How To Start A Small Press
- Read a lot. Dream a lot. Fall in love with stories, not just in books but all kinds – the stories that songs tell, that movies depict, that are all around us, from elderly relatives describing their past to our pals talking about their love lives. Soak up as much as you can. Become the kind of person who is evangelical about their cultural passions, who tells their friends they NEED to watch this show, to read that novel.
- Write your own words, because you have your own stories to tell, and because even though there are other things in your life, this calls to you. Send work out. Have work published – maybe stories with injured athletes, maybe novels for teenagers with thoughts about kissing. Keep writing. Keep going.
- Befriend others who write, who read, who get The internet will help with this, provide a foundation and a continuity after first in-person meetups, but there is so much more to come, so many gorgeous chats over tea or coffee or wine or beer or pizza or old Buffy episodes.
- Say yes to the things you can say yes to as a writer. Learn how to give a workshop, or to select a competition shortlist, or to sift through submissions, or to provide critique on other people’s work. Maybe go to New York for a bit to work for literary magazines. Or maybe stay closer to home and work with students at Fighting Words. Note the things that you’re doing and loving, some of which are the things many writers find a ‘distraction’ from their ‘real work’, and realize that although your own words still matter tremendously, you do not quite agree that they are the only thing that might matter. You feel like maybe this other stuff could be at least part of your own ‘real work’.
- Keep having the chats with your writer-friends. Do the thing that everyone does where you imagine the ‘wouldn’t it be great if one day’ scenarios. Perhaps note, at the back of your mind, that the three of you having these conversations have a clearer shared sense of purpose than any other ‘one day’ chats in your life; that it is not like running into someone from your past on the street and promising, insincerely, that you really will be in touch about coffee or drinks soon, soon, see ya.
- When the moment of ‘is this the time?’ hits, say yes. Say yes enthusiastically, but with a thread of caution, because you know enough not to fling yourselves into something with all your energy with nothing in reserve. Give an informed yes, a realistic yes, a sustainable-for-the-foreseeable-future yes. Agree on the order of things you want to do: literary journal first, books next.
- Imagine that you understand how much work it’s going to be. Appreciate that it will probably be more. Breathe carefully when you realize it’s even a little bit more than that. Take a moment (this is purely theoretical, it won’t ever happen) to pat yourself on the back for not racing into everything all at once.
- While you are not racing into the books side of your tiny press, be thinking about it. At the back of your mind, as you keep working on issue after issue, think and plot and plan. Discuss with your fellow editors. Be ready. Take a moment to feel overwhelmed occasionally. It is legitimate.
- When talks begin about the first book, remember that you are a writer – i.e. make sure to remind the author that you flippin’ love the book, even as you suggest small editorial notes – as well as a publisher – i.e. be strategic and don’t rush things. Give everyone the time to make this the best book it can be.
- Seek out the experts. There are things you know and there are things you don’t, but also things you sort-of know but other people understand far better. Work with other brilliant people on anything you don’t feel is your absolute super-strength. (Don’t try to be a hero.)
- Celebrate the moments, the releases, the sending-off-to-the-printers, because there is always more work to be done the next day, week, month. Take a minute, or an evening, to mark the getting-stuff-done.
- Take all advice with a pinch of salt, for example if you are reading this article and want to do your own thing. Seize what is helpful, and then, well – you do you.
Banshee Press was founded in 2014 by writers Laura Cassidy, Claire Hennessy and Eimear Ryan. They publish two issues of their literary journal, Banshee, each year, and published their first book, Paris Syndrome (a collection of short stories by Lucy Sweeney Byrne) in September 2019. Further books and issues are on the way.
(c) Claire Hennessy
About Paris Syndrome by Lucy Sweeney Byrne:
‘Full of vitality and precision, and so rawly funny’ – Kevin Barry
‘Gripping and beautiful’ – Gavin Corbett
‘An addictive, keeps-you-up-till-the-birds-are-singing read’ – Rob Doyle
‘Fresh and restless’ – Colin Barrett
‘She writes brilliantly: every few pages you’ll come across a turn of phrase or moment of insight so inventive, fresh and true, you’ll wonder (enviously, I admit it) how someone so young can produce something this good.’ – Daragh McManus, The Irish Independent.
Order your copy online here.
And see here for E.R. Murray’s review of Paris Syndrome.