Are (were) your parents great readers? Tell us a bit about yourself.
My mum has always read books, there were lots of books around her house when I was growing up. But as a child and teenager I didn’t read all that much – I was too busy playing football, cricket and skateboarding to bother sitting down to read. I started to take reading seriously when I was about eighteen.
Did you want to work in the publishing industry from the start?
Hell no. Have you seen the people that work in publishing? I never thought it was a place for me. I’m joking, but not joking at the same time. I’ve met lots of great people in the industry but from the outside it appears to be a very elitist, English Literature Graduate kind of place. That’s not my background, so it wasn’t something I ever considered. Starting Influx Press with my school friend Gary Budden was kind of a way of (very slowly and ineffectively) knocking down those closed doors.
Has your vision from when you started Influx Press seven years ago changed?
Yeah almost completely. We started Influx to do one book, an anthology of writing about the London borough where we lived (and I still do) called Acquired For Development By. We began with a loan of £800 from a neighbour and sold enough copies that we could pay back the loan and do another book. So we did. And then it slowly escalated to us now doing around six to seven books a year.
How do you balance originality and profitability?
There is no balance. We are highly original but consistently struggle with the bottom line. This is mostly down to boring things like distribution, publicity and marketing. We’re turning a profit and we’ve never been in the red, aside from that initial £800, but we’re not exactly coining it.
What was the book that made you fall in love with reading?
The Amazing Adventures of Kavailer and Klay by Michael Chambon. My days, what a book!
What makes you decide to publish one writer, and not another?
The quality of the work but also what the book is saying. If we feel the book is covering ground that hasn’t been covered before (such as Bindlestiff) then it goes to the top of the pile.
Technology and the rise of Kindle and iPads etc have revolutionised the publishing industry. How well have publishers adapted to recent changes in your view?
Not sure at our level as our ebook sales only amount to around 8% of our total sales. That’s mainly due to the way ebooks are marketed and heavily discounted. We’d like to sell more eBooks but we can’t compete with crime thrillers at 99p a go, it’s just not a margin we can stand with.
Do you enjoy reading ebooks? Will the physical book die away eventually?
I don’t mind either way, really. Bit like I love watching films in the cinema but also at home. I love playing cricket, but I also like watching it at the Oval. I listen to records on my turntable and on Spotify. I drink out of mugs and cups. I cycle to work when its sunny, I get a bus when its raining. I think there’s room for everything. If the book is good, it doesn’t matter what the delivery system is. I do love physical books but I’m not sure I understand the fetishism of them.
Your views on how marketing and distribution are boosted by social media and online collaboration?
Social media is key for small publishers like us – it helps us reach readers outside of our usual London-based networks.
How important is funding for independent publishers?
At the moment, vital. We have been awarded Arts Council Funding twice and it’s enabled us to grow and develop in a way that we wouldn’t be able to without it. If Britain wants a vibrant cultural landscape where artists and writers are allowed to take risks in order to create new and exciting things, then public funding is essential.
Nearly 80% of the UK’s publishing industry wanted to remain in the EU. In the wake of Brexit, what are the implications for book publishing in your view?
Brexit is shit for everything. Publishing is no exception.
In your experience, how and why does winning a Literary Prize make a difference?
It does! Bigger exposure for the book and author, increased sales for us. When Eley Williams won the James Tait Black Award for Attrib. and Other Stories last year we saw a huge boost to our sales figures.
Your views on handling success?
I’ll tell you when it’s in my grasp.
Your heroes/heroines in fiction, and in real life?
Real life: Ian Wright
Fiction: Wayne Campbell from Wayne’s World
Your favourite literary journals?
Gorse, Ambit, Structo, Elsewhere, The Lonely Crowd
For what faults do have you most tolerance?
Impatience and bad communication. Absolutely no tolerance for bad cooking.
Your bedside reading?
Your five favourite feature films?
Wayne’s World II
10 Things I Hate About You
Crazy Stupid Love
Who would be in your dream book club?
People who don’t join book clubs
Keep your head down but your chin up
Interview © Kit Caless. Questions format © BookBlast Ltd, London.