Vol 2, No. 3 ISSN 1442-0023
From the Director's Desk
Now that the Olympics are over, we can catch up on our own medal-winning performances.
At IP the pace has hardly slowed. We had the Opening of our new Treetop Studio, with the champagne flowing in the Courtyard as Matt Foley, Minister for the Arts and several local authors did their part in launching the premises.
We had a spirited launch of Manfred Jurgensen's carnal knowledge and my multimedia work, The Gallery, on 10 September. We held it at The Latin Café-Bar in Fortitude Valley. I'd been impressed by it as a venue during the Brisbane Poetry Festival, and it certainly lived up to my expectations this time.
IP will be well-represented in the upcoming Brisbane Writers' Festival , with Sara Moss (A Deep Fear of Trains) reading at Parliament House and participating in a panel on the Triumph of the Ordinary (a good post-Olympics topic!) Manfred's book will have a celebratory reading, and The Gallery will have a special session, focused on the making of the work as well as an interactive demo.
IP has good reason to look forward to the opening night of the Writers' Festival, since yet another of our titles, my short story collection Triangles, has been shortlisted for a major award to be announced at the Gala Dinner on 18 October. The 2000 Steele Rudd Award, worth $15,000, is the most coveted of its kind in Australia, and we're delighted to have made it this far. The judges had some interesting observations to make about the state of short fiction publishing in this country, which gives rise to this issue's editorial.
The next day, I'll be travelling south to the second NWS Writers' Centre Bookfair for Independent Publishers in Sydney (27-29 Oct), where we'll have a display of the latest from Interactive Press, Glass House Books and IP Digital, as well as El Kumanand Press and Balcones International Press. My trusty G-3 laptop will be loaded with a demo copy of The Gallery, so I urge our Sydney friends to come along and have a play.
I'm pleased to announce that IP will be working closely with Greater Glider Books, a publisher for younger readers run by Jill Morris up at Maleny, on the Sunshine Coast. This is certainly in keeping with IP's plan to promote greater cooperation among independent publishers to the benefit of all. As a first step, we'll have promotional materials from GGB at the Bookfair, so you can see some of the excellent work being published by this award-winning Queensland publisher.
From Sydney I'll make my way to Canberra, where I'll hold a workshop on Digital Publishing at the ACT Writers' Centre at Gorman House from 2 p.m. on 1 November. The Writers' Centre asked me to write a feature for their newsletter on the subject to help promote the event, and we've reprinted that here. I look forward to meeting with Canberra residents interested in learning about some of the latest developments in New Publishing on that date.
Finally, I want to formally welcome Ben Selleck, IP's new Assistant Editor, who joins Sara Moss in helping me deal with an ever-expanding workload. Ben comes to IP fresh from completing an MA in literature from the University of Melbourne, and he has a special interest in seeing the work of younger authors finding a place in IP's publishing program.
I had promised to give you a sneak preview of our 2001 publishing program in this issue, but I've decided to hold that over until our pre-Christmas issue. One reason is that we're awaiting the outcome of Art Queensland's latest grant round deliberations, but there are a couple of other developments that I might also want to talk about next time. I can tell you that 2001 promises to be our most exciting year of publishing to date, so it'll be well worth waiting for the announcement!
In the meantime, it's never too early to browse through IP's online catalogue for gifts for friends and family. And with every order, you know you'll be doing something very worthwhile - supporting the efforts of Australian independent publishing, not too mention some very deserving authors!
On 20 August, Treetop Studios, IP's new premises in Carindale was launched by Minister for the Arts, the Honourable Matt Foley (known to insiders as the 'Minister for Poetry'!) The event was a great success, with Arts Queensland identities and poetry lovers turning out for an afternoon of readings, champagne and conversation, shaded by the greenery of IP's picturesque new home.
The celebrations began in the back yard, where champagne and tasty snacks were served in a distinctively Queensland setting. In his speech, Minister Foley enthusiastically praised IP (after opening with a nice quote from Keats: "If poetry comes not as naturally as the leaves to a tree, it had better not come at all"), acknowledging the contribution it has made to the arts in Queensland by providing an outlet for local poetic talent. "Long may it and Queensland poets prosper", he said. He also expressed admiration for its foward thinking philosophy in its embracing of new publishing techniques, especially in its digital and multimedia ventures.
