Tuesday 16 January 2018

Proverse Hong Kong by Gillian Bickley

Proverse Hong Kong is a publishing house with long-term, and expanding, regional and international connections. The company administers the international Proverse Prize for Unpublished Non-fiction, Fiction and Poetry, which is open to writers everywhere, irrespective of residence, citizenship or nationality.

This week will see a double bill of posts about Proverse. Tomorrow, Ivy Ngeow, winner of the 2016 Proverse Prize for Fiction, will talk about her new novel, Cry of the Flying Rhino, which is published by the company.

Today, Gillian Bickley, Proverse co-publisher and Proverse Prizes co-founder, talks about the company's authors, books, origins, aims, and development.

“A good published book is an achievement for the author and a source of pride to its publisher, bringing entertainment or information to its readers. These are the considerations that motivate Proverse.” This is how my fellow Proverse oo-publisher, Verner Bickley, concludes his article, An Introduction to Proverse Hong Kong, published in the Asian Cha Supplement / November 2011.

Six years have passed and our motivations at Proverse remain the same: to publish good books and bring to readers entertainment and instruction in proportions that vary from book to book.

As Verner wrote in his Asian Cha article, we are general publishers. We do not seek out books of a specific type or content; books come to us, partly through our website, and partly as entries for the annual international Proverse Prize, which received its first entries in 2009. Most are by authors previously unknown to us, but some are acquaintances and contacts, or acquaintances and contacts at one or several removes. The old “word of mouth” story.

Over time, however, our list has developed certain strengths:

- Literary fiction (novels, novellas, short story collections) and literary thrillers and detective stories. These are mainly but not exclusively set in Asia.
- Single-author poetry collections and long single poems written by authors living in the Bahamas, Canada, Hong Kong, India, New Zealand, and whose places of birth include also Denmark, Germany, Kenya, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Kingdom.
- Non-fiction and academic books including biography and autobiography, travel journals, editions of nineteenth-century archival material of historical interest (journals, government reports, studies of reports of cases heard at a magistrate’s court), and books detailing events during the Second World War.
- Young adult, children and educational materials, often starring female protagonists, and including an illustrated book for the very young, a set of five graded poetry anthologies with teaching and performance notes each accompanied by audio recordings; a play by a leading contemporary Turkish writer, and a picaresque novel by a Canadian living in Hong Kong.

Our personal interests are eclectic and we are happy to work with a wide range of writings. Over time, we may come to focus more narrowly. But I believe we will always be sympathetic to an excellent book likely to interest a specific group of readers.

As well as support from the Proverse Prize, we have received publication grants from the Hong Kong Arts Development Council, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkey, the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic, the Ride Fund, and the Lord Wilson Heritage Trust, among others. We are listed as qualified publishers by the Canada Council and Creative New Zealand.

The international Proverse Prize for book-length work submitted in English reaches an important milestone in 2018, its tenth edition. We also have a newer initiative, the international Proverse Poetry Prize for single poems submitted in English. 2018 will be the third edition. We have already published the first Proverse Poetry Prize anthology, Mingled Voices, and the second Proverse Poetry Prize anthology, Mingled Voices 2, in what is planned as a series, will appear in April 2018.

In additional to encouraging and recognising excellence in writing, we lay a broad infrastructure for making our books available as widely as possible, whether as paperbacks, hardbacks, eBooks or through print-on-demand. We encourage our authors to participate – according to their tastes and interests – in promoting their work. Some embrace this outreach with relish; others are content simply to write. We are grateful to our distributors, the Chinese University of Hong Kong Press, to those bookshops that stock our titles and the large number of those that promote our titles on their websites.

Most of our books have received thoughtful and appreciative advance reviews. Post-publication reviews have also been supportive. For example, Jan Pearson’s Tiger Autumn was described by William Wadsworth as, “one of the best Hong Kong novels for years” (Sunday Morning Post, Hong Kong, 24 May 2015). Proverse authors or poets visiting or living in Hong Kong have appeared on Phil Whelan’s Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) Radio 3’s weekday morning music and chat show, Morning Brew. I myself have also appeared on Annemarie Evans’ programme, Hong Kong Heritage on the same station. Others have been active in their own country or region. They have introduced their books on local radio, and have been featured in local or national media. They have given signings and readings in bookshops and events close to where they live or travelled to other countries to do so. Several of our authors – like Proverse itself – continue to look for opportunities to introduce their works as the years roll on.

We have had two Hong Kong best-sellers, both by Peter Gregoire. Article 109 and The Devil You Know are both detective novels set in Hong Kong.

Proverse arranges two literary events a year, the Proverse Spring Reception, in April or May, and the Proverse Publishing Parade, in about November. These events attract a cross-section from the Hong Kong community and, increasingly, writers are flying in from overseas to attend: from Australia, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, the USA, the United Kingdom. We make announcements relating to the two Proverse literary prizes, and launch new books. Authors of launching books give a brief introduction to their work; all Proverse authors present are introduced.

We are fortunate that Proverse authors have been invited to speak or read at other Hong Kong venues and to other groups in Hong Kong; including the Hong Kong University Libraries Book Club, the University of Hong Kong History workshop, the former Centre for Asian Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University English Department Seminar, the then Institute of Education, Lingnan University Community College, the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong, the Helena May library, the Ladies’ Recreation Club library, Toastmasters’, the Corona Club, Grow House bookstore, Kubrick bookstore, and several others. Proverse authors have also participated in the Hong Kong Literary Festival and the Hong Kong Book Fair.

We are proactive in embracing new means to bring books to the market, and also to new means of marketing our books. Each new author and each new work adds to the recognition of all.

To know more about Proverse Hong Kong, our authors, and the Proverse Literary Prizes, please visit our website. To be added to our mailing list, please send a request to info@proversepublishing.com

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