The UK has a fantastic small press scene. To celebrate the people behind the imprints, and help out the writers that are looking to them for publication, we've asked a number of editors to share what they're working on - and what they're looking for. This week our featured publisher is Influx Press.
Could you tell us a bit about who you are and what you're doing?
I’m Gary Budden, one of the founders of independent publisher Influx Press. I set it up in 2011 with Kit Caless (now of Wetherspoon’s Carpets fame…) with the aim of producing one anthology and things snowballed a bit from there.
We originally started out with the idea of producing what we called ‘site specific’ writing, i.e. writing with a strong sense of place. That’s broadened out a little now to whatever great fiction and creative non-fiction takes our fancy – which is one of the benefits of running your own press, of course.
Our informal credo is to ‘publish what we’d want to read that doesn’t yet exist’. Kit and I have quite varied tastes, with a lot of overlap and intersections, and we’re both looking for writing that does something different, coming at a subject from an underrepresented perspective (or writing about an underrepresented subject). This is why we can, and do, publish squatting memoirs, books about grime and mashups of weird fiction and psychogeography. Stuff that excites us basically.
What have you recently published, and what's coming soon?
Our last book was the anthology An Unreliable Guide to London, which featured some of our favourite London (or ex-London) writers – including M John Harrison, Irenosen Okojie, Nikesh Shukla and Salena Godden – creating stories about unloved parts of the capital. I’m pretty proud of that one.
This year we have the debut collection by Eley Williams, Attrib. and other stories – Eley is an absolute talent and one of the most original fiction writers I’ve ever encountered. I don’t say that lightly.
We have two place-based projects, Signal Failure: London to Birmingham, HS2 on Foot by Tom Jeffreys and Ghosts on the Shore: Travels along Germany’s Baltic Coast by Elsewhere editor, Paul Scraton. Both are fascinating and nuanced explorations of landscape, politics, history and memory.
And, finally, we have Hold Tight: Black Masculinity, Millennials & the Meaning of Grime by Jeffrey Boakye, which as you may have guessed is about grime and black masculinity. I think it’s a pretty exciting and eclectic lineup.
I wrote a piece for Thresholds that covers a lot of this, but it’s worth reiterating it here and it applies to short fiction as well as full length manuscript submissions.
I can’t stress it enough, but make sure you read the submission guidelines. If it says submit a sample chapter of up to 15K words, don’t send in the entire manuscript. It shows you haven’t read the guidelines. Format it the way we ask you to format it. Simple really.
Most places asking for submissions will ask for an accompanying author biography and a cover letter. There are good and bad ways to do this, but the key point is not to fret and keep it simple.
Don’t have to tell us your life story. I have a pet (pun intended) peeve with authors telling me how many cats they have and what their names are. It’s not relevant! Your name and where you live is enough for us – if we do like your work and decide to accept it, we’ll ask for a full bio then.
I’d advise against telling us how your work is an insightful, nuanced and deep exploration of complex themes – if it’s true we’ll be able to get that from the work itself. You don’t need to send us a list of every place you’ve ever been published either, going back to that piece you had in the student paper in 1999 – just a short list of relevant magazines and journals (and any books you’ve had published, of course) will do.
Personally (and other editors may disagree here), I would say avoid trying to be funny in any bio or cover letter, as it can easily backfire. Keep the information relevant, short and without unnecessary digression. The reality is an editor will be looking at large numbers of submissions every week, and what is most important is the quality of the story itself. Bios and cover letters that detract from this will only harm your chances.
And if you do get a rejection, don’t send us an angry email pointing out why we’re wrong to do so… we’ll remember you for all the wrong reasons (this happens more than you’d think).
Getting the editor’s name wrong. You think I might be joking, but when I worked at Ambit, somebody sent a submission in addressed to J.G. Ballard who was, of course, dead at the time, and hadn’t been Ambit’s fiction editor for two decades or so.
The nasty part of editing... what advice do you have for writers if they're turned down?
Don’t take it personally, first and foremost. I think I’m lucky to have experienced things on both sides of the fence, and can honestly say I have had far more rejections than I have had acceptances.
It took a long time to get my book Hollow Shores accepted. But the process of submitting, getting rejected, making the work stronger until it was accepted was all part of the process and a beneficial one. I do think that if you want to be a writer you need to develop a thick skin and learn to roll with the punches – not easy as writers can be a sensitive bunch…
What you have to remember is that editors are people with their own predilections, tastes and dislikes. What doesn’t work for one will work for another. And with Influx, we have a clear idea of the kind of work we want to publish. It’s unlikely we’ll accept a full blown sci-fi or horror novel for example (despite the fact I like those genres very much). Pitching your work to the right people is just as important as the quality of the work, in my opinion.
If your work does keep getting rejected for the same reasons, maybe that’s a sign that it needs more work, another edit, a bit of a rewrite. But keep persevering is the key.
Any other tips for those sending you work?
I think it helps to check out the kind of books we have previously published and get a feel for the kind of stuff we do. Like I said, pitching to the right place is important.
Are you looking for new stories right now?
Unfortunately not, but we always announce publicly when we are!
Check out the other small presses profiled as part of our weekly series - and to participate, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.