Interview with Anna Burtt
Myriad Editions is an independent publisher based in Brighton and Oxford, publishing original fiction, graphic novels, and feminist non-fiction since 2005. As part of our series, Angie interviewed social media manager Anna Burtt about her experience working at an independent press during a Pride Month spent in lockdown.
AC: Thank you for being here today! How did your plans for celebrating Pride change this year?
AB: We always shine a light on our Pride titles during the month, which can still be done online. In terms of that, nothing has really changed. We have a great roster of LGBTQ+ authors across our graphic novel and fiction list, which we often highlight in our weekly newsletter. Luckily we weren’t too scuppered in terms of what can be done online! We would usually be taking part in panels at literary festivals as well as The Coast is Queer festival in Brighton, for instance, but none of those things happened this year. Last week, we celebrated the ten-year anniversary of the publication of Jonathan Kemp’s London Triptych – an absolute gay must-read. Jonathan signed copies at Gay’s The Word and there was a lot of online love for the seminal book.
AC: What sets you apart from other more mainstream publishers?
AB: Myriad runs a First Drafts Competition. There are very few competitions asking for first drafts because what people often want is a polished manuscript that could be sent to an agent and published. What Myriad’s competition aims to do is find potential and work to develop writers. We’ve published the work of winners and short-listees ourselves, but they’ve also gone on to be picked up by agents and large publishers. We also run a similar competition for graphic novels, which aims to find emerging graphic novelists. We teamed up with two local organisations, New Writing South and Creative Future, which are both organisations designed to nurture underrepresented writers. We were the publishing partners of the SPOTLIGHT books series, published this year. We are always striving to do better; we’ve been spending time considering the issues in publishing, how we can diversify our list of freelancers, and show that it is possible for underrepresented people to be published and work in publishing.
AC: How do you think your workflow will change after the Covid-19 emergency is over? Which changes will you retain going forward, and which will you abandon?
AB: It’s been very challenging – we’ve realised the importance of having a solid digital commerce structure; being able to sell books from our website has become more important than ever. We’ve been doing more online events, and at the beginning of the pandemic, people were very interested, but now that they are going out more and have less time, I think it will become more difficult to run online events. Being an independent publisher is difficult at the best of times, but we’ve seen a lot of generosity and solidarity, not only from other publishers but also from our readers, and we’ve been really grateful for all the support.
AC: What do you think Covid-19 has uncovered about the publishing industry as a whole?
AB: I think how much we rely on bookshops. I hope that no one ever takes their local bookshops for granted again, because it’s shown how much of an impact on book sales it can make when shops aren’t open. Myriad publishes the kind of books that people often want in physical form and it’s really shown us how much we need and love bookshops. During the Black Lives Matter movement, a lot of diversity issues in publishing have been uncovered, as well as the disparity in the amount that people are paid for their books.
Publishers have been rightly pushed to make statements about their diversity policies and how they’re going to make positive changes.
AC: What book did you read during “Pride Inside” and what is one book you would recommend to our readers?
AB: I read Gender Explorers by Juno Roche in preparation for my podcast’s Pride Special, and it was a completely empowering book, giving voices to young trans people – I can’t recommend it enough for building empathy and knowledge. I’m also reading Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez, which is our next book club book, and it’s great – I would recommend that to absolutely everyone. It follows a young Black man who was disfellowed from his Jehovah’s Witness community for being gay, and sees him moving to London and becoming a sex worker. The writing is so beautiful, I absolutely recommend reading it.
Follow Myriad at @myriadeditions and Anna @annamburtt and @btnbookclub. Sign up for her live event with Eliza Clark on September 3rd and subscribe to her podcast – there is a great Pride episode available!