Only the Crème de la Crème: Sarah Davis-Goff Interview

Posted November 20, 2014 in Print

Last weekend, Dublin reaffirmed its love of literature with the annual Dublin Book Festival. Authors and book lovers came together to discuss writing, reading, and the publishing industry, among them Sarah Davis-Goff, co-founder of Tramp Press. On Sunday, Davis-Goff took part in a Meet the Publishers and Agents panel to discuss her views on the literary world.

Davis-Goff has worked in the publishing industry in America, the UK, and Ireland and has gathered experience at multiple companies. Presses such as Penguin, Continuum, and the Lilliput Press have given her a detailed understanding of the industry. While she made her decision to go into the literary world while attending undergraduate studies in America, she first became interested in publishing during a school English class. She remembers loving Lord of the Flies and learning about the difficulties William Golding had in getting his classic novel published.

‘Ever since then, I was sort of concerned that there were these burning works of literature out there that hadn’t been discovered and hadn’t been given a chance,’ said Davis-Goff.

After her time at Lilliput Press, Davis-Goff and her colleague Lisa Coen got the idea to launch their own publishing agency. Both Davis-Goff and Coen had developed considerable experience in publishing and decided to use their expertise to improve the industry. Thus, Tramp Press was born.

‘We view ourselves as an arts organization as much as a business,’ said Davis-Goff. ‘We’re about putting out cultural capital.’

One of the things Davis-Goff and Coen hoped to change with Tramp Press was the communication with writers. The company makes an effort to reply to submissions with an acknowledgement email within 48 hours and have a manuscript read within a month of receiving it. This approach has definitely attracted many writers. By the end of this year, Tramp Press will have received about 1,000 submissions. However, the focus of the company is the quality of the books they produce, not the quantity. Unlike many other publishing companies, which make a quota for the number of books they will publish each year and ensure that they meet this goal, Tramp Press only publishes manuscripts that they believe are true quality.

‘Lisa and I just want to publish those few books that are so absolutely fantastic that we can’t help but publish them,’ said Davis-Goff.

She says that she loves the publishing industry in Ireland. With such a rich literary history, companies here are especially open to quality books. People such as James Joyce and Seamus Heaney are part of the typical conversation and help foster an environment in which people get excited about literature.

‘We’re incredibly lucky in Ireland in a couple of ways, that I think you don’t find in other countries,’ said Davis-Goff. ‘Literature is…just so ingrained in our…in our everyday cultural experience.’

In addition, Davis-Goff mentioned how grateful she felt for the community of publishers she is a part of in Ireland. As a part of Dublin Independent Publishers, she enjoys the opportunity to come together with others in the industry, share resources, and chat about the recent developments. In addition, the group organises various events to promote literature around the city, such as the Christmas book fair next month, which will be held on December 14th at the James Joyce Centre.

‘We’re really lucky to…be part of a really vibrant publishing community,’ said Davis-Goff. ‘We all talk to each other and we’ve all got things in common that we’re trying to achieve.’

In a few weeks, Tramp Press plans to announce its list of 2015 books. Instead of focusing on publishing more books, the company hopes to expand upon the literary prizes that their books are awarded and improve distribution of its titles. In addition, Tramp Press launched its latest book, A Struggle for Fame by Charlotte Riddell during the Dublin Book Festival. On December 15th, Gutter Book Shop will host the party at 6.30 p.m.

‘Because we only want to publish the absolute crème de la crème of Irish literary fiction, we’re not probably going to publish more than a handful of titles every year,’ said Davis-Goff. ‘Our ambition is not so much on publishing more, but on publishing better and more widely.’

A Struggle For Fame by Carlotte Riddell is available now from Tramp Press’ website and in bookstores.


Words: Keri Heath


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