MEET THE PUBLISHER: Across the Margin's Michael Shields

ATM Publishing logo high res.jpg

Can you tell us about the mission of your publishing house and why you started it?

To commence, I feel the need to share my reservations about jumping into this discussion about publishers and publishing houses, as I may be well out of my depth in this regard. Across the Margin (ATM), through our imprint ATM Publishing, has only published one book (Seneca Rebel by Rayya Deeb), and one novella (the recently-released Interstitial Burn Boy Blues by Trevor James Zaple  — available now!!), with one other book, a memoir, scheduled for release by year’s end (announcement coming soon!). But as the Editor-in-Chief at Across the Margin, the literary-rooted Arts & Culture online magazine, I do believe I have a few thoughts and understandings that I might be able to add to this conversation — and I am thankful to La Casita Grande, and you Jon, for the opportunity to spread the word about Across the Margin. I started ATM roughly five years ago in an effort to create the sort of platform I would want to encounter and read routinely myself, one where a variety of topics are explored in an honest and comprehensive manner. I hoped to forge a platform that explored the truths about human nature that aren’t always easy to talk about — but that we must converse on. And I wanted to create a place where authors and readers alike could come to express and discover weighty opinion pieces, profound factual prose, and crafty wordplay, but a forum that is fun and not bogged down with pretension, the goal being for the experience to be as informative as it is cathartic.


Seneca Rebel (Cover).jpg

Purchase Seneca Rebel here.


Buy Interstitial Burn Boy Blues here.

Can you tell us more about the content that can be found at Across the Margin?


I believe passionately that a myriad of evocative subject matters can live together in harmony under one roof, and that is what Across the Margin offers. We don’t simply house Poetry (vetted by our gifted Poetry Editor, Richard Roundy) and Fiction to enchant the Literary-minded, but we delve deep into topics such as Music, Politics, Sports, Art, Fashion and beyond. All these interests mingle in harmony at Across the Margin - just the way we like it.

We also have a podcast (Beyond the Margin) that can be found on iTunes where we attempt to take that which resides at the website “off of the page.” In it, we further the underlying mission of the website, which is to tell as many compelling and unique stories as possible. We have conducted interviews with a variety of prominent authors, musicians, scientists, political activists, comedians, and even author and publisher Jonathan Marcantoni...maybe you have heard of him?!

What do you offer writers that they cannot find at another press?

I am not sure that I could pinpoint anything entirely unique in regards to what Across the Margin and ATM Publishing offers writers — but I can and do promise our writers a few things. I promise a safe place for writers to flush out their ideas without judgement (a port in storm if you will), and a place that will present their work with the utmost reverence to their vision, and I surely promise that we are going to vehemently champion and support anyone who shares their words with us. When we are reviewing submissions, and entertaining manuscripts, I’d say there are three things we seek out with zest: honesty, ingenuity, and style. The final two go hand in hand of course, as nothing excites us more than coming upon a story or an article that expresses ideas that we have never heard before, and we are thrilled when we come upon work that looks in form and in function like nothing we have ever seen before. We urge our submitters and authors to take risks, and more often than not those risks are rewarded with publication. And that risk I speak of extends to submissions rife with honest takes, both on the personal level and in the examination of the world about. Honesty is powerful. It’s refreshing. And it’s one of the cornerstones Across the Margin is built upon.

What do you feel writer's need to do to be successful?

Heart. Persistence. The will to keep getting back up each time they get knocked down. A hell of an agent. Those sort of things! But I would say above all else — writer’s need a damn good work ethic. Writing is work. It’s a job, one that if you take it seriously the more successful you will be. You have to show up to work and grind it out. I hear too many authors talk about writer’s block or creative droughts, and after asking a few questions about their routines and schedules the problem manifests itself real fast. Writer’s block is an excuse in my opinion — one that affords the author a reason for not writing. The truth of the matter is that you have to dig in, and “dive deep” (a term we invoke often at ATM). I once came upon a quote by Stephen King that read "You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or despair. Come to it any way but lightly,” and this resonated with me deeply. If your passion for the craft isn’t bleeding off the page, the reader will know it, and sniff out the fraud with ease.

Also, as cliche as it sounds, don’t just simply write what you know (which is sound advice in itself), but write about what you care about. Anyone who knows me well knows I am a Kurt Vonnegut fanatic and his advice was to “Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style." If you give a fuck, it will be readily apparent - and the opposite holds true as well.

What is your attitude toward conferences and how do you gain exposure for authors outside of the usual festival and conference circuit?

There are a few Book Festivals that we certainly attend annually to shine a light on all of our writers and artists - Portland’s Wordstock (11.11.17!) and The Brooklyn Book Festival chief among them, and as we grow we certainly hope to further our outreach. We also actively work to set up readings and signings for our authors as any good publisher would, and we have fortuitously have had great experiences working with both locally-based and national bookstores. We do what we can I suppose!

Personally, I attend conferences and workshops as often as possible to work on my craft and to further my knowledge base as both a writer and a publisher. On top of this, Across the Margin has hosted a few writer’s workshops in our day, and certainly see the benefit in creative minds converging to share ideas and offer critiques and thoughts to each expect a whole lot more from ATM in that regard down the road.

What are your five year goals for your company?

Well you know me Jon — yachts, sports cars, an office in the clouds above Manhattan which looks down upon all the peons I climbed over on the way to the top. You know, the important things in life!

While I certainly have bigger aspirations, ideas, and plans for the future of Across the Margin, I try to keep it simple and I attempt to take it day by day, or more aptly put, story by story. I truly believe if I continually concentrate on the quality of the work we publish and all of the small but important details, the larger picture will continually to develop on its own in a — hate to use the term — organic way, and in this fashion I will allow Across the Margin to not be just what I imagine it can be...but what it needs to be. I don’t mean to be too idyllic and impractical when I say that, but I do not believe putting parameters that could be confining on this thing is what’s best. I am going to let it breathe, and I am going to put all I have into this, and go from there. I will say this though: I will continually attempt to utilize every possible platform and method to tell stories and to feature the artists we work with, especially as the world changes rapidly due to technological advances. Hell, if holograms were more affordable I’d have ATM’s authors utilizing them in some fashion. Soon enough though!

For more on ATM, visit the following links:


Shop the Margin:

Across the Margin, The Podcast (Beyond the Margin) on itTunes:

On Facebook: @AcrosstheMargin

On Twitter: @acrossthemargin