Okay, so look…as far as publishing in the UK is concerned, I’m not the only one who takes a dim view of the mainstream literary equivalent to Muzak that gets spewed out by big name publishing companies, right? Hell…let’s have it right. Some of this guff isn’t even as good as Muzak. A lot of it is the literary equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard, man. I’m surely not the only one who thinks this..? That – despite a few notable exceptions – the mainstream industry has a slavering appetite for the kind of brightly packaged, two-inch thick hardback story of whatever surgically reconfigured Z-list celebrity is currently winning people over with their bleached-white smiles, right?
I mean…I know it’s not all like this. But Jesus…! There does seem to be good grounds for arguing that the perception (at least) is this: there’s an awful lot of books by an awful lot of awful television personalities whose transient popularity on reality TV seems to mean more to the world of mainstream publishing than publishing good stories written by good writers. Because – at the risk of sounding snobby here – most of these here-today gone-tomorrow television personalities haven’t yet convinced me that they possess a particular aptitude for stringing a coherent sentence together when they open their gobs, let alone the skill required for writing a good book. Granted…most of the time we see them, they’re completely shit-faced and grunting some sort of belligerent abuse at other reality TV stars, whilst prancing about half-naked in front of ‘hidden’ cameras.
Katie Price, for instance, has a ton of books to her name having signed large publishing deals to enlighten the world of her life’s experiences in some grotesque carnival celebration of name-dropped, shit-stirring and confessional tattling that really has all the literary appeal of rubbernecking a motorway pile-up. But she didn’t write a single one of them. Hell, her nine-year-old daughter has a book deal. And this is infuriating, right? I’ve been working hard at honing my abilities as a writer for over twenty years. I’ve gone through all the usual experiences a writer goes through. Setting aside the time to write, even if it means sacrificing something else, which quite often in my case was a social life. Living with characters and plots and multiple worlds unfolding within the TARDIS-like dimension of my creative mind in a manner that often interferes with my ability to function as a regular human being with regular human being commitments. The frequent anguish that lurks deep in the writer’s brain like an ever-present demon with a flair for sadistic haranguing; taunting you that the work you’ve written is rubbish. That it’s pointless, and no-one is ever going to take you seriously as a writer. Asking you why you even bother.
I’ve spent many sleepless nights splurging stories on to my PC screen or the nearest available scrap of paper, or staring at the ceiling muddling through tricky plot elements. I’ve devoted years to crafting novels which, when completed, still don’t feel completely complete and upon which I have to make harsh, disciplined decisions and just finally draw a goddamn line beneath. I’ve spent hours and hours drafting covering letters to agents and publishers and eagerly refreshing my email inbox with an obsessive compulsion that borders on maniacal fanaticism. I’ve received countless rejections, countless “it’s very good but…” responses, which as any other writer will know, are agonising in their tantalising and soul-crushing finality.
But all this…this is how one learns to truly write. Not by having someone write your life story because you’re the next plastic-faced gobshite dominating our TV screens.
Hell…I know that this is all an exaggeration. The mainstream publishing industry does put out some damn good books, and it would be rotten of me not to acknowledge this. But the perception is there. And I don’t think I’m the only one who is feeling it.
So thank God for small presses, right. Because they’re able to take a risk on lesser known writers who seem to be faced with the impossible task of having well-crafted work noticed. And yes, that means writers have to work a bit harder once their book is out. Small presses lack the clout and the resources of the Big Boys. So they’ve got to roll up their sleeves and muck in. But it seems most authors are doing that any way. A social media presence is pretty much vital these days, so in many respects small presses aren’t asking above and beyond what has fast become a social norm anyway.
Having experienced all this for ourselves, Nathan O’Hagan and I spent a lot of time discussing the viability of bringing a new small press into the world. Starting up a new venture is scary, but after all the inevitable can-we/can’t-we back and forth, we decided yes…we can. And we would. Because as authors published through a small press, we recognised that the uphill struggle to get noticed by the Big Boys wasn’t necessarily because we can’t write. We’re pretty damn happy with our literary efforts and have received some really pleasing feedback from people. But had it not been for a small press recognising our abilities, we’d probably still be banging our heads against a brick wall seeking the attention of the Big Boys. And we both know that there are loads of other writers out there having the same experience.
The small press is able to buck the trend. We feel proud to be doing our bit to bring some attention to writers whose work may have been overlooked and stories that shine a light on under-represented issues.
The first book we’re releasing is by Richard Rippon, a very talented story-teller from Newcastle, whose novel “Lord of the Dead” is something like the hybrid offspring of the movie “Seven”, Thomas Harris’s “The Silence of the Lambs” and Peter James’s “Detective Roy Grace” novels. The lead character is an unconventional psychologist with cerebral palsy, an issue that became somewhat contentious with the Big Boys who’d first expressed some interest in his novel. Rather than change this element of his main character – who is placed alongside a strong female lead – we believed that Rippon had a unique story with unique characters and I can vouch for Nathan here when I say that we’re both thrilled to have had the opportunity to work with Richard on this.
The next book we will release is by David Olner, who writes with a keen perceptiveness and a caustic wit. His prose is full of dark, melancholy humour, playful and poetic prose and brooding introspection. “The Baggage Carousel” is essentially the story of two young travellers from opposite ends of the globe (Dan and Amber) who meet in South Africa whilst travelling the world to escape their troubled lives back home. Their brief and intense romance ends with a sudden jolt, leaving them both to make the inevitable and necessary confrontations with their own problems.
Written by @MWLeeming
For further details of what we’re doing, please check out our website at www.obliteratipress.com
And be sure to follow us on social media for updates on our submission windows.