New Words from a New Press
With all the talk of self-publishing, new publishers often start up unseen, their works taking much longer to filter into our awareness than they used to. When I was in Melbourne recently, I made a point of talking to new publishers of speculative fiction and finding out what they were about. You've already seen some results from my investigation-in-miniature, for I wrote about two of Clan Destine’s books.
Clan Destine was in the dealer’s room at a SF convention, which seems a logical place to be if one is a new publisher. Somehow another new imprint ended up in the craft room and I discovered them only because I was leaving a book launch. They gave me a copy of their new releases and told me a bit about themselves and I thought they’d be an excellent introduction to what we should be watching for in new old-fashioned publishing. I love e-publishing, and talk about e-books and be published electronically, but I will always have a love affair with print publishing. There’s something very special about the smell of paper and the rustle of pages.
It struck me, however, when I was walking away with two lovely new novels that places like Dragonfall Press don’t get the coverage they used to, simply because the appeal of the new is so very strong and the appeal of the arguments about whether publishing will die or whether paper books will die or whether we’ll all be owned by Amazon in fifty years is even stronger. We will talk about e-publishing and we will talk about the merits of self-publishing and we will define these things closely. A new press, however, that publishes in paper and e-book both, that is not currently news.
If anyone out there has a favourite start-up press, let me know and I might group a few in an article later on. Let their books be seen a little. Today’s press, though, is Dragonfall, and I chose them not only because they publish my sort of books and because they were in the craft section at an SF convention (which appealed to my sense of humour, I’m afraid) but also because they’re based in Perth.
Perth (Australia, not UK) has shown a rather spectacular growth in small presses recently. One of the older small presses (Ticonderoga) appears in Bookish Dreaming from time to time, but it’s not alone. Some of the presses get much attention (Twelfth Planet, for instance) and some appear and disappear unnoticed. It’s the pattern that fascinates me. So many small presses, in a medium-sized city at the other end of the country that’s at the other end of the world from so many readers.
The community that produces these publishers needs looking into, but probably not by me, for I live 3,000 miles away. I can, however, look at Dragonfall Press. They’re two years old and, as I have said, are based in Perth. To reach most of their local (Australian) market, they have to travel between two and three thousand miles. All they have to do is be seen and the books will sell according to the strength of the books, but getting their books to be seen is the tricky bit. This is why Dragonfall found itself in Melbourne at the national science fiction convention, selling books among stalls of crocheted squid-like creatures.
They reach their market partly with the covers. The books I have are D.J. Daniels’ What the Dead Said, which has soft colours and a well-dressed skeletal woman carrying a pink orchid. The book is cross-genre and the cover reflects this. It’s not a clever cover in the sense usually used: it’s not stunningly different. It is, however, a clever cover in the sense that it communicates the book. This is important. Dragonfall Press is small and new and publishes unknown authors and their books have to be recognisable for their content, since they’re not going to be grabbed at for the known values of name or notoriety.
The cover blurb, likewise is sensible.
Sydney, Australia, 2021. Ghosts are everywhere and everyone can see them. Everyone, that is, except Sckel. Co-opted into the Apparitions Group, Sckel gropes his way through his early cases. He encounters underworld figures—both living and dead—befriends an eccentric inventor and his robot creation, and becomes entangled in the ghostly push to further open the gateway between the living and the dead. Part detective story, part urban fantasy, part science fiction, but mostly mystery, What the Dead Said depicts a future Sydney in which property prices are the least of anyone’s troubles.
It doesn’t claim miracles, it claims a story and it tells us (accurately, for I checked the blurb against the book) what to expect. Again, setting the novel up to be seen and then considered.
That’s one slice of becoming known. Another aspect is how they sell themselves. Not when they’re visiting other cities (trapped in a sea of crochet squid), but how they actually present themselves on the website.
“We are a small book publisher based in Perth, Western Australia, specialising in fantasy and science fiction. Commenced in 2010, we hope to release four or five books a year. Our books are generally priced at about half that of most other publishers.”
They talk about their goals (supporting and promoting Australian authors, and providing affordable and good books to the public).This is part of an openness to the writing community and an awareness of how the speculative fiction communities operate in Australia. They have resources for writers on their submissions page, for instance.
So, what are their books like? This is the bottom line. I have two. My immediate impression is that they look professionally done, but I haven’t had time to sit down with them and take a close look. They need reviewing, obviously. I shan’t review them here and now (for that would make this article entirely too long and be somewhat confusing), but I promise, I shall return to them in August or September and introduce you to two new authors by this new publisher.
It’s going to be interesting to see what Dragonfall does and how they succeed. Going into publishing is difficult at the best of times and the publishing world is in such a turmoil that this is not the best of times. I’m glad I wandered through the craft market at the national science fiction convention, after the book launch. Serendipity is a lovely thing and new publishers are even lovelier.
Books mentioned in this column: