Mira Fadwa Fadel; computer scientist, innovator, educator, journalist, translator, and founder of Mira Intelligent Read. Based on Otley Road, Mira Publishing is a non-for-profit independent publisher of fiction and non-fiction. Meeting Mira in her office, we recieved the insider’s perspective on life as an independent publisher in Leeds.
To start with, I asked Mira what inspired her to embark on the no doubt difficult task of establishing her own independent publishing company. “It is indeed difficult!”, she admits, “Before I established the company I spent about a year or so just researching it and I found lots of mysteries in this industry, some things I really couldn’t understand – to this moment I still don’t really understand – mainly about the distribution, about this journey from the author to the reader. In between there are lots of things I don’t understand (things which many people, to be honest, don’t understand as well) because while I’m researching I read a lot of articles and reports in different newspapers also wondering how this industry is making money, because the contribution to our GDP is two billion pounds per year, so that’s quite a lot of money, where is it? How does it generate it? We don’t know. So I decided to take a different route. My company is a not-for-profit company, and I wanted it to be fair to every author and reader.”
I then asked Fadel if there’s a tendency nowadays for mainstream publishers to avoid investing in new authors in favour of just reprinting an ancient backlist with new covers. “Yes, just the covers change!”, she agreed, “They change how it looks and that’s it, and then they put chocolate or a mug with it just to encourage people to read. This is not my way of doing things.”
It’s often said that the only way to succeed as an independent publisher is to move to London, so I asked Fadel what it was that drew her to Leeds. “I’ve always been in Leeds!”, she keenly interjects, “Since I came to this country I’ve been in Leeds and I love it, I love Yorkshire.” She continues, “The first couple of authors we published lived in Leeds as well as an author actually at the university who was looking for a translator, and the translator I used was also a student at the university which was brilliant because part of what I want to do is to help people in Leeds. I also met Olga McPhail from the university, she wrote the novel ‘Born in Chechnya’ – it’s amazing! And we work with the university to organise book signings etc. It’s better, I prefer to start locally and then you grow.”
Before interviewing Fadel, I’d heard that big publishers don’t really search for local authors nowadays, and it’s independent publishers who are doing all the hard work. I asked her if she would agree. “Yes”, she admits, but she’s proud of a couple of things. “One of the books we’ve published so far (Janis Hetherington’s ‘Love Lies Bleeding’) is being commissioned for ITV to be a three-part documentary. And just recently I got a letter from a highly respected figure suggesting that one of our authors be considered for a nomination for the Nobel Prize for Literature. We’re not just the publishers but the agents of our authors as well; we market and do everything on their behalf.”
To finish, I asked Mira to expand on the Mira Intelligent Read mission statement, the demystification of the gap between reader and author, what mysteries she encountered, and whether she managed to remove any of them.
“First I wondered how those publishers made profit, because as a publisher we pay for the publishing, the marketing, everything. Then the distributor will take 60%. What is left for us? It doesn’t cover the translation, it covers nothing at all. So I wondered how those big publishers made money. Many bookshops are now closed, they’ve disappeared. In 2014, I think, about 987 bookshops closed and only three opened – it’s all Waterstones wherever you go!”
(Image: Independent Publishers)