Who are you and what do you want from me? Or, the changing fates of Mittens On Publishing

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I don’t know if you were wondering, but I’m going to tell you the long story about what is going on with me and Mittens On publishing. Bear with me, or if you’re in a rush, scroll to the bottom to get to the bit where you can tell me what you think about what we have been trying to do, in our beautiful and prize-laden survey.

Mittens On started as a platform to publish my first book, The City Is Ablaze!. I could have had a regular publisher put it out for me, but the first and only one I approached was a bit too enthusiastic and it scared me off. It turned out I really really wanted to do it myself. Over the three years I spent putting the book together I’d been relishing and reminiscing about my adventures in zine publishing, and finally I had the chance to do something even more exciting – publish a real live book. So I did it myself.

At some point I realised that my publishing house needed a name. I didn’t want The City Is Ablaze! by Karren Ablaze! to be published by Ablaze! Publishing, and so Mittens On was born.

(Why Mittens On? That’s gonna have to be another story, which will also include the tale of how we now have a publishing house kitten. Cute alert!).

The next thing that happened is that we published another book. Mark Burgess’s autobiography View From A Hill was out of print. We loved it but we couldn’t buy it – we couldn’t even order it from a library – and a borrowed copy (thanks Pete!) made its way round Leeds. My bessie mate Simone got talking to Mark about editing the book for a kindle edition and I asked if we could publish it as a paper book. The editing was done by Jaz Long and myself, and we slogged our guts out over a number of months to sharpen up Mark’s amazing story into a feast fit for any rock bio aficionado. We had the help of some great proof readers in our community too. It was a huge project, which we didn’t fully realise when we started it.

So that made it two books.

Then I got ill (eating shit food in front of a computer screen is not good for you, kids), then I began to recover (again). Then I got over-excited.

I wrote another book – this one was ongoing for around three years as well, and it’s actually about health, not music or culture. Like The City Is Ablaze! it contains a personal story; it’s kind of about the next bunch of years after I finished doing Ablaze!, but the audience for this book is going to be very different. You guys would only find it useful if you or your beloveds are suffering from a chronic health condition and want some inspiration to get your life back. I like to write about possibility, and that’s a huge theme in this book, which is actually called The Carrot Cure, but I could have called it Curing The Incurable.

And then I decided to license a book from a publisher in the United States, purely because it is a socially useful thing to do (and because I like publishing books!). This book, Three Minus One edited by Sean Hanish and Brooke Warner, is a collection of stories about baby loss: miscarriage, stillbirth, post-natal death. These subjects are so awfully sad and difficult to deal with that they have become taboo by default; we just can’t face them. But we have to face them as a society because they affect so many women – according to Sean’s introduction, 25% of all women experience a loss of this type. So we started work on that, and my fanzine-comrade Andrew Neal has been anglicising it for peeps in the UK.

This is all great, but it left me with huge dilemmas; the sort of dilemmas that you wrestle with in the stupid hours when you should be a-snoring. What is Mittens On? Does it publish all sorts of books? Or should it be just about books about music?

I decided to separate the two themes out into Mittens On (for books about music) and Mittens On Health (for books about health and well-being, obvs). You might have seen some stuff on this site about that, if you were paying attention.

But that didn’t feel right. A few weeks ago I woke up with the following words in my head: Mittens On Health is making me ill. I had been feeling overwhelmed by the number of projects I have undertaken:

  • Selling The City Is Ablaze!
  • Selling Marks’s book, View From A Hill
  • Publishing The Carrot Cure
  • Publishing Three Minus One
  • Assembling our book about The Fall
  • Preparing to publish a very fucking amazing novel by a new writer I discovered (okay, someone I known for years but didn’t realise was a freaking genius at writing books) which is going to be a huge indie hit next summer… you read it here first, or at least you will when I tell you some actual stuff about it!
  • Writing my own novel (which I never knew was going to happen but some literary ladies accidentally inspired me to get out of my non-fiction ghetto and start making stuff up)…
  • And a few other projects I haven’t told you about yet because they are too exciting and you might fall over if I gave you that kind of information all at once. Just join the mailing list if you want to know – it’s for your own good.

So, that sounds like a right fucking mess, doesn’t it? I still haven’t completely worked out what to do but I am angling towards creating a new imprint for the health books, not called Mittens On anything, and finding someone who can manage that for me so I can get on with the above – and keeping Mittens On being about books about music, cos that’s what it has been doing so far.

Who knew running your own DIY publishing house would be so complicated?

This is where you come in. I want you to tell me things. I made a survey – here it is. It takes a few minutes to fill in, or a bit longer if you want to give me your top tens and stuff. I would like to get an idea of whether you would like it if we got really into the books about music thing, to the extent of supplying other publishers’ book through our shop, so it could become a place where you go if you want the latest thing, like Viv’s or Kim’s biography, and just to generally find out what you like.

And then I’m probably going to do exactly want I want, as usual, but you won’t be able to say I didn’t ask your opinion.

The survey is here. Fill it in! Fill it in! And the funnest one gets a Mittens On gift voucher for our shop, where we’ve got other stuff as well as books, like zines and records too. Thank you for helping a confused indie publisher know what to do next.

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