Skip to main content
23 August 2023

How publishing in Scotland is going from strength to strength

Scotland is home to around 100 active publishing companies, varying greatly in size and focus. Structurally, our publishing reflects global industry trends: a large number of small independents, most established in the past five decades, which operate alongside offices of larger conglomerates. ‘Small’, however, should not be confused with ‘insignificant’ – Scotland has a thriving book trade, with its publishers and authors regularly receiving prestigious awards and international acclaim.

Over 2,000 books are published in Scotland per year, with 90 percent of our publishers also selling their titles overseas.

Global success for Scottish publishers

Scottish publishers have an increasingly global outlook, both in exporting their products and in welcoming writing from all over the world. Canongate, one of our largest trade publishers, is known for its excellent internationally-focused list that recently attracted two Booker Prize nominations in one year, for A Spell of Good Things by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ and The House of Doors by Tan Twan Eng. With its mission statement of ‘publishing in Scotland for the world’, Birlinn also works with an array of internationally acclaimed and award-winning authors like Alexander McCall Smith, Denise Mina and Jenni Fagan. There are also indies that focus on translated fiction: Charco Press is scooping up awards and nominations for its brilliant work in uncovering the best of contemporary Latin American literature, and Vagabond Voices publishes work translated from Estonian, Italian, Latvian, Swedish and more, calling itself ‘both Scottish and fervently European in its aims’.

Promoting national culture

While increasingly looking outside of Scotland, our publishers are also fundamental to sustaining and promoting our literary and linguistic heritage. Companies like Acair, Luath Press and Itchy Coo (an imprint of Black and White Publishing) publish acclaimed Scottish authors and celebrate the national languages, Gaelic and Scots, advocating for their inclusion in the Scottish curriculum. These (and many other) companies make an enormous contribution to Scotland’s understanding of itself and its past, ensuring that our distinct culture is recognised and represented.

Award-winning children’s publishing

Scotland is also known for its award-winning children’s publishing. Floris Books offers an array of titles for all ages, from the classics of Scottish literature to new authors discovered through its annual Kelpies Prize. Barrington Stoke produces accessible, dyslexia-friendly books that encourage every child to be a reader, and DC Thomson has been publishing its bestselling annuals (including Oor Wullie and Beano) for over 80 years. Independents such as Little Door Books or Cranachan Publishing have also been developing, establishing themselves as some of the most creative and exciting children’s publishers on the market. You can watch our recent documentary on the growth of children’s writing and publishing in Scotland, Forever Lands, here.

It’s not all about trade

Of course, Scottish publishing is not all trade – our specialist and academic companies, such as Witherby Publishing Group and Edinburgh University Press, are amongst the largest and most successful publishers in the country. Bright Red Publishing, the only independent educational publisher in Scotland, has been producing excellent resources for secondary students and teachers for the last 15 years. And Scottish publishing is not all independent – conglomerates like HarperCollins and Hachette have their offices in Scotland, making an important contribution to the health and diversity of our industry, while the trading arms of the national cultural institutions such as the National Galleries of Scotland or the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh all have lively publishing programmes.

Publishing Scotland – championing the nation’s book industry

All of these publishers are members of Publishing Scotland – the network for trade, training, and development for the book publishing sector. Established in 1974 by a group of independent publishers, the organisation acts as the voice and network for Scottish publishing, developing and promoting the work of companies, organisations and individuals in the industry, as well as co-ordinating joint initiatives and partnership.

Some of our flagship activities include organising the largest book trade event in Scotland, the Scottish Book Trade Conference, facilitating international exchange through the International Publishing Fellowship, and promoting Scottish books through our Books from Scotland portal and New Books Scotland catalogues.

We also provide training in publishing skills, and have done so for nearly 30 years – our programme aims to make publishing training more widely accessible to publishing industry professionals working across all areas of the trade, both in Scotland and beyond. You can find out more about our courses here, follow us on LinkedIn and X (previously Twitter), and sign up to our training newsletter for regular updates.

Alice Piotrowska

Alice Piotrowska is Training and Digital Marketing Manager for Publishing Scotland.