Second in my new series called Profile: an Aussie Publisher introducing you to some of the amazingly creative people who bring us the books we love to read is Transit Lounge.
I’ve read five books published by Transit Lounge, and these titles are a neat introduction to the sheer classiness of this publisher’s catalogue. (Links are to my reviews).
- Vicky Swanky is a Beauty by Diane Williams, an avant-garde author from the US who is generating some baffled-but-intrigued conversation on my review page;
- I Hate Martin Amis et al, by Peter Barry, a quirky debut novel which made me a fan of this writer straight away;
- We All Fall Down, by Peter Barry, Barry’s second novel, selected as one of the Get Reading 2012 program’s 50 Books You Can’t Put Down;
- Riding the Trains in Japan by Patrick Holland whose name will be familiar to you because The Mary Smokes Boys was nominated for the Miles Franklin, and
- The English Class by Ouyang Yu, the novel which introduced me to this fascinating Chinese-Australian author who I think is a potential Nobel Prize winner.
Who are the brains behind this small indie publisher which punches well above its weight, particularly in the way they have identified impressive debut authors who go on to forge impressive writing careers?
They are fellow librarians Barry Scott and Tess Rice, who are based here in Melbourne. They founded Transit Lounge in 2005, in response to the rationalisation of the publishing industries because they both saw that talented writers were being overlooked and wanted to give them a voice.
As their publishing name indicates both Tess and Barry have a strong interest in writing about other cultures and their titles often reflect the diversity of Australian writers and writing.
Barry now works full-time on the press, while Tess continues to work part-time on her own art and photography , but they hasten to add that they are business partners – especially after, much to the chagrin of their respective spouses, a recent media article presented them as ‘a couple’!
Transit Lounge is aided and abetted by a cast of freelance designers, editors, proof readers and the occasional publicist. In 2012 Transit Lounge will release ten new titles and two reissues.
Somehow they found time to share their responses to my questions!
On the day our first book was published we were naively anticipating world domination or at least universal Australian interest. We were in love with the look of the first edition of Cate Kennedy’s Sing, and Don’t Cry: A Mexican Journal. Of course the book did attract reviews, but despite some great launch events and sending the books out in boxes full of red chillies to key media it was harder than we ever envisaged to get a newish author onto festival events. Lesson No 1 : It is not a level playing field.
Our favourite book cover is … Of course we love all our covers but some just seem to click effortlessly and to capture the heart and soul of a particular title. We pride ourselves on working closely with the authors but course sometimes there are differences of opinion and we do need to err on the side of what we might think will work in the marketplace as well as maintaining our aesthetic. Lemniscate by Gaynor McGrath is a particular favourite with its curious figure 8 symbol in varnish and Roger Averill’s Boy He Cry: An Island Odyssey. Coming up watch out for Las Vegas by Vegans by A. S. Patrić. Lesson No 2: Go with your instinct.
The most hectic time for us is all the time it seems. The industry works so far ahead that for a book released in November we now need to have cover and title information ready by the end of June. Not to mention editing, rewriting, proofing, design and printing. E- books have just added another layer to an already busy schedule. Lesson No 3: Less is sometimes more.
When it’s frantic we fortify ourselves with travel dreams, strong coffee, music by Patti Smith, Dead Moon and Nick Cave , Bikram yoga ( Barry), belly dancing ( Tess) , the Sun Bookshop and anything to distract from the task at hand. Lesson No. 4: Enjoy the process.
The book we will never forget is … Of ours? Of course we love then all. We just had some fan mail from the UK for My Life in the Sea of Cars by James Murray – we should have known that a book that attacks the notion of car ownership wouldn’t have set Australians on fire but each of our titles finds its keen readers. That a book can change a person’s life is a powerful thing. The scene in Peter Barry’s We All Fall Down where Hugh is down and out and dishevelled and walking home from the supermarket only to run into his old boss driving his Aston Martin feels burnt into the consciousness as do similar ‘outsider’ scenes in Janet Frame’s Owls Do Cry and Patrick White’s The Night, The Prowler (the latter two not our books of course!). Lesson No 5: David versus Goliath.
Our slush pile is the primary source of our publishing program. We might curse it at times and be slow to answer but to open a new submission can be as exciting as opening a mysterious parcel. Often it’s just too shiny or we’ve seen it before, already have one, just don’t like it or wonder why they don’t know our tastes by now, but very occasionally we do fall in love. Lesson No 6: Only publish what you love.
Out of the bag at random comes … Subhash Jaireth’s After Love , a hard-won and beautiful novel set in Moscow, Venice, India and Australia. Out in October . More at www.transitlounge.com.au
Thank you very much to Barry and Tess for participating in this series!