1. You are Editor-in-Chief at Cohesion Press, which has been operating for about one year now. How has your first year gone, and what have you learnt so far? Have you made any changes to how you operate since you began?
Our first year has been a whirlwind of learning.
We opened around August 2013 with the idea of offering the very best royalties we could for our writers and, at the same time, putting out the very best books we could. We looked at returning 80% of gross income from ebooks and 50% of gross income from print books to the authors. After six to eight months of trading, we found that left us very little for promotion and other costs, and costs in publishing can be quite high, even when a large part of the work is done in-house.
We only have the very best cover art, always closely-negotiated with the author, and great artists charge accordingly.
I do the layout and typesetting myself for the internal books, so the only cost there is time. I outsource some of the editing, and perform some myself. I have found the greatest cost to be marketing and promotion. I have also found that you can put out the best books in the world, and if no-one hears of them, no-one will read them.
Our first year has had both highs and lows. Great books we've published have had little exposure, even though we know they are worthy of being widely read. We first published a collection by Kaaron Warren, a highly-awarded Australian writer, and followed up with a wonderful crime-noir novella by Deborah Sheldon. We then published our first breakout release; Valkeryn 2 by Greig Beck, an internationally-published author of adventure/thriller/sci-fi/horror crossovers. Greig had been published, up to that point, by Pan MacMillan and Momentum Books. He decided to try self-publishing Valkeryn 2, to test the hybrid-author waters, but then realised just how time-heavy the self-publishing route could be. Our operating model convinced him to allow us to release the book, and it was our best-selling title.
Our sales now are steady, and improving each month.
The biggest lesson was regarding the cost and importance of marketing.
To that effect, we have dropped our royalty rates for recent contracts to allow us the funds to market effectively, although they are still very generous when compared with the rest of the industry. That way, both the author and ourselves make more money.
2. You are also a writer and have published a number of short stories, as well as your memoir ‘Hammered’ through Legumeman Books. What attracted you to publishing with Legumeman? How does your writing fit with your editing and publishing businesses?
I knew the fine folks from Legumeman before I finished my memoir. I liked them, and liked their professionalism and artistry in publishing books. I let them read Hammered, and they loved it. From there, it was an easy decision to let them publish me. It's paid off, with good sales and great reviews from around the world.
Now that I run an editing/author services company, and even more since I started Cohesion Press, I have found less and less time for my own writing. I have stopped working on shorts unless I find a specific market that really appeals to me, and am working on a novel at the moment. I try to fit in at least an hour a day to write, with a few extra hours one day a week just for a writing sprint. There is never enough time to do everything, as I also teach part-time at TAFE level, and am studying equivalent to full-time through Open University to achieve a BA in Professional Writing and Publishing.
There just aren't enough hours in the days.
3. Cohesion Press released its first major anthology in July, ‘SNAFU: An Anthology of Military Horror’. What was the inspiration for this anthology and how is it going? Cohesion Press ran a pre-order using Indiegogo for the anthology. Why did you choose to go with a crowdfunding site for the pre-order, rather than more traditional methods?
SNAFU was the first thing I knew I wanted to publish. Military horror is only just coming into its own on the market, and I think it will continue to grow as it taps into a powerful fan-base. I read Jonathan Maberry and Weston Ochse regularly (both contributors to SNAFU, by the way), and knew I wanted to publish something similar. I spent the last year planning, soliciting authors, opening for submissions, and reading over 6.6 million words in submissions for the anthology. It was always my intention that it would be our flagship annual release through Cohesion. I went with Indiegogo because I thought it would allow for more exposure for the presale. Crowdfunding sites were all the rage through 2012 and 2013. The presale didn't go anywhere near as well as I hoped, even though I was offering signed limited-edition versions of the book. That said, sales since release in early July have more than equalled what I hoped for the book, and I will definitely be putting together a SNAFU 2.
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
My all-time favourite Australian work would have to be The Pilo Family Circus by Will Elliott. More recently, I have enjoyed 809 Jacob Street by Marty Young, and Topsiders By Scott Tyson, even though there were a few technical issues with the work. I love the work of Kaaron Warren, with Slights and Through Splintered Walls my firm favourites. I also adored Wolf Creek: Origins by Aaron Sterns. It is the perfect example, in my opinion, of a first-person personal narrative that truly looks into the mind of a killer.
5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?
I have been following the changes in publishing now for a number of years, and thought that the way things are at the moment, with Kindle Direct Publishing, Print-on-Demand tech, and further distribution services like Smashwords, it is the perfect time to move into the field with minimal costs. We started out with about five grand in the bank, and it has been enough to fund the release of seven books, including SNAFU, on which I have spent around six grand. That shows that we're doing something right. I think the publishing field now will continue to focus on these same channels for the next decade, at least.
As to the future of Cohesion Press, I feel that fast-paced popular genre fiction is where we will put most of our focus. I plan to release a new SNAFU anthology annually for at least the next few years. We are also working with Marty Young, the founding president of the Australian Horror Writers Association, on a new anthology entitled Blurring the Line, which focuses on blending reality with fiction. We hope that will sell as well as SNAFU is, and will then go on to become an annual release as well. In five years, we hope to be focused on releasing at least these two anthology series, as well as a range of novels and books that fall into spec-fic, crime, thriller, and certain genres of memoir.
This post is part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. Snapshot 2012 is being conducted by Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely, and Sean Wright. To read the interviews hot off the press, check our blogs daily from 28 July to 10 August, 2014.