A leap of literary faith in the Calder Valley

As Hebden Bridge-based publishers Bluemoose Books celebrate their 10th anniversary this month Yvette Huddleston spoke to founder Kevin Duffy.

Book lover: Bluemoose Books publisher Kevin Duffy

Ten years ago this month, in Hebden Bridge a couple made a brave leap into the unknown, re-mortgaged their house and set up a publishing company.

In the decade since, Bluemoose Books has gone from strength to strength and is now one of a number of independent publishers that are currently thriving in the UK. In recent years it has not been uncommon for authors signed by many such companies to be appearing on the shortlists of major literary awards such as the Costa and the Man Booker.

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For Kevin Duffy, founder, with his wife Hetha, of Bluemoose, it was a risk that paid off. Last month their latest publication The Less Than Perfect Legend of Donna Creosote by Brighouse author Dan Micklethwaite made it on to the shortlist of the Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize, alongside five other novels, all of them from independent publishers.

“Although the industry has changed massively one of the great things for smaller independent companies is that the bigger publishers have become so huge they are leaving gaps for small independents to publish new work,” says Duffy. “The way publishing works at the moment with Amazon and the High street the bigger publishers on the whole are not taking as many creative risks as they used to. And we can.”

Back in 2006 Duffy had written Anthills and Stars, a comic novel set in Todmorden in the late 1960s which he describes as a story of an era when “the mills were closing down and the hippies were moving in”. It won a writing competition and received a lot of positive attention. Duffy was signed by an agent but in the end – despite the fact that everyone who read it loved it – his agent wasn’t able to sell the book. This provided the catalyst for the founding of Bluemoose.

“In September 2006 we published my book and Nathan Vanek’s The Bridge Between and we made enough money from those to publish others,” says Duffy. “There was a bit of vanity involved – getting my book out there – but we also wanted to get other new writers’ work out there. In the past an editor published a book because they fell in love with it but today it is more about whether something fits the economic template. Some of the classics of the past just wouldn’t be published now.”

Duffy and his team, however, are always willing to go that extra mile for a story or a writer they really believe in. “The real highlight of the past ten years has been getting new writers from manuscript to bookshelves,” he says. And they know quality when they see it – several of their books have gone on to win or be shortlisted for national and international prizes. As publishers they are motivated by a desire to bring new talent to the attention of readers. “We love books – they can be transformative. There are people out there who write fantastic stories and we take them on because we fall in love with the story.” Simple as that – and long may they continue to do so.

To celebrate their 10th anniversary Bluemoose have a special offer of two books for £10. For details visit www.bluemoosebooks.co.uk