Interview: Lisa Wolstenholme, Wild Weeds Press Executive Officer, by Shelley Carter

Lisa Wolstenholme, EO of Wild Weeds Press

Firstly, can you tell us a bit about Wild Weeds Press? What kinds of authors do you publish?

Wild Weeds Press is a publishing service for KSP Writers’ Centre members and has actually been around for many years, primarily as a logo on group anthologies and not much else. Back in 2017, myself, KSP Director Shannon Coyle, and then-Chairperson Tabetha Rogers Beggs decided it was time to make WWP a real thing, but it took many months of head-scratching to agree on what the terms of reference for the service would be. As KSP is a not-for-profit and no funding was available, we decided to provide tailored, low cost publishing services to our members. It makes sense for KSP to provide not only writing opportunities, but publishing ones too, and it certainly filled a gap for members since many struggled to make the jump from aspiring writer to published author.

WWP officially launched in January 2018, and we provide editing, proofing, typesetting, cover design, basic marketing, and launch services. We have also run several workshops at KSP around publishing online, and recently provided a hands-on workshop series run each month for writers who are ready to publish. Annabel Smith and Holden Sheppard were guest presenters for this series, the aim being to provide transferable skills to attendees. We form partnerships with our ‘clients’ and give them as much or as little involvement in the production process as they want. I think it’s another way we are unique in what we do.

Since our official launch, we have published Glen Phillips’ latest poetry collection, In the Hollow of the Land, Volumes I & II, Tineke Van Der Eecken’s Traverse, several youth anthologies, many memoirs by members, and, recently, an anthology of commemorative stories and poems for the 50th anniversary of Katharine’s passing. We publish mostly memoirs and anthologies by KSP members, but are open to any genre.

Wild Weeds Press offers low-cost publishing opportunities/services for KSP – in what ways do these two organisations work together to benefit authors?

Providing publishing services to our members gives them the opportunity to progress their work in an accessible way that may not be achievable elsewhere. As much as we all want to be published, the likelihood of being so is small, so WWP offers KSP members the opportunity to publish at a cost much lower than many vanity presses and self-publish service providers. We also provide general advice and hand-held training on many aspects of publishing so that our members can reap all the rewards. The fact that our members can talk to us face-to-face at KSP and know that WWP is part of the KSP family gives us an accessible edge over online self-publishing providers. We’re a heck-of-a-lot cheaper, as well.

What has your experience been like, working for Wild Weeds Press?

It’s been amazing. I’ve met so many wonderful writers, and being able to hand over their life story or life’s work in the book they wanted has been such a joy. It’s been a steep learning curve, and there’s still much to learn and trends to keep up with, but there’s nothing like picking up the proof copy of a book and giving it to the client. (And yes, I’m a page sniffer!)

The list of services you provide includes things such as basic editing, all the way to social media promotion and printing – is there a part of the process that authors struggle with the most?

I would say all aspects in varying degrees. Traditional publishing offers the promise of a quality publication because readers can assume that the editing, proofing, cover creation etc. has all been done by learned professionals. Self-publishing provides no such guarantee, and for all the will in the world, it’s not always possible to produce a high-quality publication in solo. The downside is that many publishing services cost an awful lot of money, making them inaccessible, so solo flyers will endeavour to do the best they can with the scant resources they may have available. Unfortunately, this often results in a lower-quality book that may not sell well. It’s a bit of a catch-22 for many writers: spend lots of money to make a book appealing and hope that it makes enough money to recoup the cost, or spend little money and produce a mediocre book that doesn’t sell well at all. The likes of Amazon, iBooks and Kobo are flooded with self-published books, so writers have their work cut out making their releases stand out from the crowd which invariable results in them parting with larger sums of money than anticipated.

Are there benefits to taking a manuscript to a smaller-scale publishing house like WWP, rather than a larger publishing house?

Several. The bigger vanity presses (e.g. Xlibris, Austin McAuley, etc.) charge a large amount of money for end-to-end production, and no doubt their publications look and read well, but the client has little say or control in the process and only receives a limited number of copies at the end of it. WWP is a face-to-face service which tailors production around the client’s actual needs; they may not require editing, or cover design, just proofing and marketing advice. We can provide that. We also charge a flat hourly rate across all our services making it just as accessible to have work edited as it does to design a cover etc. And I think the biggest drawcard we have is that we meet with our clients regularly face-to-face. Anyone who has never published can be swept away by the promises of larger scale publishers because they haven’t been told what’s involved. Part of our remit is to transfer knowledge and empower our authors so they can fly solo if they so choose.

Do you have any success stories that have come out of WWP? Any authors we should have on our radar?

Anne Watkins memoir Seeking Still Waters has had a second print run due to selling out, as has Glen’s collected poems. I would highly recommend Tineke’s work. She’s a great writer and poet, and Traverse was shortlisted for the 2016 T.A.G. Hungerford Award.

Lastly, we always ask our interviewees for book recommendations! What have you been reading recently?

Recent reads have been The Ghosts of Grace Cottage (saucy romance read) by Carolyn Wren (Gumnut Press), 13 and Underwater by Michelle Weitering (about her son’s battle with anxiety – MMHPress), Graffiti Lane (urban poetry) by Kelly Van Nelson (MMHPress), and Invisible Boys by Holden Shepperd (Fremantle Press).

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