subversion of the male gaze and a skilful creation of an unreliable narrator. Both Kate and Beth loved Clark’s quick take on contemporary class issues and found the book a riotous look at the North-South divide, in keeping with the theme of the podcast. 

The first episode of Up North Books was a resounding success – we only worry that, if they manage to cover so much ground in upcoming episodes, our reading lists will be out of control! 


Northern Powerhouse


When the pandemic reached the UK in March, it became clear to most of us that some things would never go back to the way they were before. Some of these changes will constitute loss, but some will likely reveal a flexibility that we did not know we had, or did not utilise properly, in the pre-COVID-19 era. 


This was certainly the tone at SYP (Society of Young Publishers) North’s live online webinar on 18 August, the first in their series of Northern Powerhouse events, in which northern industry professionals gather to discuss the growing momentum of a northern publishing scene that will likely flourish thanks to the changing working conditions brought about by the past few turbulent months. Heading the discussion were panellists Beth Barker, Events Co-ordinator for SYP North, Alice Murphy-Pyle, Head of Marketing at Harper North, and Emma Layfield, Picture Book Development Co-ordinator at Hachette Children’s.


When asked why the long-overdue move of mainstream trade publishing to the North has just come about, Emma said that Hachette has been working with regional authors for a long time, but the remote-working facilitated by the pandemic has made the possibility of publishing from a distance into a reality. She suggested that the new locations will bring about huge benefits, since publishers need to be in an area to really get a feel for the kinds of readers they are targeting and what will sell well. 


Similarly, Alice noted that being based in the North will allow publishers to work more closely with booksellers, the cornerstone of the industry, and that in five years’ time it will seem incredulous that the industry has been so London-centric for so long. Here’s hoping!