Sam Cooney, Publisher, Director and Books Editor of TLB (The Lifted Brow)
Sam Cooney runs the not-for-profit publishing organisation TLB, which produces a quarterly literary magazine (also titled The Lifted Brow), publishes books, posts commentary and criticism online every week, stages events, awards writing prizes and more. He is a publisher-in-residence at RMIT University, teaches sessionally at RMIT University and the University of Melbourne, and is a freelance writer and book reviewer. He judges literary prizes, sits on a couple of advisory boards, chairs events, and in 2017 is taking part in the Small Press Network mentorship program and the Australia Councils ‘Future Leaders’ professional development program. His Twitter handle is @SamuelCooney.
What is the biggest challenge of running a not-for-profit organisation in today's media landscape?
The single greatest challenge is running an organisation which produces ‘things’ (magazine issues, books, website content, events, etc) but not for a commercial reason. We live in a time and culture that largely ascribes value to anything by how much money it generates, so to work at making things where money-making is the last priority is an ongoing campaign against prevailing mindsets. The Lifted Brow seeks to generate revenue to continue its existence, but only through doing exactly what we feel is most needed in the industry – and that is the publishing of ideas, stories, viewpoints and experiences from those who don’t often if ever get a shot at communicating to a large audience, as well as training up-and-coming writers, artists, editors, publishers, and other industry specialists in their craft.
How do you juggle so many different roles? Any tips for managing a calendar?
I juggle roles out of pure necessity – because I need to earn a living wage outside of my TLB work, because I need training in how to do new tasks that become important to working within the industry, and because TLB is under-resourced and so sometimes I need to do tasks that in more-resourced organisations would be assigned to someone else.
My number one tip for managing a calendar is: learn to be honest with yourself about how long a certain task or project might take – don’t overestimate your ability to complete a task within a certain timeframe nor underestimate the resources that any task might take. This is something I am trying to improve on all the time.
The Lifted Brow 'focuses on finding and championing work from the artistic and/or demographic margins'. How much satisfaction do you get when you help somebody launch their career or gain exposure for their work that they otherwise wouldn't have had?
Sure, we feel proud for any individual who achieves any success – especially if that particular success is indeed what they wanted most for themselves and their work. But for us at TLB, any outcome is entirely eclipsed by the process. We don’t measure success by results, but by the quality of the process. In fact, for us the outcome is the process, or vice versa. And we're under no illusions that TLB ‘gives’ anyone any success – we are simply able to help facilitate people who are already brilliant.
How useful are press releases to keep on top of information from the publishing world?
Definitely useful. We receive them mostly to find out what books are being published (and how and when and why), as well as what else is going on in our industry. Although it’s rarer and rarer these days that we aren’t seeing this information first via a social media platform, and then receiving the email after that.