Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Philistine Press - The First Six Months

by Frank Burton

Philistine Press was launched on 3rd March 2010. 6 months and 10 ebooks later, here are some thoughts on how it’s been going …

The idea for Philistine came about after I published my novella, About Someone, on my own website, www.frankburton.co.uk. The book was pretty much written in one weekend, and was an experimental writing exercise more than anything else – it certainly wasn’t intended for publication originally. When I decided to publish it myself online, it felt like a small act of rebellion against the publishing industry. (It's not the best thing I've ever written, and it won't be online forever - I'll be removing it from the site in a few months to make room for bigger and better things - so take a look while you still can.)

This sense of rebelliousness was the driving force behind Philistine Press. For the first six months of being online, the subtitle beneath the Philistine Press heading on the website was “What are you rebelling against?” – a famous cinematic line, often attributed to the James Dean film, Rebel Without a Cause, although the question was actually directed at Marlon Brando’s character, Johnny, in The Wild One. I’m sure I’m not the only person who finds Johnny’s reply, “Whaddaya got?” slightly unsatisfying. I’m more interested in the question, “What are you rebelling against?” Writers should ask themselves that question more often.

It was never my intention for Philistine Press to focus purely on rebellious writers (whatever “rebellious” means), although I’m happy to say all of our authors arguably fall into that category in one way or another.

So, has Philistine stuck to its initial aims so far?

Firstly, the aim was to publish a variety of ebooks, mainly focussing on poetry and fiction. Well, we’ve not published any fiction yet, but we have a novella, a novel and a short story collection due out later on this year, so that’s that one covered. The original aim was to bring out two ebooks a month, which we started off doing, but haven’t necessarily got the time or the resources to keep it up. With 11 releases in 6 months (10 ebooks and 1 EP), I don’t think anyone can criticise us for not publishing enough.

Secondly, I was particularly interested in publishing contemporary works that are no longer available in print. There aren’t enough publishers out there who are doing that. Often authors resort to self-publishing their out-of-print books because other publishers aren’t interested, regardless of how good the books are. For some reason, Philistine haven’t had a great response on calls for out-of-print books. Our only release of this kind is Andy Hopkins’ excellent Dark Horse Pictures. I haven’t given up on this idea, and maybe next year we’ll see some more previously-print-published titles appearing on the site. Fingers crossed on that one.

The main aim, however, was a simple one: publish some great ebooks. Well, I’m biased, obviously, but I think we’ve passed that one with flying colours. The submissions we’ve received have certainly exceeded my expectations (having heard stories from other editors, I was half-expecting everything we received to be total rubbish). Sorry to go all Oscar’s-acceptance-speech on you, but I genuinely can’t believe my luck.

A few projects have mysteriously slipped through my fingers. On occasions an author will email me with an interesting proposal. I’ll email them back asking for the full manuscript and then never hear from them again. Perhaps some of these missed opportunities will return in due course, or perhaps they’ve vanished forever.

So, as far as the next six months are concerned, our aims are …

1. More of the same.

2. Fiction, fiction, fiction – coming soon.

3. Multiple formats – our books are available as PDF files and as online text at the moment. Formats such as .mobi for the Kindle and LRF for the Sony ebook reader should help our authors reach a wider readership.

Incidentally, our subtitle has now been changed from "What are you rebelling against?" to the rather more straightforward "Non-profit digital publishing." It's not the catchiest tag-line ever, but it's important that anyone who visits the site for the first time knows what we're all about - digital publishing, not motivated by profit, but by the desire to do something fucking great.


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