On indie press: Nicole R Murphy

I’ve invited a number of people who have published in indie press and have gone on to become professionals in the field to write about their experiences. Today, Nicole R Murphy shares her journey.

Photo by Cat Sparks

What indie publishing has taught me.

My involvement with indie publishing started in 2002, when I discovered the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild. The CSFG had been formed following the ’99 Melbourne Worldcon, and had already put out one anthology – the award-winning Nor of Human. The second, Machinations, was being put together and I decided to sub a story for it.

That story was published, and seeing that the CSFG offered an opportunity for me to learn more about this magical beast that is publishing, I volunteered to do the slushing for the next anthology, Elsewhere.

My involvement in indie publishing across Australia has been fairly consistent since then. I slushed for Elsewhere and the next CSFG anthology Encounters, then actually edited the fifth, The Outcast. I had a story in the sixth, Masques and for the seventh, Winds of Change (just released), I not only had a story in but as a member of the CSFG committee was responsible for the printing of the anthology and organising the launch.

In 2004, I joined Andromeda Spaceways. I was a member for a couple of years and edited Issue 25, which came out in 2006. I haven’t been a member since 2007, but to this day I still slush read for them.

Some of my favourite publications have come through indie press. I’ve loved being involved in the Scary Kisses books from Ticonderoga, and this year finally cracked publication in ASIM. Getting Alisa Krasnostein at Twelfth Planet Press to accept a story is one of my career goals. If only Cat Sparks wasn’t solely editing science fiction, she’d be on my to crack list as well. And yes, Tehani, one day I’ll target you too.

So what have I learnt from my nearly ten years in Australian indie publishing?

a)  What makes a great short story. Honestly, slushing and editing shorts really hones your instincts and understanding of what a good short story is. My tolerance level for a bad story is now very low.

b)  That putting an anthology together is a lot of work. Apart from the hours of editing, there’s the art of choosing stories that will work well together (particularly when doing a themed anthology, like the CSFG ones are) and then the art of how to order them in the book so the reader takes the most interesting journey through the ideas presented.

c)  How to deal with stress. There’s few things more stressful than putting together an anthology and getting it to print. Just this week, I had a major heart attack when the fear arose that we wouldn’t have the books for the launch of Winds of Change. That’s a few minutes lost off the end of my life. But you learn to think about challenges, to work out what’s important and what’s not and how to act quickly to fix things.

d)  That the most interesting stuff is happening in indie publishing. It eventually filters up to traditional publishing but if you want to know what the next trends or ideas or writers are going to be – go indie.

e)  That if you want to find the most passionate and enthusiastic people in the industry – go to indie publishing. Not that I’ve got anything against major publishers – I’ve been published at the top of the business and met some incredible people there – but the sheer bull-headedness of indie publishers, the lengths they’ll go to to make their dream come true is extraordinary – I tip my hat to them.

One day, I hope to get into indie publishing myself – because I love seeing new writers come in, established writers get the opportunity to experiment that sometimes novel length doesn’t give you and I love to learn. More about writing. More about the industry. More about myself.

I’m Nicole Murphy and I LOVE indie publishing.

Nicole has been telling stories for as long as she can remember and been writing them down since primary school.

Her two main occupations thus far in her life – teaching and journalism – have taught her a great deal about writing. As a teacher, having to explain the nuances of story to young children helped to hone the information in her mind. As a journalist, Nicole has won awards for her writing (in particular a series of articles on mental illness) and has interviewed people such as Gary McDonald, Noeline Brown and Roy Billing. She quit journalism in 2008 to focus on her fiction writing.

Nicole has had more than two dozen short stories published, the most recent in Winds of Change, the new anthology from CSFG Publishing. She has worked in the speculative fiction industry as an editor and edited The Outcast for CSFG Publishing (including the Aurealis Award nominated horror short “Woman Train”) and Issue 25 of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, both published in 2006.

Nicole is also active in fandom. She has been on the organising committee for six of the past seven Conflux conventions, including chairing Conflux 4 in 2007 and programming Conflux 5 in 2008. She was involved with the organising committee for Aussiecon 4, the 2010 Worldcon in Melbourne (quitting when she got the deal for her urban fantasy trilogy The Dream of Asarlai) and is a long-time member of the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild (CSFG). Along with Donna Hanson, she is co-chairing the 2013 Conflux convention, which will be the Australian Natcon for that year.

Nicole lives in Queanbeyan with her husband Tim, a computer programmer who happens to be one of the top croquet players in Australia and has just captained NSW to victory in the interstate cup. Her trilogy The Dream of Asarlai is out now from Harper Collins.