Could you tell us a bit about the history of your press? (what you do, how you got started, what your goals are)
So we started Sans. PRESS in 2020, during the first lockdown, and at first it was mainly a way for us to stay connected to the literary community – Sam and I were just out of a Creative Writing MA, and that meant a lot of readings and workshops and literary events that were suddenly gone! And we loved doing our first weird little book, so we just decided to keep going and see where it could take us – I think the main thing is to find ways to keep sharing stories that we're really excited about! In more practical terms, I think the next near future target is to publish some full length novels, as at the moment we're only working with short story anthologies. I think an important mention is also that we're only able to do this work thanks to the support of the Arts Council [of Ireland], which has funded Sans. PRESS for 2022 and 2023, and we're immensely grateful to be able to be pursuing this!
What is your press’s vibe in six words or less?
Fresh & Weird
What is the process of publishing a book like for your press? From the first read-through and acceptance, through publication and promotion.
Since we're doing multi-author anthologies, we start with an open call for short stories, always with a theme (represented by a title and cover artwork), as a strategy to create some aesthetic cohesion. We (myself, Sam Agar and our assistant editor, Marc Clohessy) then read all the submissions, and go through three rounds of selection (longlist, shortlist and final selection). We then contact all the selected writers, proofread everything and send it back for their approval on changes, and then it's off to design and production, which I do myself. We produce the books for both print (we use on-demand printing for small runs) and digital (with wide distribution across platforms). We're trying to have a stronger presence in brick-and-mortar bookshops but at the moment that has been limited to our location (Limerick, Ireland) mainly due to our budget constraints. So most of our distribution and promotion relies on an online presence, mainly social media but also some specialised platforms like Goodreads and StoryOrigin.
What kind of books are you looking for? Do you follow the market, wait for anything good, or have a particular niche in mind when you’re reading through submissions?
I guess it's what everyone says, but really – we're looking for stories that we get sincerely excited about. It's usually a good indicator that something is making the final selection when we find ourselves just chatting about a story, off-hours, just because we can't stop thinking about it. In the later rounds we'll start thinking about how the stories work together, if they're too similar, if they're for entirely different audiences, like how will the book work together as an experience if we pick this or that. And we're always looking for stories that say something that resonates with us, our values, our principles – it's not just a matter of the technical execution but what's at the heart of a piece.
How many pages into a manuscript do you get before leaning one way or the other on accepting it?
Since our calls are for short stories, we do give up to 5,000 words for everyone, and we read every story all the way through. It's hard to say because some stories have us on the first page, and some need to percolate for a few days until a decision is made – and we've also published some really short pieces, Sam in particular loves flash! But I'd say between 2,000 – 3,000 words you already have some sense of tone, and theme, and start to lean a certain way. I hesitate to say this because a story really should be as long as it needs to be – if it's told in 500 words, you have to believe it's all there!
Are there any red flags you’ve found in writer’s submissions that other writers might want to avoid?
I mean, the first is paying attention to the guidelines! Of course mistakes happen, but ignoring them entirely makes a submission seem careless. For us specifically, we also don't do gratuitous violence, so it's something that might take a story out of consideration, as well as of course any type of hate-speech.
Do you have any recent books you’ve published that you’d like to show some love for?
Yes! We've just published our third issue, titled "The Last Five Minutes of a Storm", and it's available as paperback, hardcover and ebook! It features 15 brilliant short stories, dealing with themes of grief, power and resilience, and we're just so proud of how it all came together! These stories are something special and really, don't take my word for it – Donal Ryan called them "works of extraordinary beauty", which is something I haven't gotten over yet!
Are there any aspects of your submissions process that writers consistently miss or do wrong that they should pay more attention to?
Most often, word counts, and forgetting to remove personal info (we ask for anonymized files). I'd say to really pay attention to stuff that might be disqualifying (in our case the word counts, personal info just gets removed before reading starts), because it really is such a shame to miss out on an opportunity because of a technicality!
If you could add one question to this interview, what would it be, and how would you answer it?
Maybe if there's any advice for people starting out with a publishing project? And I'd say it's about finding stuff you're really consistently excited about! It's a lot of work, and reading, and thinking about it, so you have to keep the fire stoked somehow – we do it by asking for weirdness, so two years in we keep getting surprised (in the best way) by stories all of the time!