Publisher as midwife

My first midwife gave up on me and handed me to a doctor for an emergency Cesarean section. That doctor palmed me off onto another doctor because he had a golf date. I lay on the gurney writhing in pain feeling superfluous to the whole birthing process.

My second midwife was called Senga. She explained her name was Agnes backwards and it was common where her family came from (in Scotland I think) to turn names backwards. She was an awesome advocate and helped me avoid another C-section which makes me a statistical anomaly.

My third midwife is called Michelle Lovi and she publishes books. She is the founder of Odyssey Books. I asked her some questions so I could get to know her better.

How was Odyssey born?

Michelle: It was an idea I’d played around with in my head for months before taking the leap in 2009. I’d already been working in publishing in my day job, as a freelancer, and as a volunteer for an indie magazine, spanning over ten years, but I wanted to take things further, to do things my way. I’ve always loved books and was a voracious reader growing up, so it was a no-brainer that book publishing was the direction I wanted to go in.

Odyssey was born from an idea, my work history, and not much else. I was living in a granny flat in the bush, with a very dodgy dial-up internet connection, and spent my $900 “Rudd Bucks” on incorporating the company, getting a logo design, and web hosting. From day one I was determined never to prop up the business with the income from my day job — it had to be sustainable on its own.

My first two projects were anthologies, linked to my day job and to the magazine, so each project had a small financial backing and contributors happy to be paid in free copies. After that, I felt ready to put out my first call for submissions and found some really amazing authors willing to take a chance on an emerging small press. With each new title word spread, and I went from publishing around two books a year to two a month within six years. I now have a small team helping me keep up with all our exciting projects.

What sort of books does Odyssey love?

Michelle: We publish fiction in most genres as well as true stories. We love a good story — and by that, I mean unique ideas, unusual characters, tales that make you think about your world and stir up the desire to explore, stories that inspire.

What is the best thing about publishing books?

Michelle: The creative process, and working with authors to bring their books to masses.

What is the hardest thing about publishing books?

Michelle: Reaching those masses. Publishing is booming thanks to self-publishing and the emergence of more and more publishing start-ups every day. Competing with all the noise, not just from other books but from film, music and games, makes it a challenge to be noticed. I think we’re doing okay at this — we’re still here and growing.

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