1. Tell us about the mission of your publishing house and why you started it.
John: Andrew and I purchased C&R Press three years ago because of the press’s recognition and catalog. We immediately began diversifying by adding a wider range of voices, approaches and orientations. Being Conscious & Responsible is something we take seriously in each author and book that we bring to the market.
Andrew: I’ll add that we saw a wonderful platform to build on with a message that compelled us. Conscious & Responsible is a lifestyle as much as it is a way of running our company and, as such, our mission is fluid. We want to make sure to remake ourselves to be fair to authors and always bring well written and truly diverse literature to as many people as possible as we can.
2. What do you offer writers that they cannot find at another press?
John+Andrew : We are very integrated with our authors and we throw a few great parties each year in New York City and other cities. We look at our work as publishers as community building, we live the writing life everyday all day and don’t teach or have other things that compete for our attention like most presses our size. An author is a family member to us and I know they enjoy being able to call us or send an email and get a an immediate word.
3. Tell us about the books you have released and/or upcoming releases.
John: We’ve published so many great books, two of my favorites from 2017 are Earl Braggs’ Negro Side of the Moon, which is a book length poem and Ariel Francisco’s debut book All My Heroes are Broke. In 2018 We’re publishing Brian Leung’s novel Ivy vs. Dogg, Laura Brown’s second novel Made by Mary and Kristina Marie Darling’s latest book of poetry Dark Horse. It’s hard to know how to answer this question, because we’re so invested in all of our authors.
Andrew: We have two fantastic story collections from Janet Sarbanes and An Tran (The Protester Has Been Released and Meditations On The Mother Tongue, respectively) that were released this past spring that are on par with some of the best story writers you get to read in grad school from some of the best publishers. We’re really blessed to have so much talent. Our 2018 catalogue is going to be striking. We have work from the Women’s National Book Association, a history of women in literature, an anthology from the Cambridge Writer’s Workshop a fantastic hybrid memoir from a new author with an incredible life story and the books that John mentioned as well as others. We’re inundated with great writing. It feels good, honestly.
4. What do you feel writer's need to do to be successful?
John: Craft, authenticity, grit and dedication. If you look at the Best American Anthologies in poetry or fiction since their beginning, you’ll see a lot of writers who still put the pen to the page, but you’ll also see so many writers who had the craft and authenticity down, but didn’t stick with the writing life. I don’t blame them, it’s a lot of work to write a good piece of fiction or poem and look twenty years into the future and decide to arrive there in letters.
Andrew: It depends on what type of success you mean. There’s no guarantee that one will be rewarded financially or through acclaim. I think those are unrealistic measures. Success is feeling fulfilled by your art. That said, I think getting published at all is a reasonable measure to go by and, in that sense, writers will want to develop a well-rounded skill set for their craft—that’s obvious, right?—but I mean atypical things as well as regular things. Such as, practice being creative and thinking unusually. Read outside your comfort zone. Have new adventures. Being active is important. Publish in journals, have a website, take part in the community. I’m an introvert, so all that sounds daunting, but it’s really helpful. Perseverance. Writers must have a couple fantastic readers/editors or learn to edit their own work.
5. What challenges do you see in the industry that your press addresses?
Andrew: One of the challenges is distribution and creating larger profit margins. We want literature to be self-sustaining so that requires that we consider the business side. We’re looking into different vectors of distribution and trying to bring books directly to people at the same time. An educated population in the liberal arts, we feel, is essential and we’re working on initiatives to promote literacy as well. Also, there’s an environmental impact to the book world. We’re in discussions with eco-printers to find the intersection of affordability and sustainability.
6. What is your attitude toward conferences and how do you gain exposure for authors outside of the usual festival and conference circuit?
Andrew: We love conferences as publishers and individuals. They’re great places to meet new writers and editors and expand our community. We go to several conferences, small and large, from the Decatur and Greensboro book festivals to AWP and ABA. We host our own readings and parties. All this is in effort to build community and expose our authors to new readers.
John: I enjoy traveling and talking with people. Conferences and festivals exists because they’re a natural fit for a lot of people and they also provide a good place to meet people we’ve known peripherally. Outside of festivals and conferences, the parties we throw, university readings and other venue readings are good. When book reviews and the author's new work comes out in magazines and journals, it makes enough rain between the two to water the plants and keep some in the drum.
7. What are your five year goals for your company?
J+A: Simply put, we’re focusing on continuous and steady growth. There’s not one small publisher who went big before going mid-size. When I look at the history of so many of our great contemporary presses, the model is clear and there’s room to grow within it and forge some new territory too.
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