SUBMISSION

Books Ireland is looking for new writers. Read our full Submission Guidelines

ADVERTISING

Do you want to Advertise with us? To know more about us and to download our rate card click here

‘Books Ireland provides a breathing space, a garden if you will, where literature may continue to be valued for its own sake and discussed and appreciated in a climate of intellectual freedom and relaxation.’
Eamonn Kelly, playwright and award-winning short-storyist
‘An indispensable institution for reader, writer and bookmaker alike.’
Antony Farrell, publisher at Lilliput
‘Books Ireland is a creative asset for writers, editors, publishing houses and the media, and is a unique record of publishing in Ireland.'
Michael O’Brien, O’Brien Press
‘Books Ireland performs an invaluable service in broadcasting to the wider literary and book-reading world the variety of publishing enterprises in Ireland’
R. F. Foster, Carroll Professor of Irish History, University of Oxford
SHS

Turas Press – a voyage of discovery

Poet and short story writer, Liz McSkeane on what inspired her to set up Ireland’s newest publishing press.

A little over six months ago I embarked on a journey I had been contemplating for a long time but somehow, never quite managed to begin. After years of thinking and talking about it, I finally set up my own small publishing company: in May 2017, Turas Press was launched into the world with the publication of my own third collection of poetry.

The name for my micro venture in publishing came easily. In both Irish and Scottish Gaelic, ‘turas’ means ‘journey’ and as I imagined this as a voyage of discovery, Turas Press felt exactly right. I had set my heart on using Constantin Cafavy’s wonderful poem, “Ithaca,” for the home page of the Turas Press website. Cue my first lesson in rights negotiation – with Princeton University Press, to use the renowned Keeley and Sherrard translation. The deal was done and for the next year, Cavafy’s haunting words will welcome visitors to www.turaspress.ie. A small step along the way, and a glimpse into a new world.

The idea of setting up my own press first came to me because I thought it would be exciting – and empowering – to publish my own work. Very soon, I decided to expand the venture to bring out books by others whose work I admire.  Like many writers, I had become accustomed to celebrating the small successes of a poem accepted here, a short story long-listed there – and the many rejections that are part-and-parcel of the writing life, even though we hear so much more about the best sellers and big advances – the outliers. But the idea of self-publishing seemed faintly disreputable, tainted perhaps with the whiff of failure –  why would anyone publish their own work, if they could persuade a mainstream publisher to take them on instead?

Why indeed? And yet, and yet… I began to wonder whether having a manuscript accepted by a mainstream publisher was the only measure of literary success. And what is ‘success,’ anyway? Fame and fortune, of course, our book title in lights, prizes, book tours, a film, maybe even an interview with Graham Norton.  All part of the dream, all good. But so uncertain, and, as Mario Vargas Llosa advised, best considered as fortunate by-products of the writing life, not the goal.  In the light of my own experience, and having met many fine writers whose books are still looking for a home, I observed that – not surprisingly, given the sheer volume of good work there is, jostling for shelf-space in an increasingly competitive market place –  publishers and agents accept and reject work for many reasons. One of these, certainly, is the quality of the writing but personal taste naturally plays a part, as well as topicality, selling power, and that elusive, perhaps underrated, ‘lucky break’ –  being in the right place at the right time. All this led me to conclude that self-published work was not necessarily rubbish; and that I was ready to take the plunge.

By the time the manuscript of “So Long, Calypso” came back from the typesetter, I knew that Turas Press would publish work by other writers and not only my own. I had expected to feel satisfaction at bringing my own work from the typed page to create a real book. What I had not anticipated was the thrill of the process I experienced along the way. Working out the cover design with the artist, firming up on interior design with the typesetter, negotiating the dimensions and paper type and weight with the printer – every step towards bringing the physical book into being was an event. Through sheer good fortune, I found an artist, a typesetter and a printer who were genuinely interested in the project. Thanks to them, the production values of “So Long, Calypso” and the second Turas Press publication, “How to Sleep with Strangers” by the poet Ross Hattaway, which came out at the start of September, are as good as any in the business.

This is as it should be. The end result of publication by a small, independent press should be, must be, a beautiful book. The writer, and the reader who buys the book, deserve no less. Likewise, the bookseller.

