There are people who dedicate their careers to shining a little bit of light on the works of creatives who might otherwise go unnoticed. These people are publishers. Most people view publishers as capital businesses, the big guy buying the rights of the little guy for creative control, that is usually detrimental to the artist. But what else can writers do? Self-publishing is comparable to bringing a very expensive knife to a gunfight, and e-publishing has been proclaimed a ‘soon to burst tech bubble’, where the experts say you have to spend “20% of your time writing and 80% of your time networking through social media”.
Enter: the small press publisher. Characterised by releasing around ten books a year, small press publishers have a more creatively driven focus and will tend more to the wishes of the authors, than to their pockets. Melbourne’s current literary scene is flourishing with small press ‘indie’ publishers whose aim is to disseminate the market with books by authors whose content is more credible than marketable.
Hunter Publishers from Melbourne is a testament to the ideals of an Independent publisher who seeks to release works that enrich the audience. We caught up with owner, John Hunter who explained what it’s all about.
“The point of being small and independent is that you set your own editorial agenda. You can, pretty much, publish whatever you want. You don’t have to specialize in the same way that commercial behemoths do. And it’s not a bad thing for the person who edited the book to also brief the sales reps, or booksellers, or write the press release, providing they know what they’re doing. So, the best thing about being small is that you get to do everything. The worst part about it is that you have to do everything”.
That being said, the domain of a small publisher is definitely one where necessity breeds the drive to curate quality-creative pieces; because unlike a larger operation, there isn’t room to produce lesser works. However, in a field where pockets have to run deep, can you still operate a small publisher without finance to back you? “You can start a small publishing operation without too much capital. I did it after working in the industry for many years so I had enough experience and contacts to at least know where to start from.” But to which he added, “Ironically, the publishing landscape is changing so quickly that experience is almost a handicap”. There are advantages to this, “A cynic might observe that small publishers publish whatever the bigger guys don’t want to touch. Whatever they can. Personally, I’m attracted to quality writing that displays great technical skill but that also takes a few risks — that is original and engaged. By default, independent publishers tend to represent the avant garde”. And we’re sure representing those ahead of their time never hurt anybody.
Mischa Merz tells her story of travelling across America fighting in amateur boxing competitions and meeting her idols including ‘the most dangerous woman in the world’
Ilura Press is a small press publisher from Melbourne. Since their inception in 2006, the boutique publishing house has aimed to provide a platform for writer’s creativity by only publishing “quality literature and art”. They look to be on track too. Their new book, Lentil As Anything: Food Culture Community, has recently won the Gourmand World Cook Book Award for the ‘”best fundraising, charity and community book” in the Australia Pacific region and has been shortlisted for the “Best in the World” category. The production of high standard works like these, they say, comes from “working closely with our authors throughout the editing and production stages to ensure their vision and the work itself realise their full potential”. More hand-holding rather than handcuffing.
Written by the founder of ‘Lentil As Anything’ this a cook book for the soul
Moving on to a different type of handcuffing, Little Raven is a new to the scene publisher of erotic fiction that began in 2011. They released their first anthology Little Raven One in November 2011 which showcased an eclectic mix of “zombies, spiders, one-night stands and wild beasts”, in short story and poetry form. So how do you fall into publishing erotic fiction? Little Raven Publishing was formed by two RMIT writing students who bonded over saucy literature. After a few weeks talking about Anais Nin and Susie Bright, they decided to start their own business. The positive response they received encouraged them – it seemed that there was a gap in the market for people who didn’t want to read 50 Shades of Grey and were looking for something a bit more satisfying. Recently they have recruited over twenty authors and started a pod cast called Lickity Split. Soon they will be a part of StripFest 2013, run writing classes and are preparing themselves for Little Raven Two.
Images by Mark Russell Dean
Why is Melbourne kicking literary butt? Maybe it’s because we were named UNESCO‘s City of Literature, maybe it’s because we have the Wheeler Centre in the state library which acts as a physical base for key organisations including Express Media, the Australian Poetry Centre and the rapidly expanding Small Press Underground Networking Community (SPUNC). Or maybe it’s just because we’re butt-kickers. Whatever the case; before you envelop yourself in reading another epic fantasy involving sadomasochistic billionaire dragon-vampires who battle their peers from separate quadrants in the 32nd century gladiator, take a look at what is cultivating a little closer to home.