Sandstone Press is an independent publisher based in the Scottish Highlands with a growing reputation in the industry for releasing quality titles by Scottish, Irish, British and overseas writers of fiction and non-fiction.
Established in Dingwall in 2002 by writer and editor Robert Davidson, who is also a former civil engineer, Sandstone quickly moved into adult literacy, producing 12 titles in the Sandstone Vista Series in partnership with the Highland Council’s Adult Basic Education Service and Highland Adult Literacies.
The company’s early ventures managed to turn a small profit and, after some deliberation about where to go next, Sandstone decided to focus its efforts on releasing non-fiction titles. As Robert Davidson explains:
‘Readers buy fiction mainly because of the author, but they buy non-fiction because they’re interested in the subject the author is dealing with. As new publishers we couldn’t hope to attract widely known novelists, but we could work with individuals who had powerful stories to tell.’
White River by Jamie Whittle, Between Weathers by Ron McMillan and The Kerracher Man by Eric Macleod became steady sellers and Sandstone continued to pursue this route with some success. Shadow Behind the Sun by Remzije Sherifi was short-listed for both the Saltire Society and SAC/Royal Mail First Book Awards and Cairngorm John by John Allen was short-listed for the Boardman Tasker Award.
Cairngorm John - John Allen
For over thirty years John Allen was an active member of the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team and for most of them acted as Team Leader. In ‘Cairngorm John’ (his call sign when in contact with search and rescue helicopters) he recalls the challenges of mountain rescue and the many changes he has both witnessed and been a party to.
The Kerracher Man - Eric MacLeod
Back in the 70s when the world lived in smock tops and flares, Eric and Ruth MacLeod took themselves and their two small daughters off to an abandoned crofthouse in the remotest quarter of the West Highlands.
On the back of the non-fiction success, Sandstone made its first foray into fiction in 2009 with four novels and has since gone on to publish new work from a number of emerging Scottish authors as well as writers based in Norway (the company’s first titles in translation), London, South Korea and Malaysia. In 2011 it was catapulted into the limelight with the announcement that one of its titles - The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers – had been longlisted for the prestigious Man Booker Prize.
The Testament of Jessie Lamb - Jane Rogers
Set just a month or two in the future, in a world irreparably altered by an act of biological terrorism, The Testament of Jessie Lamb explores a young woman’s determination to make her life count for something, as the certainties of her childhood are ripped apart.
Sandstone’s strategy now is to continue to seek strong fiction from the UK and across the world, taking on authors from overseas who already have a good track record in their own country. Robert says:
‘We’ll soon be making an announcement about three new authors – very exciting acquisitions from Australia, Canada and the US, along with a number of other familiar and not so familiar names. However, we remain committed to our strong non-fiction list.’
As well as being dedicated to its growing readership, Sandstone Press is also committed to supporting Highland independent bookshops. One innovative initiative is a recent partnership with Loch Croispol Bookshop - one of Scotland’s most remote bookshops near Durness in Sutherland - which receives higher than normal discounts on Sandstone titles enabling it to offer them up to 35% cheaper than their RRP, helping it to compete with online and high street retailers.
The company has also embraced recent advances in the industry by making more of its titles available for download and through its use of video to help promote releases online. Featured below is the promo video for Ron McMillan's crime thriller Yin Yang Tattoo.
Creative Scotland has been closely involved with Sandstone Press both through supporting their publishing programme and through Publishing Scotland - a Creative Scotland Flexible Funded organisation.
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