Alma Books was founded in 2005 by Alessandro Gallenzi and Elisabetta Minervini, the founders of the classics publisher Hesperus Press, who wanted to apply their successful formula of high editorial and production quality and an international focus to contemporary literature. Meanwhile, in order to continue with classics publishing, but with a more ambitious scope, Alma Classics (originally called Oneworld Classics) was founded. As well as commissioning new translations of major works and rediscovering unjustly neglected classics, Alma Classics benefited from the acquisition of Calder Publications, with its impressive backlist of twentieth-century European classics.
What are the editorial objectives for Alma Books?
The editorial objectives for Alma Books and Alma Classics is centred on quality. The emphasis for both imprints is on quality above quantity, from the selection process and the editing down to the design, production and marketing of the titles. Giving voice to both major names and exciting new talent, as well as supporting international literature in translation, are also major priorities.
How many titles do you publish annually and how do you chose what to publish?
Alma Books generally publishes around 15 new titles a year, Alma Classics around 40. For the contemporary list we correspond actively with agents, but also consider direct submissions and keep an eye on other channels such as prizes and competitions for aspiring authors. Our editorial team has the advantage of being fluent in many languages and familiar with a wide range of international literatures. This expertise also helps us identify classics which would have potential in our list, an approach which is complemented by recommendations from translators and collaborators and regular research in libraries and archives.
What do you see as your primary market and readers?
It is important to us that our books reach a wide audience, and this is reflected in our selection, design and pricing policies. For the classics, we try to target casual readers, enthusiasts, as well as students. We do this by combining attractive and accessible design with helpful annotations and background material, all at a competitive price.
What are the main challenges and opportunities you see at the moment for independent publishers?
Independent publishers are all facing the challenges posed by the digital revolution, as well as the consolidation of big retail groups and the decline of independent and high-street booksellers. Perhaps being independent is an advantage in that it helps you stay and flexible and on the front foot when facing these technological and economic shifts. Globalization and the internet (and social networking specifically) has arguably levelled the playing field somewhat and can help independents reach audiences that were previously more difficult to access without a large marketing machine. The personalized touch and the emphasis on quality and originality that independents can ensure will hopefully remain sought after by certain audiences.
What books are you most proud of having published?
For Alma Books, I would say REMAINDER, the debut by Tom McCarthy, who is now confirming himself as one of the major British twenty-first-century writers, and THE RAT-CATCHER by Alexander Terekhov, a brilliant satire of post-Soviet Russia as well as a darkly hilarious allegory of human nature in general. For Alma Classics, our new edition of Joyce's ULYSSES with over 9,000 notes by Sam Slote and our beautifully produced new translation of the complete DIVINE COMEDY by Dante represent a new milestone for us.
What have you published most recently, and what do you have coming out soon?
For Alma Books, 2012 saw the publication of many exciting books such as Clara Sanchez's prize-winning THE SCENT OF LEMON LEAVES, Anthony McCarten's BRILLIANCE and Louise Miller's fascinating non-fiction title A FINE BROTHER. A book to watch out for in 2013 is Roland Watson-Grant's debut novel SKETCHER – which we can't wait for everyone to read.
Alma Classics signed off 2012 with a major relaunch and important titles such as the Joyce and Dante masterpieces mentioned bove, as well as translations of twentieth-century classics such as Céline's GUIGNOL'S BAND and Bulgakov's THE WHITE GUARD. In 2013 we will be continuing our successful Fitzgerald series with the short-story collections TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE and ALL THE SAD YOUNG MEN, and publishing many translations such as Pushkin's LOVE POEMS.
Thanks very much to Marina Rodrigues for answering our questions. You can read the first chapter of Roland Watson-Grant's SKETCHER in our Fiction section.