STEPHEN MINCHIN from Steam Press (NZ)
(Editor note: we LOVE this photo!)
Steam Press is … a publisher of New Zealand science fiction, fantasy, and horror that is determined to give local authors a viable market for their work, and make that work available to the world.
Stephen Minchin is… Drinking far too much coffee.
When was the last time you were lost in a book? This morning, on the train – The Future is Japanese, from Haikasoru
Why did you become a publisher? When I studied publishing I realised that no New Zealand publisher had any interest in the genres I like. It seemed that the most sensible solution to this was to start my own company. I guess the shorter answer is “Because I didn’t think it through.”
Three skills every independent publisher needs are… The ability to function on a lack of sleep, to keep your spouse happy while you bleed the mortgage dry, and to spot the proverbial diamond in the rough.
What is the most exciting thing about your job? Reading submissions and suddenly finding yourself reading a novel that has the spark you’ve been looking for.
What are the biggest challenges facing independent publishers/your company at the moment? Financial viability – no question at all there. Our books have been reviewed really well, and according to all the publishers I know our sales have been pretty good for New Zealand in the present market, but we’re still far from breaking even.
Screen VS Page? Screen. Printed books still have a place, but the vast majority of people I know who’ve bought themselves an iPad, Kindle, or whatever are loving it and won’t go back.
When I’m not busy publishing fantastic New Zealand writing you can find me… Running in the hills around Wellington, skiving off to go rock climbing, or in my basement brewing beer :D
(Editor note: we look forward to many more NZ publishers becoming members, joining in on our services and networking across the Tasman!)
Last weekend the Small Press Network journeyed on down the highway to tranquil Clunes in rural Victoria to take part in their annual Booktown Festival weekend, as part of SPN’s 2013 Roadshow series. Every year the historic township of Clunes hosts the Booktown event. Around 20,000 book lovers from across Victoria and interstate head to Clunes for ‘Back to Booktown’ each May, to soak up the historic atmosphere of the old gold town while fossicking through thousands of collectable and secondhand books. Over the weekend the town transforms into a European-styled Booktown, with some 60 visiting booksellers setting up shop in and around the town’s heritage buildings, bringing with them one of the largest collections of rare, out-of-print, collectable and second-hand books ever gathered in one place in Victoria.
On the Saturday morning SPN hosted an event with three authors from three different SPN member publishers. The guests were Balli Kaur Jaswal (Sleepers Publishing), Jane Rawson (Transit Lounge) and Leah Swann (Affirm Press).
Balli Kaur Jaswal, Jane Rawson, Leah Swann and Sam Cooney
The panel shared with the audience their individual experiences with their small press publishers, and discussed things like how they found and chose their respective publishers, the promotion of work when it’s published with a small press, and having a debut work in print versus having it in digital. The conversation was wide-ranging, and each author discovered similarities as well as differences in their experiences.
President of SPN Zoe Dattner was there at the event, tweeting away:
On Sunday, SPN Programming and Communications Coordinator Sam Cooney also hosted an event titled The Art of Book Design, leading a discussion with three of Australia’s best book designers, W.H. Chong, Sandy Cull and Josh Durham. The three designers were asked as part of the event to put together some mock-up designs for George Orwell’s Animal Farm, which proved a hit to the audience, and provided some insight into the drawn-out through process that goes into designing a book cover. Below are the mock-ups Josh Durham brought along.
For more information about the Clunes Booktown Festival, click here. To see some photos from the weekend, visit the Books+Publishing Facebook page here.
Thanks to Clunes Booktown Festival and director Stephen Samuel for partnering with the Small Press Network to produce the events.
SPN is committed to furthering the interest of our members and helping to promote their products and reach new audiences – we look forward to working with Clunes Festival again next year and highlighting more of our members’ brilliant work.
“Why print?” was the topic of the first of the Small Publishing Network’s roadshow events, held at Berkelouw Books, Paddington, in Sydney the first week of March 2013. The panellists for the event were Linda Nix from new publisher, Lacuna Publishing, Sophia Whitfield of children’s book publisher New Frontiers and Alice Grundy of Seizure magazine and book publisher Giramondo. The conversation on the evening was wide ranging and engaging and all three panellists brought differing views to the table.
