Sunday, 5 March 2017

This week at Valley Press, #44: 'Putting in the hours'

Dear readers,

A lot of small steps forward this week – but maybe that's the best way to get somewhere? I remember, from a little book of Chinese philosophy: 'the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step'. (Valley Press will embark on its own Chinese journey this year; but that's a subject for another newsletter.)

I'm also reminded of the '10,000 hours' theory, which was all the rage when I registered as self-employed, back in January 2011. Gladwell wrote that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice would make you a world-class expert in any skill, so I did a calculation of how long I would need to stick with my new career in publishing before I had it all sussed out. If I worked to a standard full-time schedule, I could have it wrapped up by March 2017...

Sadly, the theory has now been mostly disproved, even without my own example (which may be the final nail in the coffin). I logged into some new software this week, designed to streamline data at a publishing house, and found 98% of the services it offered were a complete mystery to me. So I'm still not a world-class expert – maybe in another 10,000? – but you could argue that the Valley Press that exists today was built from those hours, one hour at a time. Or, to borrow another bit of philosophy, Grimm interpreted by Steven Moffat: 'that's a hell of a bird'.

* * * * 

So what were this week's 'small steps'? One of them was registering the company 'Valley Press Ltd.', which is the beginning of a new chapter for us (and a ton of admin); though it won't make much difference to the day-to-day running of things. Another was sending out page proofs for our Yorkshire Anthology to the contributors – I hope you all enjoyed having a sneak preview! I was stunned to see that within 24 hours, 43 of the 66 contributors had already got back to me with feedback; who says poets aren't organised?

Elsewhere, myself and the 'digital reading team' made it through a few more manuscripts submitted in 2016. I've found this process so helpful, it's the best idea I've had in months; the volunteers have been phenomenal, tackling each manuscript faster and with more insight than I could possibly have imagined. Next time we take submissions (which I'm hoping will be in April), I'm going to formalise this pseudo-committee and arrange some sort of reward for them. They deserve it!

What else? I took on another new team member; Martha Sprackland, formerly of Cake magazine and Faber & Faber, will be editing a series of poetry manuscripts for us in the coming months – you'll see the first fruits of her labour in September. I also quietly changed our 'FAQ' section to indicate we are now considering applications for internships, for the first time since 2013. People must have been watching that like a hawk, I've already had ten CVs! (It's tough to get publishing experience in this part of the world; I always wanted to offer regular internships, but haven't had the time or facilities in recent years.)

On top of all this, I did an interview for the excellent blog 'Book and Brew', which you can read here. As usual, it's pretty frank stuff; I always end up saying far more than I intend to when I do interviews. I think possibly I confuse it for therapy...? Anyway, enjoy that, if you fancy a bit more of my waffle this week; otherwise, see you next Sunday.

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

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