So, I’m a writer but I’m also a publisher and I’m also a university lecturer. In fact, each role becomes part of the other. My lecturing has to have the priority, because I’m actually paid a living wage for that. Having said that, my writing is part of what I’m expected to do at the university. The publishing is almost a support activity: I get to practise editing and selecting stories and I get some insight into why some things are accepted and rejected. I also get to see how supersensitive we writers often seem. And I become more sensitive to the constraints under which editors work.
Let me give you a few examples:
We had a query last week about our competition. Were the entries judged yet? Hang on a minute – they only came in at the end of January and we’re working on several other books at the same time.
The last competition I judged, I actually got accused of not reading the entries. Sorry, folks, every single one was read - very carefully. You can’t win, can you? You’re either too fast or too slow ….
We had over 400 stories for our animal anthology and had to reject some really well written material … it just didn’t fit our criteria or was slightly less good than another on the same animal. We always email our authors individually and each one takes a couple of minutes. You can do the maths. And every time we have to stop to answer an email about why we haven’t replied yet …. That’s another email we’re not sending. Same story with our Open Anthology.
It was slightly different with 100 Stories for Haiti – Greg McQueen and his team did the selection and the first edits – we just stepped in part way through the process and actually got the book to print. But you’ve probably seen Greg’s blog on that topic so I’ll say no more.
Talking of which … we had a spot of bother with posting some of the copies – a particular machine at a particular post office decided to chew up some of the envelopes. One writer mentioned it politely to our administrator … only in passing …. My own arrived in a battered envelop, but the book was fine and since I’d received several of our publications in similar envelops, I knew it wasn’t us. Nevertheless, our wonderful administrator surveyed everyone and asked if their book had arrived okay. Most people were great about it. This book isn’t about your ego as a writer – it’s about what you can do as writer – write – as opposed to going through rubble or just putting you hand in your pocket. Everyone at Bridge House and on Greg’s team has worked for free on this book …. And put much more time in than the writing of one story – we know – two of us at Bridge House are in the book. Per head, the book has made more than £5.00 each already, so it’s been worth it. But anyway, we’ve revised our p & p policy – all Haiti books are going out in jiffy bags now…. 25p less to the Red Cross, but needs must.
The majority of our authors are great, though. When the Haiti book came out we were pleased to see some familiar names. It may be hard work being a publisher – frustrating when the printer is slow and the authors impatient – and the returns aren’t great yet. But it’s such fun getting a great book out there … and what else would I do with my spare time?