Emily Riches is a writer and editor from Mullumbimby. She now lives and works in Sydney, on unceded Gadigal land. She founded Aniko Press in 2020 to support emerging writers. Her own work has appeared in a range of Australian journals and publications including Meniscus, Visible Ink, Verge, Southerly and Spineless Wonders.
Writers Victoria intern Ethan Lewis spoke to Emily about her role at Aniko Press and all the processes, struggles and triumphs of starting her own journal from the ground up.
Starting your own magazine is a monumental task! What originally sparked the idea for you and where did you take it from there?
I’ve always been a massive reader (and writer as well), which meant I had a dream of working with books – I just didn’t really know what avenues to take to get there. After I finished my arts degree, I worked in a few un-book-related jobs before I decided to take an editing and publishing course at UTS. This gave me the impetus to start freelance editing part-time, which I loved, but starting my own press still felt like a distant dream. When the first lockdown hit in 2020, it shook a lot of foundations. I lost my ‘day job’ and it made me think about what I wanted to do that was meaningful, for me and other writers in the literary community. I’ve always had a soft spot for print mags because they have a sense of playful experimentation and often feel like such a secret, special discovery. I knew starting a magazine would also be a great way to build up connections with a lot of emerging writers. An online presence was first on the agenda, so I got an ABN, learned how to set up a website and launched the Aniko Press Instagram!
What exactly is a Managing Editor and how would you describe your role at Aniko Press?
A managing editor is often described as the role of “many hats.” It involves organising and keeping on top of the publishing schedule, budgets and timeline for the magazine, and making sure we’re ready for each step of the production process. It also involves managing the content on the website, including the projects our small team are working on – whether this is book reviews coming in from our reviewer Fruzsi, or the new Emerging Writers series headed by our interviewer Elaine. I do everything that would normally happen in a traditional publishing house – marketing, publicity, sales etc. – but on a smaller scale.
How involved with the editing of the magazine do you personally get? What’s your process for taking work from the very first stages of production through to print?
I personally edit all the pieces which are published in the magazine. After a piece has been selected, I will read it through several times (sometimes out loud) to pick up any small spelling, grammar or punctuation mistakes, inconsistencies in tone or voice or logical inconsistencies in the plot. I try to be as sensitive and constructive in my edits as I can. Any changes I make are tracked and I leave margin comments for the writer to explain my suggestions and get their input and approval – it’s really a collaborative process. Once all the pieces are signed off, I send them to our designer Col, who typesets the magazine and creates the illustrations – and the cover! He will usually supply a few options which try to capture the feel and tone of the pieces collectively. He and I often do a few back-and-forth rounds of proofreading at this stage to make sure all the pieces and the illustrations look perfect before it’s sent to the printer.
What does your usual workday look like?
The fun part about starting your own press is that every workday is different! Aniko Magazine comes out biannually, so depending on where we are in a publication cycle, I could be doing outreach for a submissions callout, organising and reading submissions, editing selected pieces and drafting author interviews, discussing design, illustrations and merch with Col, reaching out to bookstores and reviewers… the list goes on. My day-to-day tasks generally include creating social media content, compiling the newsletter, tinkering with the website, writing book reviews, commissioning or editing reviews and interviews from Elaine and Fruzsi, brainstorming new ideas and projects with our manager Leo, fielding emails or posting out magazines. I also have two other jobs as an editor and proofreader, so I also balance different workloads depending on what’s the highest priority.
What were the most challenging parts of beginning Aniko Press? Did you learn any valuable lessons through overcoming these challenges?
In the very beginning, the first challenging thing was just putting myself and Aniko Press out there, and figuring out how to reach our audience of writers and readers. I had to learn how to do everything from scratch and sometimes it was hard to know what the ‘right’ thing to do was; I often tied myself in knots. I also tried to do everything by myself in the beginning, but I learnt quickly that even when you’re the only one at the helm, producing a magazine is such a collaborative process: with the writers, with Col, even with readers. You become a lot better at creating systems and processes through trial and error, and are able to push through different levels of comfort zones so that many things become second nature. For instance, I never imagined a year ago that I’d be running a publishing workshop with Enqueer, the Sydney Queer Writers Festival – but all the work I had been doing with Aniko Press led up to being part of such a rewarding and exciting project. Being trusted with a writer’s work is a special thing, and the enthusiasm and brilliance of the writers always lifts me up.
What are you looking for in a good submission?
Pieces that are unique, exciting or challenging. I love reading work that comes at the themes sideways. I also enjoy pieces that use tropes or genre in interesting or unusual ways. A short story by Theresa Gunarso that will appear in 'Issue 3: Fantasize' takes the form of a fantasy ‘choose your own adventure’ narrative; it is playful, experimental and provides a wonderful way for the reader to escape from reality into a ‘fantasy’ world of their own making.
What is your advice for those wanting to start a journal of their own?
Go for it! It doesn’t have to be perfect before you start – otherwise you might never start. You can always figure things out along the way, or ask for help if you need it. I’m still always learning and refining things as I go. Doing things solely by yourself can also be hard, so it can be ideal to have a few trusted people to bounce ideas off or collaborate with. Don’t be afraid to lean into a niche either, and publish things that you like to read or that you want to see more of. I see Aniko Press as a community-building exercise, and the way you do that is through putting yourself out there, making connections (online or in person), being open and generous.