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Alex Spears on "Dodo Ink and Risk-Taking Fiction"

Eleventh Letter front coverDodo Ink are a new publisher of fiction set up in 2015 by the novelist Sam Mills, book blogger Thom Cuell and myself, with a mission to publish innovative, risk-taking, imaginative and experimental fiction.

We had each had experiences that lead us to believe that there was an audience for novels that didn’t fit neatly onto mainstream publisher’s lists: Thom, on The Workshy Fop, as a champion of fiction from indie publishers; myself, having worked in the industry for several years and seen an ever-increasing focus on acquiring highly commercial properties, at the expense of what is termed the ‘midlist’, authors who are popular enough to command a steady readership and remain profitable to publish, but often not deemed commercial enough to them the tailored sales, marketing and PR attention that could help them develop their careers creatively and commercially. Sam, as a novelist and writer, experienced this first-hand when trying to help her friend Tom Tomaszewski secure a book deal or agent for his novel, The Eleventh Letter, which was deemed interesting, accomplished and original, but not commercial enough in today’s publishing climate.

Dodge and BurnA successful Kickstarter campaign in the summer of 2015, with bloggers, writers, bookshops and readers of all stripes helping us hit and exceed our £8,000 funding target, gave us a great deal of encouragement that our mission resonated with readers, and we are delighted that we are today publishing The Eleventh Letter and, hopefully, bringing it to the wide audience which it deserves.

We hope that the distinctive nature of our books we are publishing will ultimately prove to a strength, rather than a weakness. In the case of The Eleventh Letter, it is simultaneously a ghost story, a love story, and a murder mystery, which is highly readable but also subversive, and experimental in both form and concept. We have had interest in the book from literary and genre fiction reviewers, with one blogger already having declared it their book of the year, and have partnered with the innovative digital publisher The Pigeonhole to serialise the book over the Halloween period – you can join in free here.

We hope that the two other debuts we are publishing this year will also appeal to readers who might not normally read experimental fiction. Our first novel Dodge and Burn by Seraphina Madsen, is a psychedelic road trip that follows the travels of Eugenie Lund, a missing heiress on the run, weaving beat writing, magical realism and the author’s own fascinating life experiences into an irresistible fever dream, described by 3:AM Magazine as “redefining what we might think of as experimental”. You can read a fascinating interview with Seraphina by Naomi Frisby on her blog, The Writes of Woman.

Dodo InkOur second novel, Wood Green, which has already been nominated for the Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction, is a literary thriller about the relationship between two writers, Lucian Clarke, a reclusive Hemingway-like figure, and Michael Pollard, an aspiring writer who has moved to the small town of Wood Green, Hobart to act as Lucian’s personal secretary. What seems on the surface like a literary fiction cliché of writers writing about writing is, in fact, an inspired sleight-of-hand as the novel veers deliciously into a genre-bending territory.

When Sam first spoke to me about her ambitions for Dodo Ink, she said that she hoped we could develop a reputation for daring new fiction, so when people see the insouciant dodo logo on the spine of a book, they will know that they are in for a unique, fun and unforgettable reading experience, and we will keep hunting for the novels which we feel fit this bill, regardless of genre or classification. Our 2017 list features an incendiary work of erotic fantasy, a novel comprised of interlinking short stories that subvert and pay homage to American pop culture and genre fiction, and an epic novel exploring philosophical and spiritual doubt in the tradition of Dostoevsky, so… we’re mixing it up. We hope that we can do a good job for our authors and introduce passionate readers to books that might otherwise never have seen the light of day.

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Alex Spears is the Digital and Marketing Director for Dodo Ink. You can subscribe to Dodo Ink’s 2017 list on their website.

The Eleventh Letter is available now from all good booksellers. 

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