For those of us who couldn’t be in Sydney on the night, Linda Nix has created a GREAT blog post covering some of the topics that were raised during the discussion. In it she outlines her four very good reasons for continuing to produce books in print in the digital age: production quality; the supply chain; perceptions; and accessibility. read on here…
If you weren’t able to make it to the inaugural Independent Publishers Conference in Melbourne earlier this month, fear not, blogger extraordinaire, Pepi Ronalds, has captured some of the most exciting discussions surrounding the past, present and future of independent publishing.
A VOICE FROM THE FUTURE
‘Cliff hanger’ and ‘conference’ are words that don’t often play in the same scenario. But when Malcolm Neil was cut off mid-presentation at last week’s Independent Publishers Conference these words came to mind. Neil is Director, Content Acquisition and Publisher Relations, APAC at Kobo Inc. Kobo provides e-reading services (including e-readers and e-books) to over […] read on here
READING AND WRITING ARE SOCIAL ACTS
‘One of the things that’s most annoyed me about the present debate [in publishing is that] it’s boiled down to one between techno-evangelists and technophobes,’ says Mark Davis Associate Professor (University of Melbourne) and non-fiction writer (Gangland: Cultural Elites and the New Generationalism). ‘We get caught up in that divide all the time and it […] read on here
BLINKERED BY BOOKS
I like to think I have a broad outlook on the potential of writing and new media. But in speaking with John Weldon, writer, author (Spincycle), academic (Victoria University) and coordinator (Meanland), I realise there is something my research has failed to uncover. I am embarrassed by the oversight. But I’m taken by it too […] read on here
IF YOU WANT TO BE A WRITER, YOU HAVE TO BE A READER
Are you reading as much as you’re writing? And if you are, what are you reading? Are you reading – and buying – the kinds of publications you want to be published in as a writer)? ‘So many people want to write, and less want to read,’ says Amy Espeseth, writer (Sufficient Grace, Trouble Telling […] read on here
SMALL AND INDIE PUBLISHERS UNITE!
I’ve been trying to imagine a world without small and independent publishers. I can’t do it. I’ve tried to draw parallels. For example, I’ve wondered if it’s like a world without electricity, or a world without roses to smell. But neither is an appropriate comparison. When I try to imagine a world without these publishers […] read on here
SMALL AND INDIE PUBLISHERS UNITE!
by Pepi Ronalds
I’ve been trying to imagine a world without small and independent publishers. I can’t do it. I’ve tried to draw parallels. For example, I’ve wondered if it’s like a world without electricity, or a world without roses to smell. But neither is an appropriate comparison. When I try to imagine a world without these publishers my mind goes blank, short-circuited by the complexity and depressing force of the idea. Initially this was a great frustration. Then I realised my blank brain was illustrating the point: a world without small and independent publishers is a world with far fewer voices and ideas. It’s a whiteout.
‘I see independent business [including publishers] as a very strong force for good and for positive change in the world in general,’ says Zoe Dattner, General Manager of the Small Press Network (SPUNC). She also sees these publishers as more able ‘to beat their own drum’ thus contributing to the diversity of voices available for readers (and venues available for writers). And if participation in SPUNC is anything to go by, this diversity is diversifying. In the last two years membership has grown from 50 to 100. This year SPUNC will hold the inaugural Independent Publishers Conference in Melbourne on 8 and 9 November.
The presence of so many small and independent outfits means that writers wanting to publish are more likely to find a welcoming venue. That sounds like cause for champagne and chocolates! But when it comes to those hardy souls behind these publications – often small or singular teams, running their publishing efforts alongside a day job – love and squalor may be a more apt pairing (that is, a lot of love and just a little bit of squalor).
‘It’s a very difficult industry to make a crust in,’ says Dattner, (noting this is her ‘own personal belief’). ‘I don’t think that it should be so difficult. Publishers (particularly small publishers) come to it out of passion. They’re not necessarily interested in making money but they’ve found a manuscript [and] they really want to publish it. They get so passionate about doing that one thing, and then they stumble at all the different obstacles that exist between them and selling a book to a reader,’ she says. More recently these obstacles include changes to technology and distribution models. Another challenge, ‘is for small publishers to approach the climate that we’re in with a business head on. Which is hard because [we] are often creative types,’ Dattner adds. (And creative types she says, don’t always think with business heads).
