Kit Caless on combining forces with other small presses...
At this years Stoke Newington Literary Festival, Gary and I decided to invite three of our fellow and favourite small publishers; 3:AM Press, Galley Beggar and Lonely Coot to join us on stage for a 'small press showcase'.
The event was great, Eimear McBride, Adam Biles, Alex Preston, Chimene Suleyman and Daniel Kramb all read wonderfully and a Q&A with Christiana Spens, Gary, Sam Jordison and Daniel Kramb raised some interesting questions from the audience.
Gary and I hadn't met Sam (Galley Beggar) or Christiana (3:AM) before, having only communicated via twitter or email. Adam Biles was a guest on my Resonance FM show, Mapping the Metropolis, but we also hadn't met any of the authors in person either. (including Chimene, our own representative on the night!). This was a definite triumph for the digital age.
What I found most interesting about the night was that each press had pretty much approached publishing for the same reasons we did, and also with the same methods. The Q&A's main thrust was about the whys and hows.
At Influx Press our regular story is that Gary and I started the press to put a book out (Acquired for Development By) that no other publisher would touch because it was too niche. We borrowed money from local Hackney people who came forward to offer it and the book did much better than we thought. Off the back of that success we thought we'd keep going.
Sam's reasons for setting up Galley Beggar seemed pretty similar, though coming from a bookshop in Norfolk rather than a pub in Hackney. Sam felt like he wanted to contribute to publishing rather than feel frustrated that the books he wanted to read weren't out there. They took a loan, risked a lot and the gamble paid off. Galley Beggar's first books have done very well and have funded them to do more, including the innovative Singles Club.
Christiana explained that after a hairy week a year or so back when 3:AM Magazine was lost in the internet vortex, its server disappeared and potentially 10 years of content missing, the idea for making physical books came up. As a kind of safety net, I suppose. Again, small print runs, small budgets but the crucial ingredient of almost willing a book into existence was key here. 3:AM clearly care about the writers they are publishing and they are putting books on shelves that really should be read.
Daniel, from Lonely Coot - without wishing to hammer the point home here - concurred once more. He and a friend had been writing and editing books about climate change and environmental politics. Not your average bestseller at Harper Collins. So in much the same way, set up Lonely Coot to put these books into existence.
For me this is such an encouraging thing. It's hard to run a small press as it is, Gary and I only really have ourselves to talk to about what books we want to do next, argue over editorial issues, worry about money, chase invoices and all the other shit that comes with it. To do an event like this made me feel less lonely, less like we're just orbiting the publishing industry in a tiny small press capsule, whistling a melancholic Ziggy Stardust song to ourselves. It even... dare I say it, felt like there was a bit of the old solidarity in the group. We all publish very different books and have different resources, different agendas and different goals. But, I think, just to be in that space, together, knowing that the person sitting next to you on the stage has been struggling the same way you have and come out still passionate about the next publication they're bringing out - that's enough.
It's enough to keep me going anyway. I'm really excited about our next two books and can't wait to get them out. Hopefully we'll be able to do more events like this in the future. This sort of solidarity and collaboration is what is needed to survive as a small press, and on top of all that - it's genuine fun.
- Kit Caless
(thanks to 3:AM and Galley Beggar for the photos)