On indie press: Kaaron Warren

I’ve invited a number of people who have published in indie press and gone on to become professionals in the field to write about their experiences. In today’s post, dark fiction writer Kaaron Warren shares her publishing journey.

My history with independent press is the history of my writing career. I sold my first short story, “White Bed”, to the Women’s Redress Press, after finding a flyer in my letter box. I’d been sending out stories for a couple of years by then, gathering rejections and a wonderful ‘This is a very satisfying story” from the fiction editor of Penthouse. So when I received the phone call from the editor of Shrieks (I‘d moved from Sydney to Canberra in the interim) many months after submitting the story, I was stunned and thrilled beyond words and I still think of that phone call as the moment I became a professional writer. Until you make that first sale, you’re not really sure it will ever happen.

My second short story I sold to Aurealis. Like Trent Jamieson, Aurealis was a major career goal. I’d been reading it since the first issue, and considered it an impossible dream, to be honest. I’d received some ‘good’ rejections, ie ticks at ‘this was almost there’ and ‘send us more of your work’ rather than ‘thanks but no thanks’. A couple of times I’d had ‘revise and resend’ and I  took a week off work each time, to work my butt off as a real writer. It worked for ‘The Blue Stream’. When Stephen Higgins called to tell me they were buying the story, my excitement must have been clear. “You haven’t sold too many stories yet, have you?” he said, very kindly.

From then on, when people asked me if I’d been published, I could proudly say, “Yes.” And it made a difference to the way I was perceived.   I think there is passion in all parts of publishing; most people work in the industry because they love books. With the independent press, this passion can be seen through from the initial dream to the end result, and I love being part of that process. A publisher has an idea for an anthology and has the fun of finding stories, cover artists, layout artists and all. I love some of the anthologies and magazines I’ve been in for their creativity in concept and style. Here’s just a few:

Scenes from the Second Storey from Morrigan Books, came from Mark Deniz’s love of the eponymous album by The God Machine. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in mainlining the album while writing my story.

Baggage from Eneit Press, came from Gillian Polack’s desire to explore the nature of migration to Australia. What we bring with us, what we leave behind.

The Alsiso Project, from Elastic Press, came from a typo!

These are just three. I’ve also been in inspired anthologies from our host, Tehani Wessely’s Fablecroft Press, Alisa Krasonstein’s Twelfth Planet Press, the CSFG anthologies and many more. I love that these publishers have creative ideas and that I get the chance to write for them.

My short story collections, The Grinding House from CSFG Publishing and Dead Sea Fruit from Ticonderoga Books, both came from the passion of the publishers. Donna Hanson, from CSFG, and Russell Farr, from Ticonderoga, approached me to publish my stories. Both overcame my fears and my self-doubt and pushed me to produce books I’m hugely proud of. Both times I had the opportunity to choose the cover artists, which is something else wonderful about the independent presses. Robyn Evans did the cover for The Grinding House and Olga Read did Dead Sea Fruit. I adore both covers.

I continue to support and be published by the independent presses. I can’t wait to see what they’re going to come up with next.

Kaaron Warren has been publishing fiction since 1993. Her three novels, all from Angry Robot Books, are Slights, Mistification and Walking the Tree. Upcoming, she has a novella upcoming in Visions Fading Fast, from Christopher Teague’s Pendragon Press, another in Ishtar from Gilgamesh Press, and a series of four stories inspired by the Australian landscape as part of Alisa Krasnostein’s Twelve Planets series. She has a story in Ellen Datlow’s Blood and Other Cravings anthology.   You can find her at kaaronwarren.wordpress.com and on twitter @KaaronWarren