Friday, 3 June 2011

Small is Beautiful

I'm excited to report that my first proper author interview is published today, in Wyvern Magazine. I've known the team behind Wyvern Publications for a while, and they asked me some great questions, to which I've tried to find great answers. In case you're not totally wild about me (is that possible?), there are several more interviews, articles and original fiction in the 50 page June edition, which costs a mere £2.

*Promotional section ends. Mostly.*

I say mostly, because I thought this was a perfect opportunity to talk about small presses like Wyvern and the great work they do in the fiction market. As you know, the publishing industry is becoming increasingly polarised, with big publishers looking for books that will have big sales and self-publishers flooding into the market via the e-book. The midlist - those books with a definite, but not mass appeal - is being squeezed out. Some of this midlist will move to the larger independent publishers, but these are also suffering from the increased costs and lower profit margins affecting the whole book trade. Independents can take more risks than the majors, but not that many.

So that brings us to the small press. Employing a tiny staff, often on a part-time basis, they aren't able to publish many books each year. In fact, many have grown out of self-publishing, in a desire to achieve more than the fleeting pleasure of seeing your name on the cover of a paperback. These companies aren't run for profit or fame, but mostly for love. More than that, a small press can develop a vision and identity, taking the founder's author brand and expanding it into an editorial strategy that attracts likeminded contributors. Just don't make the mistake of thinking that small presses put out substandard books that couldn't find a home elsewhere - with so few releases each year, their commitment to quality has to be just as high as other publishers.

Where small fiction presses like Wyvern and Bridge House excel, is in the promotion of forms long ignored in our novel-obsessed society: short stories, plays and poetry. They give a platform for developing writers and illustrators. They allow us to read delightful books that were too far off-trend for other publishers to consider. Sometimes they publish work that was actually too on-trend to get noticed in a crowded market (Wyvern have a vampire anthology called Fangtales that comes out later this year). Small presses, with their not-for-profit slant, are also a perfect place to publish charity books.

Some of you might be detecting a whiff of hypocrisy here. If I love small presses so much, why haven't I offered my work to be published by one? Well, my mealy-mouthed answer is to say that things are different for me - I have an agent and I'm also dealing in mass-market concepts that are aimed above the midlist. I happen to think that a traditional form of publishing will be the one that serves my work and intended audience best. And in case you don't believe me, I listened to Nicola Morgan saying a very similar thing in a talk at Foyles last night. But as to how my career progresses once I've built up a readership? I guess we'll talk again once that's happened.

To conclude, I think Wyvern Publications is a smart operation with real charm. You can read a lot more about where they came from and what kind of books they publish in Head Editor Holly Stacey's interview with Tall Tales and Short Stories.


No comments:

Post a Comment