All in all, small and independent publishers, ‘could be sharing a lot more knowledge, and asking a lot more questions, and admitting to a lot more,’ says Dattner. To facilitate this, sessions at the conference include production and workflow, digital strategies, marketing and trends (as well as opportunities to network). There’s also an academic day. (See the full program for both days on the SPUNC website). Plus, the conference will host ‘The Most Underrated Book Award’ (MUBA) which will privilege both writer and publisher. The MUBA – like the conference – celebrates the staggering contribution small and independent publishers make to our literary culture.
‘The opportunities are huge – far bigger than the challenges,’ says Dattner. She explains that small and independent publishers have a lot less to lose than their mainstream counterparts. They are therefore nimble, able to act quickly, are good at identifying opportunities and approaching them without fear.
For Dattner, the biggest win is that small and independent publishers are, ‘in a position [to] reinvent however we want to do this. But it requires either an approach that has been done before but is a lot better, or a brand new one that no one’s ever thought of.’ The key to harnessing these opportunities is that, ‘you’ve got to be open to them,’ she says.
As a participant in the literary community I tend to focus on the challenges facing writers. But I know my pages would be blank – indeed, a whitewash – were it not for the efforts of small and independent publishers. I hope the conference and the MUBA do their part in encouraging, growing and celebrating this integral part of the literary community.
Follow @futurelongform on Twitter for updates on the conference and the MUBA.
Follow Pepi’s blog here
AARON MANNION from Vignette Press.
Vignette Press is an indie press in Melbourne that publishes quirky books and magazines. We strive to build strong communities around our publications, and we focus on bringing new voices to publication.
Aaron Mannion is Associate Publisher at Vignette Press. He has edited and co-edited a range of publications including the post-graduate magazine, Plane Tree; the creative writing anthology, Muse; the Australasian Association of Writing Program’s anthology, Nth Degree; the reviews section of the peer-reviewed journal Traffic; and most recently, Vignette Press’s Geek Mook. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Cambridge and is currently undertaking a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Melbourne. Aaron’s work has been published in Wet Ink, The Sleepers Almanac and elsewhere. He’s been shortlisted for the 2011 Wet Ink Short Story Prize and for the Penguin Manuscript Award in 2009 and 2011.
When was the last time you were lost in a book? It hasn’t happened quite as often as I’d like recently. I think this is partly as a result of being too busy, and partly from having substantial material to read for work and study. Though I’ve come across lots of writing that is important to me this way, I still think that reading needs to be driven by whim and hunger.
I’ve read much that I liked in the past month, but little that either delighted or really changed me. When I have a stretch like this, it unnerves me. I’ve built my life around books and when I have a dry spell as a reader it feels as though the world has emptied in some way. Everything is still there, but I have a suspicion that it might all be Styrofoam. This will pass. I’ll do what I’ve done in the past: I’ll reread the books I love. They bring the world back to me. I did reread ‘House for Sale’ from Franzen’s The Discomfort Zone recently. Even more than the last time, it left me battered and bruised, and believing. I’m ambivalent about Franzen’s novels in general, but I’m tempted to read the first half of The Corrections again.
Why did you become a publisher? I wanted to be part of the world of books.
Three skills every independent publisher needs are…?
An ability to manage complex projects; A talent for bringing great people on board; An ability to communicate enthusiasm.
What is the most exciting thing about your job? Reading submissions is hard work, but it’s worth it for those moments when you realise you’ve found something great. When I get an inkling I’m onto something, I feel like I’m holding my breath, willing the writer on, hoping that it keeps being fantastic until the end.
What are the biggest challenges facing independent publishers/your company at the moment? I think, like many independent publishers, the biggest two challenges are time and money. There’s never enough of either.
Screen VS Page? Screen and page. I love paper books, but I do find I read a lot of material on my Kindle. It means I can bring a whole library with me wherever I go. Personally, I am not a fan of reading on a monitor, but e-ink makes a big difference. The other big difference is that both books and e-ink e-readers keep the world of distractions at bay and force you to concentrate on the words in front of you—partly because of the inadequacy of the browsers on most of e-ink based devices. I think that any transition away from paper is going to be slow. Independent publishers need to embrace whatever medium, or combination of mediums, works best for each project.
