It’s our birthday! We’re celebrating 20 years of publishing with 20% off 20 books. We also chatted with our founder, Morry Schwartz, about how Black Inc. was born and what’s happened over the last two decades.
How did your interest in publishing start? What motivated you to create Black Inc.?
Long before Black Inc., there was Outback Press. Back in 1973, I was one of four young Carltonites who rashly dreamt up a book publishing company while drinking at the Albion Hotel. There were any number of wannabe writers, but very few publishers, in Australia at that time. Certainly no independent publishers. We were in our mid-twenties, and nothing seemed impossible. We toyed with names for the enterprise, and dismissed ‘The Outback Front’, ‘Outback Pressed’ and ‘Outback Proust’ and settled on Outback Press. We made a lot of noise, and somehow managed to publish many books of importance.
After Outback came Schwartz Books, which was followed by Bookman Press, and then around the year 2000, Chris Feik, Sophy Williams and Caitlin Yates joined, and the company changed gears and Black Inc. was born.
Our central ambition at Black Inc. was to produce the highest-quality nonfiction in the country, and from the very beginning I truly believe we did just that. That is not to say that we haven't published some wonderful fiction along the way – we have. We also launched Nero Books, as a commercial list, and Piccolo Nero for kids’ books.
In 2001 we launched the first Quarterly Essay, In Denial by Robert Manne. QE has become the most influential journal in Australia under the editorship of Chris Feik, and we have recently published our 78th issue, The Coal Curse by Judith Brett. As we also approach QE’s 20-year anniversary, it is as vibrant and influential as it has been throughout its history.
In 2017, in partnership with La Trobe University, we launched La Trobe University Press, dedicated to publishing the best academics from all Australian universities. Our aim is to make scholarly knowledge available and accessible to the intelligent public. LTUP publishes ten to twelve or so books a year.
Also in 2017, we launched Australian Foreign Affairs, a triannual journal edited by Jonathan Pearlman, publishing the important voices on Australia’s position in the world. It has become the preeminent publication in the field.
Schwartz City is our art-book imprint. Over the years, we have published monographs on the work of major Australian artists including Mike Parr, Shaun Gladwell and Angelica Mesiti, among many more. Next month, August 2020, we are bringing out our most ambitious publication yet: Brett Whiteley, Catalogue Raisonné: 1955–1992, a limited edition of 1000 boxed sets of seven volumes. It’s 3000 pages, weighing in at 25 kilograms. I’m proud of it, as I am of all our publishing enterprises.
What’s the book you’re most proud to have published?
I’m proud of so many of our books – it would take pages to list them and explain why. And I’m proud to have worked closely with hundreds and hundreds of talented Australian writers and thinkers.
How is Black Inc. different from other publishers?
I hope that all those who work with me at Black Inc. agree that it is a most harmonious place, and a very clever one. And that doesn’t make it so very different to other publishers. Book publishing houses all have a particular feel. They are wonderful places to spend a lifetime at.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in publishing over the years?
The market for books and the technology of their production changes a lot over the years, but the essential process of making a good book always stays the same. You need a great writer, who has something of consequence to say; you edit them with talented editors; you design them with brilliant designers; you produce them beautifully; and you market them with great energy. At every step, you do it with utmost care and dedication.That’s all. That’s all it takes, and that never changes.
Stay tuned for more Q&As with the Black Inc. team.