Thursday, February 26, 2009

Friends & Colleagues Talk About Independent Publishing

Just do it!

ALLAN KORNBLUM: old friend, colleague, bearer of institutional memory, and publisher of one of the great indies,
Coffee House Press —in response to a list serve that began as an analysis of the AWP conference in Chicago (Association of Writers and Writing Program) and included complaints about slow payments and not such great terms from certain distributors, the bane of a small publisher’s existence so dependent on cash—held forth about how he sees things. And we think what he says speaks to the long-term understanding of what it means to be a publisher. Here's what Allen had to say:

It is my responsibility as a publisher is to develop new audiences for the work of the authors I publish. If I set my prices at a level that makes it financially impossible to work with a distributor; if I refuse to work with wholesalers who pay in 90—120 days instead of 30; if I fail to budget a percentage of each book for review copies; if I do not exhibit at AWP and other trade shows; then I am failing to fulfill my responsibilities to my authors and their work.

Publishing is the place where art and commerce meet, and sometimes it’s more of a collision than a meeting. But saying “no” to Amazon, Baker & Taylor, Ingram, Coutts, AWP, BEA, ALA, PW, LJ, and all the other organizations that are part of the extended literary network because their practices are a pain in the butt at times, does not serve writers or readers.

I started with a mimeographed magazine in 1970 when I was twenty-one—publishing has been the work of my entire adult life. I have no savings, I have lots of headaches, but my reward has been a life well-lived.

If you’re a literary publisher, you’re publishing books that already have a hard time reaching an audience. Do you want to further restrict the audience for your authors because you think you can change long-entrenched practices of the publishing industry?
It’s okay to be a start-up and putter around in publishing for a while, but if you’re going to make a life of it, learn the publishing calendar and the customs of the field and go to it.

It’s all about being there

MARTHA RHODES of Four Way Books in her response to the conversation about AWP talks here about another important part of publishing: presence.

I feel that AWP has given Four Way Books a lot. And here's how: We began 16 years ago. No one knew who we were or what we were up to, but because we gathered all of our pennies (and I mean pennies) and bought a small ad in
Poets and Writers and attended AWP with flyers on our table (our first books had not arrived yet), we started to become known. People were interested in us. At our 2nd AWP, we had three titles. They sold out. We brought our guidelines. We had 1,200 submissions that year. (We did not have a website back then). We met authors. We answered questions.

We continue to meet authors and answer questions. We meet our OWN authors. We have had anniversary readings at AWP. Our 5th and 10th brought in over 250 people to the readings (by fast headcount). In NYC, slightly less, there were more activities and the time was terrible (5pm on Saturday) but we brought in around 80 people who had a terrific time. In short, AWP is a marketing tool. It's a way to get our presses known, to get ourselves known, to offer concrete support to our authors by displaying their books and having signings. This AWP, we sold through 4 titles at the table through signings and had very decent sales on most of our titles, from 12 copies to 70 per title. We sold 300 books at 10 each (discount). This was a good AWP selling conference for us. We have made slightly more, we have made a lot less. These are honest numbers—no inflation.

Did we make money on AWP? No. After table rental, hotel, food, advertising, transportation, shipping—we decidedly did not. But we gained something else—more visibility for the press and our authors, and more friends of the press, I'm sure. I do not know how we would reach so many people and show off our beloved wares and authors were it not for AWP. Yes, too, there is the nice thing of getting to see friends, though by time the soup comes, my head is in my bowl. I am usually in bed by 9 pm at AWP, so exhausted am I....

