PUBLISHING its first book in May this year, the family-run operation Pantera Press has since published six works ‚Äì fiction and non-fiction ‚Äì with one already a bestseller and two going into reprint. It‚Äôs an auspicious start, but it‚Äôs one that founder and publisher John M Green anticipated.
‚ÄúWe really are aiming to become a home to the next generation of Australia‚Äôs best-loved authors,‚Äù he says. ‚ÄúTo find them and develop them and nurture them and turn them into, hopefully, the authors that everybody knows in a few years time.‚Äù
As big goals go, it‚Äôs up there with the best. But John and his co-founder, daughter Alison Green, have other lofty goals too, which they‚Äôre already reaching. Pantera Press‚Äô philosophy is good books doing good things, the idea being that as well as publishing new authors, they are committed to using some of their profits to promote literacy and the love of reading, and to foster debate of important ideas and issues.
To that end, Pantera Press, in partnership with The Smith Family, supports Let‚Äôs Read, a literacy program for pre-school children that helps kids from socially and economically disadvantaged families, including those in remote indigenous communities.
In a bold move, Pantera Press is also asking their readers for support. Each of their books contains a letter from the publisher, written by Alison, ‚Äúexplaining why we‚Äôre doing what we‚Äôre doing, and why Pantera Press is a little bit different‚Äù.
‚ÄúSo we tell our readers about that program, and we invite them to visit our website for more information‚Äù where they can make their own donation.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre really hoping our readers will support such a great cause ‚Äì and they are ‚Äì but it‚Äôs not limited to The Smith Family,‚Äù Alison notes. ‚ÄúThe Smith Family is the first organisation we‚Äôve partnered with, but we‚Äôre very keen to be working with other organisations that are also encouraging literacy and the joy of reading.‚Äù
Pantera Press also sponsors the prestigious Walkley Awards for excellence in newspaper feature writing, which sits well with their desire to promote debate of important issues. But their most direct means of achieving this is through their non-fiction WHY vs WHY series.
‚ÄúWHY vs WHY is a unique series of books tackling both sides of hot topics that confront, confuse or trouble people. They present the debates in plain language in an easy-to-read, two-books-in-one, flip-sided format. In each book, two opposing experts go head-to-head, so readers can make sense of it for ¬≠themselves.‚Äù The books‚Äô format guarantees no publisher bias, with each side getting equal prominence and space.
So far, they have published two WHY vs WHY books: Nuclear Power and Gay Marriage. But they have ‚Äúa long, long list of issues‚Äù they‚Äôre planning to tackle, including population, atheism, euthanasia, drug legalisation and the botox and surgery-based instant beauty culture. They invite readers to suggest topics too.
‚ÄúOne of the premises behind the series is that it‚Äôs an ongoing conversation,‚Äù Alison explains. So each author is given equal space to present their case, then they write a rebuttal. Then, on the website, they can write ‚Äúa rebuttal to the rebuttal, so the debate keeps going ‚Äì theoretically, for as long as the authors want‚Äù. Readers are also invited to share their thoughts.
They are careful about selecting their topics and authors, however. ‚ÄúWe make the strong case when we ask for submissions that what we‚Äôre looking for are mainstream arguments, not whacko, crazy, extremist views,‚Äù notes John. ‚ÄúOnce we find what we think is an important topic that people are interested in and confused about, then we go hunting for people who we think are good thinkers and communicators for their cause.‚Äù
The series has received great feedback, with one reviewer calling them ‚Äúa smart-aleck‚Äôs guide to winning arguments‚Äù. Another of Pantera‚Äôs non-fiction successes is Simon Benson‚Äôs Betrayal, about the train wreck of the NSW Labor Party that ultimately cost Labor majority government in the recent federal election.
Their fiction books ‚Äì including John‚Äôs own Nowhere Man ‚Äì have also received great feedback, with international best-selling author PJ O‚ÄôRourke comparing John with Michael Crichton.
Nowhere Man, in fact, might be credited in part with Pantera Press‚Äô existence and success. John had initially finished the book in 2001, just before September 11, but because he had blown up the World Trade Centre in the book, he couldn‚Äôt publish it. A few years later he came back to it, and devised a new cataclysm to replace his World Trade Centre scenario: a global financial crisis.
Publishers at the time didn‚Äôt buy it, thinking it ‚Äúridiculous‚Äù and that ‚Äúit could never happen‚Äù. By the time it did happen, his book still wasn‚Äôt published, and he had to rewrite a third time, setting it in the middle of the financial crisis.
This extended gestation helped John discover the value of good, independent editing, something they now insist upon for all Pantera Press books. And with so many publishing houses cutting back their editorial budgets, Pantera‚Äôs ‚Äúvery, very strong editing culture‚Äù has helped their books to stand out. As John notes, ‚Äúeven a very accomplished author can improve with good editing‚Äù.
Either way, if John‚Äôs skill at anticipating future events is anything to go by, his publishing house will indeed soon be home to the next generation of Australia‚Äôs best-loved authors.
To see Pantera‚Äôs full list of titles, visit www.panterapress.com.au.