.Tell us about the mission of your publishing house and why you started it.
I wanted to help good writers. When I was promoted to chair of the literature department where I was teaching in Santa Fe, I found I had a little extra money. I decided to invest that in supporting writers who were getting shut out because their voices weren’t an easy fit, but whose work was incredible. There’s a cliché that small presses take the risks that the big houses can’t afford, which is bollocks: the big houses simply choose to overspend on crap. And agents have told me (not anyone whose clients I publish) that they’d rather pitch a mediocre book by someone with a large social media following than a good writer without one. That’s LitBiz, which I abhor. I’m an involved amateur. The British artist Billy Childish calls himself an ‘amateur’ in the sense that he’s motivated by love for art, and curiosity, as opposed to careerism. I suspect a lot of small press publishers are amateurs in that positive sense of the word.
What do you offer writers that they cannot find at another press?
I let writers keep their rough edges, their dissonance. I want writers to be philosophically comfortable, and we donate some of what money the press makes to charities designated by the authors. I want to work with writers who are comfortable with their work, rather than uncomfortable with their lack of large press recognition.
Tell us about the books you have released and/or upcoming releases.
This fall we’ve published D. Foy’s 70s Californian nudist fantasia Absolutely Golden which is wicked and knowing in equal measure; Quintan Ana Wikswo’s novel with photographs, A Long Curving Scar Where the Heart Should Be which is like Nick Cave and Dylan Thomas wrestling in glitter and glue; and the debut poetry collection Scar On/Scar Off by Jennifer Maritza McCauley, a ‘rebel language’ take on Latinx postmodernity, a spectacular soundclash. We’ve also published work by Scot Sothern, duncan b. barlow, Kurt Baumeister, Michael J. Wilson, Jessie Janeshek, Jason DeBoer, and Jennifer MacBain-Stephens.
Purchase Absolutely Golden here.
Purchase A Long Curving Scar Where the Heart Should Be here.
Purchase Scar On/Scar Off here.
What do you feel writer's need to do to be successful?
Defiance. Individuality. It depends upon how you define success. Writers should understand that literature is not a meritocracy and to face that unpleasant fact directly. Writing ‘well’ is as much an obstacle to success as writing ‘badly’ – everybody knows that, even if they don’t like to admit it. Spend ten minutes in a bookstore, and you’ll see a lot of hyped rubbish that the large houses are fully aware is just commercial pablum. That’s LitBiz, but that’s not all there is. A book needs time, but there’s a lot of commercial focus on the first two months of a book’s life. Writers at a small press need to let that commercial model go. Our first release, D. Foy’s Patricide, continues to get great reviews after a year. Good work, like truth, will out.
What challenges do you see in the industry that your press addresses?
My worry is that distributors, or print-on-demand services have sussed out that there are more of us small presses, and we’re a cash cow. I think we’ll get squeezed, inevitably. The relatively low start-up costs are creeping up. That, unfortunately, is capitalism: it labors upward toward monopoly.
What is your attitude toward conferences and how do you gain exposure for authors outside of the usual festival and conference circuit?
The best thing about a conference like AWP is the book fair, without question. Attendance is expensive, once you factor in hotels, flights, etc., but I really enjoy meeting people and getting to discuss the press with them, and to hear about their work, and what moves them. Honestly, I think the authors that a press works with are the best messengers. Their work is the message.
What are your five year goals for your company?
To exist, and to have made a difference for authors, and to have given readers something different.
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