A liquidator has been appointed for the troubled publisher Freight Books, a one-time star of the Scottish publishing scene that was named Scottish publisher of the year in 2015.
According to documents filed at Companies House, WRI Associates was appointed provisional liquidator of Freight Books on 20 October following a court order. With names on its publishing roster including Irvine Welsh and Janice Galloway, the Glasgow-based Freight had been taken to court by the printing company Bell and Bain over unpaid work. Authors had also been raising the fact that they have not been paid, with several literary agents telling the Bookseller in September that their writers had been owed money by Freight for months. One author, who asked to remain anonymous, described the situation to the Guardian as an â€œunholy messâ€ earlier this month.
Freight Books was founded in 2011 as an imprint of Freight Design, which itself was founded in 2001. It publishes literary fiction, short stories and poetry as well as non-fiction, and in 2015 it won the Saltire Society Scottish publisher of the year award, with one judge saying that it had â€œbecome a major player in the Scottish publishing industry, offering a platform for new and emerging writers and well-established voices alikeâ€.
But in April this year, co-founder Adrian Searle left the company following what he called, in a statement to the Bookseller at the time, â€œirreconcilable differences over strategic directionâ€. Searleâ€™s co-founder Davinder Samrai said at the time that he was â€œactively working to take all necessary steps to ensure that Adrian Searleâ€™s sudden departure causes minimal disruptionâ€, reassuring authors and agents â€œthat Freight Books is committed to meeting all our contractual obligationsâ€.
By September, the Times was reporting that around 40 authors were not being paid their royalties and advances. Freight Design had put Freight Books up for sale on Publishing Scotlandâ€™s website, citing its turnover for the last financial year as around Â£260,000 and saying that â€œthe reason for sale is the departure of one of the founders and a decision by the existing partner/MD to focus on the design side of the businessâ€.
On 3 October, Samrai emailed authors advising them to buy back copies of their own books, saying that it â€œmay be possible to set stock against any monies you are owedâ€.
â€œYou are no doubt aware matters are extremely uncertain with regard to the future of Freight Books,â€ he wrote to authors. â€œIf you would like to buy stock of your titles, it may be prudent to act sooner rather than later. I appreciate this may cause unease but depending on quantities, I may be able to supply at a better discount than the regular author discount.â€
Freight authors include Jessica Thummel, who won the Dundee international book prize with her Freight-published debut novel The Cure for Lonely; Gillian Best, author of The Last Wave; and poet Rachel McCrum, who said the last six months had been â€œincredibly frustratingâ€.
â€œFreight Books, in its time, did some great work in terms of publishing, supporting and promoting new voices,â€ McCrum said. â€œThe loss, if that is what weâ€™re looking at, is going to leave a gaping hole in Scottish publishing.â€
Author Merryn Glover, who was also published by Freight Books, said: â€œMy sense is that the majority of Freight authors are glad to be free to move on. Freight had a reputation for the quality and originality of its titles, so the good news is that all those books will still be available by other means and all those authors can now be snapped up by other publishers. I am in close communication with many of them and it has been fantastic how well this group of writers â€“ many of whom had never met before â€“ have rallied together to support and share information. There is huge energy here and a determination to rise up, keep writing and stay connected to our growing, international body of readers.â€
Award-winning author Helen McClory, whose novel Flesh of the Peach is published by Freight, said she had yet to hear anything from the publisher following the appointment of the liquidator. â€œThis means I now have the rights to my book back, so I remain hopeful for its future,â€ said McClory, adding that the wider writing and publishing community had been supportive of Freight authors. â€œI want to stress I am trying to take a positive and active approach: I have other books to work on, and will continue to write and promote my writing and that of others as much as I am able. I will not be a victim of circumstances.â€
Managing director of WRI Associates Ian Wright, who now controls Freight, said all Freight employee contracts had been terminated and that he was considering potential buyers for Freightâ€™s portfolio.
â€œI am aware that there are many authors who are concerned to understand what is to happen with the rights to their books. I am currently in contact with several parties who had previously spoken to the company about acquiring some, or all, of the portfolio of titles,â€ he said. â€œI hope to be able to establish whether a sale is a possibility and will clarify the situation for authors as soon as possible.â€