Blurring the Lines

By: Sophie Masson  

The small-press book publishing sector is rising in importance within the wider publishing industry in Australia, in line with a similar trend internationally. Driven partly by big-publisher contractions, as well as lower entry cost due to technological innovation, especially in digital file creation and printing, contemporary small-press publishing in Australia is offering new and diverse opportunities for authors across all genres. This trend has seen titles published by small press recently featuring in substantial numbers in prestigious literary prizes, including the Miles Franklin Awards, the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, the Stella Awards, and the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards. Sales have also risen significantly, and small press titles are frequently reviewed in major newspapers and magazines, a big change from just a few years ago. In small-press publishing, the lines between author and publisher are often less clear than in the publishing sectors dominated by multinationals and large independents. Not only is the author-publisher relationship closer and more personal, but some small press publishers are directed by professional authors, who must negotiate new social spaces within the traditional binaries of business and art. Based on a series of interviews with authors and publishers, this paper examines the impact of the blurring of lines on publishing practice and professional relationships, giving an insight into an intriguing aspect of the contemporary publishing industry in Australia. The author is an established writer, director of a small press, and currently undertaking a PHD in Creative Practice at the University of New England.

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Sophie Masson

Publishing director and co-founder, Publishing, Christmas Press, Australia
NSW, Australia

Born in Indonesia of French parents, and brought up in Australia and France, Sophie Masson is the award-winning and internationally-published author of over 60 books for children, young adults and adults. Her latest books include the picture books Two Rainbows(illustrated by Michael McMahon, Little Hare, 2017) which received a Notable Books citation in the 2018 CBCA Awards, Once Upon An ABC(illustrated by Christopher Nielsen, Little Hare, 2017) which was shortlisted for the 2018 Crichton Awards, and the YA thriller Jack of Spades(Eagle Books 2017), which was longlisted for the 2018 Davitt Awards. In 2013, Sophie co-founded Christmas Press, a small-press publisher of children's books which has received national and international recognition and sales. She is currently its publishing director. In the final year(2018) of a PHD in Creative Practice at the University of New England, Sophie has published widely in academic journals and presented at national and international conferences, on a range of literary culture and publishing industry topics. She was also awarded an APA Scholarship and UNE Top Up Scholarship(2015-2018), as well as a Keith and Dorothy Mackay Travelling Scholarship in 2017. In the same year, she was a Visiting Scholar at the Children's Literature Research Centre at the University of Cambridge (UK). A Board member of the Small Press Network, a former Chair of the Australian Society of Authors, and the current Chair of the New England Writers' Centre, Sophie has a close understanding and experience of both authorship and publishing practice, on which she has written extensively. Her book on authorship in a digital age, The Adaptable Author, was published by Keesing Press in 2014, and she has a chapter on author-publishers in Publishing Means Business(Monash University Publishing, 2017), with another, on crowdfunding and small publishers, accepted for publication as a chapter in a forthcoming(2018) Monash University Publishing book. As well, she has written course material for a Publishing Practice unit at the University of New England, and lectured on writing and publishing issues both in Australia and internationally. Her writing and publishing blog, Feathers of the Firebird, has featured interviews with authors, publishers, agents and other book industry professionals, as well as insights into her own and others' creative processes.