Last week I went to Melbourne to attend the Independent Publishing Conference, which is organised by the Small Press Network. Thank you so much to all those involved for organising this important event! I went last year too, so I knew that it would be intense and rewarding, that I would gain insight into the publishing industry and meet plenty of interesting people. However, nothing could have prepared me for the absolutely awesome time I ended up having!
Due to Jetstar cancelling my flight I missed the academic day altogether and arrived on Thursday night ready to hang out with Charlotte Harper, from digital first publishing house Editia, and Alex Adsett, who has her own literary agency. Doctoral candidate Lois Shedd was there too and we all had such a fabulous time talking about publishing and writing, eating Asian dishes that were cheap, so cheap, and yummy. Where are those kinds of $4 dishes in Adelaide?!
On Friday 15 Nov 2013, the conference had sessions running parallel and I had to choose what to listen to, including vertical marketing, reviewing, libraries, children’s books, crowd funding and business models. The key note speaker Michael Webster was excellent, guiding us through how books are sold in Australia (through chain stores, Discount & Department Stores, also known as DDSs, or independent bookshops), how many books are sold (22 million), which publishing companies are selling the most books (Penguin and Harper Collins) and why we should remain optimistic (we don’t buy quite as many books as during the golden years 2009-2010 but we still have a very healthy independent bookshop sector).
As the day tumbled closer to evening, my stomach started churning a little. As soon as the conference was over, I was to meet the other shortlisted writers in the green room and we would work out in which order to speak at the presentation for the Most Underrated Book Award. I was prepared. I had written a speech. But I was still nervous. Mary Masters, general manager at the Small Press Network which had organised the awards, put us all at ease with her infectious laughter. I was delighted to meet two of the other shortlisted writers, Ginger Briggs who wrote Staunch (Affirm Press) and Merlinda Bobis, whose book Fish-Hair Woman (Spinifex) had been nominated. Unfortunately, the third writer Annabel Smith, who wrote Whisky Charlie Foxtrot, couldn’t make it so she had recorded a video of herself reading from the book. She also writes really interesting blog posts here.
Ginger was first up and she spoke eloquently about those in our society who are underrated, boys who have lost their way, who are pitied until they are 18, then suddenly seen as monsters who should be thrown in jail and forgotten about. Quite a hard act to follow but I was up next and I had no choice but to deliver my speech.
It was rubbish. Literally. Because the speech had to be about something underrated and rubbish is underrated. You can read it here.
Fortunately, people laughed in the right places and some people said afterwards that they had never heard about this way of using garbage. I was just happy it was all over so I could sit back and watch Annabel’s video and Merlinda’s fascinating one-woman performance of her book. In the end, Martin Shaw from Readings bookshop presented Merlinda Bobis and her publisher with the award and we could all head downstairs to The Moat for scrumptious dinner and way too much wine.Congratulations to Merlinda and Spinifex as well as Ginger and Annabel for making the shortlist!
Meeting up with S.A. Jones from Killings and Caroline Wood from Margaret River Press was great. Read S.A. Jones’ take on the event for Killings blog here. My dear friend Eleanor had brought her dad Gordon along to attend the awards and we all had a fantastic time in a way that I think of as typically Australian, involving lots of self-deprecation, exquisite food and flowing rivers of alcohol. I was buzzing. Sure, I hadn’t won the award but I had won so much more than that. I had won respect for MidnightSun and for myself as a writer. And most importantly, I had won friends. Fellow writers and publishers that I know I’ll keep in touch with, who I can ask when I need advice, who are enthusiastic and funny and just a little bit crazy. Just like me.