Kohl Publishing: At the Kohl-Face
Kohl publishing are this year’s lively upstarts, a new independent publishing house started by Lesley-Ann Dickson and Leila Cruikshank which aims to produce ‘original literary fiction for the modern female.' Lesley-Ann Dickson tells me that they had “a great idea to have an event based on promiscuity and adultery and the negative side of females, or the way they’ve been presented as such in canonical literature.” Why host an event when the company is so new? “The event will launch the company, announce us to other publishers, and to some readers,” Lesley says “and hopefully get us some press as well. After that our first book will be released in October, in ebook and paperback form, and so we hope to bounce off the event that launches the company to some traditional book launches."
As for that first book, it will be Fremont, by Elizabeth Reeder. That is the author’s real name, but it seems ridiculously coincidental that Kohl, who are particularly interested in digital media, should publish an ‘E. Reeder.’ Lesley says that after working, with Leila, in publishing for years, “we decided we wanted to start up an innovative publishing house that embraced ebooks, and really figure out how you could play around with delivery of content in exciting ways like the games industry is doing, or the way that social media is doing.” Fremont actually appealed “first and foremost because the standard of writing was amazing. Elizabeth’s prose is absolutely amazing, quite lyrical in many ways. So more than the plot and the story, at first I was just grabbed by her writing.” Elizabeth Reeder says of this process, “I wasn’t sure at first, but Lesley and Leila are really talented. I could have waited, because I’ve gotten really good reviews for Ramshackle [her debut novel, published by Freight], so you have choices. I liked them and wanted to invest in them.”
It’s quite a thing to be a publisher’s first book. “It stood out,” Lesley says, "amongst – at that point I think we’d had about 40 submissions, which isn’t a lot, but we’d gone through a lot and had had chick lit or something that had shown promise but just needed too much work, like around a year's editorial.” So Kohl isn’t chick lit? “It’s a great industry,” Lesley says “it does what it does and it does it well. There are a lot of people who have made a lot of money out of chick lit, and that’s great. But what I always find frustrating about those kind of books is that I read them and when I look at the characters particularly I think we would never do that or act that way. And it’s frustrating sometimes to be in that position. So what we’re looking for from writers is something that’s risk taking, something that’s original, but something that’s got multidimensional characters.” Kohl are also looking for submissions, if you’re interested.
But what about the event? “We’re looking to get maybe about 4 new writers to come up and do a reading, including Elizabeth,” says Lesley. Elizabeth will be “reading part of Fremont, and I’m going to be reading an extract from another book. My book has loads of adultery in it too, which is why they chose that theme.” Lesley continues that “at the event, people will be able to download the first three chapters for free,” and the book will continue arriving at e-readers in a serialised fashion. There will also be “some kind of quiz, and there’ll be music. The quiz will probably be the first half, to allow people to have a drink in the second without fear of forgetting answers.” So, alcohol, adultery, audience participation and a free book – what more could you ask for? [Ryan Agee]