Like many people, I first noticed Roast Books when they published A.C. Tillyer’s collection of short stories, An A-Z of Possible Worlds. It was a highly entertaining read, but also an exciting piece of publishing: the elaborate production, involving a boxed set of 26 booklets, was both eye-catching and perfectly suited to the material.
While An A-Z… might be Roast Books’ most elaborate volume, it’s be no means the only one: they started with a series of paperback novellas and short story collections called Great Little Reads, and more recent publications include Nik Perring’s collection of flash fiction, Not So Perfect. Their most recent book is Dogsbodies and Scumsters, a quirky collection of short stories by Alan McCormick with illustrations by Jonny Voss. Here’s the trailer:
With such a diverse and interesting selection of publications, I decided it was time to find out more about Roast Books and their plans, so I got in touch with their publisher Faye Dayan…
For a young publishing house with relatively few titles, you’ve managed to create a wonderfully diverse range: from the Great Little Reads with their textured covers, to the simple square of Nik Perring’s book, through to the extravagant A-Z of Possible Worlds, I’m not sure that you’ve tackled any two projects in the same way. What made you decide to take this approach?
Each book of short fiction Roast Books has published has deserved its own approach because we try to match form to content. I think it’s important that the shape and character of a book can reflect and relate to the stories inside.
Will you be revisiting the Great Little Reads series?
The novella is such a great genre, and often overlooked I think, so I would love to revisit the Great Little Reads series, although for the moment Roast Books is focused on short story collections.
Is it challenging to create a strong identity for Roast Books when you’re using a variety of formats? As opposed to, say, Peirene Press, who have one very distinct look to their titles.
You are right, this presents a challenge in creating an image for Roastbooks, but it is the philosophy of production, rather than the production itself which is consistent across all our books. The creative process of working with an author and collaborating on the design is very rewarding and something I would like to believe that our readers acknowledge and appreciate.
I’m sure they do. Your list is very focussed on short stories and novellas—a focus I can strongly identify with! I can see how short stories would be a logical choice for an experimental publisher like Roast Books, because the reading experience of shorter works can be more flexible than that of longer novels, where the book perhaps needs more to disappear more behind the writing. What’s the attraction for you in publishing short stories?
The genre of short stories is extensive, and there are fewer accepted publishing traditions associated with them. So firstly, as you said, as a new publisher, it gives more flexibility to experiment. Secondly many short stories are appreciated as they provide light bites of entertainment and stimulation, and the book format can be something which enhances this rather than detracts from it.
Do you see Roast Books moving into ebook publishing, or would you prefer to focus on the physical reading experience?
It’s interesting because the physical aspect of the book is intrinsic to Roast Books, so we will not release digital books without their physical counterpart. Having said that, we are developing an exciting little e-project which will give users the ability to self publish and distribute.
That’s interesting. More traditional publishers seem to be getting involved with self-publishing projects these days. It used to be very much a no-no, causing issues with credibility and conflicts of interest, but that certainly seems to be changing. How do you plan to reconcile the two very different types of publishing with Roast Books?
I agree it is changing. The type of self publishing where publishers put out a physical book in return for a hefty fee isn’t the only model any more. With ebooks, authors can create and distribute their own book online, in a speedy and cheap process, and this is something which part of our e-project will facilitate. Aspiring authors can bring their ebooks to the attention not just of potential readers but also potential publishers. There won’t necessarily be any overlap between this and our physical books at all.
How have you found the experience of entering the publishing industry? Do you think it’s a receptive world for new independents? Have you had any particular frustrations or pleasant surprises?
As you know things are changing very rapidly in the book industry and there is a lot of speculation about where it’s headed. But i have been certainly met some people within the industry who are extremely supportive and genuinely want new independents to succeed. It’s undoubtably tough, but you just have to keep going and see what’s around the next corner. We have just sold the film rights to My Soviet Kicthen by Amy Spurling, to Tailormade productions, which was an unexpected but welcome development.
What kind of team do you have? Do you work with a lot of people, or are you largely self-sufficient?
I work with the same designer, editor and publicist on each book, so its a very small operation, but I think this has its benefits! We work quickly, and it’s a lot of fun.
Are there any other emerging independent publishers that you particularly admire?
lol The Fiction Desk! Various Authors introduces a really interesting spectrum of new talent and I’m really enjoying it.
Thank you! I wasn’t fishing, I promise… Finally, what’s next for Roast Books?
We have some great projects planned for 2012, all collections of short stories, and also the development of our self publishing platform.
Find out more about Roast Books at their website, www.roastbooks.org.