And there is poetic talent in abundance in Queensland, if the warmly received readings by some of IP's poets was anything to go by. Andrew Leggett, Michael Sariban, and Sara Moss all read from their works, as did Manfred Jurgensen, whose collection carnal knowledge is the latest volume to be published by IP.
launch also offered an opportunity to interact with David Reiter's new multimedia
work, The Gallery. Participants were able
to experience first hand what the latest technological advancements can
offer to readers. This exciting new development from IP Digital allows the
reader to visit different rooms in The Gallery (with Paul Gaugin as one
of your guides!) where audio and visual features further enrich the imaginative
This guided virtual tour happened in tandem with a tour of the studio itself, whose place amongst the trees is almost at odds with the high-tech production that IP is engaged in. The studio opens onto a reception area where IP's book and digital titles are on display, and where interested authors and readers can meet and learn about all the possibilities that a new publisher like IP has to offer. The main work stations are also here, where IP's production occurs on its many levels. The Studio is self-contained, so we can accommodate visiting authors from time to time.
The Gallery was demonstrated in the multimedia suite, which is effectively soundproofed for audio recording, as well as video editing.
All in all, the launch was an stimulating afternoon of interaction (literary, technological, and otherwise) which provided a window to the future of literary publishing in Queensland.
Manfred Jurgensen's latest poetry collection carnal knowledge was launched at the stylish Latin Café-Bar in Brunswick Street, in Brisbane's colourful Fortitude Valley on September 10, an fittingly elegant venue for this stuning new work.
After an appropriate Elizabethan musical fanfare on lutes and recorder, the book was introduced to the public by popular novelist Venero Armanno. Venero gave a glowing recommendation for the book, which he said was one of the few memorable Australian literary works he had read this year. Manfred then recited selections from his book, which whetted the poetic appetite of the audience. The sensual intelligence working throughout the poetry obviously won Manfred some new admirers.
Manfred's other works includes novels, plays and film-scripts, as well as his renowned poetry, and this latest collection makes a valued addition to IP's Literature Series. carnal knowledge is a spicy poetic examination of sexual love and intimacy in its many forms. Needless to say it should find a large readership! The collection was featured in the BAM section of The Courier-Mail recently as the book of the week, so it's clearly making waves already. Check out the full review.
On the subject of newer, but just as stimulating, forms of art, the launch provided another opportunity to interact with The Gallery, IP Digital's first multimedia work. With the work set up on a G3 laptop, the audience were able to participate directly in the creative process right there in the café, putting a new take on coffee house poetry culture!
Saturday 21st October at the Brisbane Writers' Festival will also feature The Gallery, with David Reiter documenting 'the making of' this exciting new fusion of the literary and the technological. And since the work is interactive, don't be surprised if you're called upon to interact during the presentation! This event will take place at the State Library Theatrette.
carnal knowledge is also to be launched by David at the Festival at 2pm the following day. The Festival Venue is the Launch Pad at the Queensland Cultural Centre, next to the Festival Café.
So do the right thing go out and buy (or order online) these great new titles from Interactive Publications before they're all sold out!
Another issue, another shortlisting. Following the success of Hemingway in Spain and Selected Poems at the Adelaide Festival and Bermuda and the Other Islands in the 1999 Mary Gilmore Awards, we were of course delighted to learn that David P Reiter's Triangles was one of three books shortlisted for the 2000 Steele Rudd Award, along with Elliot Perlman's The reasons I won't be coming and Merlinda Bobis' White Turtle. The Award, which is worth AU$15,000, will be announced at the Brisbane Writer's Festival's Gala Dinner on 18 October, and you can be sure that the candidates will have had a few fingernails as 'starters' before the mains are brought out!
Unfortunately there's no prize money for winning silver or bronze in this competition, so the runners up will just have to hope that the exposure in being shortlisted will help their sales. Of course, we're biased, but if you haven't already ordered your copy of Triangles you can do so now. If it wins, you can boast to your friends how you knew it would win all along. If it doesn't, well what's wrong with going 'oi, oi, oi' for silver or bronze? And, as Murray Waldren points out in The Australian, you'll have the pleasure of reading some of the best satire written in this country of late.
But on a more serious note, we couldn't help but notice the wake-up call in the judges' comments on the shortlisting: There were signs that while writers are attracted to the form its publishing stocks are down. This is a pity because of the fine history in Australia of the short story, which offers special rewards to reader and writer alike.
