Whose book is it anyway?

A discussion on modern publishing with FEM Press founder Georgia Mitchell.

When she came across poetry collective 4 BROWN GIRLS WHO WRITE, Georgia knew she’d found what she was looking for. She heard the name and instantly imagined it, all in caps, across the cover of a book.

Editor of FEM Zine and now sole founder of FEM Press – an independent publisher of women’s writing – Georgia handles every part of the process herself; she even self-funded printing. “But it doesn’t feel like a personal project”, she describes, “it’s come out of a need to make wider change and have a bigger impact”. Women are vastly underrepresented in the higher ranks of the publishing industry, those who exclusively publish other women even less so. Georgia however,  doesn’t feel at a disadvantage as a young woman. If anything, she likes that her identity is subsumed under the name FEM. “It’s a badge; it puts my agenda out there”.

In the age of publishing giants and commercial booksellers like Amazon, does it feel important to be setting up an independent publishers? “Yes,” Georgia says, “but to constantly think of it as political would be exhausting”. It’s more satisfying to focus on making good books and to concentrate on how the business operates socially.

Georgia is 20 and the authors of her first book are 30-year-old women. “This has had an impact on the working dynamic –  it feels confusing and slightly awkward to assert my editorial voice”. I ask her if she’d have published “4 BROWN BOYS WHO WRITE”? She laughs and tells me with certainty that she wouldn’t. “I don’t think they would have respected my authority.” FEM Press will only work with women and non-binary people; she hopes it will become a platform for voices which aren’t heard in the mainstream.

I wonder if Georgia, an English Literature student and avid reader, feels at all uncomfortable about having to look at books as marketable products? Strangely, she tells me, it doesn’t bother her at all. In all other realms she is strictly anti-commercial, but she has always treasured books as aesthetic, tactile objects. Her choice to launch with a poetry book was no accident. “Poetry is more consumable than a novel, it’s little objects on a page, easier to read – and easier to edit”.

It is unclear to her whose creative property the book is. Both she and the authors feel that the book belongs to them. I ask her if she thinks the public will see the book as her success. She anticipates the praise and appreciation will be exclusively aimed at the authors when the book launches. This she describes as “the lot of the publisher”.

As we speak, her book launch is still a week away – and the stress is mounting. In her situation, with no other staff, the lot of the publisher seems to be all work and very little appreciation. But Georgia sees it as an opportunity, the chance to turn ideas into beautiful, tangible objects.

By Sophie Lincoln

 

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