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Stefan Tobler Hero

Why one man’s passion for books earned him a top award

06 February 2019

The 2018 Northern Soul Awards was one to remember for Stefan Tobler. He was over the moon to win the “Small Business of the Year 2019” award with his company ‘And Other Stories’. The Co-operative Bank sponsored this particular award and were lucky enough to be there with Stefan at the grand award ceremony, held at Manchester Cathedral.

Publishing literary fiction, his Sheffield based business started back in 2011 and its success is down to his passion for reading. The books he had, though, were not always in the English language. Whilst living in Germany he discovered books he enjoyed, but were written in the German language. He decided to translate his favourite books into English but then realised that most of the larger UK publishing house were steering clear of translations.

“I felt like we were missing out on a lot of really good writers and stories from other places. And that frustration sort of turned into a pipe dream. And gradually the pipe dream, through talking to people and realising that maybe I could get some seed money to get it going, turned into a very small publishing house that has just grown gradually as certain books have caught on and been successful.”

“We all use words and I think we all like to use the best ones we can find. We all have that passion and I guess I was lucky that my parents always loved reading stories to me, so I picked up the bug. I guess it’s just the satisfaction when you read a book and you feel like someone’s nailed it - they’ve really got the characters and the way people live and the way people talk and the observations about life just right. I just I just lap it up.”

‘And Other Stories’ is an intriguing company name, originating through brainstorming sessions and countless emails with other writers and translators.

“We batted around all sorts of names. Nothing seemed quite right though. I very much liked the playful titles that Ali Smith has on her books such as ‘the other story and other stories’ or ‘the whole story and other stories’. If it is a collection of stories, you will often get ‘and other stories’ tacked on the end. There’s a sort of a mystery to it and I think we wanted a bit of that mystery! There’s a clothing company called ‘And Other Stories too which we were not at all expecting - but I guess it shows that there’s something in the name.”

Award-winning company

Seven years after forming ‘And Other Stories Stefan entered his company into the Northern Soul awards and ended up winning the Small Business of the Year award.

“We moved in the summer of 2017 to Sheffield - a town that I really love. My brother’s been there since 2000 and we now wanted to make it our home. So now that’s my family home and also the company’s home. Then we were really excited about becoming part of a northern publishing scene and growing publishing in the north because publishing is just too London centric. So we thought it’d be great to enter the Northern Soul’s awards and just be part of that - and we’re happy and amazed to win!”

Supporting an ethical bank

Although this is the first time Stefan has been involved with Northern Soul, he has been associated with The Co-operative Bank for much longer.

“I honestly can’t remember when I opened my personal account. It’s probably when I went to university and there was a campaign that made me aware that a lot of banks are not particularly ethical in who they loan money to and who they invest with. You know, investing in the arms trade, polluting companies, lending money to dictators in third world countries who waste it on the arms trade and things like that. I guess back then I was at university and I wanted to set up a bank account with someone who was ethical and I’ve been with you ever since. And then when ‘And Other Stories got going I was keen that our money would be with someone who was also ethical and it just made sense to go with The Co-operative Bank. Then because we’re a ‘not for profit’ we were so lucky in that you give us a good deal on our banking. And so it made sense.”

Winning an award can be a boost to anyone, but it is intriguing as to what Stefan will do from here. Would it ultimately help with his writing?

“Well, one thing we really hope the award will do is just help spread news about us being here in the north of England. And also about our ‘Northern Book Prize’ which we have great ambitions to grow to be become something like a ‘Booker’ of the north where our great northern writers will be entering. So we hope it’s just part of growing the company. Although there’s an old saying which is that if you want to make a small fortune in publishing, you better start with a large one!”

You can hear the full interview, where Stefan talks with The Co-operative Bank’s Paul Graham, on our audio player:

You can find out more information about And Other Stories and their Northern Book Prize 2019 here: https://www.andotherstories.org/

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