When we’re asked about how we started Doire Press we always say the same thing — that we never set out to start a press; rather, it just kind of happened. The story is that I was here in Ireland visiting John, who had just received a publication grant for his second poetry collection, Love’s Enterprise Zone, and he knew I had a background in publishing so he thought why not do it together? Next came the idea to publish the winner of the annual North Beach Nights Poetry Grand Slam competition—an event also run and MC’d by John—followed by publishing a poetry collection by our friend, Gerry Galvin. Soon after we started receiving submissions. Indeed the word was out.
Finding Our Footing
It all came about rather organically, as we like to say. There are good things and bad things about that. The good things were that we could run the press the way we wanted and publish who we wanted to publish and weren’t consumed with the question of whether or not the writer would sell. We took everything as it came.
Were there mistakes along the way? Too many to count. Did it take us a while to find our footing? Absolutely (our first fiction book is evidence of that — to this day the font still makes me cringe). And then there were all the things we had to learn, like how to create a website or put together an ebook. There was only the two of us and the tasks were sorted fast. This for me, that for John. We even started handing out jobs to Castor (our little ginger cat). For the first handful of years, when the press was a bit more like an oversized hobby and the workload was still at a minimum and I would get stressed out about something, John would often say, ‘Imagine if we had real jobs.’ We didn’t have to imagine very much longer.
Soon we were working bonafide full-time hours and our daily breakfast turned into breakfast meetings. But with that came all the good things too—the feeling of creating something you are truly proud of that is, in some small way, contributing to the better of the world (a bit sappy, I know, but hey, it’s a big anniversary year, so I’m allowed).
Keep The Presses Running
Fast forward to 2020, our tenth year anniversary, and a year unlike any other. Plans have been put on hold. Events cancelled. Book launches postponed and then postponed again. And again. Champagne bottles remained corked (that’s what we tell people anyway; both John and I are weak for bubbly). Like many small presses, we’re unsure about what will happen next year. But we are still scheduling. Still reading manuscripts. And still making plans (not to mention the grant applications—please do not mention the grant applications!).
So if we had to do it all again what would we do differently?
Pick a logo that was higher resolution. Start the business with smaller print runs (there are only so many rooms in the house to keep boxes of books). Be quicker about taking weekends off. And not taking crap from writers. While the very vast majority of our writers are the loveliest of people and treat us with respect and professionalism, every once in a while we sign a writer that we wish we hadn’t and when that happens it makes us want to pack it all in. Life is too short to deal with nonsense and big egos. But I suppose this is true of any job.
Recently, while getting things together in preparation for our new website (woohoo, another bottle of bubbly has been opened), I had to go through my files and compile a folder of all our book covers. It was an afternoon of remember when. Some of them I couldn’t help but smile at, while others made me cringe. But each of them took me back to a moment, the period of time when a book is not yet a book.
In our first years, whenever a new book would be dropped off by our printers, John and I would spend the evening reading the book, page by page, as we smiled at each other as if to say, We did this. When we were done reading, we’d put it down. But then we’d pick it right up again. We couldn’t help ourselves. We don’t do that anymore. But we still look at each other and smile.