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The size of Wales – measured in books

31 May 2022 4 minute read
Picture by Literature Wales

Books from Wales come in all shapes and sizes, and at least two languages. If you laid them end to end that means a lot of thoughts, words, and cultural investment!

The Welsh publishing industry is built up of a healthy number of determined independent presses that have been growing steadily in recent decades, publishing quality work in Welsh and English, that can and does make an impact on the world stage.

From hugely talented authors such as Manon Steffan Ros, whose Llyfr Glas Nebo (Y Lolfa) has sold into six or more languages, around the world, to Parthian’s translation series, which has just seen its novel, The Book of Katerina, shortlisted for the EBRD Literature Prize 2022, Wales is making its presence felt internationally.

But is this just the start of the story…?

Tomorrow (Weds) at the Hay Festival, publishers and authors will be discussing what more can be done to see books from Wales reach bookshelves around the world.

Organised by new industry body, Publishing Wales (Cyhoeddi Cymru), the event “The Size of Wales” (7pm) looks at Welsh publishing’s impact on the world, its importance to the creative sector in Wales, and cultural engagement across the globe.

A real moment

Publishing Wales Chair and University of Wales Press Director Natalie Williams said: “Collectively, the publishing sector in Wales is seeing our nation as having a real “moment”, where the world is taking note of some of the things we do here in Wales that are different.

“This creates a tremendous opportunity for publishers and authors from Wales to ensure our words travel.

“The sector in Wales is so interesting, built up of many micro and small independents and through Publishing Wales we can come together to share in this opportunity, to do the very best for the sector and the fantastic authors we have in Wales, and many from beyond who choose to publish with us.”

Chaired by BBC presenter and children’s author Lucy Owen, the event is the first Hay Festival outing for Publishing Wales, which has been set up by a group of likeminded publishers, with backing from the Books Council of Wales, to grow the industry’s profile. And it follows hard on the heels of a successful stand at the London Book Fair, to promote books from Wales to all corners of the globe.

Along with Natalie Williams and Lucy Owen, the panel includes David Bowman of Crown House publishing, award-winning author Manon Steffan Ross and Elin Haf Gruffydd Jones of Wales Literature Exchange.

International sales

One Publishing Wales founding member, Peter Gill of Graffeg, said, “Since we started Publishing Wales in February 2021, it has given us a chance to look at ourselves and the opportunities to grow publishing from Wales across media channels and international sales.”

Publishing Wales will be taking publishing members to the Frankfurt Book Fair in October this year, and to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair and the London Book Fair in 2023.

And Publishing Wales member Penny Thomas, from children’s publisher Firefly Press, said: “There are so many outstanding authors from Wales, and books published by Welsh publishers that can and should reach an international audience.

“Since Firefly employed a rights agent a few years back our international rights sales have grown hugely and we’ve sold rights everywhere from the US to Europe and China.

“But there is still so much work to do to present books from Wales on an international stage, at fairs such as Bologna and Frankfurt. And given the small size of individual companies, working together is the obvious way to do this.”

The event, the Size of Wales is in The Cube at the Hay Festival, 7pm Wednesday 1st

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