When I’m not busy publishing fantastic Australian writing you can find me…? Teaching creative writing or editing or, lately, communications and career planning. You might find me working on my PhD thesis or sneakily reading something I shouldn’t be reading.
Cecilia Condon reports back from a recent Copyright Agency seminar which examined the latest trends in copyright and the government’s new inquiring into developing Australia’s copyright framework for the new, digital economy.
The first introduction many publishers make with copyright law is either a tedious lecture at university or an impenetrable contract later in their career. It’s easy to forget that the real purpose of copyright is to provide an environment that fosters the creation of new content for the benefit of society as a whole. And while copyright may not be the most exciting issue facing independent publishers, it remains one of the fundamental concerns for people working in an ever-changing creative industry.
Having firm yet flexible copyright laws provides an incentive for the creation of new content by enabling those who create (writers) and those who invest in new content (publishers!) to set the terms on which others can use the content, terms which can (but don’t necessarily) include payment.
The Copyright Agency (CAL), a not for profit rights management organization who enable the use of text and images in return for fair payment to writers, visuals artists and publishers, are dedicated to supporting the needs of both content creators and content users. In the past the Copyright Agency has been concerned with the needs of libraries, the education sector and various cultural institutions. Now, the role and responsibility of online service providers has become a big issue.
In early September, CAL ran a Copy Connect seminar in Melbourne to discuss the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC), inquiring into copyright and the digital economy. Ultimately, the inquiry aims to discover how Australia can best develop its copyright framework in an era of seismic change and vast technological shifts. While the report focuses on how to promote Australia’s digital economy and examines how content will be delivered to users, the government is very interested to hear from the experiences of those who are creating and disseminating content.
The key issues of the inquiry include:
– The Digital Economy: social and economic
– Current copyright use
– Statutory licenses
– Sharing of content online for ’private’/’social’ purposes
– ‘fair dealing’ & ‘fair use’.
The term ‘fair use’ and indeed, the inquiry itself are mostly concerned with questions of USER expectations rather than CREATOR expectations. And while the inquiry aims to discover whether the copyright sector need to be freed up to allow for more use, the government is interested to hear from publishers involved in ‘content production’ and dissemination. They would like to learn about what circumstances publishers think it is acceptable for readers/viewers to use your content ‘without permission’? The ALRC is also interested in finding out about how copyright is currently working in practice, including where it is working successfully, in order to assess what changes need to be made. The inquiry is also seeking recommendations from the Book Industry Strategy Group, to examine how best to promote the book industry.
If you would like more information on copyright in the digital economy please visit the CAL website
If you are interested in participating in the ALRC Inquiry please contact Rosanna Arciuli: email@example.com
VAN ROBERTS from Little Raven.
Little Raven was established in 2011. They are a Melbourne-based publisher of erotic short stories, novels, poems, audio books and comics.
Van Roberts is a freelance writer and broadcaster. She has contributed to Frankie, The Pluck, Time Out, The Pun, RHUM and Spineless Wonders. Van spent hours on a typewriter as a child, which gave her a love for the written word. She also has an appreciation for wrestling, tequila and coffee. Van writes a blog, Scribbley-Ness.
When was the last time you were lost in a book? I really enjoyed Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot and read it in a few days. It was a great exercise in character.
Why did you become a publisher? I wanted to publish well-written, Australian erotica.
What is the most exciting thing about your job? Meeting and working with writers, discovering new stories and talents.
When I’m not busy publishing fantastic Australian writing you can find me…? Searching for good coffee.
BRONWYN MEHAN from spineless wonders
spineless wonders was established in 2011 to bring short Australian stories to a wider reading public. www.shortaustralianstories.com.au
Bronwyn Mehan is publisher at spineless wonders, an Australian-based independent press which has, in its first year of operation, produced three short story collections and two anthologies. spineless wonders encourages new and emerging writers and each year offers The Carmel Bird Short Fiction Award.
When was the last time you were lost in a book?
I find many books confusing. Take Agatha Christie. I can never understand those murders, even after I know who dunnit. And I don’t like books with too many characters. That’s why I mainly read autobiographies. There was one book that had me gobsmacked recently. I was upstairs at Gleebooks, flicking through one of those blank-page journals. Not one typo.
