Conversations with small publishers: Inkerman & Blunt
This week we interview three small presses about why they started their project, and what exciting projects they have in the works. Here, Donna Ward tells us about Inkerman & Blunt.
And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings. — Meister Eckhart
What were your reasons for establishing Inkerman & Blunt?
I have a passion for creating beautiful books of exceptional ideas written exquisitely. I love reading those kinds of books and I have discovered I’m irritable if I’m not making them. I began making books in 2004. I created a poetry anthology, The Weighing of the Heart: An Anthology of Emerging West Australian Poets, I edited Maree Dawes’ collection of poems in the voices of Picasso’s women, Women of the Minotaur, and also established indigo, the journal of Western Australian creative writing. I tried to retire from publishing when I returned to Melbourne in 2011, but after a year or so it became unbearable and I had to return to doing what I love doing most, so I established Inkerman & Blunt.
But my irritability is not the only reason I’m involved in publishing. First and last, I believe that publishing is a political act, though what is published might not seem political. When we write persuasively we create a world with characters who take carriage of potent ideas, when we explore what concerns us with words of clarity and conviction we influence people. I believe every one of Inkerman & Blunt’s publications will change the world, even if only in a quiet way, on a silent Sunday afternoon when you are sitting on your couch with a cup of fragrant tea.
With such a grand philosophy you might be surprised that, at the moment, I intend to publish only two books a year: two fine books a year, two books that will affect the world in some way, two books that will allow me to have a slower life than I have had in the past. After all, this is my retirement. But then, this is my retirement and I am discovering that my retirement is a very busy time – there may be more than two books in any year in the near future.
What has been most challenging, and most rewarding, since you’ve made this decision?
Success is the most rewarding yet most challenging thing that can happen to anyone, and both have happened since I established Inkerman & Blunt. Our first publication, Australian Love Poems, edited by Mark Tredinnick, is an outstanding success and was, simultaneously, an exceptional challenge.
Everyone knows poetry doesn’t sell, but this collection of 200 poems by 172 poets sold 2,000 copies in its first five months and is now in its second edition. It has caught the hearts and minds of so many. There has been a complete program of ABC Poetica devoted to this book and in April the Pacific Opera will dedicate an entire performance to the collection.
Inkerman & Blunt received exactly 1,501 poems from over 620 poets claiming Australia as a nation of poets. And the sales of this book indicate that we are a people who read poetry, too. Yet, the belief is out there: nobody buys poetry. I suspect this story we tell ourselves is now changing.
The overwhelming response to the call for love poems required instant and immense administrative resources. And, as if the gods were watching, a small team of volunteers quite literally appeared, and together we processed poems and payments, proofed the manuscript, called bookshops, built a giant database and a significant social media presence.
By the time we launched the book at Byron Bay Writers Festival in August 2013 we had sold 700 copies and attracted the attention of NewSouth Books, who now distributes all our publications. The biggest challenge for every small publisher is placing books with booksellers. I will never forget my elation when the distribution contract arrived. The demands on my administrative time evaporated. Now I can concentrate on what I do best: creating books I believe in and drawing attention to them.
Many years ago a friend of mine, a tiny woman, gave birth to two large babies in half an hour. She was bruised to her waist. Back then I could not imagine how she managed the simultaneous pain and ecstasy of her experience. From inception to production to distribution of Australian Love Poems, I remembered my friend — her joy and her bruising.
Tell us about some upcoming releases readers can look out for.
Our very next release is a small and beautiful collection of micro fiction by Angela Meyer called Captives. The book has been designed by Sandy Cull and it is just so lovely you want to pick it up and put it in your pocket immediately. The stories themselves are enigmatic, mesmerising and poetic. Angela has a very real talent for writing about the way life shifts and slants, and the book is already getting very good feedback.
In August we will release the e-publication of Australian Love Poems and from here on, all our books will be accompanied by an e-book. And there may be an app in the offing as well. Stay tuned on that.
This October we will bring out Australian Love Stories, edited by Cate Kennedy who is, as we speak, in Vanuatu reading the 428 love stories we have received for consideration in this volume (pictured here). We’re very excited that this book will hopefully sit beside Australian Love Poems on many bookshelves in our country and around the world.
And, we have two very special surprises lined up for 2015. We invite everyone to keep up with our publications and events by signing up to our e-news, liking us on Facebook, or following us on Twitter and Instagram.