Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

You Can't See Me: Catching Up with the Visionaries Behind Invisible Publishing

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by Nathaniel G. Moore

Within the last 15 years in Canadian publishing, upstart publishers have been commonplace. Conundrum and Pedlar are nearing 15 years and counting, Mansfield Press turns 10 this fall, (part of this milestone will be the launch a new imprint edited by Stuart Ross) BookThug started approximately seven years ago in 2003 without funding and now publishes around 10 books a year, while even newer presses, such as Tightrope Books, Snare Books and Invisible Publishing are all a bunch of three-to-five-year-olds with a penchant for publishing first-time authors.

It is safe to say there are more independent presses than larger houses in Canada, more opportunities to publish, perish, grow and network in the accruing feeding frenzy. But with so many energetic promotional forces using buzz words and terms such as “innovative” or “daring” or “fresh new voice” or, my favourite, “takes risks” colliding with one another each fall and spring in book missives sent across our great white north, it has becomes increasingly harder to both distinguish these publishing efforts, or really get to know your friendly neighbourhood Canadian independent publisher altogether. The phrase “Who’s the publisher?” or “Who’s publishing that?” is as common a sound bite at literary events as the enduring classic, “I hate them.”

In recent months, one Canadian small press in particular has made things easy when it comes to distinction. Maybe it’s their name or their attention-grabbing summer blockbuster by Jeff Miller, (more on that in seconds) or it’s simply that they’ve been quietly creeping (not in a creepy way) into the Canlit radar since day one with a bit of poise and dignity (if that’s even possible in publishing).

In the early days of summer 2010, Invisible Publishing was on a best-seller list in Montreal for the first time with Jeff Miller’s Ghost Pines. “Yeah, we're pretty excited about it! It's the first time we've been on a list like that. It's also a best-seller at Collected Works in Ottawa,” says Nicholas Boshart, whose role in the company is ever changing, who spends his days working full time at the Association of Canadian Publishers.

The press began just three years ago in the spring of 2007 with the release of three titles, though brainstorming and “daydreaming” about the press began as early as 2005. This year they’re applying for not-for-profit status, retooling their online presence, dabbling into new publishing genres and expanding ever so slightly.

Currently employing around six people from varying cities, Boshart says this “vast network of affiliates” includes publisher Robbie MacGregor, who also pays the bills working at the Halifax Library, an in-house editor, an intern, an in-house designer and more to come.

MacGregor is the closest to a full-time employee that the press has. “He manages the production schedule, pays the bills, does the grants, a lot of editorial. He also does all of the East Coast promotional stuff, from setting up events to booking ads to tabling at fairs and sitting on boards.”

Megan Fildes is the house’s art director and designs every book and does launch posters and ads.

Boshart says he himself is “sort of a floater” who dabbles in a bit of everything, including copy-editing one book per season, but says the recent hiring of new editors has reduced his role slightly. “I'll be in a more project-coordinator role. I'm branching out into digital production and lately I've been dabbling in rights. I'm starting to try out querying people, and by god I'm going to sell something!”

Newly contracted editor Sacha Jackson will be in charge of a new nonfiction series the press is starting next year which may or may not involve music. Boshart is a bit secretive of this new imprint.

Jenner Berger has been with Invisible for almost two years as an acquisitions editor, and also helps with promotion and editorial. Evening things out is promotional intern Rebecca Tesfagioris from Toronto to help out with online marketing.

This fall the press launches two new books. Bats or Swallows by Montreal’s Teri Vlassopoulos, (shameless disclaimer: who will read at Canzine in Toronto on October 24th) and a day-planner called Rememberer, which Bosard describes as “a hand-drawn calendar and micro fiction anthology based around disorganization edited by the aforementioned Jenner Berger.”

Looking ahead to Spring 2011, Invisible is changing their technical approach to publishing, starting an XML workflow, and doing all final edits on wordpress and then exporting these files direct to digital and to InDesign. They’re also going after the graphic novel market with a second title from Mike Holmes, which Boshart describes as “an anthology of his much-lauded comic strip True Stories published weekly in The Coast, the Halifax weekly independent.”

Like most small presses in Canada, the internet is a 24-hour promotional vehicle that is seemingly more appreciated with the advent of the ebook. In addition to sparse video, reviews, sales reports and interviews, the press is converting their backlist to ebooks, with a plan on releasing simultaneous digital and paper versions of all their titles from now on. “We're launching a promo that if you buy one of our paper books, we'll give you two ebooks for free.”

As for fitting into the gang of small presses in Canada, Boshart says he’s been enjoying networking and blossoming relationships with other publishers, especially since joining the LPG in 2008. “I have a list as long as my arm of other small presses who give us hope and who we hope to be more like. Tightrope does and is doing a lot of interesting stuff. Coach House, of course; Gaspereau is great; ECW has a great list of lit and I love the pop-culture stuff they do. Oh, and Vehicule. And Brick Books, Kitty is amazing and she is probably one of the most punk publishers out there. It’s pretty much just her and Cheryl. She's really embracing digital, it's pretty cool that she publishes poetry and is so gung-ho.”

While admiration for his publishing contemporaries is clearly visible, so is Boshart’s opinion on larger houses, which in their own way inspire Invisible to put out “some actually good Canadian books.”

Can-Lit is pretty stodgy, and even the most radical of books (Life of Pi) aren't representative (piece of garbage) at all of what it's like to live in Canada. They're not contemporary and are totally based on this old version of Canadian identity that never really existed. I read a lot of American contemporary fiction because I identify with it more and I'm sick of it! Our secret motto is "We don't care who has seen the wind." Seriously, that book sucks. Have you ever read Two Solitudes? Brutal.

So beyond not being garbage what does Invisible look for in a potential author? “We look for awesome manuscripts by awesome people.”

To keep up to date on all things Invisible, visit http://invisiblepublishing.com/blog/

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