We launched Footnote Press in 2022 in partnership with Bonnier Books UK, as a disruptive new publisher for our challenging times. The word disruptive gets bandied about a lot these days, so I wish there was a better alternative. But how else do you describe a scrappy, independently run startup backed by a publishing heavyweight, whose mission is to drive narrative change by using new digital strategies to mainstream marginalized perspectives?

We spotlight other ways of thinking, being, and organizing, by shifting our publishing focus onto the margins, or footnotes (yes, thus the name Footnote). But as a publisher we are in no way niche or “other.” We intend for our books to resonate across a breadth of perspectives in order to build an engaged international community of readers, supporters, and changemakers.

As ever in publishing, our authors are at the heart of everything we do. We are rapidly building a list of strong, game-changing voices that tap into universal themes and global conversations. Our books challenge received wisdoms and unveil illuminating visions of the future, engaging head-on with some of the key issues of our times: migration, race and decolonization, climate crisis, the refugee crisis, social justice and systemic inequality, gender and sexualities, war and conflict, disability awareness, and more. And that’s all just in the course of our first year of publishing.

I’ve been engaged in radical publishing for 15-plus years, long before the rise of the socially and politically conscious consumer made it a more commercially viable choice. My cofounder, Footnote’s marketing director, is video games and e-sports industry pioneer Sujoy Roy. That sector has consistently been seeing some of the highest user engagement and conversion rates online. We felt that many of the digital marketing tools and techniques from the games industry could be successfully deployed into book publishing, to reach the broadest possible audiences.

The readers we are targeting won’t always have the same means of discoverability as the traditional bookstore buyer, so there is also a strong influencer-driven aspect to what we do.

We’re excited by the opportunities to engage further with U.S. audiences and authors. Yours is of course a country with huge diversity of voice and experience, from “your huddled masses” to the great melting pot, and our titles speak to current conversations—conversations that are fiercely debated, often driven and reflected outward, by leading U.S. thinkers.

Our first book, Map of Hope and Sorrow: Stories of Refugees Trapped in Greece, saw Columbia University professor Helen Benedict team up with Syrian refugee Eyad Awwadawnan to publish in time for World Refugee Day. For Black History Month and beyond, we released Sarah Ladipo Manyika’s Between Starshine and Clay.

We’re making inroads here already. Our latest releases are distributed by Simon & Schuster, and we have been sharing books with the major U.S. publishers, as well as leading independents like Norton, Soft Skull, and Graywolf. We are also the proud U.K. publisher of Ponyboy, Eliot Duncan’s visceral debut following a transmasculine narrator wrestling with gender identity and drug use, recently longlisted for the National Book Award for fiction.

This year also saw us launch the inaugural Footnote x Counterpoints Writing Prize for writers from refugee or migrant backgrounds, in partnership with the charity Counterpoints Arts. The prize, which includes a publication agreement, is for narrative nonfiction centered around themes of displacement, identity, or resistance.

As with Footnote Press itself, we hope that the prize will enable us to keep combating a culture of division and exclusion using the power of storytelling, and in the future we’d love to roll this out in the U.S., as well as expanding our presence here more generally. Some early successes in this market have already empowered us to make bolder commissioning choices, and we’re confident that U.S. readers can expect to see the protest-art-inspired Footnote logo cropping up more and more on bookshelves in the coming years.

Vidisha Biswas is the managing director of Footnote Press.

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