North keen to make serious imprint

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MANCHESTER may have lost the Olympic Games but it has just spawned an ambitious publishing house which hopes to rival the established industry in London.

Stephen Powell, a Mancunian aged 31, set up Ringpull Press because he saw a need to foster local literary talent. One of the first 'maiden' authors, Julian Roach, had written for television for 23 years - being one of the longest-serving contributors to Granada Television's Coronation Street - but had never written a novel.

When Mr Powell suggested he launch into prose, Mr Roach agreed. The result, Death Duties and Other Mysteries, was published by Ringpull this month.

Despite disbelief in London publishing circles that such a venture could be pulled off, trade support has helped Ringpull to a good start.

'The credit terms offered were incredible,' Mr Powell said. 'Typesetters, printers, sales representatives and others saw the gap in the market for a Manchester-based publisher and were strongly in favour.'

So far, overheads are minuscule: Ringpull is currently run from Mr Powell's house, but will move into its own offices in January, while the company's overdraft stands at the princely sum of pounds 2,000.

Mr Powel l's knowledge of the book trade stems from his years with Waterstone's. He is still technically working out his notice as assistant manager of the bookstore's Deansgate branch in Manchester. The company has been 'marvellous' about his launch into business while he was still on the payroll.

He also owes his positive view of books to Waterstone's. As he points out, Deansgate's turnover of pounds 5m a year proves that books can sell well if the authors, covers and presentation are right.

With this in mind, Ringpull has chosen to go for top quality. Its printer is Clays of Norwich, whose customers include Penguin and the Oxford and Cambridge University Presses.

It is represented by Troika, the agency that also handles Manchester University Press.

Early indications are promising. The first two titles - The Baby War by Peter Whalley and Vurt by Jeff Noon - are selling well. The next step is to sell US and European rights.

Next spring seven titles will appear, three of which are the result of unsolicited manuscripts. Mr Powell takes a less snooty view of unsolicited material than most publishing houses and reads the first 10 pages to take a view.

He insists that however big Ringpull grows, he wants to stay in touch with authors, believing that the strength of a publishing house lies in its manuscripts.