Why did you become a publisher?
The money. Also, I’ve been interested in publishing from an early age. As a kid, I produced a handmade newspaper and dropped it into letterboxes along my street. It was called Catnip and featured interviews with neighbourhood cats – favourite food etc. My father was a big influence too. He was more involved in the printing end of things – until he was sent down for his five dollar notes. (This is pre-magnetic strip days, of course, so he hasn’t been much help with the digital side of spineless wonders). But I used to learn heaps from him on visits.
Why short fiction?
As we know, Australia has a long tradition of great short story writers (John Cheever, Raymond Carver and a few women I could mention). So, basically, it was a safe bet, financially.
Why the name, spineless wonders? Dad suggested it. It’s what my brothers used to call me when I wouldn’t help them put our cat in the clothes dryer. So, I guess it’s sentimental. (My first choice had been Allen & Unwin, but I checked and it was already taken.)
How did you become a publisher?
I was living in Darwin at the time and I went for an interview at the local CES. I put publishing down as my third choice, after crocodile handler and pearl diver. For weeks, nothing happened. Then one day, I saw something and I knew it was a sign. It was on a telegraph pole and it had tear-off strips. MAKE 0000’S WORKING FROM HOME. So that’s what I did.
Three skills every independent publisher needs are…?
Before starting spineless wonders, I did heaps of research – I sent an email to indie publishers asking them what three skills I needed. It was unanimous: a Twitter account, a camera and a shorthaired cat. Turns out, it’s a bit more complicated than that and after a year in the trade, I too have advice to hand to a newbie. Find out what an Oxford comma is.
What is the most exciting thing about your job?
Proofreading. Followed by, getting a huge cheque from my distributor. I’m sure it will be very exciting.
What are the biggest challenges facing independent publishers/your company at the moment?
Getting blogs, the cat, to hold a book long enough for me to take a photograph. I tried gaffer taping it to her paws but that leaves fur on the cover and fur-covered books won’t be in vogue until this digital craze wears itself out.
Screen VS Page?
I prefer screen. That last Agatha Christie series on the ABC was way better than any of her books.
When I’m not busy publishing fantastic Australian writing you can find me…?
If I’m not down at the Officeworks copy centre, chatting to dad, I’m at Toby’s reading a short story over a short black. Otherwise, I’m out looking for blogs, the mog.
SARAH BAILEY from Really Blue Books
Really Blue Books is the newest face of digital trade publishing in Australia. We’re the ebook-only, modern black sheep of the industry offering opportunity to emerging and established writers.
Sarah Bailey is the Publisher at Really Blue Books, meaning she is the chief consumer of chocolate, master ideas juggler, author hand-holder and is the mostly likely employee to get RSI from writing emails. She’s all about challenging life as we know it by looking toward the future, evaluating the book apocalypse and building digital community in Australia.
When was the last time you were lost in a book? Every day. It is very rare for me not to have a book on the go!
Why did you become a publisher? To effect change I wasn’t seeing in the industry in Australia. Let’s face it – we were slow off the mark. The rest of the world (well, parts of it) had taken digital and run, and we were still twiddling our thumbs, wondering what all this kerfuffle was about. I figured somebody had to make a start, so it might as well be me. I always have, and always will, love books and the print experience, but I also want to see progression in the industry and to be part of such an exciting period where we are able to redefine all the boundaries.
Three skills every independent publisher needs are…? Big dreams, an optimistic outlook and truckloads of chocolate.
What is the most exciting thing about your job? Easy – reading all the fantastic, varied, hilarious submissions we get every day. You never know what you’re going to get, and they’re usually far beyond expectation. It’s such a privilege.
What are the biggest challenges facing independent publishers/your company at the moment? Finding support in all aspects of the industry to get product out into the wider world. Many aspects of the industry have been slow to embrace digital change and are therefore forcing us to look to other avenues for marketing, reviews, awards and so on. It will get there with time, but it can be frustrating.
Screen VS Page? Strangely enough for a digital publisher – page. I don’t think, as a die-hard book lover, that I could ever make anything to beat the physical experience of reading. The idea now is not to compete ebooks with print, but to create a new kind of experience. Vanilla doesn’t necessarily beat chocolate, they’re each delicious in their own way.