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.
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.
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.
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.