Welcome back to Inside The Authors Studio. Today I’m talking to another writer and sharing our conversation with you! To find out who I’ve interviewed so far and what this series is all about, check out the original post by clicking here.
Annnnnnnd we’re back for another, very extra super special edition of Inside The Authors Studio. Welcome everyone. Today I am pleased to introduce you to a very Deer friend of mine. Let’s give a warm welcome to Ellie Sipila and congratulate her on the launch of her very own publishing house, Common Deer Press.
Ellie graduated from Ryerson University with her degree in editing. During her time in school, she studied copy, stylistic, and substantive editing. She specialized in editing books for young readers, which includes everything from children’s books to young adult novels.
After graduation, Ellie went on to work in the literary industry. Interested in all aspects of publishing, she continued to gain experience, immersing herself in book design and cover art. She became an editor, working with all types of writing including fiction, nonfiction, essays, and academic works. Today, on May 1st 2016, she takes a bold step into her future by launching her very own publishing house, Common Deer Press.
In my conversation with Ellie, we navigate through her history with books and the written word. We take a look at what pushed her to start her own publishing house and her expectations for the future of Common Deer Press. We even give you a glimpse at one of the very first works to come out of the house. I hope you enjoy my talk with Ellie Sipila, owner of the new Common Deer Press.
Jamie: Hello Ellie! Thanks for joining me. We have quite the event to celebrate here today. But before we get into all that, I want to take us back a ways and get to know you. How would you describe yourself?
Ellie: I am the kind of person who really gets into stuff. If I choose to do something, you can bet your every last penny that I am going to do it and do it to the absolute best of my ability. I’m articulate, decisive, and somewhat opinionated. I’m also open to suggestions and capable of being swayed if someone else has a better idea than mine. I’m a little bit goofy, I appreciate humour, and I love to do the unexpected.
Where did your love of books and writing begin? Is there an experience that sticks out in your mind and marks the moment you first fell in love with the industry? What was your relationship like with books and writing as a young person?
My grandmother was a children’s librarian. It is safe to say that I was raised by the book… the fiction book that is. My brother and I were the fortunate recipients of all the library’s year-end castoffs, which meant we always had more books than we could read. My grandma used to like to quiz us all the time just to see if we’d actually done the reading.
How has that relationship changed as you’ve grown older? Was there ever a time when you lost interest in books? What do you navigate towards now in your personal life as a reader? What kind of work grabs you?
Oh, nothing has changed in the books appreciation department. And I can honestly say, I have never had a time where I didn’t want to read. I spent a year travelling when I finished my first year of college, and even though I had to carry everything I needed to survive in a musty old rucksack, I always had at least one or two books in there. This was, of course, well before the invention of the e-reader (backpackers have it easy nowadays), so that ought to tell you something bout my dedication to reading.
I find it most interesting that, in addition to your passion for the written word, you also harbor a certain musical interest. You play the cello! Talk to me about music. How has your involvement with creating music, and specifically with playing the cello, influenced your work in the literary world? How and where do you see the two cross over?
Well, music and literature are both artistic endeavours, and I am right brained to the extreme. I am always interested in the lyrical quality of words, which is why I tend to be drawn toward literary books, or at least sentences with a certain rhythm. Also, reading music on a staff and working out the beat activates places in my brain that may hibernate if not exercised.
We can find you online as a writer, but under a different moniker. Tell me, who is Kat Hawthorne and what does she mean to you? Why did you decide to publish your work under a pseudonym?
Well, I have kids. I also have, in the past, written some things that are somewhat….dark. I like to keep my personal life private—I am a very private person. Kat has some wonderful but somewhat…hmm…colourful fans. Kat is the braver part of me that is quite happy to tell it like it is and explore those shadier corners. She doesn’t have to worry about mincing her words.