Like CNN, only better

And this lively, happy note--nearly live at AWP in Chicago--from another good friend, CIRRELDA BRYAN, co-publisher (with her husband JB) of La Alameda Press, one of the classiest presses we know:

Over 3 thousand writers here: most younger than me. Whole lotta time spent filling in folks who do NOT know:
Keith Wilson; Nanao Sakaki; Jaime de Angulo

Who they DO know about: Mary Rising Higgins; JB Bryan, designer of Living Batch Press books! (ARK/Ronald Johnson and Now It's Jazz/Clark Coolidge)

What a different audience for our books. Lots of great individual connections between our books and new readers. George Kalamaras came by early on. His presentation with Glenna Luschei today “Four Invisible Poets” will talk about Frumkin, Higgins, Ruykeyser and because the program did not print their names no one knows who the 4th is and I forgot to ask! (It was Tom McGrath).

Got to know: JenMarie Davis & Amy Catanzano & Adrienne from Naropa; Glenna Luschei and her brand new collected Salt Lick from West End Press; Slack Buddha Press / Ohio ( Bill & Lisa Howe sat right next to 'em) and their line of La Perruque all-unique-design-chapbooks very popular here; folks from New Pages (reviewers) thanks to Jessica Powers (ex-Cinco Puntos staffer) who has her own new press
Catalyst / Bay Area; Split the Rock / DC Poets Against the War - their last effort had hundreds reading haiku in front of Bush white house - next one in 2010; Michigan State University in Lansing has a new Center for Poetry including a Book Arts program, organized by Anita Skeen who wants to do a Ghost Ranch Writers presentation at AWP next year; Kimberly K. Williams from San Juan College, Farmington, NM; Effing Press / Austin has beautiful letterpress books; the psychology of last day book-buying; Stateside, Wabash, Congress Parkway, S. Michigan Ave - tiny area of downtown Chicago; how to eat cheap at 7 eleven and corner bread shops and get free hot water for thermos at Hilton; Shaindel Beers / Pendleton, OR, whose radio show, "Translated By" is looking for interviewees; many far-ranging writers who love Albuquerque even tho they may have visited only once; Pettacha, poet from Austin who spent a day at our AbqObama Team 5 office in October helping with the campaign, working with Raquel, our Team 5 leader - "El mundo es un panuelo"; Titanic-vintage hotel - Palmer House; met Robin Becker from PA, William Pitt Root from Durango who is poetry editor of Cutthroat Lit Journal - latest issue dedicated to Nanao, Barbara Rockman poet from Santa Fe, Laura Manning from Utah ...

Enjoyed goin to night hours of Art Institute - free admission in Feb; Buddy Guy Legends Lounge where Fiddlin' Poets played; snow sculptures along S. Michigan Ave; seeing Connie & Rus from Las Cruces with their toddlin' daughter; Glenna Luschei gave me her new gem of a book just out from West End Press; comadre Leora Zeitlin's company to eat at Thai diner and see snow sculptures; saw the Roosevelt U's recommended 2nd story lounge, but no time to sit; being in vicinity of Congress Park where the throng was on Election Eve '08 to hear Obama declare victory.

Next year (Denver) bring broadsides.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The 21st Century Librarian

The New York Times did a nice video on elementary school librarians, aka Information Specialists! The 21st Century Librarian documents a day in the life of Stephanie Rosalia, an elementary librarian in Brighton Beach, NY. The school has a 40%-plus immigrant population diverse as any in the country. As Ms. Rosalia says, she "connects kids with books" and she "connects kids with information." This is a must-see five-minute video that administrators and school boards should see, as well as kids using our nation's libraries. Let's hope Obama's stimulus package to the nation's education system remembers libraries and librarians.

Since I couldn't embed the video (NYT doesn't let you somehow), I found this great image to the left via google images at a fanpop spot that reminds us that libraries are "For folks seeking a quiet spot of refuge." Credit of the image at the site is via Good for you, Aaron Louie.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Youme at COMICON in NYC 2009

Thanks to the folks at Pete's Basement, intrepid journalists in the hip world of comic books and graphic novels. Pay them a visit for the never-ennding whats-up in comiclandia. At the NYC 2009 COMICON the Basement crue discovered Youme. The Basement is definitely a fun place to hangout.