Interview with Corinne Souza of Picnic Publishing

Picnic Publishing is a small independent book publisher based in the UK. We contacted Corinne Souza, one of the faces behind Picnic to talk about the books and the business…

Cat On The Wall: Picnic is a relatively new publishing house. How did it come into being and why when there are already quite a few publishing houses on the market?

Corinne Souza: Argh. There is a phrase going around which goes something like ‘there are too many books on the market’; ‘there are too many publishers’. I suspect the originators are the major houses because they have a lot invested in a few titles. The only people counting the number of publishers are the accountants and shareholders of the major houses. The latter use their might – and boy do they have might – to make sure the little ‘uns fail. And I guess they could well succeed if the little ‘uns like Picnic, and no matter how good their titles, are under-capitalised.

If your readers are considering setting up a publishing house they should do two things – first, get the capital in place; second a list. We were stupid because we were into books and had a great list but, ho-hum, forgot about the dosh bit… If, on the other hand, your readers are writers considering a smaller publisher, they should also consider two things: do they want a publisher who reads books or do they want a publisher who reads balance sheets. Of course, if they are smart enough to have spotted the flaw in those questions they don’t need any advice anyway.

COTW: Who is behind Picnic?

CS: I take it you don’t mean who wishes Picnic well i.e. you are being rather more specific. Well – fools I guess we are – my partner Richard and I put up the money. We did not realise the biggest recession in living memory was just around the corner…

COTW: Corinne, has being a writer yourself influenced your involvement with Picnic? (we assume that you are not just an author on the roster)

CS: Aw shucks. Did you have to read the website so carefully?! Yes, it did. I wanted to write fiction but my then publishers wanted me to stick to my previous non-fiction genres. So I wrote my thriller anyway and it was turned down everywhere I went. I then decided to publish it myself principally because ‘vanity publishing’ is what so many of the major houses have been doing for years but nobody is allowed to say so.

Next, and before we published my novel, a few of us wondered whether there was anything else out there. Up went the website and we simply could not believe the result. Stuff just poured in. Some of it was real drivel. However, some of it was just brilliant. I cannot begin to tell you how humble we felt and will always be sad we had to turn so much good stuff down because we simply couldn’t do it because we were just too small.

COTW: Picnic is offering ‘reading treats to suit all’. That doesn’t seem to be different from major publishing houses: what makes Picnic unique?

CS: Ahem. I guess the moral is never expect irony to be understood. We are offering
‘reading treats to suit all’ because we believe the major publishing houses do not do so…

COTW: How important is the role of illustrators and/or photographers in the making of a publication?

CS: Vital when it comes to cover design; vital in children’s books i.e. anything that requires illustration or photography. Not sure what will happen with Kindle/Sony Reader though because for the moment anyway e-readers don’t do colour…

COTW: Please tell us about any exciting forthcoming Picnic releases…

CS: Let me do some boasting first. One of our non-fiction ‘Empires apart: the Americans and Russians from the Vikings to Iraq’ has just won the Non-Fiction Monthly Ballot in the People’s Book Prize. It has also been sold to Pegasus in the U.S. as well as to Penguin India. Not bad for an upstart publisher like Picnic. Another of our titles, ‘The Ghosts of Eden’, missed the Fiction top slot in the same ballot by four votes. Another favourite, ‘Kill-Grief’, has not gone into the People’s Book Prize Ballot yet. However, it went into the ‘Exclusively Independent’ initiative run by Legend Press and funded by the Arts Council and has sold more copies than any other title going into the same initiative. I cannot begin to tell you how proud we are of the writers – of all our writers – those three are only the start and we are just thrilled.

As for new releases in 2010 – not that we have had time to update our website for months – look out for a simply brilliant novel about four generations of women from Iran. It is a sort of ‘Wild Swans’ – but about Persia rather than China…

Find out more about Picnic Publishing here!

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