Work by Edith Sitwell, Monica Dickens and VS Pritchett are among 230 previously out-of-print titles that are launching the publisher's new Ebook list.
Hundreds of forgotten classics by authors including Edith Sitwell, Monica Dickens, VS Pritchett and HRF Keating are being brought back to life through a new digital imprint launched today by Harry Potter publisher Bloomsbury.
Books by the politicians Alan Clark and Ted Heath, travel and fiction writer Hilaire Belloc, Jewish author Chaim Bermant, poet Cecil Day-Lewis and novelist Ivy Compton-Burnett – a favourite of Hilary Mantel – number among the 230 being released digitally by Bloomsbury today, with Evelyn Waugh’s elder brother Alec coming back into print alongside Sitwell’s younger brother Sacheverell. Covering romance, crime, children’s stories, science fiction, politics, travel writing, biographies, prose and poetry, Bloomsbury has worked with estates and literary agencies to acquire rights in works it believes should not have fallen out of print, and will increase the list to 500 titles over the coming months.
From Keating’s 1978 science fiction novel A Long Walk to Wimbledon, about a man trekking across a devastated, looted London to save his estranged wife, to Sitwell’s poetry collection Gardeners and Astronomers and a host of titles from Monica Dickens – great granddaughter of Charles – the Bloomsbury Reader list will be focused on ebooks, but will also make its titles available through print-on-demand.
Alec Waugh features with his first novel The Loom of Youth, a semi-autobiographical reflection on his schooldays, which caused controversy when it was published for its mentions of homosexual relationships between the boys but was still a bestseller.
William Sitwell, Edith and Sacheverell Sitwell’s great-nephew and guardian of their estates, said the project was “fantastic” and one his great aunt and uncle – a travel writer and poet – would have relished. “The key thing for poets, especially dead ones, is to try and encourage as many people as possible to read them and to give access to as many people as possible,” he said. “This is something [Edith and Sacheverell] would have loved. The Sitwells were always great promoters of young artists and were always very keen to rock the establishment in challenging people’s perceptions and encouraging young people to wake up and get interested in art. Bloomsbury Reader is doing exactly that – it’s very much the spirit of what they would have liked and I think it is unbelievably exciting.”
The ebooks will be sold for £6.98 in the UK and $8.99 in the US. “We’re not pricing them too low – we think this is an appropriate price, lower than a frontlist paperback but not so low it undervalues the book itself,” said Bloomsbury Reader publisher Stephanie Duncan. “With the constant downward pressure on book pricing we risk running into a situation where authors are unable to write – we want to maintain the value of the book itself.”
Royalties “slightly higher” than usual are being paid to authors and estates involved in the project, but no advances.
“There is a real appetite here to bring these books back to life and get people talking about them,” said Duncan. “For someone like HRF Keating, his Inspector Ghote books will constantly be in print but then fans will want to read everything he wrote – and that’s where we come in.”
Books by crime and espionage writers Edmund Crispin, Adrian Alington, Gavin Lyall, Rupert Croft-Cooke, Margery Allingham, Nicholas Freeling, Harry Carmichael and Hartley Howard are also being relaunched by Bloomsbury, along with works by biographers Roy Jenkins, Ronald Clark, and Frances Donaldson, children’s fiction writer Bill Naughton, actor Dirk Bogarde and British authors Ruby Ayres, EM Delafield, Rose Macaulay, Margaret Irwin, Bernice Rubens and Storm Jameson. The publisher is “open to suggestions from readers” about other forgotten titles it should be considering for its new list. “Let us know if there are some classics we could publish,” said Duncan.