The Short Story Strikes Back…

Posted on October 21, 2005 in Uncategorized

Setting up a publishing company was the reasonably simple part. A few bits of paper signed, a couple of small fees paid and suddenly a limited company is all yours. The only real pain was finding a name that wasn’t already taken. Even when one was finally found, it was a painful wait for it to be finalised. During that period of deep paranoia, the streets appeared to be rife with untrustworthy name thieves. Much to my relief, one cold morning the documents arrived: Legend Press was formed.

Now for the trickier part, actually publishing something. My inspiration had come in that common theatre of enlightenment – mildly drunk on the train home. On reaching the platform I had decided that I should take the risk and not put off the dream of running my own publishing company any further. By Bethnal Green, I had decided on my first publication.

Having always been absorbed by all the different lives around me each day, I decided I wanted a collection of stories by different writers each following one character through a single, random day. There is immeasurable natural drama contained in every individual life and I have always marvelled at all the million variables that make up our experiences and life paths. Then I saw the title – The Remarkable Everyday.

I was more than aware that short stories don’t have a great selling record, but I saw this as an opportunity. To offer the reader such a variety of different angles to something that is inseparably relevant to them – everyday life – is something even the most brilliant of authors would struggle to do in a single novel. The short story is also a great opportunity for talented writers to experiment and to show what they have to offer. By Hackney Downs I could see that if handled correctly, this project could be a real success and the perfect platform for Legend Press to develop from.

So onwards and hopefully upwards. Well, it was immediately upwards as I flew away on a three-week holiday; I thought it important to spend the last of any free cash before embarking on my adventure. I returned having had a great break and with mounting lists of agents, writing groups and useful reference material.

Everything since has been somewhat a busy blur. The collection has received a great deal of interest; agents, writers and literary groups alike have seen this as a fantastic opportunity to raise the profile of the short story and to be involved in a dynamic and, hopefully, very successful project.

On starting, I immediately realised the advantage of having various departments to handle the different aspects of the process. It is certainly quite a challenge to juggle being an editor, production manager, publicist and accountant. Plus I had to make all my own tea. I initially found that the task split roughly into four areas: 1) finding and handling the writers 2) building up awareness and support for the project 3) finding a printing deal and 4) admin.

I will clear up the last point first, as while it is absolutely vital, it is something to be done on a rainy day. Paperwork has to be completed for Companies House, the Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise, a bank account set up and a budget drawn up, which means making detailed plans that will be completely revised in several days’ time. While it is a little onerous, it is true that a financially well-run company can save thousands, which is absolutely vital, especially in the early stages.

Continuing in reverse order – finding a printer. A list of printers was drawn from numerous sources: printing associations, reference material, internet searches and so on, who were then sent a specification. Estimates were then shortlisted and after samples being requested and the prices being shaved (a process that involved hard bargaining, begging, bribing and even flirting), a printer was chosen for the job and a date set. Through the thoroughness of the initial company searches, I received a very good price for the job.

Raising awareness has been another vital part of the process. A huge spreadsheet was compiled with various organisations and groups. I even have a list of every library in Central London (a fact I tend to keep to myself). The response has been fantastic. There have been postings on numerous websites, support from the Art Council’s Save the Short Story campaign, interviews and articles and even an offer to write an introduction from a leading short story critic. With word spreading, the most heart-warming moment was an email from a mother who’d heard about Legend Press and asked me to look at her 12-year-old daughter’s work, as she wanted to encourage her to keep writing. Finally, I was giving something back!

And last but not least (as without them the book may appear a little lightweight), the writers. While a lot of agents don’t deal with short stories, there are enough that do and here again my exhaustive lists paid dividends. The recruitment of authors also works in tandem with the growing awareness, and writers from far and wide got in touch. I also set up a writing competition through a leading international writer’s website. As a result the stories flooded in and then it was simply a matter of picking the tastier ones out of the bunch.

So what’s next? Well, get the thing actually put together and then I suppose I should sell it in a blaze of publicity. Still a lot to be done, but the public had better be ready ? the short story and Legend Press are getting closer to the high street. I’m just glad I got the train home that night and not the overcrowded 149 – publishing empires have got to start somewhere.

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