This is part of a series of interviews taking place with small press publishers. This interview series will be partially published online and partially in print, as a part of a nonfiction book to demystify publishing, published in January 2020 and written by Isabelle Kenyon. The following is an extract from an interview with Andrew Wells, lead editor for HVTN.
When did your press open for business and what was your first year
HVTN started in late 2014 as a magazine, publishing poetry
and short fiction. Our first year was fun and stressful and we
sold a handful of copies. We started as print-on-demand but
have since moved away from that model.
What are the most challenging things about running a small press?
At first, money. I paid for the website using my savings from coaching football at 14, then I worked a lot of extra hours,
double shifts as a bar-back, barista, shop assistant, to keep the press going during sixth form and university. Now that I’ve graduated and got a job that pays ok, money is easier. I still want to be self-sustaining as a press but it means we can pay authors, be more generous on author copies, take projects on a little further in advance. That’s a load off. I would say the hardest thing now is working with distributors and some
bookstores, negotiating returns and discounts is hard when doing print runs of 150 copies. Say you’ve an order of 50, and then it’s returned, the chances are you’ve had to go back to the printers to order 50 more, and now you’ll never shift those 50 or make the money back. Any of those 50 you did sell will be at a 30-50% discount too, so very little of the RRP comes back to the publisher.
How do you continue to build your brand within a busy market?
We have a recognisable house style, both interior and exterior.
There’s room for play and change within that mould to
keep things fresh, but keeping that within a house style gives
us an identity. And on a perhaps shallower note, I really like
seeing the spines match up on my own bookshelf. For the
45 Books series, at least, it’s in my vision and aesthetic, so part
of publishing with HVTN and part of the submission process
involves checking that authors buy into that. Otherwise
there’s conflict down the road. If I know an author hates the house style, I don’t take them on. A part of me wonders why
one would submit if you don’t like the image of the press, but on the other hand, I appreciate submission is a tough, long, gruelling process, and sometimes there aren’t loads of places open where you can send for free. So, that part of the selecting
is perhaps a harsh reason to say no (especially as that reason will come up after I’ve said I like the poems), but better than having either author or publisher concede down-the-line and being unhappy with the book after all the work that goes
into it, on both sides.