Small publisher spotlight: Spinifex Press
Melbourne-based feminist publisher Spinifex Press has been publishing since 1991. Co-founders Susan Hawthorne and Renate Klein spoke to Books+Publishing for our ‘small publisher spotlight’ series:
Describe your company in under 50 words.
Spinifex Press is an independent feminist press that publishes innovative and controversial feminist books and ebooks with an optimistic edge. We are new adopters of technology, and one of the first small publishers in Australia to export our books. We are a writer-run publishing house, and this influences our decisions.
Why start a publishing company?
We noticed that good feminist books were being refused publication and felt that we could provide an avenue for those books. We both had backgrounds in publishing, with Renate’s background in international nonfiction and Susan’s in Australian fiction and poetry.
What book did you launch with?
Angels of Power and Other Reproductive Creations, edited by Susan and Renate. It is an anthology of poetry, fiction, sci-fi, plays and film scripts focussing on different aspects of reproductive technology.
How many people do you employ?
In addition to ourselves, there are three staff.
What makes your small press unique?
We are always ahead of the cultural curve and our books contribute to the discussion of issues often long before they become mainstream. For example, diversity is a current buzz word, but few publishers actually do diversity. We have done so throughout our existence. We publish books that reflect the interests of multicultural, Indigenous, disabled, lesbian and multilingual readers. Our fiction and poetry is inventive and we take a lot of risks. We also do a lot of selling of rights internationally both in translation, as well as doing co-editions with other independent presses.
What has been your biggest success?
It’s hard to know which success to focus on. In terms of translations: Help! I’m Living with a Man Boy has been translated into 16 languages. Sandy Jeffs’ poetry title Poems from the Madhouse has sold more than 6000 copies; Melinda Tankard Reist’s books all sell consistently well. Judy Atkinson’s Trauma Trails has had multiple reprints. Our animal books have also sold extremely well. We have just sold our first film option on Hoa Pham’s novella Wave. We use social media successfully and have followers from all around the world.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Resisting being pigeon-holed. As a feminist press there is an assumption that we don’t know anything about economics, ecology or international relations when we have published in all these areas and we publish books about a very wide range of subjects. Although we were the first small press in Australia to create ebooks in 2006, no-one in the media spoke to us, while in 2010 other small presses new to it were interviewed. Being ahead of the curve has its frustrations.
Which book by another small press do you wish you’d published?
If there were, we’d have published it. We only publish books we feel passionate about and there are no other publishers in Australia like us.
What will you publish next?
We recently published Prostitution Narratives: Stories of Survival in the Sex Trade, edited by Caroline Norma and Melinda Tankard Reist—a collection that challenges the idea that prostitution is a job like any other.
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