Today’s Featured Friday is something a bit different. We’ve spent the past year (and a bit) interviewing Independently- or Self-Published authors about them, their books and their lives. It’s time to shine the spotlight in the other direction.
I got the chance to talk to Storm Constantine, the Founder, Managing Director and Commissioning Editor of Immanion Press. Apart from deciding that I need to give myself a few more job titles, I gained some interesting insights into the running of a small, independent publishing company.
You’ve stated in the past that the reason for founding Immanion Press came as a result of wanting to publish your own back catalogue. Was there a specific moment or event that convinced you it was the right way to go?
That moment was simply discovering the existence of Print on Demand technology. Before that, self-publishing to a professional standard was extremely expensive, and you had to have the space to store a print run, in the right environment to prevent damage to the books – so a garage, shed or attic wouldn’t do! POD meant you didn’t have to order a vast amount of books in advance and the setup costs were minimal. It became feasible to publish my own books.
The next addition to Immanion Press’ stable of authors was Freda Warrington. Was there a specific reason you wanted her works? Or was it a matter of circumstance?
Freda is a long-standing, close friend of mine. Our first books came out round about the same time, we’re the same age, and we began attending conventions and other literary events at the same time. I can’t remember who asked who about reprinting her works, but Freda was undoubtedly one of the first to hear about my new venture and it went on from there.
Do you feel the pressure of competing with the large publishing houses?
You can’t even think about that. A small press doesn’t have access to the resources a big company has, and there’s no point worrying about it. You just have to do your own thing to the best of your ability.
In the age of Self-Publishing, are there new difficulties for a small press such as Immanion?
I wouldn’t say new difficulties, no. The main problem with any independent venture is marketing and promotion with limited financial means. We’re not in the position to advertise in newspapers or on TV and so on. You have to make use of the internet as much as you can. Also, authors nowadays have to have a presence on the internet and do much more self-promotion than they might have done in the past, when signed to a big company. For some authors – many of whom are reticent about self-promotion – this can be daunting, even uncomfortable, but it has to be done to give a book the best chance of success.
What do you look for in a submitted manuscript that makes it stand out for consideration?
It’s generally an author’s voice that attracts me to a novel. If I start reading, and I know I’m ‘listening’ to a real story-teller, then I’ll keep reading. With most novels that get sent to me, I read a few pages and stop. If I’m not grabbed by then, I’m not going to be grabbed at all. It doesn’t matter how clever the plot might be: if the writing doesn’t match up, I’m not interested. Some weak areas can be fixed for an author by working with a decent editor, because you can ‘hear’ the writer’s voice struggling to get out of a shamble of messy grammar and syntax. Wobbly plots can be mended and bad writerly ‘quirks’ brought to the author’s attention so they’re aware of them. Often, only inexperience is holding their natural voice back, and I can tell straight away when that’s the case. But some things can’t be fixed like that.
What’s the worst thing that has been submitted for your consideration? Or the most basic mistake a budding author has made?
So often, I see submissions where it feels as if the writer doesn’t care about their work, because they haven’t bothered to learn the tools of their trade – grammar, syntax, punctuation, natural characters, natural and entertaining dialogue, coherent plot, and so on. I won’t include spelling in that list, because that’s the least of what I see! I don’t mind about that – easily fixed.
I think it’s important that when someone reads your work, they can tell, if only subconsciously, that you love what you’ve written. If you don’t love it, how can anyone else? This only applies, I think, to independent presses, because so much gets published by the larger houses that is utter soulless, derivative drivel, churned out for money. You don’t see that so much from the small presses. We tend to care about our authors and their work, and take risks on unusual books.
It’s important to stress that by ‘loving the work’ I don’t mean some ego-driven delusion, or a ‘how clever am I?’ preening attitude, but just a realness to the work, a keen eye and ear for the peculiarities life, a depth… difficult to describe really, but I know it when I see it.
Immanion Press has now been running for nearly 15 years. What would you describe as the highlight of this journey for you?
There have been many ups and downs. I don’t think there’s been one particular moment that was the ultimate highlight, but I still get a rush of pleasure when a new book comes out, and I order the first copies and have one in my hands – whether that’s one of my own books or another author’s.
Immanion Press has published some non-fiction works alongside the fiction in the catalogue. From a publishing perspective, is there a large difference between fiction and non-fiction?
The non-fiction list supports the fiction list. It’s far easier to sell non-fic from new or relatively unknown authors, but the opposite seems true with fiction, at least for independent presses. My colleague, Taylor Ellwood, does most of the work with the non fiction list, which can be termed ‘New Age’ – if we have to give it a term. It comprises books on magic, but also quite academic works on the philosophy behind alternative spirituality.
As for the fiction, which I manage, it’s a much smaller list. The majority of it is my own back catalogue, with a few special new writers who’ve either been directed to me, or I’ve come across by chance. I also publish books in the Wraeththu Mythos by other writers – i.e. shared world anthologies and novels. The Wraeththu Mythos is my own creation, and I continue to write within that world.
It’s always a gamble when you take on a new writer, and they have to do a lot to promote the work, get it noticed. Most of such writers’ success comes from word of mouth, I think, as well as the support of bloggers and other web sites dedicated to fiction. EBooks help too. People are far more likely to take a chance on an eBook from an unknown for a couple of pounds, rather than eleven pounds or so for a paperback. But if they discover a new writer they enjoy, they’re likely to look for other titles by the same writer, and perhaps then feel it’s worth paying for physical copies of the book. I know that’s the way I feel about new authors, and I have many friends who feel the same.
What excites you about the future of Immanion Press? Which directions will you be going in next?
I simply enjoy creating books – both from writing them, and also from a design point of view. I enjoy working with other authors to nurture and encourage them, and then working with them to create an artefact worthy of their writing. Every book, as it’s given life, should be regarded as a sacred text.
So, I’m excited about the books of the future – and coming across new writers whose work surprises and enchants me.
My thanks go out to Storm for taking the time to talk to us and for her valuable insights into how the world of publishing works for those independent presses that support authors around the world.
Take the time to check out Immanion Press at their website, here.
Or visit Storm’s personal site, here.