As a writer, you’ve published short stories in various literary magazines including Infernal Ink, Shadows Express, Dark Edifice, Underneath the Juniper Tree, and still others. As a novelist, you’ve released two books. What gave you the push to start sharing your work with the world? Did you fall into publication, or was it a long and difficult journey? Talk to us about the process of writing your work and getting it published.
Nah, I’ve always been a writer, and sharing my work was a natural next step. About a decade ago, I joined a writing forum and began sharng my work with peers. It was well received for the most part and I felt greatly encouraged. I made some really great friends, some with whom I am still in regular contact. I met my best writing buddy there—she and I visit one another and get all nerdy on a fairly regular basis. I felt inspired being surrounded by such creative people. I began going to conferences and workshops and joined two writers’ groups. In short, writers were “my people,” and I felt comfortable sharing my successes and frustration with them. We all encouraged each other to submit, and after a short time, success!
How has becoming a published author yourself made you want to have a career on the other side of the industry? How does having a foot in both worlds, the worlds of writing and publishing, impact your critical and creative eye for the written word? How do you balance the two?
Well, I have never been the type to be okay with depending on the help of someone else to get something done. I love to learn, and I am very independent. I did a lot of critiquing in my writerly circles. Eventually, people started requesting my help to the point I was almost working full time hours…for free. And then I was like…I should be getting paid for this. So I decided to figure out how to make that happen.
Given your university experience with editing, it’s no surprise your career path has taken the route that it has. But now we shift out of the past and into the more immediate future. Today is the official launch of your very own publishing house, Common Deer Press. How do you feel?
To me, it feels like natural progression. I have worked for other houses and have seen the industry from both sides of the desk. I am excited because already I have made two acquisitions that I know are going to rock some socks. I am beyond ecstatic to be doing what I love to do…as a job. Plus, my vision is a little different than that of the other houses I have worked for.
Your most recent work experience includes a position as the Senior Editor and Book Designer with a literary agency. Why start this new business venture now? Where did the inspiration to strike out on your own come from? Who or what influenced this decision?
Actually, it was a small press I was working for. I have had nothing but good things to say about the company, but I knew when I took the job that my time with them would be limited. I own another business, Move to the Write, at which I offer services in editing, book design, and digital and print book production, which has, over the past few years absolutely exploded. I now have the experience and am in the position financially to do this on my own.
You started things off with a strong future in mind. Your first tweet, which you posted on February 28th of this year, from the Common Deer Press Twitter account reads “And so it begins. #HelloWorld.” What was going through your head at that time? What was your mindset as the owner of a publishing house about to open its doors?
Excitement, of course! I DO have big plans, and I’ve set the company up to be competitive and profitable. Though I’ve already filled my first season’s list, and I know the books we will be creating will be of an extremely high calibre (I am somewhat obsessive), it’s still new and exciting and…busy! I really need to tweet more.
How has the response been so far from friends, family, and the public?
No one has been particularly surprised, I don’t think, aside from a good friend I met while working in-house at a large publishing house last summer. I think she thought I was kidding about doing this. NOPE! I am very committed to doing things full-hog, and this is a fine example of that.
You are a new press with a big personality. You specialize in the odd. Elaborate on that for us. What do you mean when you say you’re on the hunt for weird, strange, or uncommon works? What kind of stories are you looking to help share with the world?
The first manuscript I acquired is called The Human Survival Guide by author Jax Kincade. It is a handbook for zombies that explains how they, “a minority,” can survive in society without losing their heads (in more ways than one). It’s comical, of course, but at its core, it’s about acceptance. The message is that what you are does not have to be who you are unless you choose for it to be. It’s a fiction book that thinks it’s nonfiction. It’s genre-confused. It’s lighthearted and comical, but also contains practical advice that is presented seriously. It doesn’t get much more Common Deer than that message and with that setup.
I’m also interested in those wonderful unique manuscripts that have been being overlooked by other houses because they do not categorize well. I am artsy and I’m a book designer and I love a challenge. I’m up for unique presentations and unusual stories as long as the writing is superb.
