As part of my feature on the Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses I invited publishers and authors whose books were selected for the longlist to answer a few questions or write a guest post for my blog. Today I am delighted to welcome Vikki and Richard from Dostoyevsky Wannabe, which published Gaudy Bauble by Isabel Waidner.
An introduction – who are you and what do you aim to achieve?
At its core, Dostoyevsky Wannabe is essentially two of us, Victoria Brown and Richard Brammer but beyond that we like to think of it as a collaborative affair that includes all of the writers who we work with and our readers. What do we aim to achieve? That’s a tricky one. We don’t really have any aims beyond doing what we’re already doing which is having nothing to do with the cookbooks and books about wizards of mainstream publishing (although we do have an idea for a range of cookbooks actually) and sitting to the side of the more normative versions of independent publishing and seeing what develops in that space. We don’t seek to deliberately marginalize ourselves or our books with this approach, we’d like ALL of our books to gain plenty of readers but the reality is that some do and some don’t but from our point of view all of our books are equal. We tend to attract readers who having discovered their first Dostoyevsky Wannabe book come back to see what else we’ve got.
How have things changed in publishing since you started?
Publishing hasn’t changed all that much in the time that we’ve been around from what we can tell. Maybe it should change more. It’d be cool if independent publishing didn’t seem so institutionally dominated by middle-class, white, male affair though because that’s how it often looks to us, when we view it out of the corner of our eye. Maybe it’s getting better, we haven’t done a sociological study, and, as we say, we only really see it in our peripheral vision because we don’t subscribe to ‘Publisher Monthly’ or any of that trade stuff. We do have a good record collection though.
Your experience of prize listings – costs and benefits, monetary or otherwise?
The prize we’re currently long-listed for is the first prize we’ve ever entered. It seems a worthwhile one. We’re not sure how we feel about prize-giving culture more generally. Ambivalent probably. On the one hand, prizes maybe do give publicity (and therefore readers) to books and authors who might not get their due otherwise and that is a good thing but quite often they tend to reward the already previously awarded. The other discomfort we have with the culture of prizes is that from a certain angle some prizes can have a slightly unpleasant whiff of Darwinian Capitalism about them that often skews who is and isn’t allowed to acquire readers and it all presents an idea that there is such a thing as good ‘literary’ quality between one book and another and we’re not sure that such canonisation has ever made any sense. Our general opinion is that the notion of a canon has long been a strategy of the powerful, one that wields false notions of ‘quality’ in order to maintain things in favour of certain groups and not others. We’re not down with all of that ‘the best things that have been thought and said’ Matthew Arnold nonsense.
That said, if any prize-givers are reading then please feel free to award us and long-list us and short-list us for your prizes. We won’t mind and we deserve them as much as anyone might deserve them.
The future – where would you like to see your small press going?
We’ll just be carrying on as we have been. We’ve received vast amounts of submissions over the last year, and they keep on coming, they’ve tended to grow exponentially over the lifetime of Dostoyevsky Wannabe. We can’t do them all and we apologize to anyone who has submitted to us where we didn’t choose to go ahead and work with them on the book and we hope that those people aren’t too disheartened and will realize that we’re not any authority on the quality of a book, we either like it or we don’t but it doesn’t mean that someone else won’t like it and want to publish it. Alternatively, why not publish it yourselves or put it out with a few friends. It’s about time the taboo of the vanity press got shown up for what it has always been. After all, the world would never have had certain songs by The Pastels, Tallulah Gosh, Bikini Kill, Team Dresch, The Buzzcocks or Joy Division without those bands setting up with their friends to do it themselves in the form of what, in literature, would be dismissed as vanity publishing.
Back in Dostoyevsky Wannabe world, we are looking forward to the following books due out with us in 2018 which are as follows (these are the ones that we know about, to date):
- Yeezus in Furs by Shane Jesse Christmass
- Dark Hour by Nadia de Vries
- A Hypocritical Reader by Rosie Šnajdr
- Lou Ham: Racing Anthropocene Statements by Paul Hawkins
- The Peeler by Bertie Marshall, Honest Days by Matt Bookin
- A Furious Oyster by Jessica Sequeira
- Death to the Bullshit Artists of South Texas by Fernando A Flores.
They’re all on our Dostoyevsky Wannabe Originals imprint. On our Dostoyevsky Wannabe Experimental imprint we have a huge anthology edited by Isabel Waidner titled Liberating the Canon: An Anthology of Innovative Literature featuring a whole host of fantastic writers, Metempoïesis by Rose Knapp, Blooming Insanity by Chuck Harp and Sovereign Invalid by Alan Cunningham. Finally, we have Cassette 85 guest-edited by Troy James Weaver and there’ll be a few chapbooks on our Dostoyevsky Wannabe X imprint from time to time.
Please check our site: Dostoyevsky Wannabe for more info.
Thank you Vikki and Richard for providing such interesting answers to my questions. You may follow Dostoyevsky Wannabe on Twitter: @dw_wannabe
Click on the book cover above to find out more about Gaudy Bauble.
Keep up with all the news on The Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses by following on Twitter: @PrizeRofc