February's Publisher of the Month is Cipher Press, who have made a big splash on the indie scene since 2020, publishing riotous and urgent titles that reflect the breadth of stories and disruptive approach to literature in the LGBTQ community.
Tell us a little about your publishers… what is it that you do differently?
We launched in 2020 with the aim of amplifying the works of queer and trans writers. We’re also queer and trans run, and are one of the only dedicated LGBTQIA+ presses in the UK. We like to publish across genres, which is maybe different. Horror, crime, romance, historical, a mix of everything? We’re into it. As long as it’s weird.
Why did you choose to get into publishing?
We’d both been working in publishing and editorial in some capacity for years, and found that we weren’t seeing the kind of queer literature we wanted to read being published over here. So we decided to start something that reflected our experience, and that of our community. It started as a bit of an experiment in truth, but we’re so glad it’s taken off!
Which book throughout history do you wish you’d published?
Good question! We have to pick something from recent history because of laws surrounding gay books, but for me it’d probably be Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi, Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawlor, or Chelsea Girls by Eileen Myles.
What are you looking for in a manuscript - what makes for a book that you simply have to publish?
This is always a hard question to answer because we never know until we read it. But I guess we’re looking for something we haven’t seen before. Something strange and transgressive and smart and hot and unusual. Something with incredible prose and new ideas.
What can people expect from you in the next 12 months?
We’re publishing six amazing books over the next year, a mix of poetry, fiction, creative non fiction, and an anthology of sex writing. We’re planning lots of events, and our annual Hastings Queer Book Festival will be happening over the summer.
What has been a significant book from your backlist, in your development as a publisher?
Tell Me I’m Worthless by Alison Rumfitt. When Alison submitted it, we knew it was one of the best and most radical books we’d ever read, and its success was mind-blowing. It really grew from something we thought would have a relatively niche queer and trans audience to a mainstream horror hit that we sold into the US. It really showed the kind of thing we’re looking to publish, and it’s been such a wild ride.
What are you reading right now?
As well as a lot of submissions, I’m reading Love Me Tender by Constance Debre.
What was your first job in the book world?
I started out as a bookseller in the fiction department at Foyles Charing Cross Road.
What are the greatest threats to independent publishing at the moment?
Amazon (still). The homogenisation of Big Publishing. Rising production costs. Brexit rules that mean we’re all missing out on sales in Europe. Feels like there are quite a few threats, but we persist.
There are so many but I’m going to stick with a classic and say We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson.
Favourite book in translation?
The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara or Tentacle by Rita Indiana.