Reading between the lines, we think they're saying that publishers are not supporting the form as they used to. The arguments for this are predictable: there's not enough money in publishing short fiction. They've been saying that about poetry for some time, but at least poets have the opportunity of several major national awards each year, while the Steele Rudd stands alone as the only competition reserved for short fiction. Of course there's nothing stopping short fiction authors and publishers from entering the fiction sweepstakes, but that would put them in competition with novels, which still seem to have pretty good press. And when's the last time you heard about a short fiction collection beating out a novel for a major award? The situation's even worse when it comes to "book of the year awards", such as The Courier-Mail's. Here all the "fiction" works are lumped together, with poetry and short fiction up against the dreaded novel.
We can't blame The Courier-Mail for promoting their own award, but we did find it unfortunate that they chose to devote a full page to coverage of that, while the Queensland Premier's Award, which covers many catagories, only rated a few centimetres in a single column. And, you guessed it, no mention was made of the Steele Rudd Competition at all.
We do recall some journalistic hand-wringing some months ago in that same paper about how sad it is that there isn't more support in the community for literary writing. We do acknowledge that the Book of the Year Award goes some distance in promoting the work of novelists and non-fiction authors. But many of these are already well-promoted by their publishers, while the 'endangered' literary forms are consigned to invisibility.
Lest The Courier-Mail feel singled out, the Queensland Government could also take more positive steps to promote short fiction and poetry. The new Premier's Awards do not include separate catagories for poetry or short fiction. The Emerging Author Award can be for any form of publication, so the biases mentioned above may apply. There are already two notable prizes awarded from Queensland for these forms annually: the Judith Wright Calanthe Award for Poetry and the Steele Rudd Award for short fiction. So more money isn't needed, just more effort to promote them. Perhaps they could be included in publicity connected with the Premier's Awards. Perhaps the Brisbane Writers' Festival could do more than send out a press release (which has been largely ignored by the media). The BWF couldn't even find space in their program to mention the Steele Rudd Award!
And more could be done out there to develop a larger audience for short fiction. Bookshops rarely dedicate space for the short story collection. If they stock them at all, they are integrated with novels. So anyone looking a collection of short fiction would be hard-pressed to find it among the Stephen Kings. The hand-wringers at the bookshops maintain that no one wants to buy short story collections, but current practice goes a long way to ensure that the situation will never get better. Bookshops could and should do more. For a start, they could devote a shelf or two to short fiction collections and label it as such. If they're hard-pressed to find enough collections to fill the shelf they could add some classical examples from times when the form was "supported" by bookshops and readers alike.
There's advice for libraries in this, too. We need more live short story readings at local libraries. New short story collections could be featured in displays before they get 'lost' in the general fiction section.
The media could also do more. Good short stories work well in broadcast, and don't take up that much space in print. Why not have a story-of-the-month competition, where winning entries get published in the Arts section?
Finally, the schools need to take a more active role in promoting these endangered forms. Teachers need to be taught how to teach the short story. No, it's not just a shorter form of the novel! As the judges of the Steele Rudd so aptly say, would be "special rewards" for readers as well as writers in a cultural landscape that embraced the short fiction. If it is to live on, we will have to make a special effort at the schools to teach it.
Otherwise, how will we know what we're missing?
[Thanks to the ACT Writers' Centre, which published the following article by Dr David P Reiter, IP's Director]
publishing has arrived in Australia, and it will soon reshape the way we
publish, read and even compose creative work. Overseas, a new generation
of e-book readers is being produced by market leaders such as Microsoft
and Adobe. Although its hard to find these devices here at present,
it wont be long. So who will produce the next generation of e-titles,
which buyers will purchase at the click of a mouse? You have only to scan
the newsletters of writers organisations to see a flock of ads trumpeting
what these so-called e-publishers can do for you. But how much is hype,
and how much can you expect to gain from weaning yourself from paperback
to the cyberpage?
first thing to remember is that its open slather out there. Anyone
with a website and some basic web authoring skills can set themselves up
as an "e-publisher". If youre thinking of casting digital
pearls, youd best do some research as to what these newcomers can
offer. Know thy publisher before you sign on the DOT.COM line.
