Interview: Gary Budden from Influx Press
Gary Budden is one of the founders of Influx Press, an independent publisher dedicated to publishing stories from the margins of culture, specific geographical spaces, and sites of resistance. He was kind enough to take some time to speak with us about Influx, independent publishing, and their recently launched kickstarter.
You got your start producing an anthology in 2011. What did you learn pulling that together?
Pretty much everything… all the boring but essential stuff like how to buy ISBNs, how distribution works …basically learning every aspect of how a book is made. But we also learned that people are interested in interesting books that take a different slant on things. That there are dedicated readers out there willing to take a punt on the work being produced by indie presses, even people who (at the time) had no presence and no clue as to what they were doing.
We also learned that we liked the process and wanted to continue doing it.
What would you say the biggest impact of small presses has been in the last five years?
There have been a few books from small presses that have made a big impact and perhaps shaken up things a bit – if we look at stuff like A Girl is a Half Formed Thing (first published by Galley Beggar), our own Imaginary Cities, The Iraqi Christ from Comma Press, Vertigo by Joanna Walsh (And Other Stories) or even something like The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley (initially published by Tartarus Press and went onto to win the Costa!), it’s clear that some genuinely interesting work is being done in the small press world. Work deemed initially uncommercial but then goes on to do well both critically and commercially. So I would like to think that savvy readers have realised that if you want to see where the real risk-taking, unusual writing is being published, then look to the small presses.
Excluding scale and budget, what do you think differentiates small presses from the larger houses?
I’ve kind of answered that in the previous point, but I’d say risk-taking, eclecticism and a genuine belief in the books they publish. I’m not prejudiced against the larger houses at all – my dayjob is at Titan – but there it’s true that commercial considerations do lead a lot of decisions. Which is to be expected – they are businesses like any other. Whereas small presses are often run by mad people who have a genuine passion for what they do, and it’s often not their only job. Personality and passion is what you get with small presses. I can’t think of any two that are that similar, which is a great thing, yet we all help each other out and support each other.
There have been a lot of articles recently about how indie presses are doing a lot of the legwork when it comes to discovering new voices, and it's often phrased as a criticism of bigger houses. Do you think that's something big houses should be more focused on, or do you think that's one of the roles of a smaller press?
Hmm… that’s a really tough question to answer. If larger houses look to the small presses to effectively scout out writers, I think that is a bit unfair, yes. Especially if it’s a writer who has been turned down by a larger house, only for their book to do well on an indie and then get picked by a bigger publisher (which I know for a fact has happened). But I think small presses should be championing the kind of writing that might not find a home elsewhere; if a big press then want it, that’s great for the writer, right?
Regarding the Comma Press's statement in January about how they're only going to be translating works from countries affected by Trump's ban, I'd be interested to know what kind of a role you think indie presses can play in responding to political acts?
I think simply by existing, keep on doing what we do and championing interesting and diverse writing. No one book or press is going to change the world, but it’s more about being part of something I believe in that goes in the face of all the mounting horror in the world. Some of the stuff Influx does is definitely tied to the wider political and social discussions going on in the UK. I’d say it’s politicised rather than directly political (except maybe our crusty squatting book, Total Shambles).
So small presses should be just one part of a culture that, hopefully, tries to resist or alter a toxic cultural climate –for me, it’s still vitally important to show up to the demos and protests, but the work Influx does definitely feeds into it.
Was that an answer?
You've just launched a Kickstarter to help grow the publishing house and promote your authors. What does the success of the campaign mean for everyone at Influx, as well as your authors?
It will help us commission and publish more books and take some risks on bigger and exciting projects. It will give us a bit of financial breathing space in order to plan exactly what we want to do, and execute those plans to the best of our abilities.
It’s going to allow us to push our authors further and get them noticed by more and more readers and reviewers. It will let us do more live lit events, more book fairs and more festivals around the country, and dedicate more time and energy to Influx in general.
I was really chuffed to see our recent book Attrib. reviewed in the Guardian – this has come after five years of slogging away and getting notices, so imagine what we can do now with a bit of investment.
You started out producing a lot of work concentrated on London, but more recent works have looked further afield. Do you think it's a natural progression for presses to broaden their scope over time? Or is it more that these books couldn't be overlooked?
Well I’m mildly (completely) obsessed with London, an obsession that has only increased over the last twelve years. I consider a trip in January to the sewage works at Barking Creek a good day out. That’s probably not going to change. However, of course we got to a point where we didn’t just want to publish London writing. I’m not even sure I wanted us to be a ‘London publisher’, though I’m aware people see us that way.
But I think it’s natural to want to try different things? I am interested in a few things outside of the M25.
What do you think of the health of British indie publishing at the moment? Both at a national and international level.
In Britain it’s really good right now. I feel there’s a lot of positive cooperation between the small presses; there’s even a new award just for small press stuff, the Republic of Consciousness prize. I feel that the work we do is, slowly but surely, getting noticed by a wider audience.
Roll call of great small presses (many of whom I’m happy to call mates): Dead Ink, Blue Moose, Comma, Galley Beggar, Penned in the Margins, And Other Stories, Unsung Stories, Tartarus, Egaeus, PS, Wrecking Ball, Jacaranda… plus I think there’s an excellent set of journals, zines and mags like Open Pen, 3:AM, Minor Literature(s), Structo and many more all doing excellent work right now.
On an international level, well I know that the North American small press scene is very good for the genre of weird fiction (something that I love). Undertow Publications, Small Beer Press, Word Horde, ChiZine and so-on have all done books I have loved in recent years.
I can’t say I know about non-English language small presses though. I should rectify that.
What do you think the next frontier is for small and indie presses?
I have a dream of organising a proper annual independent press literary festival… I think the next frontier is working out ways to be more visible, and how to actually reach readers who might not know we exist.