My name is Rónán Hession, and I’ll be guest editor for the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative blog throughout October. I am an Irish novelist and musician based in Dublin, but I am also an enthusiastic reader of international literature.
I think my interest in independent publishing comes from my music background. As a musician I spent twenty years on the indie music scene in Dublin, running a small record label, putting on gigs, releasing music and collaborating with others in the local artistic community. I have always been drawn to creative people with vision, and in particular to those on the outside of the cultural conversation whose influence nevertheless shapes it. My music tastes were influenced by great indie labels like 4AD, Domino, Creation, Factory, Sub Pop and many others. I trusted their taste and so would explore their releases blind in the hope of discovering something new. The same habit has brought me to follow many of the great independent publishers working today.
While it’s important to celebrate these publishers, they would be the first to say that their prime ambition is to create a platform for their writers and translators. Many maintain relationships with writers throughout their careers and undertake tireless work to put books in the hands of book lovers: everything from finding translators, sourcing funding, arranging quality printing, designing artwork and working through the book community on social media.
Independent publishers have played a leading role in bringing diversity to publishing. As 95% of the world’s population is from countries where English is not the first language, it is important to have publishers who bring us voices from beyond the language barrier. Culture is a picture, and the more pixels we have, the richer the image. The track record of independent publishers in this area is exemplary and a model for larger publishers to follow.
Like many readers I have supported independent publishers with subscriptions, pre-orders, or simply by discussing and taking seriously the books they put out. One of the most exciting things for me is to see a bulky envelope arrive with a logo from Charco, Tilted Axis, Istros Books or other publisher on the label, knowing that it will contain work by a possibly unfamiliar writer and translator that will challenge, surprise and engage me. I hope that over the course of October, readers will connect with these publishers and join in championing the work they do.
Rónán Hession is an Irish writer based in Dublin. His debut novel Leonard and Hungry Paul was published by Bluemoose Books in the UK and by Melville House Books in the US. His second Novel Panenka will be published in 2021. Leonard and Hungry Paul has been nominated for a number of prizes, including the Irish Novel of the Year and the British Book Award for Best Debut. His third album Dictionary Crimes was nominated for the Choice Music Prize for Irish album of the year. Rónán has also written articles about books and writing for The Irish Times.