April 5, 2013

Women Publishers' Roundtable: Seventh Installment

Welcome to the Women Publishers' Roundtable at Delirious Hem!  Here you'll find the latest interview question that was sent to these small press editors, as well as the conversation that followed.  Enjoy!

Interview Question 7: What advice do you have for women who are in the process of starting a press, or hope to start one in the future?

Kristy Bowen (Dancing Girl Press):  I think starting small is key. We’ve grown a lot in the past 9 years, but in the beginning, it was important to keep things manageable (both time-wise and financially). Writers and other creative types are often overstretched as it is between day jobs and teaching gigs and being students themselves. Starting small lets you see what works and then you can build from there. I’ve gone from putting out 4 or 5 books / year and investing a couple hours a week to putting out nearly a book a week (sometimes more) and spending about 6 hours per day working on press stuff.) It can be a small thing or a big thing, but you have to get started and build on momentum. It’ll be whatever you make it.

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S. Whitney Holmes (Switchback Books):  Think ahead. Do you see yourself still doing this in five years? In ten years? What is your vision for the eventual outcome of the endeavor? Set the scale of what you’re starting to your level of commitment. No one is entirely altruistic; we all get involved in publishing to serve ourselves in some way. But I think when we’re talking about publishing full-length collections, we have to consider the future of the press, because book publication does affect peoples’ lives. It’s a requirement for tenure, and those who are kind enough to entrust you with their work should be assured that your press isn’t going to collapse a year later when they’re in front of the tenure board. There are lots of other ways not tied to academia in which book publication affects peoples’ lives. If you don’t see yourself doing this for a long time or finding the smart people you’ll need to keep it going for the long haul, I’d say you should do something smaller in scale. If you wanna go big, go big, but make sure you’ve got the infrastructure to support that goal.

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Gina Abelkop (Birds of Lace Press):  Start wherever you can. If you have access to the internet make a literary journal on tumblr or blogspot or wordpress. Talk to your friends and their friends and publish writing you love and are challenged by; a chain of people and events will always lead you to more work you love, especially if you’re conducting communications through the internet. Photocopy poems and staple them together, do research to find out which copyshop in your town is cheapest, or if you can photocopy somewhere for free. Hustle (in the friendly way) your friends and loved ones and fascinating/talented acquaintances. Read lots of literary journals/go to readings and find out whose writing you love; if they are alive get into contact with them and publish them. Read reviews of books and chapbooks and purchase them so you can support a press in action and get a feel for what’s being published/what still needs to be published. Be an unabashed fangirl: Rebecca Brown sent me new work for the third issue of Finery, a handmade zine, and she is a totally legit, serious writer of some of my favorite books ever; I just asked her to contribute after a reading and she totally did. Dancing Girl Press and Switchback (obviously, because I love both presses and have admired/read their books for years) gave great advice. Start small and see what happens. Email people who’ve started presses you love and ask how they did it. Be brave and excited and creative in your definition of publishing.

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Lisa Marie Basile (Patasola Press):  Start small, as Kristy said. Even I got over my head. Know what you want, and if you’re unsure, just read everything you can get your hands on. Get a group of supporters together, even if it’s a poet-friend who can donate an hour of time, when you need it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Go to literary readings, encourage people, support people, be thankful, be humble. Build a social media presence, take part in it. Don’t give up. Apologize if you’ve made mistakes. Know that you will make mistakes and you will grow. Be unabashedly proud of everything you do. Know that you can only do so much, but what you do is to be done with love and time and attention. Remember your mission. Grow with it, and change it when it needs to change. Remember what inspired you in the first place when you’re tired. Remember it’s all for love and the promotion of something way bigger than yourself. Literature and people’s lives.

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Erin Elizabeth Smith (Sundress Publications):  Be fearless.   Solicit people you love despite how famous or unfamous they are.  Don't stress about image too much.  If you publish good shit, people will come back.  Don't ever be intimidated.  Don't ever let people you don't know make you doubt your decisions. Be respectful but speak your mind.  Have fun with it.

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T.A. Noonan (Sundress Publications): Other thoughts? Well, it’s important to not be afraid to make mistakes along the way, but don’t let them pile up. Deal with them. Work with your authors; maintain an open line of communication. Network. Seriously, if you like what another press, author, artist, etc. is doing, get in touch and make those connections. As you grow, be idealistic but realistic. Dream big, but do what it takes to realize those big dreams. Otherwise, you’ll just disappoint yourself.

By the way, I want to point out that I wish I had had even half of this advice early on.

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Kristina Marie Darling (Noctuary Press):  Start by supporting other people.  Volunteer as an assistant editor or a reader, review books, guest edit magazines.  This will help you learn the publishing landscape before you dive into starting a press of your own.  You'll also learn practical skills that you'll need later on down the road, like copyediting, how to use Wordpress and Blogger, etc.  Perhaps more importantly, supporting others will help you build relationships with people in the literary community.  These more experienced writers and editors can give you advice, support, and resources when it comes time to start your own press. 

Be sure to stop by for the last installment of the Women Publishers' Roundtable, which will include a discussion of future projects from these excellent presses!

1 comment:

Rosalie Morales Kearns said...

I'm planning on starting a small press and am so grateful to everyone involved in this roundtable. Very helpful information.