Publishing in Australia: Spotlight on Giramondo

giramondo

Giramondo Publishing originates from that most venerated of Australian Arts institutions—the literary journal. Since the company’s inception in 1996—when they began releasing the biannual book-length journal HEAT—Giramondo’s main focus has shifted, and in 2002 they began publish books by individual authors.

With a number of critically acclaimed and award winning novels in print, such as Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria and Gerald Murnane’s Tamarisk Row, one-man editing team Ivor Indyk explains his past need to be a more direct part of the Australian publishing industry:

‘After some years as a university teacher and critic of Australian literature, I felt the need for a more direct involvement with writers and with the process of writing, especially since I often found myself criticising books for faults that could have been avoided with skilful editing … Active intervention in the literature seemed more important than sitting back and casting a scholarly eye over it all. It wasn’t just a matter of editing—books and authors that I thought were of national significance weren’t being published.’

His, and therefore Giramondo’s, intentions are admirable when compared to the current cash-orientated, blockbuster-seeking model of the major publishing houses. Giramondo’s extensive back catalogue of award-winning and nominated novels speaks volumes about the small publishing house’s ability to stand toe-to-toe with the multinationals in terms of critical recognition in the local market.

A high percentage of the twenty-six books currently published by Giramondo have achieved some sort of industry acclaim. Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria won the 2007 Miles Franklin Award, the Australian Literature Society Gold Medal, Victorian Premier’s Award for Fiction, Queensland Premier’s Award for Fiction and the ABIA Literary Fiction Book of the Year Award. Gerald Murnane received the 2008 Australia Council’s Writers’ Emeritus Award for Tamarisk Row. The Sleep of a Learning Man by Anthony Lawrence, has won both the Judith Wright Calanthe Award and the Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry. Mireille Juchau’s Burning In and Sara Knox’s The Orphan Gunner were short-listed for the 2008 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. The list goes on.

Looking at this highly regarded back catalogue, we can deduce that Giramondo’s main guideline for publication would be quality not quantity, and this is confirmed by Ivor:

‘Well, [the novel has to be] literary—which means that the texture of the writing is the most important thing – it’s got to do wonderful things with language. It should last. It should provoke thought and imagination (another way of saying that ‘it [should push] boundaries’). And finally, it should be rich and strange: it should take advantage of the wealth of cultural resources available to writers in this country, and be ‘cosmopolitan’.’

As a successful small publishing house, Giramondo supports initiatives that in turn support the local industry. Giramondo is affiliated with SPUNC: the Small Press Underground Networking Community. In its mission statement, SPUNC states that it ‘exists to advance the interests of the Australian small and independent publishing sector, and to facilitate cooperation between members of that sector.’

Since March 2005, HEAT magazine and the Giramondo imprint have been published from the The Writing and Society Research Group at the University of Western Sydney. This group brings together writers, publishers, scholars and students concerned with the social and imaginative power of higher-quality writing. Giramondo also receives local and national Arts funding—the Literature Fund of the Australia Council, the NSW Ministry of the Arts, Sydney Grammar School, and Arts Victoria are all supporters .

Each title from Giramondo is designed by the award-winning Australian designer Harry Williamson, whose distinct, simplistic style, Ivor states, makes a Giramondo title instantly recognisable. Each are, in a sense, Williamson’s oeuvre[1] (though not his first). The similarity between each book series release—whether novels, poetry, or essays—is deliberate and a matter of ‘branding’, which Ivor describes as being ‘a bit like Picador or Faber or Penguin in the old days. Publishers don’t do it now—it is every title for itself—but we feel readers should be able to recognise a Giramondo book immediately, for its guarantee of literary quality.’

Contact Giramondo at:

Giramondo Publishing Company
PO Box 752
Artarmon NSW 1570
AUSTRALIA

telephone/fax: +61 2 9419 7934

email: books@giramondopublishing.com


[1]   The works of a writer, painter, or the like, taken as a whole.

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