Elliot J Harper
A Brief Chat with Fly on the Wall Press
Updated: Sep 2, 2022
Fly on the Wall Press is a social enterprise company and a not-for-profit publisher, based in Manchester, that focuses on political fiction, poetry, and cross-genre anthologies on pressing issues from exceptional authors around the globe. The Press is run by editor, book marketing consultant, and writer, Isabelle Kenyon.
Social action is intrinsically linked into their books and has been since the Press was established in February 2018. Their flagship anthologies work in two ways: each sale fundraises for a chosen charity, and each reader continues their conversation, tackling the issues highlighted. They are proud to publish fiction and poetry on the pressing issues of our time, being unafraid to generate conversation about perhaps 'prickly' subjects, whilst also dedicating a large proportion of their yearly publishing schedule to charitable projects. They have worked with Mind, Shelter, Crisis Aid UK, WWF, The Climate Coalition, and Street Child United. Fly on the Wall was a Regional Finalist for Small Press of the Year in 2022.
Isabelle, thank you for agreeing to answer a few questions. I’ll jump straight into a big one; who is your favourite writer?
I absolutely love Miranda July. She is quirky and strange, and her characters stay with me long after I’ve read her short stories. I’ve never watched her films, but I’ve heard she is also a film director, so perhaps this is why she has a unique style of writing. I also love Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi because her characters are so fully formed and her settings evocative.
What is your favourite book?
This is always changing, but some recent reads are –
Eat or We Both Starve by Victoria Kennefick. (Startling language, visceral depictions of the body through poetry.)
Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson. (A new way of painting romance and capturing how we live. Refreshing to see a sensitive Black male narrator.)
What made you start the Press?
I wanted to work with other poets on a collaborative project. This was when the mental health anthology, ‘Please Hear What I’m Not Saying’, came around. 600 people applied to the submission call on my humble blog, and I selected 116 poets internationally. After that, there was a hunger for Fly on the Wall to become a publisher and produce another anthology. We did produce another charity anthology, and I ran our first physical launch in 2018. Each year, we have produced another genre, slowly growing from a hobby to a full-time career.
What is a day in the life of an editor like for you?
Because I’m the managing director, it’s not just editing that I could tackle on a day-to-day basis. I could be typesetting and looking for inconsistencies between a word document and an in-design format. I could be converting it to an e-book, looking at the technicalities of creating a clickable contents page. I could be sourcing reviews for my authors. I could also be posting books. I will bounce from one project to another in order to ensure that we meet deadlines and that each author has enough time to review edits and design work.
What is the best advice you can give people who are considering submitting work to Fly on the Wall Press?
I see a lot of people submit who have not yet read a book by us, and this is really disappointing because I will work so closely with an author over the two-year contract, which is often much longer as the contract starts on the book publication day, and so I do expect that relationship to have an understanding of how we operate and the kind of quality of our books. It means so much more to me if someone has attended our events online and off-line throughout the year and has genuinely enjoyed a selection of our books and then submits. That tells me that I can have a really healthy working relationship with the author and feel comfortable bouncing off editorial and design ideas with them.
Thank you, Isabelle, for this brief chat.
Please visit Fly on the Wall Press and check out their catalogue of books. There’s a little bit for everyone there, for both readers and writers. Isabella also organises the Northern Publishers Fair, which meets annually at the Manchester Central Library. I went this year and got to meet many publishers, listen to some readings, and, most importantly, buy a lot of books!
Thank you for reading.