Many people assume that publishers make a lot of money. It is true, many larger presses make hundreds of millions in profit each year. Indeed, the Big 5 publishers make most of the huge profits. Most very small presses in the UK that publish poetry and literature, however, continue with additional funding, usually from the Arts Council or other sources, private or organisational.

You might think it odd that a business could act like a charity, and ask for hand-outs - and some people don't like a model where cultural enterprises receive support from governments. The current UK government cut funding for the arts in London considerably. The English National Opera has had to move out of London, and Hampstead Theatre, a great cultural endeavour, had its ACE funding cut 100% in the last round.

BSPG has never received money in a block grant from the ACE - some other smaller presses - many outside London - do receive tens of thousands every few years, but fewer do these days. And of course they use the money well for important work.

The reason that small presses focused on publishing poetry and literature often require additional sources of income, is because a) more literary and less commercial books by less-well-known writers often sell less well and b) the costs to print and ship books has risen sharply since the pandemic and c) the competition for attention is now more fierce than ever and d) places to receive reviews are drying up.

If you are on social media, you will see the flurry of book promotions. It is difficult to sell books these days when there are many better-marketed books by more famous celebrity writers; small presses do their best, with book trailers, and TikTok, and so on, but it is often a struggle.

BSPG is no different. It rarely if ever makes much of a profit, and all the money it makes is put back into growing the business, which means paying more people to make more books.

We need support, like never before, to make up our profit-shortfall, which we anticipate when we see year-end sales figures.

Now, the Darwinians among you may say, if you cannot survive on profit, you are a zombie company, and should close.

That may work for non-cultural enterprises, but small press publishing is nearly unique in being a business that seeks to survive by selling important acts of free expression.

By definition, when a truly independent small press closes, the avenues and opportunities for freedom and creativity are limited a bit more. And, in the world of Trump, global heating, brutal wars, oppression and divisive hate, open and free creative expression is more essential than ever. Truths and stories must be told.

Books still carry great weight in delivering these things. Now, people ask why not self-publish, but small presses can still curate better than self-publishing, and offer other services, and skills and experience, towards editing, book design, and distribution.

BSPG is especially vital because it is open to un-agented writers; and is also open to a very diverse range of views and beliefs and identities, and has fearlessly published many avant-garde, daring and outspoken works. It is also not limited by genre or format, and publishes essays, memoirs, non-fiction, as well as poetry, plays and fiction. This is part of its vision, to be small but broadly open to all kinds of writing and writers, everywhere. It can act as a beacon, especially with support.

For example, our LGBTQ+ Furnace Creek is a classic in the making, with endorsements from Michael Cunningham among others. We also published a law book this year, which was a Times law book of the summer. And recently, the press published a powerful satire and pro-immigration book by London author Adam Temple, of Nigerian ancestry, exploring the arrival of a Black alien to London's W9 area. Indeed, we published 35 excellent and innovative titles in 2023.

We are open to various opinions and we celebrate eccentric and original thinking. That is why we were one of the first presses in the world to embrace publishing NFT poets like the world-respected artist and writer and poet Sasha Stiles; and why we recently published the unusual and brilliant new book of haiku, Incantations by the leading writer Steven Nightingale.

We seek the bold, the significant, the necessary, voices, creators, and messages. These don't always sell exceptionally well. But these books contribute so much to our cultural well-being.

Please consider being an investor IN BOOKS, IN CULTURE. Please consider being a donor. Or asking for equity.

We hope to grow and become increasingly self-sustaining, especially with our more commercial lists, like the crime series edited by Luca Veste, and endorsed by Lee Child, but we rely on generosity and brilliant philanthropy also, like a lot of smaller cultural enterprises.

Merry Christmas and help us in 2024 to keep doing what we do: Make great books for great readers.




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