Interview with Leigh Nash, publisher of Invisible Publishing

Invisible Publishing is a not-for-profit publisher based in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Picton, Ontario. The press began in 2007 with Robbie MacGregor, Nic Boshart, and Megan Fildes and they wanted to publish cool, contemporary Canadian books that were cheap and looked awesome. The mandate has not appeared to change from its inception to now. In March this year, Invisible Publishing offered to pay more royalties to women or female-identifying writers for International Women’s Day. As a small press, Invisible says, “we take our work and our mission seriously: we believe in building communities that sustain and encourage engaging, literary, and current writing.” Leigh Nash took over as Publisher in 2015. Leigh is the former managing editor of Coach House Books, a co-founder of The Emergency Response Unit, holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Guelph and had her first book Goodbye, Ukulele, published in 2011. Tamara Jong: Invisible Publishing produces Canadian fiction and creative non-fiction and is committed to publishing diverse voices and stories in beautiful and affordable books. Invisible Publishing also offers the Bibliophonic series and The Throwback Series. There’s such a unique mix of offerings here, Leigh! Besides fiction and non-fiction, Invisible also publishes poetry, graphic novels, and music biographies. Since joining as a full-time Publisher with Invisible Publishing in 2015, what exciting changes and challenges have you experienced since coming on board with Invisible Publishing? Leigh Nash: My motto is, I’ll try anything once! That’s probably the most exciting thing about being Invisible’s publisher: the latitude to take chances, to play, and to work with really exciting people on really exciting projects. At the same time, I’m Invisible’s first full-time publisher (it was always run as a part-time concern prior to 2015), and a big part of my job is figuring out how to grow the company in a sustainable way, in terms of the number of books we produce each year, and where and how we’re selling them. We’re up to seven titles per year, we’ve got wider US distribution through Small Press Distribution (they also sell to consumers and are a GREAT source for amazing small press books), and we’re starting to sell rights. I am never bored. TJ: Leigh, last year one of your titles, I Am a Truck by Michelle Winters was nominated and became a finalist for the Giller! Geist Magazine called it a “fast-paced, quirky, heartwarming and hilarious novel [that] captures the fast and loose crossovers of language and culture that make southeast New Brunswick unique.”  You came upon the manuscript in the slush pile where it had been for two years.  Can you describe your reaction when you first read I Am a Truck and knew that this was a novel for Invisible Publishing? What has this kind of press meant for Invisible Publishing? LN: A lot of what we publish at Invisible comes from the slush pile – it’s the best feeling when you find something totally amazing in there. Michelle’s manuscript landed at Invisible at an awkward time, right as the transition in leadership started, which is why it sat unnoticed for so long. (That said: I am the first to admit that we’re slow to send submission responses on decisions, and I’m working to better our turnaround time!) But Michelle’s voice was distinctive from the first page, and the story so intriguing, that I couldn’t put it down. Part of acquiring a book is falling a little bit in love with it, and part is having an idea of what suggestions you can make to the author to help them strengthen their work—and I really wanted to work on this book with Michelle. I Am a Truck landing on the Giller longlist and then shortlist, still feels surreal. It was a tremendous amount of work matched only by incredible gratification at seeing one of our titles get a second life through media coverage and reviews and mega-sales. What does it mean for Invisible? I got to see our logo on TV when The National did a piece on Michelle, which was super cool. We’re getting more submissions. We have some money, which provides a cash flow cushion. But our list this spring is three super experimental and weirdly poetic titles, so aesthetically we’re just keeping on keeping on. TJ: Invisible Publishing is releasing its spring catalog shortly; Book of Annotations by Cameron Anstee (April 2018); Surfaces by Eric Schmaltz (April 2018) and Fairy Tale Museum (May 2018) and the upcoming Fall collection: Searching for Terry Punchout by Tyler Hellard (October 2018); Port of Being by Shazia Hafiz Ramji (October 2018); The Magpie by Douglas Durkin (November 2018); This Keeps Happening by H.B. Hogan (November 2018). Five of the authors this year are first-time authors. What do you enjoy about working with new writers and how did these works catch your attention? LN: I Love with a capital L working with first-time authors. There’s something magical about seeing your writing – often, something you’ve put years of work into – in book form, sitting on store shelves, in peoples’ hands, with creased corners in the library. That’s why publishing is cool: we take ideas and/or stories and turn them into physical objects that other people carry around with them. We’re literally putting ideas in peoples’ pockets. So it’s pretty great to help an author experience that for the first time. I also try to use the process to educate first-time authors on how publishing works, and what their options are going forward in their careers. I just really like publishing books, and when you like something, you want to share what you know in a way that’ll help people. But these books in particular! Today I typed this exact phrase out to Invisible editor Bryan Ibeas today in Facebook messenger: I want fun vibrant reads! And all of these books hit that bar. They’ve got voice and character (and characters!) and are entertaining and will make readers think. TJ: In your submissions area, diverse voices are encouraged to submit their work to your press.  Why is this important to Invisible Publishing? Can you share any upcoming projects that Invisible Publishing is working on in the community as an ally and partner? LN: Canada is a diverse country, and as a Canadian publisher, I believe it’s my responsibility to put books out into the world that reflect a whole range of Canadian readers. Readers are done a real disservice when we as publishers only deliver a narrow offering of stories and voices. On a personal note, I love learning, and one of the best ways I know how to keep learning is to read outside my own experience. I just finished reading Guidebook to Relative Strangers by Camille Dungy and it was one of the most moving essay collections I’ve ever read; anyone who is a writer and parent (or thinking of becoming a parent) should absolutely read it. In terms of the tangibles: I owe a whole lot of people contracts to review right now (SORRY!) so I can’t share specifics on future titles. But we’ve got a call out for submissions for the first book in a new line of community anthologies (Inside Prince Edward County) that are written tours, led by locals, through the stories that make places what they are. I’m loving having all this content on the Invisiblog, so I hope to make these guest editorships permanent and use them to amplify all the voices we can. There’s more good stuff on the horizon, too—promise. TJ: What’s on Invisible Publishing’s playlist? LN: I present this playlist without context, though there is plenty of context for the individual songs!  

4 thoughts on “Interview with Leigh Nash, publisher of Invisible Publishing

  1. Karen Zey says:

    Loved this inside view. A great interview. For those of us dreaming of being a first-time author, it is so reassuring to hear a publisher’s voice filled with passion for books, encouragement for emerging writers and dedication to expanding and enriching the literary landscape.

    • Tamara Jong says:

      Thanks for reading Karen and for taking the time to comment. It was lovely to hear what Leigh had to say about working with first-time authors and her enthusiasm for books and publishing. We’re happy you loved it.

  2. Beth Bruder says:

    Publishing is a demanding business wrapped up in a creative package. Invisisble’s unique approach ensures that good authors are published and that the love of books is honoured.

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