Independent publishing is no ordinary job, it’s a way of life. There is energy and innovation amongst small presses and independent bookshops; we are symbiotically linked and interdependent.
Independent publishers are constantly open to new ideas and new ways of expressing them, and we champion our authors with passion and persuasion. Publishers are natural proselytisers. Staying radical comes naturally; staying alive is about jumping on every opportunity to sell books, partnering with like-minded people, and collaborating with inspiring organisations to work towards a shared purpose.
Myriad has grown organically from a packager of infographic atlases to a publisher of literary fiction, graphic novels and feminist nonfiction. The company was set up in 1993 by the late Anne Benewick, formerly an editor at Pluto Press, and the Hong Kong-based campaigning physician Judith Mackay OBE. Anne had commissioned Judith to produce The State of Health Atlas, the latest in a series of geopolitical atlases, when the company went into liquidation. Faced with the prospect of months of wasted work, Judith suggested setting up their own company. Audacity and tenacity made for robust first principles and Myriad was founded. Their vision, together with the pioneering combination of radical cartography and expert analysis, paved the way for today’s infographics. The flagship title, The State of the World Atlas, is now an established classic, authored by leading international peace researcher Dan Smith OBE; we will publish the 10th edition in 2020. Meanwhile, the completely redesigned new edition of Joni Seager’s feminist classic, The Women’s Atlas, was flagged by Catherine Mayer, co-founder of the Women’s Equality Party, as ‘the most important book’ published that year.
It wasn’t until 2005 that Myriad started publishing under its own imprint, with Publishing Director Candida Lacey at the helm. When the company moved from London to Brighton, we saw the opportunity to celebrate the city and the many writers and artists who come to see the sea—and decide to stay. Our first publication was The Brighton Book, a mixed-media anthology of fiction, reportage, photography and graphics. We commissioned original work from established authors, including Jeanette Winterson, Meg Rosoff and Nigella Lawson, and added new names into the mix. We went on to publish three of the featured debut authors: novelists Martine McDonagh and Lesley Thomson as well as Woodrow Phoenix’s first graphic novel, Rumble Strip (‘An utterly original work of genius’—Jon McGregor, The Times). These books formed the basis and the rationale for our publishing strategy: to seek out home-grown talent and launch the careers of new writers from Brighton and beyond.
With a small grant from the Arts Council in 2009, and again in 2011, Myriad was able to nurture local and emerging authors. Elizabeth Haynes’ debut novel, Into the Darkest Corner, was an early hit and also the foundation on which we built a publishing programme of original and compelling literary fiction that crosses boundaries and borders.
Like many small publishers, we publish books we love. Myriad’s Creative Director, Corinne Pearlman, was at the heart of the comics scene for years before we started publishing graphic novels, and this meant we could hit the ground running. Our graphics’ list has quickly become established as one of the most thought-provoking and characterful in the UK. We have built an unparalleled reputation for publishing graphic books that deal with tough, challenging subjects (graphic medicine, mental health, personal politics, economics, refugees) and political themes.
We organise two work-in-progress competitions, one for fiction (First Drafts) and the other for graphic novels (First Graphic Novel Competition), and these keep us in touch with emerging writers. Both competitions are deeply embedded in Myriad’s mission to support new talent. Both offer a rare opportunity for aspiring authors to bring their work to the attention of publishers and agents, and both have track records of launching authors who progress to achieve creative and commercial success.
In 2017 Myriad merged with New Internationalist as part of a joint plan to expand, reach wider audiences and publish books that push boundaries and embrace diversity. We’d long been admirers of the politics and purpose of New Internationalist, and they were our publishing partners for the UK editions of three of the atlases. While it made sense for both parties to pool expertise and resources, and benefit from economies of scale, the partnership marked an exciting new chapter in Myriad’s development and made it possible for us to look further afield for more diverse and international writers and readers.
Our mission is to make the personal political and the local international. We are building partnerships and sales networks to take our books to global audiences as well as bringing international authors to Myriad. Our books speak to and of global and urgent shared concerns. Myriad’s founders established the company to champion books that offer new ways of seeing. A quarter of a century later, it feels more important than ever to find new ways of seeing the world and our place within it. To this end, we are proud to publish extraordinary storytellers and their remarkable and memorable stories—fiction or nonfiction, mapped, drawn or written, these are books for our times.