We launched 2012, the very first anthology I ever edited (I coedited this with my good friend Ben Payne) at Swancon in 2008. It was the first book title under the Twelfth Planet Press banner. It seemed fitting to give away a bunch of copies of this in the Swancon con bags this year. It also feels like that book was an eternity ago. I was in such a different place at that time – I was freshly out of my long term relationship and still a bit delicate. But I loved working on that book so much that I knew this publishing thing was for me and that I wanted to give it a very real go. Funnily enough, C picked up a copy of that book at that Swancon though he swears he didn’t go to the launch – we had it in the underground car park of the hotel and it went really well, I met Rob Shearman there and made a firm friend for life.
I’d tried a few things before this book – started the ASif! review website back in 2004. We stopped counting when we hit 1000 reviews on the original site and we’ve since published 378 reviews on the new one. It’s funny to think back to when this was the only project I had on. It used to take up all my time what with the books coming in, contacting and requesting review copies, which I had to do a lot in the beginning, and then getting the books to reviewers and editing and publishing the reviews. Every review has been edited by me. And now it just happens. Sometimes I get a bit behind in editing and publishing the reviews and I’ve had others come on board to help me with administration in the back end of it – G for a couple of years and now Tehani. I’m proud of the site. We try to review as much Australian specfic as we can and we review a lot of female authors. I’ve not done the stats but at a guess, it feels like we review more women than men.
Before 2012, I had also tried a few online projects. I kinda laugh now by how many people told me at the time that they liked the concept of New Ceres but they would prefer it in print form cause they didn’t like to read on the computer screen. How times have changed! I’m proud though that I tried something that hadn’t really been done much before, certainly there weren’t many online Aussie specfic publications back then. And we tried a few different things like paying pro rates and using a subscription model and interactive content. It wasn’t a successful idea but I don’t really have a problem with that. I would rather try something new, not ever done before, and fail than not try it at all. I’d rather fail from action than not succeed because I didn’t take the risk to try it out.
I much prefer to push the boundaries and do something new. I’m far more interested in looking for unoccupied niches. Doing different things enables diversity and the opportunity for writers and artists to experiment. It really excites me when someone pitches something to me that is just out there and original and fresh (and good!).
I’ve spent the last 5 years really learning a lot about small press publishing. I could tell you with every project I’ve done the mistake I made It’s given me a great checklist going forward of what to look out for. And as I sit here with a bunch of exciting plans for the coming 2 to 3 years, I suspect I have a whole lot more learning curve to go. But that excites me! It’s challenging and invigorating to try to do something noone else has ever done before. I love the problem solving that’s required – researching what’s been tried, what worked and what didn’t and why it didn’t and then looking at how I can try to move around the obstacle in another way.
It’s so strange to sit and look at the 16 books I’ve published so far – 16 already?! And I have 3 more almost off to the printer’s. Maybe I’ll finish the year off with my 20th book?! Who knows! But I love it. I love every part of publishing. And I feel so honoured to have had the opportunity to work with the amazing writers we’ve published so far. For me, the synergy of working with a writer or writers and just letting the creative sparks fly is why I’m in it. It’s the rush for me. I love it. And I love it when the book pulls together – when you say yes, these words in this order, they work. And then Amanda will send me a cover that just nails the book’s tone and feel. I get goosebumps. Every book she creates, I love better than the last. And for me, that’s the goal – to make every book better than the last one. If I do that, then I’m doing ok. And then I love letting this precious thing that we’ve created out into the world to see what readers and critics think of it. We’re so lucky to have the support base we have, that grows every year, readers who buy our books and get what it is we are doing. I love our customers too – I love processing orders, maybe communicating with our readers or a bookstore and packaging up the books and sending them out.
I love publishing. And if I don’t succeed, in the end, it’s hard to look back on what we’ve done so far and think it didn’t mean anything. I don’t think I could ever say it hasn’t been worth it. I’m blown that I won the World Fantasy last year. I mean, I really feel like I’m just getting started – like I just made it to the first rung of the ladder. And, for what I want to achieve, in the long term plan (yes there is one but I don’t write it down because it scares people), that’s where I am – rung 1. But what a ride it’s been to get there!
I can’t wait to see what happens in the next 5 years. We’ll be talking a bit more later this year about some of the projects we’re working on! But it feels good to look back at what Twelfth Planet Press has done, how it has grown in titles and staff. Our little seed of a dream that keeps growing and growing.