Which brings me to the most difficult part in the life of a small press. The production of the book itself is hard work but if you put in the hours and have a good team, the end result will be a high-quality book. Getting that book onto shelves in bookstores is another matter.  Distribution companies and the large bookstores they supply do not usually take on the first publication of a new and tiny press.  The books’ pages of quality newspapers and journals are already filled with reviews of work by eminent writers from the established publishing houses. Without the oxygen of publicity from the mainstream press, and the demand that such a stamp of approval can create, even some of the smaller bookstores are wary of wasting precious shelf space on an untried product.

None of this surprised or discouraged me. When I set out with my satchel of books to knock on the doors of the independent bookstores in Dublin, I was convinced that at least a few would take a chance on Turas Press. And so it has happened. Turas Press books are already on sale in a sprinkling of bookshops in Dublin and Cork.  In the next few weeks, the Director of Marketing (me) will be doing the rounds of other independent bookstores around the country. The third Turas Press book – a new collection by the eminent Dublin poet and translator Anamaría Crowe Serrano –  will come out early in 2018 and I fully expect that by then, the books will be available in many more outlets around the country.  And so it will continue.

So far, human interaction has been a significant aspect of my promotion strategy, but it is not the only one. I always knew, of course, that the internet and social media were widely-used marketing tools but before Turas Press I had never had any need to explore them myself. I didn’t have a Facebook page. I had a dormant Twitter account with two followers and one tweet. Savvy friends assured me that it was time I dipped my toe into cyberspace and gave me practical advice on how to do it.  Since I started promoting Turas Press in earnest I have a Facebook account, a Facebook page and two Twitter accounts where I post and tweet regularly.  All these communication channels and information sources have charmed and surprised me, for their entertainment value and also, for their potential to reach so many generous friends, acquaintances and strangers who are willing to share their enthusiasm for reading and writing, and also, for a tiny, fledgling press.

Another milestone, of which I am ridiculously proud, is the Turas Press website. In the time that it took me to build it I could have written three chapters of my new novel (that’s a lot of time). But it works. It shows Turas Press to the world, it has an e-commerce facility, complete with security certificate, where visitors can buy the books and it has some additional content such as extracts from the poetry collections, book reviews, and articles on miscellaneous literary topics, which I hope will attract and readers and writers with similar interests.

It’s early days for Turas Press. The road will be long and the outcomes uncertain but I am optimistic.  At the very least, there will be books. There will be readers. And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Liz McSkeane is a widely published poet and short story writer. Her first novel, “Canticlewas one of the 2016 Novel Fair Winners of the Irish Writers’ Centre. In 1999 she won the Hennessy/Sunday Tribune New Irish Writer of the Year. She has three poetry collections including “So Long, Calypso”, the first publication of Turas Press.  Liz tweets at @turaspress.


December Book Competition

People On The Pier

by Marian Thérèse Keyes and Betty Stenson

'Based on dlr LexIcon’s popular 'People on the Pier' social media project this book is both a history and a joyful celebration of the Dún Laoghaire community.'

ENTER YOUR EMAIL
for a chance to win:

People On The Pier
by Marian Thérèse Keyes and Betty Stenson
ISBN: 978-1-84840-709-1
Publisher: New Island Books


TWITTER

SUBMISSION

Books Ireland is looking for new writers. Read our full Submission Guidelines

ADVERTISING

Do you want to Advertise with us? To know more about us and to download our rate card click here

‘Books Ireland provides a breathing space, a garden if you will, where literature may continue to be valued for its own sake and discussed and appreciated in a climate of intellectual freedom and relaxation.’
Eamonn Kelly, playwright and award-winning short-storyist
‘An indispensable institution for reader, writer and bookmaker alike.’
Antony Farrell, publisher at Lilliput
‘Books Ireland is a creative asset for writers, editors, publishing houses and the media, and is a unique record of publishing in Ireland.'
Michael O’Brien, O’Brien Press
‘Books Ireland performs an invaluable service in broadcasting to the wider literary and book-reading world the variety of publishing enterprises in Ireland’
R. F. Foster, Carroll Professor of Irish History, University of Oxford
SHS

WP Facebook Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com