Abergavenny Small Press: A New Welsh Publisher

Abergavenny Small Press logoBack in July, as lockdown began to ease and things started to happen once more, Dogs Darnborough launched a new independent publishing house: Abergavenny Small Press. They plan to publish one or two books each year, and the inaugural issue of their journal has just been published online (featuring two of my poems). I thought I’d interview Dogs to find out a bit more about this new publishing venture.   

What inspired you to launch the Abergavenny Small Press?

I have a book. I started writing it nearly twenty years ago, part time, hand-written, and then I’d go to a friend’s house two or three times a week to write it up on their computer. It’s a 280k word saga, the first book in a series of five planned books. Over those twenty years the book has gone through a lot of changes, not least believing for three years that it was lost, when the pipes burst in our house and the water fried our computers! About three years ago I stumbled across an original hard copy, and the work commenced once more. Suffice to say, once it was complete, I looked to get it published. Thinking the hard part was over (eighteen odd years of writing a single story) I realised how wrong I was. Most publishers are hard enough to approach with a story from an unknown writer as it is, let alone someone trying to tote a story that runs to so many words. I should say that, after editing, I had knocked a good 40k off the original total.

One of my author friends suggested self-publishing. He had already been down that route a couple of times and it was working for him, so I looked into it. There are quite a number of print-on-demand suppliers, LuLu and Amazon being the front runners. Much as I dislike Amazon, I eventually plumped for them, as they appeared the easiest to work with. This, as it turned out, was not the case. Among other things, there were immense incompatibility issues with the software I use and Amazon’s KDP. Once I had a viable product to print via KDP, I found all the hidden obligations Amazon like to put in for the services. You pay at the beginning, printing costs etc. which you would expect, but seemed a tad expensive and then you have other expenses, mostly hidden. As an author they say they will give you up to 30% royalties, but in order for me to see even one pence of royalties I would have had to sell the book at nearly £12 a copy. To get a decent return of fifty pence per copy I was looking at charging £17, which basically meant no one was ever going to buy it, because who is going to fork out nearly twenty quid for a book they might hate, from an author they’ve never heard of?

It was during all this that I started to consider a small press, primarily to publish my own book, but this then developed into the idea of a publishing house for other authors in the same boat. ASP gradually grew in the back of my mind into the concept it is today. It took about eighteen months from the initial seed of an idea, to launching it at the end of July.

What kind of work are you hoping to publish?

When we open our doors for book submissions, next year, we will be looking for something that will knock our socks off. The work doesn’t need to be complete, as long as it’s not more than a couple of months from completion. Due to the nature of my life I get very little time to read. I have to steal moments in my week to read anything. So, I will be looking for a submission that will make me want to steal more hours in the day to read it, make me want to put aside whatever else it is I’m doing.

We’re looking for work that is fresh and innovative. Or tried and tested ideas that come from a whole new and invigorating angle. We want it to be well written and engaging – I can be a bit of a grammar Nazi, but if the story is good, I can put my frustrations aside. We welcome most genres, although my personal favourites are fantasy, horror and psychological. I do like to read about the darkness in the human soul.

Can you tell us a bit about your own writing journey? 

I have written for as long as I can remember. I found a story I wrote when I was eleven, a little while ago. It won a local village competition, but what I noted most about it was that, even at eleven, my creativity had a dark tinge to it. I dabbled over the years, always with fiction, mostly fantasy, a bit of sci-fi and horror, but nothing serious until I started on the epic I mentioned earlier. Through my twenties and thirties most of my writing went into academic work, as I studied and worked as an archaeologist. In my late thirties I qualified as a person-centred counsellor, and this helped fulfil my life-long interest in dysfunctional psychology. I wrote academic pieces and research, none of which I ever presented for publication as most of it was ongoing. About two and a half years ago I joined Abergavenny’s writers’ drop-in group, where they introduced me to the concept of flash fiction. Initially, I found it very challenging, writing such short pieces when all I had written fiction-wise prior to that was a massive epic. But I really enjoy the short form, there’s so much you can put into a story by just omission. It harks back to my days as an archaeologist where ‘the absence of evidence is evidence itself’ comes into play.

I only turned professional in the Spring of 2019 and, by that, I mean this was when I took the plunge to get myself published. I felt that if I was to get anywhere with my epic novel it would help if people already knew me and the best way for that to happen was to get shorter works published. It helped my confidence no end when the very first story I wrote and sent out was accepted. ‘Flies’ was written on the spur of the moment when I found a US magazine looking for submissions, but the closing date was the following day. If nothing else, it proves I work best under pressure. For ten days I was able to say I had a 100% success rate; sadly, less true today.

Most of the work that has been published to date winds back to that first story I wrote at eleven – layers of darkness, which I find annoying because I think I’ve written much better pieces, which aren’t so dark in flavour, but seem to meet rejection. It’s even more annoying when editors tell me that those pieces were good, really good or nearly hit the mark. But such is the nature of submitting.

I have recently started a new novel. It is a slipstream fiction that crosses two separate chronological lines, but set within the historical boundaries of our world. There’s a lot of research needed for it, and I’m enjoying that almost as much as creating the story. Research sparks ideas as well as information for historical accuracy. I like to put real stuff in with my fiction as it lends it a more tangible feel, which can be harder to do when you’re writing fantasy.

And finally, you have an unusual name, is there a story behind it? 

Yes. But like some of the stories I write, I often find there’s more mystery in not hearing an explanation and leaving it to the reader’s imagination. Readers have far more imagination than us writers most of the time.


Visit the Abergavenny Small Press website for more information. The inaugral issue of the journal is now live and will re-open for submissions again soon.

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