Today, Paul Collins is back at Kid’s Book Capers wearing his publisher’s hat.

Paul, can you tell us about your journey as a publisher?

I self-published my first novel in the 70s, then a magazine called Void. By the early 80s I was publishing Australia’s first heroic/epic fantasy novels. In those days the major publishers didn’t distribute small presses, so we were forced to use minor distributors. In 2006, Macmillan Distribution Services agreed to distribute my books. I’ve returned to what I love doing: publishing.

Paul, you are the publisher at Ford Street Publishing. What type of books does Ford Street publish?

I like issues-based novels, like Big and Me (mental health); My Private Pectus (male body image); They Told Me I Had To Write This (wayward youth); f2m (transgender). All of these have been good performers for Ford Street, yet rejected by major publishers.

The Star, by Felicity Marshall was rejected by leading, well-regarded editors, yet it has just sold 4000 copies to a book club and is set to be Ford Street’s best-seller.

What do you enjoy most about being a publisher?

When I write a novel, I’m at the mercy of a publisher. I’ve had a manuscript with HarperCollins since mid last year, and I’ve still not had an answer. I hate to think what’s happening to lesser-known authors who have their MS sitting in slush piles around the country.

With publishing, I’m in control. I don’t rely on anyone. I can orchestrate my business practices as I see fit, and I hope there’s not a person who can say I’ve not treated them fairly. Ford Street’s best-selling books were all rejected by major publishers, so it’s a thrill to see them shine.

What’s the hardest part about being a publisher?

Although I have Macmillan distributing my books, not all booksellers stock Ford Street titles. No matter how good a book is, if it’s not in the shops it’s not going to sell. I have books that have been short-listed by the NSW, VIC Premiers’ awards, and the NT Read Award, yet the books were never really in the shops. The books aren’t reaching their full potential, and this isn’t the fault of the author or the publisher.

What are some of Ford Street’s greatest achievements?

Getting short-listed for major awards; selling foreign rights; selling big numbers to a book club and in 99% of cases, getting fantastic reviews. One title, Solace & Grief by Foz Meadows, is currently going gang-busters. I’m looking forward to publishing book #2 in the trilogy.

How do you help authors promote their work?

Ford Street authors are well represented in kid lit magazines/journals like Viewpoint, Magpies, SCAN, SAETA, Reading Time, Junior Bookseller and Publisher, OzKids in Print, etc. I also promote them heavily online with guest blogs, interviews and reviews. Whereas major publishers might send out 30 to 40 review books, I send out up to 80. Consequently, you’ll see a lot of Ford Street books getting reviewed. I also submit most of my titles to awards, and have a presence on facebook and Twitter. Teachers’ Notes and trailers – there’s a stack of way to promote authors. With a small press, every author is on the A-list.

How are publishers like Ford Street going to be affected by the evolving print publishing industry?

I see a time in the not-so-distant future, when print publishing will be dominated by small presses. Sales are definitely declining, and I don’t think they can sustain bigger publishing houses that have huge overheads. I like the fact that I’m in on what I think is the ground floor of print publishing’s future.

Thanks so much for visiting us, Paul. Between your writing and publishing you must be very busy, so I really appreciate the time you have taken to chat with me at Kids’ Book Capers. I look forward to reading more of your books and future Ford Street titles.


Boys & Body Image: A Reflection On Shane’s Post

I think, as a twenty-year-old, I can still speak for this current teenage, male generation – even just a small, nerdy, poetry/novel-writing subsection of it.

Body image is everything.

I remember hearing once that boys feel the pressure more than girls, for two reasons: 1. for girls, it is accepted to have these issues, and 2. while girls have the ‘get slim’ clouding over them, boys are burdened with the ‘get slim, but also gain muscle’, which results in over-exercise and strain. Not to diminish the experience of girls battling body issues, I can only speak as a young male, but I remember that in the lead up to my novel’s release, I wasn’t busy writing a follow-up, I was consuming protein shakes, exercising five days a week, restricting calorie intake, feeling guilty for a beer or a soft drink – and it caught up with me, I slipped two discs in my lower back, and that’s an injury that will restrict me for the rest of my life. Because being a teenage author wasn’t enough. At least, in my mind it wasn’t.

And when men explore these body issues in articles or novels, the response is usually ‘oh, boo hoo, poor baby’, when that same exploration by a woman is lauded as brave. When more realistically-shaped women attack the Jennifer Hawkins ‘real woman’ nude, undoctored spread, they’re glorified. The pressures on women are front and centre, and condemned. Meanwhile, when I’m at the gym, and I see boys almost half my age lifting weights, nobody’s telling them to stop, to have a childhood, to let their bodies mature a little bit – nobody’s fighting for them because the image of the male as ripped, toned and sporty is socially accepted as ‘right’. It’s masculine. There’s no backlash. There’s nobody praising male curves, claiming they’re all natural.

And body issue problems for males are very, very secret. Because, outward feelings don’t mesh well with the image of masculinity – strong, stoic, emotionally stunted. And I mean, just look at this rant that has developed from what was supposed to be a two paragraph closer to Shane’s post – this is a big issue, at least, for me. Books like My Private Pectus are important. While they probably won’t change the world, I’m sure that for boys battling body expectations, it means a lot to know that 1. you’re not alone and 2. there’s someone fighting for you.

Ahem. Now I’m off to make up for this post with a 7km run.