and Cold Cases by Peter M Ball. Alisa is also a member of 'Not if You Were the Last Short Story on Earth' and is Executive Editor of the ASif! reviews website. She can be found blogging at: http://girliejones.livejournal.com/
1. One of the things that Twelfth Planet Press is becoming known for is for publishing beautifully packaged stand-alone novellas (or back to back doubles, in the case of Siren Beat/Roadkill), a niche that seems to have been overlooked by most other publishers. What attracted you to this niche and what has the response been like so far? What makes a successful stand-alone novella?
I'm attracted to the niche as a reader because I like the compactness of a novella - I like that it gets straight into the story and delivers and plot and then it's done. I'm not a big fan of long, fat and multivolumed stories, simply because I don't have time any more to read that way. As an editor, the length is challenging for me and directing me to learn new skills - editing a novel is different to editing a story. And as a publisher I like the length because it allows me to put out a different kind of product to take a punt on new writers, showcase others and offer readers a risk at a lower price. I think it's a good size and a really fun package.
The response to Horn has been overwhelming. We sold out the print run in about 6 months and are already getting the second printing happening. Word about Roadkill/Siren Beat is also starting to get out there and I've had such positive feedback about the look of the book, which has been great.
I think what makes a good stand-alone novella is the same as for what makes any kind of good story good - it needs to be well plotted and paced, with strong characterisation and polished writing.
2. If we look back to the 2007 Snapshot, Twelfth Planet Press was still a fledgling enterprise, with two issues of the online New Ceres magazine published, and YA e-zine Shiny and your first print anthology (2012) on the horizon. In the two and a half years since then, you’ve put out five issues of Shiny, two anthologies (2012, New Ceres Nights), Deborah Biancotti’s collection ‘A Book of Endings’, as well as the novellas and doubles series - six print books in total. Are you happy with your progress so far? What is the most important lesson you’ve learnt, and is there anything you’d do different?
I'm very happy with my progress so far. I'm proud to have gotten 6 books out in that time frame and doing so has put me on a pretty steep learning curve for editing and publishing, as well as the industry and how it works. As for the most important lesson, I think I have learned more than a few - all kinds of things from when working with other people it's important to stay in close contact, publishing is more than getting a book to print (it has an incredibly long tail of postproduction work including promotion, marketing and distribution). And other random things like, tailoring the length of my books to the price of international postage scales so that my books don't cost too much to post abroad (important for review copies, awards and best of collection copies, as well as for book sales). Probably the most important things I've learned have come through networking - there are a lot of people out there willing to help you, to teach you things, to offer mentoring and also to help you promote what you're doing. I've also learned that for indie press, it makes a really big difference when the writers you publish take on the role of promoting their work with you. Two people out there shouting into the white noise is so much more than just double one.
I had to think hard about what I would do differently. A lot of the mistakes or errors I've made have taught me how the business works and how business in general works so they've been really important in terms of shaping my business model and operations. The one glaring thing I would do differently is the New Ceres webzine. I paid too much for the stories at a time when I was a publisher with very little credibility to do so. And even though the technology wasn't really there so I couldn't do it differently, I'd now use different platforms for that webzine - either as a download from Smashwords or as an iPhone App (neither of which were around then).
3. You’ll be launching ‘Sprawl’ at Aussicon 2010 (amongst other books!), and are describing it as a ‘new anthology that will showcase Australia’s best and most exciting writers to an international audience’. Why is showcasing Australian writers important to Twelfth Planet Press, and to you personally? Sprawl will focus on ‘suburban Australia’, an area that’s often overlooked in the Australian mythos. What attracted you to this theme and are you happy with the results so far?
I'm very excited about Sprawl! We have some utterly superb writers in Australia and I believe that if readers from overseas came across them, they'd agree. So partially, the showcase is about highlighting to the world the great work being done here. So too its about showing what Twelfth Planet Press can do. And for me? I actually really like asking my favourite authors to write stories specifically for me :)
I don't know that the suburban Australia is necessarily overlooked in the Australian mythos. I think I was more making a statement about the subgenre of "urban fantasy" - it's a subgenre I love to read and yet it rarely actually reflects the kind of urban life I personally lead. And I wondered if that's because really I live a suburban lifestyle. And so it really appealled to me to have a collection of stories that reflected the urban Australian experience - which is more of a sprawling suburbia.
The stories have not disappointed me! Sadly, I had so many more submitted to me than I had room for in the book and for some reason the title seems to have influenced the length of stories as a lot of them are up at the 6000 word count or higher. I've got a really great spread of stories set in suburbs across Australia, with strong Australian voices and great variety. I'm looking forward to seeing the book in print with a stunning cover by Amanda Rainey.
4. Which Australian writers or work would you like to see on the Hugo shortlists this year? What have you enjoyed reading?
No suprises here - I'd like to see Horn by Peter M Ball and Wives by Paul Haines in the novella category. I think Peter M Ball is an outstanding candidate for the Campbell Award. My favourite short story by Margo Lanagan is "Ferryman" which was, you know, horrible and mean the way Lanagan likes to be. I'd love to see one of Biancotti's short stories make the ballot after all the positive feedback we've had for her collection. She'd be shocked to hear me say "Problems of Light and Dark" but I'm going to say it anyway. I would love to see Jonathan Strahan finally take out Best Editor for Short Form. And I think Helen Merrick's Secret Feminist Cabal should make it onto the ballot for related work.
5. Will you be at Aussiecon 4 in September? If so, what are you most looking forward to about it?
I sure will be there! I'm looking forward to being in the Dealer's Room - sad but true. I love seeing everyone come past and say hi. I get all the good information hanging out in there and I lovethe way being behind a table covered in books brings writers and artists and publishers over to throw ideas around. I'm also looking forward to it being my first Worldcon - training before I venture to an American Worldcon, someday.
This interview was conducted as part of the 2010 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We'll be blogging interviews from Monday 15 February to Sunday 22 February and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. You can read interviews at:
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