At the Printers

There’s a little something spiritual about being in the vicinity of a working piece of machinery: its heat radiates; its smell permeates; the clattering, chugging, almost orchestral clanking of metal on metal, drive and punch initiates a settling hypnotic calm.

We were at Dean Press today enquiring about printing choices for the chapbook, Rewilding, when we were treated to the impromptu operation of this renovated 1975 Heidelberg letter press machine. What a piece of kit!

We’re now deciding on a selection of papers and weights, covers and colours, and giving a little extra thought to the limited edition print run. Keeping the materials used in the production in-line with the thematic undercurrent of the story is important to us, and this includes having a natural feel to the product.

Bos will be designing the cover plate, and there’s a good chance this Heidelberg will have a part to play in the production of Rewilding.

If you would like to see footage of the Heidelberg in operation, then please go to my Facebook page (link in the margin).


How Important is Genre Fiction?

I read in The Guardian on Friday that print sales for literary fiction have remained low since they plummeted in 2010. This ‘crisis’, highlighted in a report commissioned by the Arts Council England (ACE), has the same Council considering to fund this publishing genre.

It would be a mistake, I think, to assume that other genres only reflect society rather than examine it, or do not have anything worthwhile to say, and therefore don’t merit support.

Should we not question ACE’s literature director’s reported comment, “… we are saying that there is something so unique and important and necessary and fundamental about literary fiction in particular, that we need to focus on it and support it.”?

Shouldn’t ACE concentrate on promoting literacy in schools, or reading in adulthood, with the aim to allow the reader, not ACE, to support the authors of literary fiction or any other genre?


Giving It Away For Free?

Writers write. That is what they do. They do it because, to them, the act of writing is a drug that shoots them up into the brilliant starscape, the brightness of which eclipses all civilisation (well, almost). Of course, it also drags them down into the cloying mud underfoot where the worms of anxiety will wriggle inside their heads and consume the Self, but that won’t stop the writer from even revelling in the caress of the keys, or the way his fingers mould round the pen – but that’s the way it is with drugs.

Not being paid for his work will not deny the writer this high, neither will it stop him from having a desire to be read, enjoyed, valued. So, it seems he will accept the fact that payment is often not guaranteed. So what? The writer enjoys what he does. It’s not really work, is it? I used to think like that many years ago until I realised how much effort I put into the words on my page; how many hours I was spending alone; how many hours, when not actually writing, were spent thinking about plot and characters; how many hours I took editing a manuscript to a quality which I was satisfied with (at that time!)

One shouldn’t give that away for free. One shouldn’t expect it for free.

If a publisher pays, they have the right to expect a certain standard of work. This is important. As Chuck Wendig says in his blog post concerning the Huffington Post UK editor Stephen Hull, ‘content is not slurry’. Read it, it’s good, and it inspired this post.

Writing this has brought an recent incident to mind: I had access to a television – not having owned one myself for over a decade – and watched the news on the BBC. If I was astounded and concerned by how much this had been dumbed-down since I last tuned in, which I most certainly was, what hope is there for online content? Let’s not continue to keep the masses shackled by a lack of knowledge in this digital age. Let’s keep our languages strong and healthy. Let’s try to keep a respect for people in a world that increasingly alienates them. Let’s pay the writer, Mr Hull (and the rest).

I guess this post is coming to an end, as I’m heading off-course somewhat. It’s a lengthy one by my standards as I prefer to concentrate on my fiction due to time constraints. But, I guess this was a rant that had to be aired.


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Happy Small Press Month!

March is the month in which we celebrate the Small Press. I was made aware of this a few days via a Facebook post from Raw Dog Screaming Press. Up until that point I had neither seen nor heard anything about Small Press Month. This was surprising as I had assumed an integral part of being a Small Press publisher is marketing and promotion.

There are some excellent small press businesses out there bringing the reader new and established voices in, not only genre fiction, but in literature as a whole. They care hugely about the language: the power of the written word: the story, and hopefully they may make a little money on the way.

Writers battle against their peers when these guys call for submissions, because they know that indie publishing is where the writer can engrave their name in the reader’s mind and be the foundations for a writer’s reputation.

Readers, go buy Small Press publications, download their FREE and not-the-free books. Support these guys or you’ll never discover the best in modern literature.

So, let’s celebrate the Indie publisher this March. Hey, if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be in print (yes, I know what you just thought). And if one Small Press in particular hadn’t accepted my first submission in years, then I probably wouldn’t have continued writing short fiction.

Happy Small Press Month!