September 2022

Back to Issue 12

Julia Kaylock in Conversation with Rosanna Licari

Julia Kaylock, Litoria Press

 1. Julia, can you tell us a bit about your background?

I suppose the best word to describe my background is ‘eclectic’. I have always loved literature and poetry, and can’t recall a time in my life when I wasn’t reading or writing, as a young person these activities brought great joy and satisfaction, especially as I was effectively an only child in my household. I also loved learning languages and have always been fascinated by how words are used to communicate. In my senior years at high school I engineered my own course, arguing my way out of both maths and science so I could take both French and Bahasa Indonesia.

As a teenager I planned to go to university and study languages and literature, but life has a way of happening while you are making plans, and for me that meant moving states as a newly-married nineteen-year old who needed to contribute financially. So I joined the public service, specifically the Department of Employment (those old enough will remember the Commonwealth Employment Service), where I worked on and off for 25 years in between handling parental responsibilities. This became more than a job for me, as I found myself at the cutting edge of a field that eventually became known as career development; in the1970s the labour market was changing rapidly and keeping up with new technologies and work practices was both challenging and exhilarating. Needless to say, ideas of writing and studying literature went onto the backburner.

But they never left me completely. At 33, with two young children in tow, I left my full-time job and realised my long-held dream to do my Bachelor of Arts at Monash University, majoring in English Literature and French.

2.You say you were virtually an only child. What does that mean?

I was adopted, my only brother was almost 12 years older, so we didn’t really have anything in common, for me it was like I was living with three parents. My brother was actually the head of the house, but that’s another story.

3. When did you start getting into writing and editing?

 Although I went back to work at the CES for a few more years, from the time I began my degree my ‘career’ split into two competing factions, and I have juggled these two for the last thirty years or so. I was lucky enough to get regular work over four years with The Age Education pages on a range of career and work issues; at the same time I was writing regularly as ‘The Expert’ in the Sun-Herald Employment section and occasionally in the Financial Review and Australian Business Review Weekly, among others.

My first job as an editor fell into my lap. It was1990, not long into my second year at university when I was approached by one of my lecturers about editing two editions of an international linguistics journal, based on the quality of my assignments. This work involved connecting with academics around the globe; from this I was asked to edit other academic theses; I thought I had better get some proper training! I took a course with Kay Ronai from Penguin (Kay was Bryce Courtney’s chief editor at the time). Kay was an amazing teacher, with such a wealth of knowledge, I learned so much from her.

3. Litoria is a genus of Australian Tree Frog, is that right?

Yes that is correct. I have always had an affinity with frogs, and when I was coming up with a name for my press I found the Latin name and it just seemed to fit; it had a ‘literary’ ring to it. My daughter came up with the logo and I was off and running.

4. When and why did you start Litoria Press? What did you want to achieve?

I had always had a dream to start my own publishing company, and to create books. There is something about looking at an artefact and knowing I have actually made it. But I dithered for many years, until finally in late 2020 I decided it was time to do it, or forget about that dream, which did not really seem to be an option.

5. What content and genres do you publish?

When I was setting up the press I established four main genres: poetry, memoir/autobiography, career development and women’s issues, and in the first year I covered three of those four. (Career development books are in progress for 2022).

6. How is the press funded? Do you receive grants?

Litoria Press is totally self-funded, I have never applied for, nor received a grant. I believe they are really difficult to obtain, and there are a lot of compliance issues, I would rather have the freedom to publish what I want when, as agreed with my authors/poets.

7. What are the advantages of self-publishing?

I suppose the biggest plus is having the freedom to do things your way, even though each new publication brings new challenges and learning. There is a great deal of joy involved in producing a book, but it does require dedication and commitment. Another benefit of self-publishing is that the profits are not shared!

8. Who would you advise to self-publish?

Self-publishing is a huge learning curve, even with all the platforms and technology available there is much to learn. I was lucky to have strong administration and organisational skills, the public service taught me that. I would say these are both essential for self-publishing, but it is doable. Cutting down the time between a completed manuscript and publication date is another reason I would recommend self-publishing; the traditional route can take months or even years, and that is after your book has been accepted.

9. What are the disadvantages of self-publishing?

Self-publishers generally don’t get the same reach as traditional publishers who have marketing teams and social media experts. At one time I would have said self-published books had less credibility in the industry, but this has shifted, they are now winning prizes and recognition. Finally, self-publishing can be a lonely endeavour; it is important to build a network or community from which to draw strength and advice.

10. What are the services that you offer and how does it work?

I offer a fee-for-service contract that is based on costs, so the actual cost to the author will depend on a range of factors, including size and binding of the book, paper quality and so on.

11. How do you deal with marketing and distribution?

I organise printing and distribution through Ingram Spark (a POD company), and books are available for sale internationally through Amazon, Booktopia, Barnes and Noble, Angus and Robertson etc. – all the usual suspects!

12. If someone wanted to start their own press would you facilitate that? 

I am more than happy to mentor self-publishers, in fact this is something I have been doing already, for a highly un-outrageous fee!

13. How do you see yourself positioned in the Australian publishing industry.

I am a one woman show, and I have no ambition to grow exponentially. I only take on as much work as I feel I am able to undertake to the satisfaction of myself and the authors who put their trust in me to deliver. My main focus is producing quality work, and I edge towards quirky more than mainstream. In 2021 Litoria Press produced an anthology (Poetry for the Planet), a chapbook for a poetry group (Love, Freedom, Summertime), two books by individual poets, my own memoir in verse (Child of the Clouds) and a biographical novella (Mother’s Day)


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