In 2019, Bradford Literature Festival and Edinburgh International Book Festival  launch an exciting new collaboration designed to unite publishers from Scotland and the North of England.  Northern Lights, the first major industry-focused gathering to bring together publishers from both sides of the border, will offer publishing professionals the chance to discuss key issues in a series of panel discussions and workshops and share expertise around developing inclusivity and diversifying readership.

Northern Lights, supported by Creative Scotland and Arts Council England, will focus on developing new working relationships within the publishing sector in the North of the United Kingdom and creating a centre of gravity for the industry as a counterweight to London and New York.  The project aims to enhance the financial sustainability of the Northern-based publishing sector through developing professional skills and increasing national and international exposure.


To book tickets to the event, please click here.


Through the support of Creative Scotland and Arts Council England a small fund has been established to enable delegates and participants to travel to and attend both events.  Prospective delegates are invited to apply to either Bradford Literature Festival or to Edinburgh through


Content/ Sessions

09.45- 10.30 | Welcome to “Northern Lights”

Why do we need a cross-border publishing conference? Why now? And what is Northern Lights trying to achieve?

In this brief introductory session delegates will be offered an overview of the aims and ambitions of the Northern Lights project, as seen from both sides of the border, setting the scene for a day of more in-depth, inspiring discussion, with some of the most exciting, pioneering publishers to be found not only in their home regions of Scotland and the North of England, but anywhere in the world.


10.30 – 11.45 | Northern Publishing – A David and Goliath Story

 When smaller publishers strike it lucky with a bestseller – as increasing numbers in the North are so doing – how can they, with limited resources, ensure that they are meeting the needs of the author and their organisation?

When a book really takes off, how can small presses keep up with the pace, and ultimately have the confidence to believe that they can and should be ‘keeping hold’ of their success?

This inspiring panel of Northern publishers who have experienced the highs (and, yes, the lows) of publishing a blockbuster book, will come together to share their stories, and offer insights for delegates whose very own Celestial Bodies might be just a manuscript away.


11.45 – 13.00 | Regional Diversity – The Topic on Everyones’ Lips

Improving levels of regional diversity in publishing is a topic guaranteed to get the blood pumping for many a Northern publisher… and the role of the Big 5 in doing so, sits right at the heart of the debate. This session will ‘break out’ in three directions, with smaller groups of delegates exploring:

  • How can Northern indie publishers support regional talent development, with limited resources?
  • Is relocation for the major houses the ‘right’ answer to improving levels of regional diversity?
  • Re-balancing the ecosystem – what does the future look like for regional diversity in publishing?

Each mini-session will be facilitated by a peer or stakeholder, who will open the discussion with a short provocation.


13.40- 15.10  | Librarians and Publishers Link-Up

This informal meet-up event for local and regional librarians, and national, regional and local publishers, facilitated by New Writing North’s Will Mackie, will offer an opportunity for publishers to connect with the people on the frontline of developing a reading culture, and supporting the wider book ecosystem.


13.55-15.10 | Beyond Word of Mouth: How to Make a Marketing Impact

In the 1930s, publisher Victor Gollancz, allegedly bribed his staff to read his books whilst commuting on the Underground. With their bright yellow covers and stark red typography, the books were an exercise in branding 50 years before the concept was really born.

In this panel discussion, drawing on case studies of noisy, low-cost campaigns that had a big impact, this panel will ask how Northern publishers – who may struggle to get the journalistic coverage more readily available in the capital (with or without neon books) – can ensure their titles make the splash they deserve.


15.15- 16.30 | Northern Stars

Brexit… political turmoil… economic uncertainty… climate crisis… whichever way you turn, the world in 2019 can look unremittingly bleak.

Yet, amidst the uncertainty and gloom, publishers across the Northern regions are putting out extraordinary examples of literary fiction, poetry, graphic novels, pamphlets… and the energy in the sector is palpable.

Join some of the region’s most visionary industry publishing professionals, as they explore the challenges that may lie ahead for Northern publishing in the short and longer term, suggest their ideas for innovative solutions and set out their visions for the bright future of publishing in the north.


16.35-17.30 | Northern Lights – Roundtable

To close the formal section of the day, delegates are invited to join a roundtable session to reflect on the day’s cross-border content, suggest what they would like to see at the Edinburgh conference, and offer their thoughts more generally on the Northern Lights project, and its place in the wider landscape of Northern publishing.