Monday, 7 June 2010

Magna Large Print Books, The Gem in the Dales

There are some very lucky writers in the world, there are those who make it rich, there are those who have a long and varied career and then there are those of us who are published in big print and audio by Magna Large Print Books.
The first thing you notice about it is that they so obviously aren't in London. Magna is based in a gorgeous little village not far from Skipton amidst some of the most wonderful scenery with which God thought fit to grace the earth.
It was founded in 1974 by Margaret and Derek Cressey. Originally the firm was born in Litton,set back in a very remote area of the Yorkshire Dales and then for a brief time in Lancashire at Bolton in Bowland. However, it was soon obvious that the firm was going to grow and succeed and so needed good transport links. It was then that Magna moved to an old wool warehouse upon the village green in the centre of Long Preston. It was bought by Ulverscroft Large Print, still to be under the name of Magna, to be a library supplier of large print and unabridged audios.
Presently it has sixteen full time staff with the longest serving member over 22 years and the shortest serving four years. When Margaret and Derek left in 1991 their son John was made manager.  In 2000 John left and was replaced by Diane Allen, who is to this day the manager of Magna along with rights assistant, Helen Bibby and deputy manager David Mellin.
Over the years Magna has grown from  back in the 1970s publishing two large print titles per month to the present day publishing of fourteen hardback titles and six paperback titles per month in large print. To complement their large print list they publish eight unabridged audio titles per month in cassette, CD and MP3 CD format.  At present they are looking at the possibility of downloading their titles for use by the libraries. They supply all libraries throughout the UK and in partnership with their parent firm supply America, Canada and Australia.
Ulverscroft Large Print is thriving and is now known as The Ulverscroft Group which includes Unlvesrcroft Large Print, Isis Publishing, Soundings and Magna Large Print Books. Details of which can be found on
The staff at Magna are always welcoming. Visiting them is like being asked to a particularly good party where you are the star guest. They manage to combine efficiency with sheer brilliant hospitality. They say 'come and visit us if you are in the area' so you make sure you are as often as you can because you get taken out to lunch, your get taken out to dinner, you get offered coffee, you spend time basking in the warmth of real Yorkshire people. It doesn't matter how busy they are they always have time for you.
This photograph is of the Romantic Novelists Association Northern Group, The Flying Ducks.  Diane Allen and Helen Bibby are part of this group and they are seen on the back row. Hiding off to the left is Mark Merrill of Ulverscroft and the lady in the green scarf is agent, Judith Murdoch.  It was one of lots of happy days we've spent together.
Magna have been publishing my big print editions since 1995 so I have been asked there many times, I'm happy to report. They publish my books in audio too.
This enabled me to become part of the Books on Wheels Programme which operates in County Durham, a service for people who can't easily get out to libraries - it brings libraries to them. I am very happy to be involved in such a wonderful scheme that benefits so many people They have many volunteers who deliver the books and audios and operate a scheme where people can be a bookclub by telephone and talk about what they have read or listened to. Two or three times a year we have parties when people are bussed in for good food and grand entertainment.
When I first began to write professionally I envisaged a lot of things but I didn't think I would be as lucky as to make so many friends and be involved in so many great times.
This is  my trilogy set in Durham before, during and after the Second World War. The first was my mother's story, the second my aunt's and the third was a story I made up about the woman who ran my father's office at the steelworks. Swan Island is an old name for Elvet - a part of Durham, Sweet Wells I named after a farm in the Durham dales, though in the book it is a village and Silver Street is the name of a winding cobbled road which leads up into the Market Place in Durham. So three very different women and their stories, based around a man and a steel foundry and how they fared in their lives which were affected so much as so many people were by the war.  These are the lovely covers which Magna put on them and they are also published in audio.


  1. Fabulous post, Liz, about a fabulous - and very much appreciated - company. Only wish I lived anywhere near Yorkshire so I could 'happen to be in the area' too at regular intervals.

    Three cheers for Magna.

  2. Great post, Liz. The Magna people are so good and really love books, Brilliant to see news of your new novels. They look fascinating. wxx

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