|Parent company||Profile Books|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|Distribution||The Book Service (UK)|
Serpent's Tail is a British independent publishing firm founded in 1986 by Pete Ayrton. It is notable for its translated works, particularly European crime fiction, and is the British publisher of Elfriede Jelinek and Lionel Shriver. In January 2007 it was bought out by British publisher Profile Books. As characterised by Boyd Tonkin writing in The Independent on the imprint's 25th anniversary: "It still issues a list of fiction and non-fiction that – from hard-boiled noir to gems in translation and left-field cultural reportage – often defines the meaning of 'cool'."
The press publishes predominantly fiction, leaning towards edgy, left-of-centre writing. Its non-fiction output tends to focus on popular culture, film and music, and left-field politics. It publishes the current output of authors such as Nicholas Royle and Stella Duffy and the back catalogues of Derek Raymond and Kathy Acker.
Prizes won by its authors include the Nobel Prize for Literature (Kenzaburō Ōe, Elfriede Jelinek and Herta Müller), the Orange Prize for Fiction (Lionel Shriver for We Need To Talk About Kevin, in 2005) and the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize (Jonathan Trigell for Boy A, in 2004).
In 2001 Serpent's Tail published the collected journalism of the late Elizabeth Young, having previously published her study of American "blank generation" fiction in 1992 (Shopping in Space).
High Risk Books
From 1993 to 1997, Serpent's Tail had a New York firm called High Risk Books under Ira Silverberg and Amy Scholder. The imprint specialized, as its name suggests, in risk-taking progressive and transgressive fiction (such as Kathy Acker and William S. Burroughs) and non-fiction (including the collected journalism of Cookie Mueller).
- "Hot books for cool readers: Serpent's Tail at 25 is still the publisher with bite", The Independent, 20 May 2011.