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Jamie McGarry
Interview Date: Fri 15 Jul 2011
Jamie McGarry was born in Norwich, in April 1988, and grew up in North Wales and Yorkshire.  He attended university in Scarborough, earning a degree in English Literature and Culture - as well as founding Valley Press in 2008 (see below for the full story, warts and all.)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this has led to the release of several books by Jamie – including a novel, The Waiting Game, and two volumes of poetry, What Do I Know Anyway? and Autopilot.  His third collection, The Dead Snail Diaries, emerged from its shell in April 2011.

Jamie now lives in East Yorkshire, running Valley Press full-time, as well as teaching the occasional night-class at his former university (watch the VP twitter feed for details of where to sign up.)  Whether working on poetry or prose, Jamie writes in a distinctive, instantly recogniseable voice, combining a lightness of touch with keen observational instincts and a sense of genuine, emotional honesty.

Jamie contributes to the Valley Press blog.

Your Questions Answered:

Hi Jamie, thanks for agreeing to the interview. You're the founder of Valley Press - a new publishing house. What is Valley Press all about? And did you worry that the market was too crowded when your started up?
Question By: Wes Brown
Hi Wes, you're welcome - thanks for taking an interest! Valley Press is about a lot of things... I originally started it just to get some publishing experience, but since VP has taken on a life of its own, it's become more about being an additional channel for great writers to get their work published. That's the main thing. After that, design and professionalism are the key values I want to stick to (some would say, work up to!) And in the very-long-term, wouldn't it be fantastic to have a sizable, distinguished publishing house in Yorkshire? There's a lot of good work being done round here, but not on a large scale... I have quite big ambitions.

When I started running it as a business, as a full-time job, there weren't a lot of people around who felt it was a good idea... I did hear comments about the market being crowded ('saturated' was the word one small-press owner used), and I was informed by many that books 'are dead'... even Steve Jobs dismissed them recently as 'fringe media.' But as a great lover of books in all formats, this seemed like a better reason than any to go into publishing... best case scenario, they aren't dead, and there's money to be made... worst case, they are dead, or at least dying, but I could help save them. As I say, ambitious!
Is the case that book are dying, or that they're evolving? Are you going to go digital and what sort of publishing model do you have in mind?
Question By: Wes Brown
You'll be glad to hear that books are definitely not dying, not even physical books. Just look at vinyl. People are still making, buying and listening to vinyl records five formats later... the physical book isn't going anywhere.

I think we've yet to see the final destination of books in digital form. The Kindle is working at the moment because it's a natural progression, it is the digital form of a physical book, not too threatening for people to make the switch. The next step is possibly along the lines of 'The Waste Land' app, developed by Touch Press, who claim on their homepage to be 'defining the future of publishing' (and available on the iPad, take note Mr. Jobs!) See also, J.K. Rowling and 'Pottermore.' They are offering reading with videos, and interactivity... reading as a multimedia experience.

As for Valley Press, I've dipped my toe in the water by making three of this year's titles available on the Kindle. Sales are okay, and it's pretty much money for nothing, which I'm a big fan of... but I am still mystified on the subject of marketing ebooks. I'm lost without those physical objects. I'm hoping this will change soon though, I'd love to be at the forefront of the digital revolution!
The revolution has been digitised. I wondered how much importance you put on developing what's becoming known as an 'online presence'? And are their webzines nurturing any talent that a press like Valley could support?
Question By: Wes Brown
I feel an online presence is vital for publishing these days, but then I have to confess it's not something I spend a lot of my time on. I maintain a Facebook page and Twitter for VP, though I probably only update them twice weekly. I have recently started a YouTube channel, but as I don't currently own a video camera (!) it could be a while before that takes off.

I have to confess I'm not the most technical or digital person... if I ever met anyone who was, they would tear me to shreds, but fortunately this hasn't happened. I think there aren't many people in the 'small press' world who are technically savvy... most of us are at a similar level. I'd like to learn more, but to progress beyond my current standard I'd need to invest real money in some professional software (and time learning to use it). Publishing production professionals would weep if they knew what I used to put together the Valley Press books... so I'll keep that to myself for now.

I think so far webzines have done more for me than I have for them! A lot of people who bought James Mcloughlin's 'Encore' (published by VP in May) did so after seeing the article by Andrew McMillan on 'Cadaverine' (and that's just people who've told me they did... there must be far more than I know about). Again, I have to admit I am a beginner with regards to webzines... I could name no more than two off the top of my head. Now that's really shameful! I'm so sorry, people. If you run a webzine, please get in touch, and I'll be delighted to have a look.
What are your plans for the next year in terms of your list? Who can we expect to see published by Valley Press?
Question By: Wes Brown
One of the main things I've been working on this month is getting ahead of myself. I feel the ideal situation is to publish each book roughly nine months after the manuscript is finished... but I've not been able to do that so far. When I started this venture seriously in January, I did so from virtually a dead halt, and needed to get some books out quickly if it was to have any chance of succeeding... I've felt like I've been 'on the run' since then, in order to meet all the deadlines.

But I'm pleased to report at this point, I've got sixteen books scheduled to come out in the next twelve months, and things are a lot more relaxed... I can now work to my own schedule, can wake up each day and think 'which book shall I move forward a bit today?' Which is perfect.

Nine of those are collections of poetry by a single writer, by far my favourite type of book to work on - the list will always be weighted towards those. They are all first collections, too - names for Autumn 2011 include Miles Cain (York-based), Norah Hanson (Hull-based), and Jo Brandon (Leeds-based), all of who hugely deserve a publication, and have produced extraordinary stuff... I'm already proud, and ink hasn't been put to paper!

There'll be plenty more poetry books in 2012, but I'm also diversifying a bit... there is a collection of short stories in the works, which is specifically for writers under 25 (and submissions are welcome until the end of July, consult the NAWE website for more details!) And there's my biggest experiment so far - a book of facts about heavyweight boxing, which sounds like an odd diversion and in some senses is. But I've become strangely attached to it, despite having never watched a single boxing match in my life - I think it could be a real triumph.
Sounds like a lot of work, and you're really getting things moving. What have you learned so far that would've helped your younger self or a young publisher just starting out?
Question By: Wes Brown
Something I've started doing recently is putting together a database, so if I ever get contact details for a reviewer, a site that lists events, or any literary resource that could help, it goes in the file (which is just a Microsoft Excel job... I'm a big fan of Excel). Then, when you need something, you have it all to hand. If I'd started sooner, this database might have been a lot larger! It's not a particularly ingenious bit of thought, but I feel this will soon start to pay off big time.

I actually feel I have yet to make my first sizeable mistakes. So far, everything has been going suspiciously smoothly... things that looked like going magnificently wrong have righted themselves at the last minute, and the train has remained on the tracks throughout my 'exploratory months'. Luck has been on my side. But can it last? If you ask me this time next year to give myself some advice, the story might be very different. Hopefully I won't be saying something along the lines of, 'don't do that interview with Wes... it's the beginning of the end!'