I think it’s important that we touch on branding, because it’s something you make a conscious effort to embrace when it comes to your press. I’m including the press poster for Common Deer Press here so that everyone can see your unique style. On your website you state “We want work that stands out, is different, causes something weird to happen in our second, third, and forth stomachs.” Aside from all the puns (which I adore, by the way!) and animal references, what prompted you to use the image of a deer to represent your business? What is the story behind your quirky, woodsy, family-like herd aesthetic as Common Deer Press?
Common Deer operates as a herd. I want to approach every project I take on as a partnership. Remember that I’ve worn the author hat too. I know how hard it is to have your baby—your story—manhandled by someone who has different ideas than you do. I want to avoid that at all costs. We are in this together like a herd of equals. Plus…one day when I was looking for someone else online I saw an image of a lady deer wearing clothes. Obviously, that was NOT a common deer. Thus the fawn was born. Also, deer are quiet, stealthy, and they can cause a lot of damage though no one suspects them. Seems a good spirit animal to me.
What challenges have you faced so far as a start-up press? How has your status as a beginning publishing house affected you so far?
Well, I have a lot of work to do! I began getting submissions on the day I launched the website, which I wasn’t expecting (or prepared for!). I’ve already signed two books, and I haven’t officially opened yet!
I may be a new publisher, but I’m not new in the industry. I strongly believe in treating everyone fairly, and I think (I know) that has already begun to help me in more than just the I-sleep-better-at-night-knowing-I-haven’t-screwed-anyone-over kind of way. My second acquisition came by way of personal recommendation—word-of-mouth advertizing, that. Our reputation for being fair and passionate can only help us. Once again, we’ve been on the author’s side of the royalty cheque. It sucks. I want to avoid that.
Although you’ve just begun what I assume will be a long and hopefully fruitful journey as a publishing house, you’ve already started building up your client list. At the beginning of April, you and author Jax Kincade announced that you will be working together to release his book The Human Survival Guide for publication in the fall of 2016. How does it feel to already have the wheels in motion? What can we expect from this release? How do you plan to set the tone for Common Deer Press with your early projects?
**Interviewer’s note: My conversation with Ellie took place before we teamed up to announce Common Deer Press’s second acquisition, Rex, at the end of April. To see that post, click here! Check out the press posters for Common Deer’s first two acquisitions below.
Well, see above for my feelings on The Human Survival Guide. (SQUEEEE!!!) I’ve signed a second book too, a middle grade that is so absolutely marvellous. I can’t wait to announce it. Because I have been running my own business for the past few years, I am fairly used to scheduling and planning things. I already know how long I need to do each phase of the job. To me, it feels like business as usual, only Way. More. Awesome.
What are your plans going forward? How do you hope to see the press grow in the future?
We are going to remain fairly small. I am not interested in pushing out large quantities of books. By only taking two or three books per year, I will be able to put my all into every single one. I am going to sacrifice nothing on quality, and that takes time and money. Common Deer is my love child, and I want to keep it that way. We are going to be fairly active in competitions and such things though, so watch for us there.
What final message would you like to send to my readers about Common Deer Press?
I am truly thankful that you have taken the time to read this interview! I am chuffed about the books we will be sharing with you in the future. We fully intend to demonstrate the concept of “small but mighty.” Happy authors plus happy readers equals a happy me. That is my main goal for Common Deer Press.
A huge thank you goes out to Ellie Sipila of Common Deer Press for stopping by the blog today and sharing her own, personal journey into the world of writing and publishing. If you liked our conversation or are interested in learning more about Common Deer Press, be sure to check out the links below. Let’s all wish Ellie good luck with the start of her new venture! Show her some love in the comments!
Where you can find Ellie, owner of Common Deer Press:
Also, let me know who you’d like me to sit down with next. Would you like to hear from more publishing houses in the future? What about YOU? Are you an author? Are you starting a press of your very own? Are you doing something awesome in the world of writing that we should know about? Get in touch! I’d love to help share your work with the world!
Until next time guys.