Welcome to our Ask a Publisher! After the success of our Ask a Bookseller series, we’ve been reaching out to a bunch of our publishers with some questions about what they do. Up next we have Oliver Fugler and Ashley Fortier from the queer Canadian publisher Metonymy Press.
Tell us about your publishing house in a few sentences.
Metonymy is a queer and feminist press and we publish literary fiction and nonfiction by emerging and underrepresented writers. We are committed to aesthetic and editorial excellence in publishing work that transgresses boundaries, undermines the status quo, and sustains those on the margins.
What is your role and how long have you worked there?
The two of us have been co-publishers since 2015. We take on many of the roles, because we have no permanent staff, but we do hire people for the things we’re no good at, like printing books, and cover design, and editing text that isn’t in English, and illustrations, for example. We do editing, design, publicity, office maintenance, order fulfilment – we used to do our own distribution but are grateful to now have distributors like Turnaround!
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
For the past year, a typical workday began by attempting to get to our office door in Montreal through a labyrinthine construction zone that often changed throughout the day. We finally got our street back after a year. Days in our office involve gazing lovingly at our plants, some freelance editing (we don’t make enough money as a company to do it full-time), checking in with each other about every step, emails, trying to keep our pile of boxes from turning into an avalanche, videochats with authors, running back and forth from the post office, accounting, and trying not to interrupt classes in the dance studio attached to our workspace. On any given day, we might also be found tabling at a local book fair, tagging along with our authors at launch events in nearby cities, or staging attractive photos of our books in nature.
What are you reading right now?
Respectively, The Collected Schizophrenias, by Esmé Weijun Wang, and The Secret Commonwealth, by Philip Pullman.
What is the one book you wish you had published?
What an impossible question!
What do you look for in a book? What makes a book amazing?
It occurred to us recently that several of our books explore grief as a central theme, but that’s not something we consciously look for. We look for a strong voice, and a little bit of revolution, and frankly we aren’t that attached to plot.
What is your proudest publishing moment?
There are so many joys, especially the many things we haven’t gotten used to yet – things like being contacted by publishers and readers from the other side of the globe, awards nominations and wins, seeing our books in libraries, seeing them being taught in schools.
One beautiful moment that epitomised the community aspect of our work happened at the Montreal launch of Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars, by Kai Cheng Thom, in November 2016. The venue we’d booked was locked and no one was answering our calls or messages, so the people waiting to go in rallied, called around, and found a venue that was booked by a community organisation later in the evening. They were willing to share, and so the early audience, performers, and organisers paraded down the street, digitally updating as they went, on the sidewalk, by transit, and car. They carried the cake for the evening, the books, instruments, outfit changes, etc., set up the chairs at the new venue, and pulled off a packed and moving celebration of performance and literature, and queer and trans community.
What are your favourite publishers and what do you love about them?
Coach House Books for their printing craft, Arsenal Pulp Press for their queer catalogue, and Zubaan, a Delhi-based feminist press with whom we negotiated a rights agreement in a way that felt at once respectful, warm, and trusting.
What would you like to see more of in publishing, and what have you seen enough of?
It feels so cliché, but we’d like to see more community-based projects, more by-and-for literature, more people over profits. We struggle to maintain integrity in our work daily, and we’d like to see less and less sloppy insidious creeping of harmful dominant culture into literature.
And finally… name three of your absolute favourite authors.
Well… we love all of the authors we’ve published, and beyond that, we’re really enjoying Alicia Elliott, Casey Plett, and Kiese Laymon.
Thank you, Oliver and Ashley!
If you want to find out more about Metonymy’s books check out their full catalogue here, including Kai Cheng Thom’s Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars, which was one of Emma Watson’s Book Club picks! You can also follow them on Twitter at @MetonymyPress.