Questions by Victoria, answers by Helena Earnshaw
1. How did Honno Press come into being?
Honno Welsh Women’s Press began in 1986, set up as a co-operative press, after a group of determined volunteers met around the kitchen table in a Cardiff house with the ambition to set up a Welsh women’s press – to increase the opportunities for Welsh women in publishing and bring Welsh women’s literature to a wider public. We have the following principles as our foundation: to provide a feminist perspective; to give Welsh women writers an opportunity to see their work published; to get earlier important, but neglected, writing by Welsh women back into print; and to provide employment in publishing for women in Wales. 30 years later Honno is an award winning publisher and still believes passionately in the company’s founding principles.
2. And how are you managed and organised?
There are four part-time staff who do the day to day business of Honno – reading and selecting manuscripts, managing the production process, doing the marketing, managing our fnances etc. We all report to a volunteer committee who individually manage some of our output – the Classics in both Welsh and English are managed by committee members, for instance. We are fortunate to have some very dynamic and successful women on the committee, including two of the original co- founders.
3. What do the contents of your submission bag look like?
Mixed – Honno is willing to look at any full length works of fiction or non-fiction provided that the authors meet our acceptance criteria (being female and either born or resident in Wales). We don’t consider children’s fiction or poetry at the moment, though we review this periodically. We receive submissions from writers who have just finished university and those who have written their first book in retirement. The record being held by Myrrha Stanford Smith whose first book was published when she was 83!
4. Do you think there is a particular or unique quality to Welsh writing by women authors?
That’s a difficult one – and I’m not Welsh born myself so I’m not sure I’m fully qualified to comment! We take on books we believe in, which represent a viable commercial prospect and which are well written within their genre. We like to find new writers, mentor them and bring them to a new audience. We have English born writers who live and write in Wales, Welsh born writers living in England and further afield and Welsh language writers who are translated into English – each has their own unique voice.
5. Tell us a little bit about some of your most long-standing authors, and some of your most successful books.
Jo Verity is one of our most longstanding authors – we have published five wonderful books from Jo, the first one in 2005. She writers moving and sometimes very funny character driven stories that will appeal to a wide age range of women readers. Their settings vary from Cardiff, to West Wales and London. Our most successful – in terms of numbers of copies sold – is Thorne Moore’s title A Time for Silence, which reached the giddy height of no. 9 in the Bookseller Magazine’s ebook top ten in 2014.
6. How has the digital revolution in publishing affected you?
Mostly it has been a very positive revolution for Honno. Reaching readers can be very hard for a small independent, and ebooks have levelled the playing field somewhat (even as it has introduced different challenges). It has also meant much more guesswork in terms of how large a print run to do, but again, the positive side of that has been that we can keep a book ‘in print’ and being read once the last physical copy has sold.
7. What plans does Honno Press have for the future?
First and foremost to continue to publish interesting, widely read fiction by Welsh women writers for another thirty years (or more)! We are looking to expand our non-fiction offering and to look at how we use our website and social media to promote Welsh writing in Wales and beyond its borders.
8. In your office, what are you all currently reading?
We have quite eclectic tastes in the office, with a range of fiction and non-fiction read, at the moment we are all reading contemporary fiction.
- Helena is reading Hieroglyphics And Other Stories by Donovan by Anne Donavan.
- Lesley is reading What a Way to Go by Julia Forster
- Ali is reading by Sombrero Fallout by Richard Brautigan
- Caroline is reading I Saw a Man by Owen Sheers
Read Victoria’s review of Honno title Girl in Profile by Zillah Bethell here.