Interview

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Leeds based writer, publisher, & critic

Wes Brown

Wes Brown is a writer based in Leeds. He is the director of Dead Ink Publications, Coordinator at the National Association of Writers in Education and book critic at Politics on Toast. His debut novel, Shark, was re-published in 2012.

Literature Works caught up with Wes to chat about the future of publishing, and how be balances developing new writers with his own creative work.

Dead Ink is an innovative new digital publisher. Can you tell us a bit about how it all began?

In a weird way, I'd been trying to do Dead Ink for years, without realising what it was I wanted to do. I got into publishing and literature because I loved great writing and the chance to develop new writers. After a few work placements and internships, I set up an online magazine called The Cadaverine for the under 25s. This was about five years ago. We published some great writing, profiled, interviewed and edited our authors as well as get them to read at events. We were getting about 30 000 readers a year, and then we published a print anthology of writing that had been on the site. It quickly sold out in Borders Leeds (where I worked) and was a bestseller in store for a month. When we tried to get it in other stores, we were told it was a local title, despite it having a national, web-based audience. I then started working for NALD and saw digital come in from the leftfield and saw opportunities to carry on a new kind of publishing. Rather than produce a limited edition book, distribute it, and then find an audience for it, we could create an audience, a connected reading community and introduce them to our authors; we could then develop our apps, and E-Books and different publishing platforms and sell direct to consumer. No middle men. Completely clean.

What is the ethos behind Dead Ink? What do can you offer readers that conventional publishers can’t?

The 20th century model of publishing is evolving into something very different. That model revolved around fewer people producing things, the agents, the gatekeepers, the print press and the chain bookshops. Now we have a democratisation of manufacturing. Now that anybody can be an author what happens next? Does this provide a new platform to develop great authors who are no longer in the belt-tightened, artistically cautious mainstream? How
do we create legitimacy, credibility and audiences in the free for all? We're playing with these questions as much as anything. Seeing what will happen next. Where the dust will settle. Get to the digital North pole before anybody else does.

Dead Ink recently published your first CD of performed literary work by Charlotte Wetton; how important do you think it is for digital publishers to provide content in different formats?

Nothing beats words on a page. Simple text. If it's not necessary, why publish in multiple formats just for the sake of it? That said, if a work is a more challenging, or mutant, and can be enhanced by the new platforms, we should use it. With Charlotte's, she was a page poet interested in performance. Producing an album of poems, with the text as 'lyrics' gives you the best of both worlds. And being on something like Spotify and iTunes, means we can quickly reach new audiences very easily and there's no sell by date, no print run, so it's gonna be up there for as long as we want it to be. Content is king. But how it reaches you might be non-linear.

Tell us about the opportunities available for writers who are interested in getting involved with Dead Ink.

We're very old fashioned. We believe in developing relationships with our authors, editing them properly and helping them find an audience. It's just the mechanics are different. What can and can't be done is different. So rather than produce a small circulation journal and short run books, we create beautiful E-Books, illustrated apps and have events in bookshops and music and literature festivals.

You’ve also written a novel of your own; how do you balance your own writing with the work of supporting others?

I don't. It's a massive problem. Most of the time, it's me writing and no Dead Ink. Other times it's all Dead Ink and no writing. I'm getting better at it and I find writing first and working later seems to work.

What are you working on at the moment, and how’s it going?

The first, bespoke Dead Ink app is currently in development. We've finished our first year list of E-Books, and we'll consolidate our first years work before pushing ahead with our plans for the next four years. I'm also making headway with my second novel, When Lights Are Bright. It's about a working turned middle class contrarian arts journalist who gets put out to pasture to investigate the disappearance of Shannon Matthews and ends up finding more than he was looking for. It's a novel about class, betrayal and motherhood.

Thank you Wes. You can read my review of Shark here and buy the book here.