Across 2022, the Year of Stories, we are spotlighting Publishing Scotland members, who will share their own story in their own words. Get to know Black & White Publishing, the Edinburgh-based publisher behind a vast range of non-fiction titles, YA sensations and the Scots children’s book imprint Itchy Coo.
What’s your story?
Black & White Publishing was founded in 1999 by Campbell Brown and Alison McBride and we’re both still running the business. Campbell had been running another publishing business before that and Alison had worked in sales, marketing and publicity roles for several publishers after working as a bookseller at John Smith & Son and Waterstones. So we started the business with a fair bit of experience of the book trade, from different perspectives, and we had a clear idea about what we wanted to publish. That said, one of the great joys of publishing is that you never know what direction it might take you and it’s a business that’s constantly changing and challenging – usually in a good way. Most recently, in 2021, after our best-ever year, Black & White became part of Bonnier Books UK. Campbell and Alison remain as directors but we now have the backing of Bonnier’s resources which is already proving to be hugely beneficial for our authors. And we’re looking forward to this new alliance going from strength to strength in the years to come.
Tell us about some of your key stories
Having published somewhere close to 1,000 books over the years, it’s not easy to pick out just a few. There have been prize-winning books, commercially successful books and books that deserved to be published, but one of the first books we published at Black & White was Rikki Fulton’s autobiography, Is It That Time Already? Rikki was one of Scotland’s biggest entertainment stars, and his book was a huge bestseller, giving us a solid platform to grow the business from year one. We published mainly non-fiction initially, but when we published Andrew Nicoll’s beautifully written novel The Good Mayor, we also discovered how vital the rights market could be, as it sold into more than twenty territories around the world. Then, when ebooks took off, we published Watch Over Me by Daniela Sacerdoti, which sold more than 500,000 copies and became one of the most popular ebooks sold on Amazon at that time. Another big highlight has been seeing our brilliant Young Adult author, Estelle Maskame, become an international bestselling author, with global sales now in excess of 1.5 million copies. Estelle started writing when she was still at school and hers is a fantastic success story. And since 2002, our Scots language children’s imprint has produced new work and translations in Scots, including Roald Dahl titles, The Gruffalo and Harry Potter, becoming the leading Scots language imprint. Most recently, Andrew Cotter’s huge lockdown bestseller Olive, Mabel & Me, touched so many people and helped them get through an incredibly difficult time with his witty and brilliantly written tale of life and adventures with his two globally famous Labradors. There have been so many more key titles over the years but this small selection gives an idea of the range of work Black & White has published over the last twenty years.
What draws you to a story? What makes a good story?
There are so many factors that can draw you into a story. The writer, the premise, the quality of the writing, the potential market or simply a story that’s unusual or intriguing in some way. It can be a new take on a well worn theme, or something totally new that you haven’t seen before. Or something that resonates with you or you can see connecting with others. Above all, we need to care about the characters and the story, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction. And you always know when you have a story that makes you want to keep reading and keep turning the pages.
What stories should we look forward to or check out this year?
Lots to look out for in 2022, from MP Wright’s republished Windrush Noir detective series featuring JT Ellington, to Aesop’s Fables in Scots, Mairi Kidd’s brilliant We Are All Witches and more recipes and stories from Coinneach MacLeod, the Hebridean Baker, who gives us a flavour of the food and culture of the Outer Hebrides in his new book My Scottish Island Kitchen. Bestselling poet Donna Ashworth brings us three new collections in Love, Life and Loss, which will connect with everyone’s stories, and in Inside F1 Lee McKenzie tells the stories of some of the legendary Formula 1 drivers she has worked with over the years and gives us a fascinating insight into events on and off the track during her amazing career. And there are lots more stories to enjoy at www.blackandwhitepublishing.com.