V. Press is an independent publisher of poetry and flash fiction and was shortlisted in the Michael Marks Publishers’ Award 2017.
Editor S.A. Leavesley kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about V.Press.
V. Press mainly publishes sole-authored poetry pamphlets, poetry collections, and flash fiction pamphlets (either a selection of unconnected flashes or short novellas in flash). However, the press started with a collaborative poetry chapbook by four poets. Other titles include some illustrated poetry pamphlets, a poetry pamphlet by two poets working collaboratively (Hierarchy of Needs: A Retelling) out this August, and Michael Loveday’s book-length flash fiction novella Three Men on the Edge, which was shortlisted for the Saboteur Award Best Novella in 2019.
What else? V. Press publishes work that is very very – if anyone’s intrigued by what that might mean, they can check out the About page here: https://vpresspoetry.blogspot.com/p/about.html
2. Do you find that there are any benefits or downsides tobeinga publisher not based in London?
I think there are networking and event possibilities that we may miss out on by not being London-based. But, on the other hand, living and some running costs are lower here. A lot of connections and marketing campaigns are by internet or email these days anyway. Plus, the Midlands has its own networks and some amazing small presses! V. Press writers too are from across the U.K., including London but also Worcestershire, the North, Oxfordshire, Bath… and our readers are based across the world!
3. How hard is it establishing a foothold in the publishing market as an independent publisher?
I guess that partly depends on what’s considered a foothold. Our titles have featured/had reviews in The Guardian, TLS, Vogue and Poetry Book Society Bulletin. Damhnait Monaghan’s The Neverlands has just won the 2020 Saboteur Award for Best Novella, Romalyn Ante’s Rice & Rain won the 2018 Saboteur Award for Best Poetry Pamphlet and V. Press had other titles shortlisted those and other years. V. Press was also shortlisted for the Michael Marks Publishers’ Award in 2017.
But I have a background in newspaper journalism, with individual poem and fiction publications since the late 90s, and already had several published poetry collections with two publishers when I founded the press with Ruth Stacey in 2013. I had several more published in 2015, followed by two novellas and various poetry pamphlets. So, with the press, I started with some knowledge of what’s involved, as well as different possible approaches for various aspects of publishing. I’ve taken my work as a publisher a bit like my own writing too – step by step, opportunity by opportunity, as it comes along or as I get the idea to create it.
4. Do you find that your books sell mainly in the UK or do you get enquires from further afield?
V. Press sells titles internationally (particularly the USA and Europe). Mostof our sales are to U.K. readers, not least because postage costs mean delivery addsup for international customers. However, during lockdown, V. Press is trialling eBooks for two flash titles – partly because they avoid the usual shipping fees for international customers. Damhnait Monaghan’s The Neverlands is available as an eBook in the UK (https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B087ZKZ8V4/ref=sr_1_2?crid=QTHCAMQJ6ZFV&dchild=1&keywords=the+neverlands+damhnait+monaghan&qid=1588427162&sprefix=the+neverlands+damhna%2Caps%2C142&sr=8)
and internationally (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B087ZKZ8V4/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=the+neverland+damhnait+monaghan&qid=1588427440&sr=8-1). Meg Pokrass’s forthcoming flash title Alice In Wonderland Syndrome will be available to non-U.K.-based readers as an eBook here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B088ZPGDGB?ref_=pe_3052080_276849420
5. How many new titles do you publish a year and what do you look for when selecting a title to publish?
The number of titles published each year varies. V. Press’s first sole-author titles were published in 2015 and we now have more than 50 titles.
What I look for when selecting manuscripts is probably covered by several of my interview answers. The only thing I’d add here is the suggestion that people take a look at what we’ve already published.
6. What do you look for in a good story?
Beautiful writing, strong characterisation, a gripping narrative, something that makes it stand out from the rest… I guess the latter is the hardest part to pin down but probably the most important. I have a leaning towards linked flashes but we do publish selections of more loosely themed flash too.
7. People may be curious to find out more about your submissions criteria. What would be the best way for someone to submit their manuscripts?
Our submissions guidelines are here. This includes details too of a short pdf I put together on Structuring a Pamphlet. (It is poetry specific, though some considerations transfer across to flash and may be helpful for submissions to other publishers as well as V. Press.) See my answer to the next question also.
8. Do you have any tips for those wanting to be published?
The first vital consideration is to make sure that the work you want to submit is as strong as possible. Assuming that’s already a given, then I think it’s important to remember (when we’re talking about publication of a whole pamphlet or collection of a single writer’s work) that actually being accepted for publication is only the start of the publishing process. There is the editing, the cover design, the publicity, marketing and selling of that title so that it gets to as many readers as possible… This then all feeds back into how you go about finding and submitting to a publisher in the first place. Checking their submissions guidelines, reading their books, following them and sharing posts on social media are a good way of finding out how they work, their house style and whether both your writing and what you want from publication fits with them and their existing titles. And, if they do feel a good fit, it can help to show that you have a writing profile, that you’re prepared to be involved in publicity, that you’re interested in the press, that you’ll support the press and your stablemates…
There are no golden rules or guarantees though. It’s essential to keep in mind that lots of writers want to be published and publishers can only take on a limited selection of what’s submitted. If you’ve followed the advice above, be brave. There are lots of publishers out there these days, which means more possibilities and opportunities for publication, so keep trying.
9. What are the best things about publishing, and the worst?
The best things: seeing happy writers and beautiful writing out there in appreciative readers’ hands. Of course, it’s lovely when a title gets recognition with an award or multiple print runs, but that’s just an added surprise bonus!
The worst things? Occasional rudeness. Not being able to see all titles get the readership and awards they deserve. Narrow margins when it comes to covering costs. (On which score, there’s also not being paid for any V. Press work and the ‘would love more manpower’ side of having to do everything bar the poetry cover designs and annual accounts myself.) I love editing and the books we produce though – that’s why I do it!
10. How can people purchase your books?
Lots of places and some specific to specific titles (including author websites). The main/our preferred ones below.
The V. Press website here.
Poetry Book Society: https://www.poetrybooks.co.uk/collections/books
Amazon/Kindle for eBooks
Amazon for paperbacks/pamphlets (outside of the Covid-19 lockdown).