On October 16, 2019, we had the pleasure of a Skype Q&A with editor and writer, Garth Graeper. He is an editor and author who has worked at both at a small press publishing house, Ugly Duckling and one of the Big Six publishing houses, Penguin Books. In addition to his editorial skills, he is also a writer and enjoys writing poetry. He started out by volunteering with Ugly Duckling and from there he got an apprenticeship which eventually led to a job with the small press. He emphasized through his Q&A that volunteering is the easiest way to get involved and get your foot in the door since small presses are always looking for volunteers. Ugly Duckling is a non-profit publishing company that aims to publish 24 books a year, they work with poetry, books, and literary translations.
When preparing for this Q&A, I looked into Garth and Ugly Duckling. One of the things I found was the Kickstarter that was used to get funding for the small press. The Kickstarter was personal, showing photos of the process of the making of the books as well as messages directly from Ugly Duckling, thanking the donors for their support. I liked how personal and intimate the publisher was with their buyers, this is something you wouldn’t see with the Big Six publishers. You can find the Kickstarter from 2010 here.
A screen grab of the Ugly Duckling website to showcase the type of relationship they build among their readers. ©2019
Since Garth worked with both big and smaller publishers, I asked how the day to day work of an editor varies for both big and small publishers. He said that when working for Penguin, he worked mostly in the eBook division, and while he was working there, he rarely interacted with the authors or editors. This is due to the fact there are hundreds of people working there and everyone has a very specific job and task. However, at Ugly Duckling, there are only seven to 10 people working there and they all work together often doing similar jobs. I found this to be very interesting. He said one of the biggest differences between small and big publishers are the people involved. For example, in order to get something published with a Big Six publisher, you need an agent. However, with a small press, they rarely work with agents, instead they prefer to work one on one with the authors or poets themselves. I love the idea of working directly with the author and they having a say in how their book or poetry will be published.
He offered a lot of great insight for people looking to get into writing and publishing, he stressed the importance of reading things you enjoy and things that are new to you as well. He also said it is helpful to have a writing background if you are planning on going into publishing. Lastly, he said anyone can create a book and get it published, no matter how big or small. As long as we have an idea and creativity and an idea, that’s all that matters. He was very encouraging and informative when it comes to being an editor and writer and I thoroughly enjoyed the time spent with him through his Q&A.