Reflections on the magic of independent publishing and writing
When I first embarked on the journey of setting up a small press, back in January of 2017, I had no thought of publishing the work of other writers. My initial motivation was to provide a platform for my own work, in particular my poetry collection, So Long, Calypso. After several months of planning, organisation and all the myriad tasks involved in setting up a small press, in book production and promotion, the first publication of Turas Press, So Long, Calypso, came out in May, 2017. My novel Canticle followed a year later.
From the start, I found myself enthralled by the process of transformation of words on a page, to galley proofs, to the physical manifestation of a real book. In the year that separated the publication of my own two books, Turas Press published two more titles, fine collections from established poets: How to Sleep with Strangers by Ross Hattaway and Crunch by Anamaría Crowe Serrano.
Since then, ten more titles by a further eight writers have followed, encompassing a wide variety of content, style from writers at different stages in their writing journey. Jo Burns’ White Horses, Eithne Lannon’s Earth Music and Alchemy by Fiona Perry are all début collections by award-winning writers. Julie-ann Rowell, Nina Karacosta, David Toms and DS Maolalai had been widely published before their books with Turas Press. Chris Murray was already well known, both for her literary activism and support for other writers, as well as her own highly original poetry, evident in her two Turas Press publications, bind and Gold Friend. Several Turas Press writers have won or been shortlisted for literary awards. Since 2017, Turas Press has made the transition from self-publishing to independent publishing or perhaps, could best be considered a hybrid of both.
I have found that the production of a book is time consuming and can be tricky, but achievable and very satisfying. It demands a significant input of time, and, in the case of print books, some initial financial outlay. Ebooks can be produced at little cost, though good production values are crucial, whether print or ebook. Professional typesetting and an attractive cover design help to create a beautiful book that honours the writer’s work.
For print books, distribution is a challenge. The large bookstores generally only take books listed by distributors, and they rarely accept titles from very small presses. Some, though by no means all, of the independent bookstores will take copies, and I am hugely grateful to the bookstores that stock Turas Press books. Seeing our books on the shelves of the bookstores involves physically calling in to the shop and making a personal request. I enjoy this contact and getting to know the bookstore owners, but it is time-consuming and logistically limited.
Reviews are a challenge. Finding outlets willing and able to review books from a small, independent publisher is not easy, especially at the start, when a small press is still building reputation and credibility. Turas Press has been very fortunate in this regard. Poetry Ireland has facilitated several reviews of Turas Press books in their journal, Poetry Ireland Review. Other successes include two articles by Chris Murray in the Irish Times and reviews or articles in the Independent, the Galway Advertiser and the Munster Express and some highly-regarded online publications, including writing.ie.
Even so, promotion in general is a challenge. It is difficult to get coverage in the big media outlets, newspapers and radio, and paid advertising on those forums is very expensive. That said, just last week on RTÉ’s Liveline, Joe Duffy recommended Anamaría Crowe Serrano’s forthcoming novel In The Dark, so perhaps this is a break-through!
Looking forward: since April 2020, most of Turas Press books have been available as ebooks. That is a trend which I plan to continue and strengthen in 2021. There is now a Turas Press YouTube channel, so far populated with just a handful of videos, but with more to come in the New Year. Most important of all, there will be three new publications in the first half of 2021. I am very excited about the new novel from Anamaría Crowe Serrano, In The Dark, set during the Spanish civil war, due to be published in May, 2021. Ross Hattaway’s fourth collection, Plain, will come out in the summer. And my own fourth collection, Learning to Tango will be out in the spring.
I greatly appreciate the support from bookstores, arts organisations, media outlets, including Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin and writing.ie, readers and the writers who entrusted their work to Turas Press. My heartfelt thanks to you all, as together we look forward to 2021, and the exciting times ahead.
(c) Liz McSkeane, Director, Turas Press
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Learning to Tango by Liz McSkeane
Poetry ISBN 978-1-913598-18-1 Release: April, 2021
Learning to Tango is an exuberant, playful, sometimes intense reflection on navigating the challenges of movement, the dynamics of the dance-floor and the world beyond it. These poems invite the reader on a tantalising journey to share the joys and pitfalls of communication, yearning, and the politics of belonging and desire.
In The Dark by Anamaría Crowe Serrano
Fiction ISBN 978-1-913598-16-7 Release: May 2021
Teruel, north-east Spain, winter, 1937. The civil war is raging, pitting neighbour against neighbour. Franco’s Nationalist rebels have surrounded the devastated, Republican-held city. This is the story of a house, of the people who take refuge there – and a dangerous secret within. María and her sister Julita, mourn their lost loved ones and try to bury their differences. But only one person knows the secret of the house, hidden deep in the dark – a deserter from the conflict, a soldier who has dared to leave the fighting – and the woman who dares to protect him.
Plain by Ross Hattaway
Poetry ISBN 978-1-913598-20-4 Release: June 2021
Hattaway’s signature pared-back style reveals the starkness at the heart of life experiences – family connections, expectations, disappointment, grief. The detached voice, which now teases the reader with deadpan wit, now teeters cheerfully on the abyss, unflinchingly muses upon the‘ sadness/at the heart of things’ yet emerges resilient, resisting – surviving.