On Saturday 16 March I attended States of Independence where there were dozens of small press publishers. I went to the following talks -
- Starting and running a small press/independent publishing business - Jane Commane (Nine Arches Press) and Ian Daley (Route Publishing) talked about running a small press.
Ian started by publishing a student newspaper. Route started on 1st Jan 2000. He has brought into being several story collections from post-Industrial communities, as well as publishing memoirs and fiction, producing books in many forms (e-books since 2003). He said that when he'd assembled a collection after working in a community, the "elders" often veto'd the writing of the younger people who often had more in common with the young of other communities than with their parents.
Nine Arches Press was started 5 years ago, beginning by publishing a magazine. They produced poetry pamphlets in 2009 when several indie presses were producing pamphlets. Books were nearly as easy as pamphlets so then they produced poetry books. In the UK, poetry and short stories go together, so they published story collections.
They said that as DTP democratised production, the Web democratised distribution, but Discoverability remains a problem. They both use Print-on-Demand. Nine Arches Press have just started to distribute via Inpress. Ian Daley said that book distribution lags 4 years behind music distribution in terms of techniques. Feature articles sell many more books than Reviews do.
- Keeping it short - Cathy Galvin and Charles Boyle (CB Editions) talked about the short story's prospects. New prizes, downloadable single stories, regular readings and Flash have helped revitalise the genre. They mentioned the newspapers' interest - The Sunday Times' competition (which Cathy Galvin helped create) with "the world's biggest short fiction cash prize", The Telegraph's Short Story Club and The Guardian's online "A brief survey of the short story" series.
Charles Boyle pointed out that short texts are hard to classify - prose poems? Flash fiction? Where do you send them? Where do they go in bookshops?
Jonathan Taylor (editor of Salt's "Overheard" anthology) suggested that short stories sometimes went through phases of mutual resemblance. Charles Boyle talked about a pervading tone of "exquisite doom".
- The Lighthouse, and new short fiction - Alison Moore (Salt) was interviewed by Ross Bradshaw (Five Leaves). She acknowledged that chance played a part - she said she had her first story published in 2000, then later won a story competition judged by Nicholas Royle who asked if she had written a novel. She sent him a manuscript which she later doubled in length. He became her agent and got it published with a small company, Salt, that he was already involved with. Life was normal enough until it got on the Booker shortlist, then overnight foreign presses and film options came in, transforming the future both for the author and the press. The novel grew from an image - a man alone in an ex-lover's kitchen fiddling with his shoe.
I bought "New Walk (issue 1)", "Absence has a weight of its own" (Daniel Sluman, Nine Arches Press), and "White Sheets" (Beverley Bie Brahic, CB editions). My book sold at least one copy at the Nine Arches Press stall.