Living Pride in Lockdown: An Interview with Nathaniel Kunitsky from Knight Errant Press
Knight Errant Press is an independent publisher based in Scotland that promotes marginalised voices in a variety of formats. As part of our new series of interviews, Angie interviewed its Publishing Director, Nathaniel Kunitsky, about his experience running a publishing 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?
NK: On a practical level, we were planning to launch the Kickstarter for Volume 2 of our gender anthology and it’s disappointing to have missed that opportunity. There would have been a lot of traction surrounding Pride Month and having events cancelled limited promotion. As a predominantly Queer press, though, it’s hard to celebrate Pride because we celebrate it year-round. However, since the physical events didn’t happen, it feels like Pride Month didn’t happen either. If you are part of a particular bubble online, LGBTQ+ topics are always talked about. I felt there was more online harassment this year, unfortunately, which hasn’t made it feel like a very good Pride Month.
AC: What sets you apart from other mainstream publishers?
NK: We look out specifically for marginalised voices. We don’t require people to tick boxes of what group they belong to but we prioritise certain voices over others. We don’t publish commercial fiction; other parameters are important to us, such as representation in the story or representation of the author in terms of identity and experience. We also do workshops, which aren’t motivated by wanting to recruit writers. Their aim is to develop writers and give them the courage to submit to places like us. We give people more feedback than major publishers, as we don’t work on the assumption that authors already know how to submit work and if everything isn’t perfect then it’s their fault. I try to make sure the authors’ experiences with us are positive because we can’t offer big advances and we don’t have the same scope for distribution. We strive to offer a positive working experience to improve their work and self-esteem, and to make sure the book reaches people.
AC: How do you think your workflow will change after the Covid emergency is over?
NK: We all work from home and on a voluntary basis, so apart from the anxieties surrounding Covid, I’ve actually been able to dedicate more time to our projects. I think the biggest change is that we’ll try to be more present online. We’ll be reconsidering the necessity of live events; they’re still beneficial in terms of sales but having been to other online events, I don’t think they’re a necessity anymore. Maybe it’s something we’ve been missing out on – being able to connect to readers who can’t go to Edinburgh or Glasgow. We also realised we wouldn’t have the funds to print a lot this year, so we looked into producing ebooks and making print books available digitally. Being volunteer-based, we depend on how people are feeling. This means we naturally set up more flexible events, such as our Kickstarter, rather than multiple pre-planned events other publishers may host.
AC: What has Covid uncovered about the publishing industry as a whole?
NK: I think it was quite upsetting that a lot of publishers continued to release books despite publicity events being cancelled, which will affect sales. Any negative results are the fault of the publisher because they weren’t fast enough to adapt, but they’ll judge authors based on the sales of their book. It seemed like bigger publishers were the least likely to change their publication dates, so what could have been a bestseller maybe wasn’t because the author was unable to carry out all the publicity they could have. It was quite an eye-opener in terms of the inequality in publishing.
The Rethinking Diversity in Publishing report also came out during Covid, which made an interesting read. We all knew publishing was very elitist, but I think that during Covid there’s been more pressure for change. Hopefully, this will be an engine for change but I’m not holding my breath, as these structural changes always come from the margins of the industry rather than “from the inside out.”
AC: Name one book you read during “Pride Inside” and one book you would recommend to our readers.
NK: I’ve been reading Christine Burn’s Pressing Matters. It’s available online and it’s a two-part memoir based around the “Press for Change” campaign, creating the Gender Recognition Act of 2004 and how supporters campaigned for trans people’s rights to be enshrined in British law.
I’d recommend Juno Roche’s Gender Explorers. It’s a collection of interviews with people from Gendered Intelligence who hold afternoon sessions and weekend camps to allow young trans people to socialise. It also includes interviews with their parents, which show a change in attitude in raising children – very enlightening.
Knight Errant is a micro press established in 2017, publishing unapologetically queer and intersectional stories. They prioritise marginalised voices and inclusivity. You can follow them on Twitter @KnightErrantPub.