Tess McCabe: Creative Minds Publishing


Melbourne based graphic designer and creative all-rounder Tess McCabe has recently launched her own independent publishing company, Creative Minds Publishing. It aims to create books and resources for creative professionals in a range of industries. I talked to Tess about this recent endeavor whilst subtly trying to steal secrets on how to be as successful as she is in the increasingly competitive world of creative industries. 

Tess, you are a graphic designer with 12 years of experience under your belt, you have published two books, Conversations with Creative Women volumes One and Two, you are the coordinator of Creative Women’s Circle, you host the podcast The New Normal, you have just started you own publishing company, Creative Minds Publishing and you’re a mum. Tell us about something you are bad at so we feel less intimidated. 

Sleep! Or rather, the easy acquisition of it. It’s hard for me to switch off my brain when it’s most needed. My mind is always running over my to-do list, or composing a blog post or email, or thinking of a creative solution for a client brief, or worrying about something-or-other. I recently tried to read Arianna Huffington’s book Thrive, the gist of which is that if you get more sleep, you’ll be a better business person… my general response was, ‘Oh, Arianna, if only it were that easy…’

You started your publishing company Creative Minds Publishing in 2014. What made you want to be an independent publisher?

I self-published Conversations with Creative Women in 2011 under the Creative Women’s Circle banner, and followed that up with Conversations with Creative Women: Volume Two in 2013. The idea for that series sprung from wanting a resource to exist that didn’t at the time. The response to both books surprised and delighted me. I realised that even though I simply knew how to design a book and send it to print, and knew little about how to pitch an idea to a commercial publisher, as an independent I could develop resources with and for the creative community and get the same result, but on my terms. When the opportunity to develop Owning It: A Creative’s Guide to Copyright, Contracts and the Law with author Sharon Givoni arose in 2013, I knew it was time to get a bit more serious about this publishing venture and launch a proper business. 

A lot of the work you do focuses on helping creative people better themselves in their field and connecting them with other people in the community. Creative Minds produces books and resources for creative professionals, Creative Women’s Circle connects and promotes women in the creative industries, even your own books are filled with tips and hints for creative people. Why do you think it is important for you to help your fellow creative? 

As a creative practitioner myself, I’m always looking to others to see how they manage the demands of small business, family, career progression and remaining inspired to create on top of it all. Almost all of the projects I’m involved in exist because I didn’t see them anywhere else and I wanted those resources to exist for myself. Also, I’m not curing illnesses or saving lives as a graphic designer, and at times I have battled with the notion that, actually, I might be contributing (in a small, tangential way) to a lot of the world’s problems via this industry. Helping creatives better themselves and their businesses is my way of making myself feel better about that! A penance if you will.

You have a blog connected to the Creative Minds Publishing website. In a post from May this year, you talk about integrity and transparency. You say that you try really hard to be a good business person by employing these principles at the expense of the “almighty dollar”. Tell us about this sacrifice. 

The sacrifice is simply that like a lot of creative practices, publishing is an expensive business to undertake independently, and one does not go into it thinking that after their book is released they can retire to a tropical island. The fact that some unscrupulous big businesses in the book industry employ questionable business practices makes one wonder why it is worth it. But at the end of the day, if you’re not treating people in your business the way you’d want to be treated as a consumer, it will ultimately come back to bite you. So I plough on.

What does the future hold for Creative Minds Publishing?

Short term, I have a few irons on the fire, but nothing close to being revealable as yet. Long term, I’m not 100% sure, and that’s very exciting. I feel there is a lot of potential but because the business is in its infancy, I’m still working on the detail of the brand and how future books will fit in with the ‘family’ of resources I’ve created so far. 

As young creative people, we know that heartbreak and rejection are a large part of what we do. What advice do you have for young people wanting to pursue a career in the creative industries on this front? (I’m asking for a friend). 

From what I gather it is only becoming more competitive to break into your chosen creative industry and get that foot in the door. I often thank the universe that I don’t have to go back to that place! But truly what works for emerging creatives – and actually established ones as well – is just doing good work. Having a great idea and a clear aesthetic. Observing trends, but not copying. The best thing about working in creative industries today, is that there are resources that mean you don’t need anyone to open a door for you - you can get a door crowdfunded and then employers might be breaking it down to get to you! It’s easier than ever to blaze your own trail and never look back. 

More Information on Tess McCabe and her multitude of creative projects can be found on her website: http://www.tessmccabe.com.au/. Check out the Creative Minds Publishing website (http://www.creativemindshq.com/) to view their quality range of books and resources, including the recently released, ‘Owning It: A Creative’s Guide to Copyright, Contracts and the Law’ by Sharon Givoni.