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Where have Sidekick Books been, and what’s next?

Oh, hi there! Good to see you. How’ve you been? Yeah, not bad thanks. Getting along.

Oh, sorry. WHERE have we been for the last year? It’s a good question. Thanks to the pandemic, Jon and K have been in London, Durham, Derbyshire, Buckinghamshire – all over the shop really.

This has meant an unofficial Sidekick Books hiatus throughout 2020 and halfway through 2021. Like a lot of small presses we’ve looked at the pandemic situation with a furrowed brow, and held off making concrete plans for future projects until now.

Confused red robot This last year has been testing for everyone, but it’s also been a time of discovery. During the pandemic, both Jon and K got assessed for ADHD, and both had the diagnosis confirmed. 2020 was apparently a record year for ADHD diagnosis, and this makes sense – once you’ve had a lot of social engines switched off and you’re left with your thoughts, you often spot things that have been masked by the hectic day-to-day. If you’re curious about late-diagnosis ADHD, K writes about her experience on her personal blog.

What this means is, now we know a little bit more about why we find certain aspects of publishing and, y’know, general moving through the world, especially difficult. That’s information we can work with to make Sidekick Books even better.

One-Off Indie Poetry Press Festival logo Getting back into the poetry publishing groove, Sidekick Books recently joined in the fun at the online One-Off Indie Poetry Press (OOIPP) festival from 19-25 July 2021. Organised by Jake Wild Hall of Bad Betty Press, this week-long Zoom festival celebrated UK indie poetry publishing at its finest.

There were stacks of excellent readings – many folk really playing with the Zoom format as a new tool for creative performance. Our Sidekick champions were Ian McLachlan (Confronting the Danger of Art, Bad Kid Catullus), Rowyda Amin (We Go Wandering at Night and Are Consumed By Fire, No, Robot, No!), JT Welsch, (Hell Creek Anthology) and Chelsea Cargill (Aquanauts).

Presses featured were: Bad Betty Press, Out-Spoken Press, Stewed Rhubarb Press, Broken Sleep Books, Guillemot Books, The Emma Press, flipped eye publishing, Lifeboat Press, Burning Eye Books, Hesterglock Press, HVTN Press (Haverthorn Press), Hajar Press, Verve Poetry Press and Hercules Editions.

So what’s next?

New books and calls for submissions!

In the grand Sidekick tradition, we’re planning several gorgeous, playful themed collaborative books for release in 2022. Some will be pocket rockets and some will be big old beasts. There will be hidden messages, miniature games, love, hate and inventions aplenty.

Follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, or sign up to our mailing list for new submissions calls.

Inpress logo Finally, huge thanks to our amazing sales and marketing agents Inpress, who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep promoting and selling our books, testing out new technologies to help indie publishers, negotiating with various stakeholders and keeping our spirits high. They’ve also shown the patience of saints when dealing with our pre-diagnosis communications. We’re incredibly grateful for their tenacity, skills and support, and excited to work more closely with them from now on.

That’s us up to date for now. Thanks, as ever, for your support in these strange times. Onward to new adventures!

No, Robot, No! Deadline extended

Busy month? Didn’t quite pull together your proposal in time? We’ve decided to extend the submissions call for No, Robot, No! to Monday 26th March. (We will also be putting back the final deadline for successful proposals accordingly). Consult the full briefing here, and read about our thinking behind the submissions procedure here.

A new approach to submissions

The submissions call for Sidekick’s next title, No, Robot, No!, breaks with the tradition of asking writers to send in completed individual pieces. Instead, we’re looking for proposals – an idea of what you would do with 3-5 pages, your own little slice of the book. Here are a few words on our thinking behind this.

From its inception, the idea behind Sidekick was to publish collaborative books. ‘Collaborative books’ is almost a tautology – a book is nearly always a collaborative effort between artists, editors and designers, to say nothing of those people thanked on the acknowledgements page for their varying degrees of influence and judgement. But in terms of poetry – as well as other leading genres – the writer is generally credited (and marketed) as sole author. The single author collection is by far the dominant form in poetry publishing, and this makes the poetry ‘industry’ extremely reliant on the celebrity and saleability of individuals.

(As a side note, the fact that publicity leans so heavily on author identity is one cause of the lack of diversity at the top layer – since it’s easier to pass off older white men as having the authority required of the ‘eminent poet’ archetype. It’s true that recently, there has been a shift toward celebrating alternative perspectives and experiences, particularly those of women and minority groups, but the emphasis on identity is unchanged, and this carries with it the danger of reducing non-white-male authors to cyphers.)

Beyond the single author collection, the second most dominant form in poetry publishing is probably the ‘survey’ anthology – in effect, an instrument of categorisation and organisation. Then there are celebratory or occasional anthologies, and therapeutic or self-help anthologies. With the exception of Bloodaxe’s Staying Alive and its sequels, books in the latter two brackets are critically ignored, regarded as purely commercial exercises.

So the somewhat ambitious remit behind Sidekick was to try to find or forge a new form of mainstream poetry book, one that emphasised the collaborative aspect of book creation and avoided emphasis on the figure of the poet. What if poetry was the mode, rather than the genre? What if, instead of all poetry being confined to the Poetry section of a bookshop or online marketplace, it was found in all the other sections – one of the ways in which any topic might be explored, or any genre realised?

To this end, we’ve published mainly themed, multi-author compendiums of newly solicited writing, mixing poetry with prose, illustration and graphic arts, questing for the right balance between charming and unruly, orderly and idiosyncratic. We tried to make our Birdbook series a kind of catalogue or ornithopaedia as much as a poetry collection, and we tried to involve as many different poets as possible across the various projects – driven in part by the notion that more poets can reach a wider audience if they aren’t fighting over the same few pulpits. (Or crowns? Pistols? Whichever metaphor suits).

One disadvantage of this approach is that a poet who has written one or two poems for one of our books isn’t likely to feel very well represented, or like they’ve had much influence on the overall shape or feel of the book. It also makes compiling and editing particularly fiendish – imagine trying to make a complete jigsaw out of dozens of pieces from different jigsaw sets, but without being able to choose exactly which pieces.

So we came up with a new plan: offer poets (and other experimental writers) a little patch of land. Book-land. Space for a sequence, or micro-pamphlet, or something substantial. Ask them to describe to us what they would do with it, based on a broad idea of the theme of the book. Then select a number of those ideas to commission in full and put together the skeleton of the book from there. The process is intended to be less top-down, more generative, with the work of individuals given a little more space to breathe. It should also streamline the production process, since we can start on the layout before the final components arrive.

Undoubtedly, there will be downsides to this approach as well, and difficulties we haven’t foreseen. But we thought it was worth experimenting with. As with other aspects of our unconventional approach to publishing, the results should be, at the very least, rather interesting.


Please note we don’t consider unsolicited manuscripts or book proposals. We do not publish single-author collections at all.

We periodically issue calls for submissions to our planned multi-author projects, and aim to include in these a plethora of styles and approaches by writers and artists both established and unsung. We encourage submissions by members of underrepresented groups, though we do not place upon members of those groups any expectation that they foreground or discuss aspects of their identity or personal experiences. Generally, we don’t believe the value of work rests in its claim to authenticity.

On the other hand, we encourage exploration of any topic, so long as it plausibly fits the criteria for a given project.

At the moment, there are no calls for submissions, but you can keep up to date via our blog, Twitter and Facebook feeds.


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