A Little Bird Told Me that No Bookmarks Are Required

A little while ago I invited top writer/teacher/publisher chap, Nicholas Royle to come on the blog and say a little about Nightjar Press, the small press he runs which publishes individual short stories as chapbooks (an idea that I think is just brilliant).

And, top chap that he is, he agreed.

So here’s what he had to say about Nightjar Press:


We don’t give away free promotional bookmarks at Nightjar Press. We don’t need to. You don’t need a bookmark for something that’s only 12 or 16 pages long, and four of those are prelims. Nightjar Press publishes individual short stories in the form of chapbooks. What are chapbooks? They’re not books for chaps. Well, no more than they are books for women. They’re not books either about or made from leather protective coverings for trousers. They’re pamphlets or booklets. They used to be sold by travelling salesmen or chapmen. Chapbooks.
In 1987 I read a story by Joel Lane, ‘The Foggy, Foggy Dew’, in The Year’s Best Horror Stories XV edited by Karl Edward Wagner. It was a wonderful story, poignant and creepy; the editor’s notes said it had been published originally as a small-press booklet. I wanted to own an original. I wanted to see what form that might take. How could a short story have been published on its own? It didn’t quite make sense, somehow. It didn’t add up.
Some time later, having made contact with Joel Lane, I received from him a photocopy of the original publication – the chapbook – in which it had appeared. It was almost as good as the real thing. Almost. The name of Mark Valentine, the publisher, acquired iconic status for me. I gazed admiringly, longingly at the elaborate typeface he had used for his colophon. There was no point in writing to him, though, as Joel had told me the title was out of print.
Later still, I did get an original. Either Joel sent me one or Mark did, or I bought it online from a collector. I don’t remember and it’s not important. What was important was that the seeds had been sown. I wanted to publish some of these things. In the early 90s I dabbled in small-press book publishing (a couple of anthologies and a collection of Joel’s stories) and a few years ago I felt the urge to return to that shadowy world. This time with chapbooks.
I do two in the spring, two in the autumn. Editions of 200 or 300, all copies numbered and signed by the author. There’s not a lot of money in this game, but I am enriched. I get as much enjoyment and satisfaction from publishing these tiny things as I used to get from editing anthologies for Penguin and Gollancz. Short stories are special; sometimes they deserve their own individual covers. I’m enormously fortunate to be working with a brilliant designer, John Oakey, who understands that simplicity is the key. A clean, simple, consistent look; attention to detail; peerless professionalism. And no less lucky to enjoy the support and understanding of my hard-working wife. There are now six chapbooks. The first two – by Michael Marshall Smith and Tom Fletcher – are sold out. I receive requests for copies almost daily. The next pair, by Joel Lane and Alison Moore, are still in print and available. And the two latest Nightjars, by RB Russell and Mark Valentine, are just out. I am, of course, delighted to be publishing a new story by Mark Valentine, without whom I might never have developed a taste for the chapbook in the first place.”
Thanks to Nicholas for that. And if anyone would like to get in touch with him, they can do so by emailing him at nicholasroyle at mac dot com.

6 Comments on “A Little Bird Told Me that No Bookmarks Are Required

  1.  by  Dan Purdue

    Nightjar sounds interesting – I'll take a look at their stuff. Plus, Joel Lane was one of the speakers on a writing day-course thing I attended last year. I'd been meaning to get hold of some of his work, but couldn't remember his surname. So, a double helping of thanks for posting this, Nik.

  2.  by  Tom C

    Fantastic idea – the only problem is where I would find them. They sound like the sort of thing that would be an impulse buy when browsing round a bookshop – something I rarely do these days.

  3.  by  Nik Perring

    Hi Tom.I got mine direct from Nicholas (via a quick email and popping a cheque in the post). If you're interested I'd suggest dropping him an email (nicholasroyle at mac dot com) to find out what's on offer.Nik

  4.  by  New Writer

    It's a brilliant idea and giving power to the short story, rather than herding them together in chunky anthologies. I wasn't sure what a chapbook was until I saw these in the flesh at Manchester book market; I was taken aback by their efficient simplicity. Chapbooks have a mystique about them.

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