If I were running Peirene for the sake of publishing books, I’d throw onto the market many more titles. Twenty to thirty annually, at least. Sex, drugs and violence. In the hope to hit a bestseller.
If I were running Peirene for the sake of saving the Anglo-Saxon reader from insularity, I’d be publishing foreign classics. Short works by known authors, such a Goethe, Flaubert, Dostoyevsky. Recognisable names and the books sell themselves.
So why do I run Peirene?
Peirene for me is a creative project. A project where I explore a different way of running a company. A feminine way.
Quality over quantity. Is product expansion the only way to success? How is success measured when you stay small? Peirene publishes three titles a year, even though by now we probably could publish more. But we won’t. I don’t want to loose control of the quality. Because: the three titles from the basis of our work but by no means the end.
Private versus public space. Since the Industrial Revolution, private and public space – work and family space – have increasingly become separated. Is that necessary? The best way? Especially for a woman who has a family? Peirene HQ is situated in our house. We receive total strangers in our front room for the Peirene Salon. Many international authors have sat in my kitchen. The waiting list for the salon is now double the length of the audience number we can admit. I could find a different venue. But the Salon – traditionally always in a woman’s house – would loose its meaning.
Nurturing a community. A play needs an audience. A story needs a reader. A book without a reader is an empty shell. As a publisher I don’t want to produce empty cardboard shells. I want to build and sustain a loyal community of readers in whose minds the stories will come to life. This is why we run pop-up stalls, distribute the Peirene newspaper at tube stations and are delighted by each new subscriber: a community is best build by word of mouth and personal contact.
Reaching beyond the community. A good text should have an effect on us beyond the last page. Like any work of art. It should try to change society for the better – however small such a change may be. So we support the Maya Centre with 50p of each book sold.
When I learn I feel alive. Peirene taught me how to combine business and creative drive. Now I only need to learn how to be patient with my ancient Greek Nymph.
Image by Christine Myaskovsky.