We are all inclined to think ‘established things’ – like publishing – won’t ever change. Wrong. Lisa Dempster, of newly renamed ‘Vignette Press’, has just convinced me of this with her passion for ‘new media publishing’. She publishes:
Lisa says everyone asks her this. For whatever reason, she says, the idea is ‘out there’ that short stories are ‘dead’. BUT Lisa had received a great manuscript and she saw it as a small publication – with a great cover image. Mini Shots was born.
Selling at $4.00 these delicious, literary morsels are doing very well in cafes and in smaller bookshops. ‘Word of mouth’ and promos on her own and other literary websites have led to success for this series of six short stories.
By subscribing, each month you receive a new magazine in the mail with an entertaining short story by an ‘amazing new writer’. Mini Shots is stocked in bookshops and cafes around Australia and the US.
The 2007 series runs from February to November and if you subscribe after February, you’re sent all the back issues from the current series.
A collection of writing, poetry and art, by young people on sex, in an A5 ‘mook’ format, will be published in October. A great Christmas present was my immediate reaction and, yes, the book will be on sale at the Rose Street market, off inner Melbourne’s funky Brunswick Street, to capture this market.
A mook is a book-magazine hybrid. The layout is like a magazine but without ads but the ‘feel’ is more substantial with slightly thicker pages and cover.
She aims to publish unique, innovative, good writing, not the same old voices but new voices, the ones Angus and Robertson are rejecting (?) saying if you want shelf space, you pay for the privilege and you pay up front. (Have you heard around 160 publishers have been sent letters advising they must pay thousands of dollars within weeks or their books won’t be stocked – including Tower Books, the publisher of this year’s Miles Franklin Award-winning novel, Carpentaria?)
Not a lot. Lisa has been an independent publisher for 18 months now. With a uni degree including literature but not majoring in it, she had worked in London with a book publisher while also doing freelance contracting work, writing and editing for websites. Back in Melbourne she worked on the Bicycle Vic website and was lucky enough to catch sight of a small ‘For Sale’ sign on the Wannabee Publishing website just as she was in that ‘I need to change’ period.
Wannabee’s originator had aimed to help writers be published. She ran an annual short story competition and offered manuscript editing and appraisal services. Lisa has continued this format but added a newsletter – very successful, with 2000 subscribers. Her 2007 short story competition had 550 entrants. First place received $500, second place $200 and the winner Patrick O’Duffy with ‘Seven Down’ will be published in the Mini Shots series.
If something doesn’t work, you learn from it for next time. We all tend to work hard and sometimes in a vacuum – the old ‘working in your business not on your business’ bit.
Lisa has found it eyeopening to join the independent publishing network SPUNC (Small Press Underground Networking Community). She sees the way other people do things and she feels more ‘connected’. They are all facing the same problems with distribution and marketing and are passionate about what they are publishing. Their writers are new but they are good!