Interview with Aaron Kent, Editor
How did Broken Sleep Books start?
I had run a previous small press, I Came Here Looking For A Fight, which was very DIY in aesthetic; small runs, handmade books, minimalist ideas. It went well but was far too taxing to make work on any large scale. So I stopped for a couple years, but always had this yearning to get back to publishing. Eventually I read a few manuscripts by people that hadn’t been published anywhere, and I knew they deserved to be out in the world, so I started Broken Sleep to publish the voices that weren’t getting recognition—and to focus on working-class writers to an extent.
Tell us a bit about Broken Sleep Books. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
I’m very influenced by J H Prynne, and I really like a lot of his work—but I also love that he has predominately published only with small presses, not the big, major houses. So I want to be a press separate from the demands of large-scale audience desire; I want to publish stuff that may not get a look-in at the big houses, and not worry about whether it’ll sell in Waterstones. I really like minimal aesthetics, so our covers are understated and don’t have fancy designs or images.
Can you give us a preview of what’s current and/or forthcoming from your catalog, as well as what you’re hoping to publish in the future?
In January 2021 we’re publishing an anthology of poetry by immigrant voices, which I think is going to be great. We’ve got a full slate of poetry releases over 2020, with two poetry books a month being released. And we’re picking up 3-6 non-fiction books to release on a single day in the second half of 2020—which is an exciting step as it means we can start looking at expanding our genres.
We used to ask, “What about small/independent press publishing is particularly exciting to you right now?” We’re still interested in the answer to that, but we’re even more interested to know what you think needs to change.
UK small/indie publishing can be frustratingly city-centric, particularly London-centric. There are a lot of presses that are removed from London now, which is great, but the main culture and lifestyle and fairs and hub is London, which is tough when you’re in Wales as we are now—or Cornwall as we were before.
How do you cope? There’s been a lot of conversation lately about charging reading fees, printing costs, rising book costs, who should pay for what, etc. Do you have any opinions on this, and would you be willing to share any insights about the numbers at Broken Sleep Books?
We will never charge reading fees. I trust that the work I publish is good enough to earn money without me needing to take money direct from authors. We are operating on POD which means we only print what we sell, which helps us financially as there is no way I can afford to run the press without that at the moment. But I spend a lot of time editing, typesetting, etc. which is labour-intensive. I really think authors shouldn’t be paying to submit their work. I would love to move away from POD and make Broken Sleep my full-time job, but I’m not there currently unfortunately.