Industry Insights: Imogen Peniston
Imogen Peniston is the founder of Greenteeth Press, an independent publisher of poetry and prose from writers of underrepresented backgrounds. Here she tells us about her journey and personal take on what it is like running a press.
Tell us about your journey into publishing.
I initially set out to be a writer, studying Creative Writing at York St John University. One of my modules was on the publishing industry and through this I realised how fulfilling it could be to work on helping to produce somebody else’s book, and that a writer didn’t have to just…write.
In my final year, I looked for internships to gain experience and find which roles would suit me best. However, there were very few choices that didn’t revolve around London. As a working class woman from the North, I couldn’t afford to take an unpaid internship there so I was thoroughly annoyed at the inaccessibility of the industry, wondering how others in a similar situation also felt. This was what inspired me to start Greenteeth Press - I realised that I had to create my own opportunities.
I never thought Greenteeth would amount to much. With no money, no experience, and no base, how was I supposed to start a business and support others when I - a recent graduate - couldn’t support myself? However, I was extremely proud when we produced our first anthology, Pondweed, with around 50 submissions in total. In recent months, we’ve really ramped up our activity, and I can’t wait to see what we can achieve!
Greenteeth is committed to “publishing poetry and prose from writers from underrepresented backgrounds”. Can you tell us more about your goal?
It was definitely something I wanted to do from the start, especially in a time when the divide between the kinds of voices represented in publishing is massive. Over the last year, things have definitely improved for under-represented voices, but there’s still a way to go before everyone can see themselves in books.
At Greenteeth, we hope to achieve this by “not saying no”. We’re open to collaboration and think that developing work should be a team effort. No matter a person’s background, we want to hear from them and work together on the best solution that is most fitting for them as a creator, as well as us as an independent publisher.
What are some of the challenges or advantages you face as an independent press, as opposed to a conglomerate such as the Big 5?
The biggest challenge for us at the moment is money and trying to produce a business model that is sustainable whilst also paying our authors, and everyone we hire, fairly. It is hard doing things without money, so a lot of our projects are funded from our own pockets and the profit of previous books.
We’ve had some funded projects by York St John University’s writing department, which we are very thankful for. Overcoming the financial hurdle is a big one in the beginning - and we’re still working to overcome it.
Having said that, I think we have an advantage in being more approachable than some of the bigger publishers who can come off as too corporate. Indie publishers will always have this at their disposal.
What are your future plans for Greenteeth Press?
Ultimately, I want Greenteeth to be a community where people feel they are seen and heard. I want to make books more affordable and accessible for everyone, no matter their income.
Next year, we have some really exciting plans that I can’t wait for! We have our collaboration with York St John’s University on their Horrifying Tales collection; our sci-fi anthology with fresh-faced guest editors Dan Hunt and Tom Wilkins; and, most recently, we announced our zine series with Errol-Graham Harsley on food history.
What advice do you have for those wanting to set up their own press or those who are getting started in the industry?
I think the best thing to do if you are looking to start your own publishing venture is to just start it, no matter where you are in your publishing career. You’ll always be learning and you’ll always make mistakes. For me, it was useful to start by creating anthologies because you can create a good working relationship with lots of writers early on, creating that vast network of creatives which you can call back to in the future.
Getting started in the industry is getting harder, especially when the world feels so upside down right now, so it’s important to remember you can create your own experiences. Anything you can do to show your awareness of the industry is essential. Also, read books. Lots of books!
You can find out more about Greenteeth Press at www.greenteethpress.com