Interview with an Indie Press: And Other Stories
On Doing Everything Yourself
For some real talk about the ups and downs of working in independent publishing, And Other Stories founder Stefan Tobler and senior editor Tara Tobler sat down to answer questions about what they love about the industry, the difficulty of working with limited resources, the world of acquisitions bidding, and how their offerings are expanding in the near future (to poetry!).
What are some of the benefits of working at an independent press?
You get to spend time with other people whose problem is Literature, and they (we) form a rare human subgroup known for lunacy, bullheadedness, and many a strange notion. It’s a nice club to be a part of, or it would be, if we ever actually SAW anyone, but it seems everyone in independent publishing is just so BUSY …
Plus: you get do almost everything yourself. And who doesn’t like to indulge their inner control freak?
What are some of the challenges of working at an independent press?
Doing almost everything yourself.
Admin, because publishing is complicated and fiddly, especially when you publish in several different countries and are working with multiple languages, and when nobody tells you going into it that the handiest languages to have are Excel and Arts Council English.
Finding the time to calculate royalties, when your children and you are home with Covid and you are also the HR and marketing and rights departments, and every agent insists on slightly different terms for each book’s contract, and your book-keeper can’t do royalties on their own and you’re too small a company to make royalty-calculation software a good investment. (And if you’re reading this paragraph and wondering if it contains an indirect apology for why a certain email has not yet arrived to you, the answer is yes. Yes it does. We’re verysorryforChrissake!)
Is there a particular quality, style, or other characteristic that connects the projects that you take on?
Also, foul language. Sorry.“Aftermath by Preti Taneja is stunning and everyone should read it. Like, now. Stop reading this drivel and go read that instead.”
Were there any titles in particular that were game-changers for your business?
Yes, there was the fat one that took a year to edit and left us broke.
Yes, there were a few that sold well, whichiswhywe’restillhereandtalkingtoyouthoughjustbarely: Down the Rabbit Hole, Swimming Home, Signs Preceding the End of the World, Tentacle.
As far as game-changers for Literature go: many, we believe. Aftermath by Preti Taneja is stunning and everyone should read it. Like, now. Stop reading this drivel and go read that instead. Or Mona Arshi’s Somebody Loves You, which will make you cry, or make you nervous around hedge clippers, or both. Tice Cin’s Keeping the House is crazy strong. Robin McLean is a force. How do you fucking stop?! (There’s that swearing again.)
What’s another indie press you love/would recommend?
There are many presses who share our taste quite a lot of the time, e.g. New Directions, Graywolf, Fitzcarraldo Editions, Granta Books, Archipelago Editions and some others, who are regularly offering similarly modest advances for the same authors as us. We recommend them all highly!
And in case you’re not privy to the jousts and spars of acquisitions bidding, you should know that everything we’ve just said is REALLY QUITE BIG OF US considering that a certain publisher in the above list of people we love has maybe possibly poached our BESTSELLING AUTHOR IN THE U.S. But we do still love you. Really. We do. Most of the time anyway.
What are some projects you’re particularly excited about at the moment?
Poetry on our list in 2023! As part of a three-book Lutz Seiler feast, we’re bringing out a more-than-completist translation of his first major book of poetry Pech & Blende involving all the ten translators we know have translated some of this book.
Wait. Forget we said anything about poetry. Please? [Fade to black under a flood of poetry submissions.]