About Long Barn Books
I had always taken an interest in the publishing side of books as well as actually writing them, but it never occurred to me that I might become a publisher myself.
In 1997, I had written four short stories but didn’t seem to have ideas for any more, and four is not enough for any sort of collection. So I could wait, or ….
I decided I would like to publish them myself in a small book.
One night I was looking out of the window in the Cotswolds house where I then lived at our old long barn which had three arches – openings, not filled by doors – and I thought ‘Long Barn Books.’ The logo came with the title.
The next day I happened to open Virginia Woolf’s Diaries and read, ‘Just back from staying with Vita at Long Barn.’ It was clearly meant. I had always admired Virginia Woolf and not only as a writer. She was a small publisher too. With her husband, Leonard she founded the Hogarth Press. What was good enough for VW… And she was hands on, even printing the books – not something I had ambitions to do – as well as editing, packing and despatching them.
I started the imprint with the small paperback of Listening to the Orchestra and Other Stories which sold almost 12,000 copies. I was not planning to publish my own books in general. Self-publishing had quite a stigma back then and I had a very good traditional publisher. But I was having fun so I started to look around for books by other people.
Manuscripts started to come my way by some sort of serendipity because writer friends wanted to support my enterprise. I published Roy Strong’s On Happiness, and Ronald Blythe’s essay collection, Going to Meet George and Other Outings. They both did well.
I decided to dip my toe in the waters of fiction by finding good new writers who had trouble finding a publisher. I launched the Long Barn Books First Novel Competition, which brought me three superb winners, all of which sold well.
Chris Ewan, in particular, continued with me for three books of his caper-crime series, The Good Thief’s Guide to… and he is now a major bestselling thriller writer published by Faber and in America by St Martin’s Press. I am so proud to have started him off.
My biggest bestseller was Counting My Chickens by Deborah Duchess of Devonshire which sold almost 100,000 copies. Monumental for the country’s tiniest publisher.
I had rather neglected my own writing for publishing so I let Long Barn Books take a back seat for a few years while I caught up. Now I`m back with some of my own back-list titles brought into print again, plus books by others.
I`m also launching Little Barn Books, a children’s imprint, with books for the 6-9 age range. As before, I decided to practice on myself first, so the first Little Barn titles are about Billy-William Bigheart and his friends in Jubilee Road.
I look back at my optimism and even foolhardiness of almost 20 years ago and blush. There were a lot of mistakes and a very steep learning curve.
I had and have no staff or business premises – but I have built up a wonderful team of designers, editorial freelances, copy editors and proof readers without whom I could not run LBB at all.
And I have a very good big kitchen table.