Indie publisher – Rough Draft

19 April 2012 / Leave a Comment

Rough Draft is a small Melbourne publisher, started in 2011 by Michael Hanrahan, with the aim of publishing high-quality fiction and non-fiction by Australian and international authors. I asked Michael some questions about Rough Draft and the advantages of publishing with a small press…

What made you decide to set up your own independent press?
Starting a small press is all about producing high-quality books that you and the author can be proud of. As a small publisher we can take our time and find books that really interest us, and take the time necessary to get them right. We do of course have commercial motivations as well, but most small publishers I know do it simply because they love books and writing. If we just wanted to make money there are plenty of easier ways to do it.

How many manuscript submissions do you receive a month and how many of these may be of a publishable standard?
We receive around 15 to 20 submissions a month. Most of them are quite good, but unfortunately ‘quite good’ won’t get you published. Like most small presses we only publish a few books a year, so something has to really knock us out for us to publish it. So far this year we’ve given serious consideration to two or three manuscripts, but ultimately knocked them back. We already have our next two books planned, so we’re not in any hurry.

What advantages does a small press present for authors over larger publishing houses?
Smaller publishers usually have more time to dedicate to each author. When I was a Managing Editor in house I had to manage around 60 books per year, now I do two or three. This means we get to work more closely with each author developing, editing and promoting the book. We’re also not tied to a big marketing and publicity machine that can enforce somewhat arbitrary deadlines on a project, so we have more flexibility to work on a book until it’s ready to come out.

What kind of manuscripts are you currently looking for?
So far we’ve published a photography book and a diet and health book, and our next book is a memoir, so we’ve already covered a wide range. We’ll look at almost anything – that’s another advantage of being small. We haven’t published any fiction yet, but we will when we find the right book. We’re also considering doing some short stories.

What are your predictions for the publishing landscape over the next 5-10 years, and what does this mean for authors?
Obviously the big issue at the moment is ebooks. Everybody is still trying to figure out how to manage them properly. I think most publishers’ sales are around 10% to 15% ebooks at the moment in Australia, but that is going to grow rapidly in the next few years. I love producing printed books so that’s a bit sad, but from a business point of view ebooks offer great opportunities for authors and smaller publishers. They eliminate our two biggest hurdles – print costs and distribution.

Amazon and Apple now offer great facilities for authors to self-publish ebooks, and Kobo will be doing so soon. The downside is it may be too easy now – there’s no quality control with these services. Books should still be professionally edited, designed and proofread, but now there’s no need for that. You can just upload everything yourself. I think readers will sort it out though. A poorly produced ebook isn’t enticing, even if it is only $2.99.

Michael Hanrahan
Publisher, Rough Draft


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