Big things and humble beginnings: The 2013 Independent Publishing Conference

Anyone in publishing knows the wonderful things that can happen in small spaces. Award winning manuscripts have been produced in back yard huts, burgeoning publishing empires started on kitchen tables and literary classics typed out clack-by-clack at lonely desks. So too this year’s Independent Publishing Conference (14 to 16 November) – for the past few months Tim Coronel, Conference Coordinator, has had his laptop perched on the edge of the only desk in Small Press Network’s office (a space he once described as a fishbowl). ‘It’s a small office which is three by three metres (if that). Like all publishing spaces it’s full of books and bits of paper and a carton of wine – which is very useful at times,’ Coronel quips.

This year’s conference came together with the work of an impressive planning committee (Michael Webster, Emmett Stinson, Aaron Manion, Andrea Hanke, Catherine Lewis, Mary Masters and Nathan Hollier – with Coronel bringing it all together). It’s the second of its kind but 2013 promises new ideas. ‘We’ve made a conscious effort not to double up – not to get the same faces back again,’ says Coronel. ‘There’s probably twice as many sessions and speakers as there were last year – both days of the conference are going to be running parallel sessions.’ (ie two sessions in each time slot).

Big things can happen in little spaces. Thanks to PetitPlat - Stephanie Kilgast for use of this image Tiny Study Room #3 under Creative Commons.

Big things can happen in little spaces. Thanks to PetitPlat – Stephanie Kilgast for use of this image Tiny Study Room #3 under Creative Commons.

Coronel hopes the conference will soon become an ‘annual destination’ for the Australian publishing sector. ‘It’s the only opportunity in Australia for publishing professionals to get together like this. You can be tweeting with people and emailing people back and forth for years and never have the chance to actually meet them face-to-face,’ he says.

Both the industry and academic day programs have been shaped to meet the needs of these independent publishing individuals. There’s over 16 sessions on the topics of markets, marketing, trends, different genres, rights, distribution, reviews, libraries and all manner of publishing. Funding: from crowds to grants will feature a panel including Anna Maguire, author of Crowdfund it!, Sophie Cunningham, Chair of the Literature Board with the Australia Council and Zoe Rodriguez, Cultural Fund Manager at Copyright Agency Limited (chaired by Sam Twyford-Moore, Director of the Emerging Writer’s Festival).

Earlier on the same day Charlotte Harper (Editia) will lead Business Models, a self-explanatory session which will include input from publishers at all ends of the spectrum. ‘Those nuts and bolts sessions will be very useful,’ says Coronel. ‘They’ll explore how you do it, how you run your little business and hopefully make a bigger business out of it and make it viable.’

Coronel notes that the act of publishing has become far less exclusive than it once was. ‘I think it’s getting easier and easier to publish in the most basic sense – to get your words out is simple,’ he says. To wit one of the biggest challenges for publishers these days is in finding an audience. ‘To find a paying audience is even more of a challenge and to generate enough revenue to make a sustainable business is hard. It always has been,’ he says.

Still that’s not to say that humble beginnings can’t result in big things – after all this year’s Independent Publishing Conference has been brought together by the efforts of Coronel – a solitary figure with a laptop perched on the edge of a desk.

Follow @futurelongform on Twitter (or its writer, Pepi Ronalds on Facebook) for more stories about the Independent Publishing Conference and The Most Underrated Book Award (as well as other stories about writing, publishing and long form non-fiction).

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