Friday 8 May 2009

Interview - Paul Collins (Ford St Publishing)

Time for number three in the revolving door of Australian publishing lovelies to come spinning through the Persnickety Snark building. Today's guest helms the independent press, Ford Street Publishing, and is also a prolific author himself - welcome, Paul Collins!

What's is a normal day for you at Ford Street?
Well, starting from getting up, I take the dogs (kelpie and heeler) for a 45 minute jog every morning. Feeding them, showering, breakfast, skimming The Age, takes me up to Ford Street activities. I usually reply to emails first. With nine books coming out this year, the moment I stop working on one (which is the moment it leaves for the printer's) I'm working on the next two. This involves contracting, editing, typesetting, cover and internal design. By the time the next book goes to the printer the book before it has arrived from the printer's. I then send out about 40+ review copies; email 1500+ interested people from my database, organise sending out book marks, stickers and posters to another 1000+ people. In between all this I work in with the distributor (Macmillan Distribution Services) by getting my authors to talk to the reps about their books, and seeing how best I can promote Ford Street. As an author, I get invited to various festivals/libraries/schools to give talks/workshops, so during all this I promote Ford Street along with my own books. (In the coming months I'm a guest at the MWF, CYA/BWF and Voices on the Coast festival.) Add to this mix a zillion sundries like accounts, filling orders, submitting books to numerous awards, updating the website, being a member of important organisations like the APA and SPUNC (I'm on the Board) and you'll see it's pretty full on. Since I work from home, I don't leave work. So my work day is seven days and nights a week. Just as well I enjoy doing what I do :-).

What do you believe are the popular themes in YA at the moment?
I'm not sure for other publishers, but I think contemporary books with a message, a theme, are selling (for Ford Street at least) a lot better than genre fiction. An example of this would be Big and Me (by David Miller) which is a metaphor for mental illness. A lot of mental health organisations got behind the book, so it's selling really well. Without that metaphor, it wouldn't have sold as well, even though it can be read "just" as a picture book about digging machines.

What do you believe is the future direction of YA?
Ah, if I knew the answer to that I probably wouldn't divulge it >g<. I do think a sad trend is over-censorship. I have to think twice before a book of mine can have swear words. Some book clubs and schools simply won't take on a book if a single swear word appears in it. That to me is just ridiculous. Why? Because kids these days have the Internet, and with the tap of a few keys kids can see a lot worse than simple swear words. Kids are being mollycoddled to the extreme, and they're not in any way being done favours by publishers dumbing down their books to suit gatekeepers who have become overzealous with not only their allowed vocabulary but their political correctness. The world isn't wrapped in cotton. In fact, it's getting worse. Blindfold our younger generations and they'll not be geared up for the world's harsh realities when they leave home.

Which Australian authors get you excited?
Obviously those who send their manuscripts to me :-). But on a serious note, authors who write good contemporary fiction, especially if it's theme-based. I have just contracted a trilogy called The Rare by Foz Meadows. Everyone who has read the manuscript has raved about it. I'm really, really looking forward to publishing it next year.

Your big recommendation at the moment?
Speaking only about Ford Street authors, I have several titles due this year that I think will make waves. One is called They Told Me I Had To Write This by Kim Miller and the other is My Private Pectus by Shane Thamm. Both tick all the boxes with me.

I also have plunged into genre fiction with a title by George Ivanoff. I published Gamers' Quest as a short story in Trust Me! last year. I asked George if he'd like to expand it into a novel. Although George has been published before, this is his first trade novel. George is also great on publicity, so I think despite my reticence where genre fiction is concerned, this book will do well. It's solid science fiction and has an author willing to get behind it. I am of course publishing the new Quentaris series, but whereas it's fantasy, it has a track record, and with authors such as Alyssa Brugman and James Roy writing for the series, it can't go far wrong. I should also mention Doug MacLeod's My Extraordinary Life and Death. It's the funniest book I've read in ages -- Bookseller and Publisher just raved about it, and I'm sure others will, too. I'll let your readers into a secret (I'm not supposed to!!!) Only readers who find the URL in the book will discover a special page on the Ford Street website. Your readers can "cheat" and go to and see an example of Doug's marvelous sense of humour.

What are some of next year's releases that readers should be chomping at the bit to read?
I suspect Felicity Marshall's The Star (picture book) will have people goggling, and of course Foz Meadows' trilogy, the first title of which is called Solace and Grief. Another author I'm tipping to be a winner is Chrissie Michaels' Lonnie's Shadow. It's set in an early Melbourne and has quite a twist to it.

Ford Street's recent successes have been Pool by Justin D'Ath being short-listed for the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards (2008) and Crossing the Line by Dianne Bates being short-listed for the NSW Premier's Literary Awards (2009).

Thank you to Paul for taking the time to let me pick apart his very busy brain on all things Aussie Kid's Lit. Make sure you check out all the titles available through this independent press via the link below, also check out Paul's personal website and the titles he's written.

Next up - Kristen Young from Black Dog Books

Ford Street Publishing Website
Paul Collins' Official Website


Steph Bowe said...

I have to say, I love Doug Macleod. He is so funny.

Great interview.


Natalie Hatch said...

Excellent interview Adele. Hi again to Paul, we met last year at the CYA conference in Brisbane.