Wednesday 18 March 2020

"Small Press Publishing: The Dos and Don'ts"

By Isabelle Kenyon

I started writing Small Press Publishing: The Dos and Don'ts because, when I started publishing anthologies at the end of 2017, there were no books or advice columns out there for new publishers. I contacted every single publisher on the Northern Fiction Alliance page (around 50 UK publishers) and offered to work for free, explaining that I had already taught myself a lot about the business, but now wanted to apply that knowledge to a professional team (in a small press, you often do every single part of the publishing process, but ideally, you have the budget to allocate roles and salaries, so I was intrigued to see how this worked). Unfortunately, only two people replied and they said they didn’t have the capacity to take me on.

This frustrated me because I knew I wasn’t a hindrance to their day-to-day activities – I’ve always worked hard and independently. Instead, I just tried harder to work through the legalities of becoming a sole trader, sorting out a distributor, developing relationships with bookshops, etc., myself. A lot of those publishers now book tables from me for the Northern Publishers’ Fair which I organise!

It’s entirely possible to build your own niche within a busy book market. You have to be organised, determined and have a supportive network, who are passionate about the kinds of books you produce. My network is predominately supportive US readers who I communicate with on social media, and book bloggers who give so much of their time to reviewing my titles (thank you!).

With this book, I wanted to help the many who are never given work experience, by talking them through the steps that I have gone down over the past two years. I’ve also interviewed a series of small publishers in various genres because all publishers run their businesses differently, and I wanted to show those varying models.

There is a lot more to succeeding as a publisher, and as a business, than a good idea. You need to maximise your chances of success. In this book, I take the reader through the process of branding, working with authors, the publishing schedule, marketing and distributing and how I started my business. For example, in one section we look at:

Important questions to ask yourself before you launch your press

What is it about your book or your publishing strategy that encourages customers to choose you? For example, I believe that, for Fly on the Wall Press, it’s the quality of the books and the diverse range of voices, which we represent.

As a publisher, you need a very clear idea about what your books represent and why your publishing niche is important in the industry.

Why do you want to open your own publishing press?

What previous work experience will help you to do this?

What qualifications or training do you have, which will help you with your business endeavour?

Which future training courses do you want to complete in order to develop your business?

Especially on a small press level, you are your own best advocate and if people are interested in your books, it is usually because they are interested in you and what you stand for. To begin selling books, you must be able to sell yourself as a business owner. Have confidence in what you are doing and really define what your press represents.

About the book

Small Publishing: The Dos and Don’ts, by Isabelle Kenyon

Start with a good idea.

Set up your own business.
Fill a niche in the publishing industry and turn your hobby into a full-time career.

If you feel passionate that you can fill a niche in the publishing industry, but you haven’t managed to get your lucky break so far, this book is for you.

If you have already started running your own online magazine, small press or are publishing your own work in book form professionally, this book is for you.

With interviews from Indigo Dreams Publishing Ltd, HVTN Press, Louise Walters Books, Newfound Journal, Ghost City Press, Broken Sleep Books, Mason Jar Press, Queen of Swords, Neon Books and more.

The book is available from Fly on the Wall Press here.

About the author

Isabelle Kenyon is a northern poet and the author of This is not a Spectacle, micro chapbook, The Trees Whispered (Origami Poetry Press) and Digging Holes To Another Continent (Clare Songbirds Publishing House, New York) and Potential (Ghost City Press). She is the editor of Fly on the Wall Press, a socially conscious small press for chapbooks and anthologies. In 2020, she will be published by Indigo Dreams - poetry chapbook Growing Pains - and Wild Pressed Books (short story 'The Town Talks').

​She was shortlisted for the Streetcake Experimental Writing Prize 2019 and for The Word, Lichfield Cathedral Competition 2019. Her poems have been published in poetry anthologies by Indigo Dreams Publishing, Verve Poetry Press, and Hedgehog Poetry Press. She has had poems and articles published internationally.

She will headline at Cheltenham Poetry Festival  2020 and has opened Coventry Cathedral's Plum Line Festival.  She has performed at Leeds International Festival as part of the 2019 'Sex Tapes' and for  Apples and Snakes' 'Deranged Poetesses' 2019.

​She is a fierce dog lover and a confessed caffeine addict.

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