Interactive Publications (IP) has been in business for over three years, which makes us a virtual icon (pun intended) on the e-publishing scene. Part of any good business business plan is to track the competition and to judge their credibility. So we visit the websites of the new players as we hear about them. What weve found out should come as a wakeup call to the unwary.
publisher with integrity shouldnt be afraid to be clear about where
the real shopfront is and who looks after it. Yet, without naming names,
we found sites that dont. One e-publisher, supposedly from Brisbane,
lists a PO Box but no street address. A quick check of the Brisbane Yellow
and White Pages reveals no listing for the party in question. Danger, dear
author, danger. If you ever need to track them down for your royalty cheques,
post office boxes can be slow at two-way communication.
as a good cover design may exaggerate the quality of whats inside
a book, an attractive home page may mislead you as to what the e-publisher
can do for you. Reputable publishers offer solid editorial, design and production
expertise, not just cyber-glitz. For example, at http://www.interpr.com.au/guide.htm,
IP has a free guide to prospective authors. This includes tips about the
publishing process gained from years of actual experience. Our review of
the competition found knowledge to be well-intentioned but skin-deep on
several of the sites. Some seem to assume that you know what theyre
looking for or havent they decided? In other cases, we got
the distinct impression that they didnt know any more about literary
projects than their prospective clients and had just entered the publishing
"game" because it seemed like a groovy thing to do.
The e-publishers staying power. That should be your major concern before signing on with a DOT.COM. Will they be in business five years from now, two years, six months? Just as DOT.COMs can appear overnight, they can disappear just as quickly. IP believes that the more you know about where we are and where were heading, the better off both parties will be. So we have a free online newsletter, IP eNews , that talks about our current projects and our future plans. IP publishes in print, as well as digital format, a mix which we think will give us greater staying power than some of the wannabes. After all, the book isnt dead yet, is it?
digitising work can be straightforward if you know what youre doing,
selling it in cyberspace is a subject that often gets e-publishers tongue-tied.
Theres a lot of hard work getting your site listed on the major search
engines and connected to other literary sites. Even more work, promoting
your titles online so that theyll sell. Our clients start with our
online catalogue, which in turn links to mini-sites that showcase individual
works and their authors, which in turn link to our Orders page, which is
what its all about if youre an author.
of titles, heres another test for those wannabe e-publishers
how many titles do they actually have for sale on their site? The fewer
the number of titles, the less traffic its likely to receive
unless youre selling Stephen King. We noticed some e-publishers that
had only one or two titles. In contrast, IP lists not only titles from our
own three imprints, but also El Kumanand Press (Far North Queensland) and
Balcones International Press (USA), which gives us greater penetration in
the Australian and international marketplaces.
your rights be protected? Ensure that you get a real contract and that you
check it closely before you sign. Many e-publishers offer "generous"
royalties, but how are these calculated, accounted for and paid? And what
control do you have over what buyers can do with your work once they download
it? IP offers its authors the choice of selling work as read-only, print
and read, or with no security imposed. Before you sign, satisfy yourself
that the e-publisher will protect your intellectual property and pay you
what you deserve.
A final test should be on the e-publishers dedication to keep up with technology and to encourage the creativity of its authors. My view is that the real strength of e-publishing will stem from its ability to produce work that takes full advantage of the New Media. For example, my latest work, The Gallery, mixes video, audio, graphics and text to produce an interactive experience for the viewer. It may well be the shape of things to come and it may have to be, if for literary publishing is not to fall by the wayside.
And now an opportunity to introduce myself. I'm IP's new Assistant Editor, Ben Selleck. I'm honoured to be involved in a new cultural venture like this one. My background is more traditionally academic (having a Master of Arts in literary criticism), so, while I'm helping with editing manuscripts, I'm lucky to be learning about digital publication at this level.
I see IP as providing an important platform for publishing new literary work opportunities for which are becoming scarcer and scarcer. I think it should appeal to younger writers and readers like myself (I'm 26) who are wanting to get their stuff out there, and who are wanting to read the latest and greatest Australian authors. Plus, as an independent publisher, IP gives a lot more personal attention to authors in the pre-publication stages. And, with its emphasis on promoting as well as publishing work digitally, we can get titles out to a much larger audience than was previously possible, as well as presenting them in a variety of formats.
So, in closing, we say: Support Independent Publishers. Support IP.
I'm happy to field any enquiries about IP, and I welcome any comments and feedback. We're open to submissions of articles on issues that may be of interest to IP eNews readers. Send these to me directly.