'If we enjoy it we will try to publish it': Indigo Dreams aim to give new poets a chance
Ronnie Goodyer and Dawn Bauling are Indigo Dreams Publishing, which is gaining a deserved reputation for giving many poets their first publishing opportunity. Earlier this month they were awarded the 2015 Ted Slade award by the website Poetry Kit for their services to poetry. In the latest of our Publisher Showcase interviews, they talk to Greg Freeman about their philosophy, IDP’s growing poetry output, and how they keep alive the memory of fellow grassroots poetry supporter Geoff Stevens.
Congratulations to you both on winning the Ted Slade award. Part of the citation says that you have given many poets and writers the opportunity to publish for the first time. That includes this interviewer. Do you see that as part of your role in the poetry world - your niche, as it were?
Absolutely. Encouraging new writers has always been one of our fundamental aims. We have both been new writers and know what it’s like to try to get a first break and how hard it can be. By belonging to the writing communities within the magazines our writers benefit from the pooled knowledge of others who comment on their work. We all learn that way – editors included. Quality and potential quality are the only measures by which work is judged. We’ve found some smashing writers that way ... some that we know are going to light fireworks later on too.
How long has Indigo Dreams been in operation? What would you describe as your philosophy?
Indigo Dreams was established in 2003 when Ronnie ran it as a sole trader. The main purpose of this was to publish a poetry magazine, Reach Poetry, which was handed over to him by its founder. He progressed to helping a few poets self-publish collections and then formed a new poetry/prose magazine, The Dawntreader, in the niche market of myth, legend etc. In 2008 a partnership with Dawn Bauling was formed and a third magazine, Sarasvati, was added. Thus we have a monthly and two quarterly publications. The poetry market was incredibly difficult to enter and we saw so many talented poets whose work should be seen by a wider audience. We both felt it was important to do something about this if we could. More collections were published, both from submissions and through an annual competition – now continuing through the Geoff Stevens Memorial Poetry Award. It was a natural progression to form a limited company as a result. Indigo Dreams Publishing Ltd was formed in 2010 with shared directorships. We are a totally independent company with freedom to back our judgements and select work on merit alone.
In terms of a philosophy we pride ourselves in publishing many first-time writers and giving the backing for them to have a larger audience. In tandem with this we support the work of established writers. If we enjoy it we will try to publish it. The risks we take are monitored only by our self-imposed restrictions, space and time resources and financial ability. We receive no outside funding whatsoever.
Does poetry – and publishing generally – pay for you? Or is it done mostly for love? What has been your biggest-selling publication?
Poetry adds to the income but, as everyone knows, poetry sales are small in comparison to many other markets. Poetry adds to the creative health of a nation and we want to prolong its life in whatever way, however small. In 2015 we have in fact increased our poetry output with the creation of our pamphlet division and the initial signs are that it will be very successful. Poetry may not be a muscle man in the market but it’s got guts! Yes, we do a lot for love but then we’re both poets!
Our biggest-selling poetry publication so far has been Soul Feathers which was published in 2011 and was a joint venture with, and to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support. Waterstone’s supported it through their central buying scheme and it was available in every Waterstone’s outlet. It got to number two in the bestseller list. It was great to find that so many people wanted to contribute - Carol Ann Duffy, Seamus Heaney, Leonard Cohen featured alongside people who had only just started writing. It epitomised our ethos perfectly. Just for info – currently our next best seller is A Speaking Silence – Quaker poets of today. This was edited by Stevie Krayer and RV Bailey.
You set up the Geoff Stevens first collection prize in memory of another champion of small presses. What was the thinking behind that?
Geoff was a good friend of ours in and out of poetry and we had spent time with him just before he became ill. He was a great supporter of Indigo Dreams, and Sarasvati regularly appeared in his annual Purple Patch Awards list. We discussed with his partner, Geraldine, the idea of keeping his name alive through an annual competition with publication being the prize. We intended to have only one winner but even in the first year it became obvious by the number and quality of entries that we had to give publishing opportunities to two winners. Geoff loved to champion the printed word and we are delighted to honour him and his ambitions for poetry. This won’t be lost.
You publish a lot of writers each year, and three magazines as well. That sounds like an awful lot of work. How do you manage your time?
Carefully! Some folk think we don’t sleep or have found the secret of extending time. It’s all untrue, of course! We plan holidays and breaks away, good family times and we don’t work at weekends, but in between steam regularly rises from the keyboard. The magazines are our fixed deadlines so we fit in everything else around those. We have developed a system for typesetting and cover design that enables both publisher and poet to work to publication dates without stress for either party. Pleasure not pressure – not a cliché but a genuine work ethic. Having something published should be one of the best things to happen so we want that to be reflected in the whole experience. Nevertheless our working days are very long and start early, punctuated only by a daily forest dog walk or meetings away from the office. In support of this we also have a fabulous entourage of thoughtful poets who respect our working week and the need to have “away” time in the email department. We have yet to find ways to teach our collie how to edit but he’s only 13 so there’s yet time!
Do you think the market for poetry is improving at all? Can you detect any signs of an upsurge in interest in poetry?
The poetry market appears to be changing. It’s not quite an upsurge yet though! Sales of collection are definitely greater now than when we first started publishing poetry but this could be because of any number of reasons. There are more people than ever wishing to be published – the number of submissions we get reflects this – and the quality is improving all the time. We hold regular acquisitions meetings to consider work for our future schedules and it’s getting harder and harder – the meetings getting longer and longer. Most poetry sales are driven by readings, and the publicity gained through social networks etc, rather than trade sales. Our poets are often members of active groups and involved in creative communities who are mutually supportive. Indigo Dreams Poetry Nights, where a group of IDP-linked people come together to read, are evidence of that and will become a regular feature. There is also a healthy upward trend in mail-order sales from our individual poets’ author pages and our poets are encouraged to be shameless in getting themselves noticed. This can be hard for some but second nature for others!