Be careful of how you use the carbon copy feature on email.
Recently, a press I am proud to be associated with sent out an email to its authors about site updates. They used the CC feature which showed who all the authors were who got the email. Not a big deal. But one author took advantage of this access and sent out an email to the authors expressing their disdain for that small press and asked if any of us felt similarly. I was annoyed at this unwelcome breach and thought about replying-all with how I really felt, but that’s drama and I didn’t want to start an email thread.
It’s tough to run a small press. I can say this because I’ve been running one since 2010 called Be About It and it’s been a losing venture, profit wise, since day one. Be About It is funded solely out of my own pocket. I don’t do it to make money, I do it because I think it’s fun. And I respect literature and I want to help boost, in whatever little way that I can (whether it’s through a zine or blog post or chapbook), writers who I think are doing great work. That’s all it’s about. Publishing is a way to connect with other writers and readers and share remarkable work. [That being said, let me use this moment to brag about the two poetry books Be About It published this year, Paper Flowers, Imaginary Birds by Amy Saul-Zerby and I Love You, It Looks Like Rain by June Gehringer. Saul-Zerby and Gehringer both really bring something beautiful out in their poetry, and they do poetry in the best way, which is not at all pretentious which is the bad reputation a lot of poetry gets, their poetry is funny and approachable and will make you feel acknowledged when you read it. Buy these books!!]
Some publishing outfits may not have pure intentions, and there are some who exploit their writers, but the vast majority of people who work in the indie lit game do it because they love the writing. Publishing is a pretty thankless job, and for a lot of us (myself included), it’s unpaid labor. But again, that’s not why we do it, we’re not looking for a handout or a paycheck necessarily (though that would be amazing, I’ve also heard there is grant money available for stuff that we do in indie literature, but that’s a whole other story and just learning how to write a grant the correct way is a time consuming process that I haven’t been able to do just yet, but maybe I’ll learn now that I’m laid off), but it feels good to participate in something that we care about. I care a lot about writing, and reading, and books. I know a lot of publishers feel similarly. The way some publishers I know talk about books borders on fetishistic, but hey I’m not here to judge.
I do, however, feel a little defensive when I see a publishing outfit get trashed, and because I’ve been on both sides of the fence I can understand the frustration that some writers feel toward their publisher. It sucks when it seems like your book isn’t getting promoted enough, or it isn’t making the sales you had hoped it would. But indie lit is a rough game, and a lot of the time it’s up to the writer to make moves on their own. There is little representation in indie lit, in terms of having an agent and publicist et cetera to do the type of dirty work that I don’t even know about that gets the gears turning behind the scenes. As an indie lit publisher, I don’t really know anything. I just try things and see what works. I get creative, I use different approaches. If there is a formula to selling a book online, I don’t know it. I just try to pay attention to what people are talking about and see how it coincides with what I’m working with. As a writer publishing books with various lit houses, I do the same thing. I ask around for interviews, see what kind of performances I can schedule, whatever I can think of.
There are conversations to be had about publishing, and I think the more out in the open that conversation is the healthier and more productive it will be. I am open to having a conversation and I wrote this blog post to start that. This doesn’t belong in the darkness of a stanky email. The lit community needs a lot of work, and I can’t even think of where to start at the moment, but I want transparency. If you have any ideas, if this blog post brought something to mind for you, I hope you voice it. Also, maybe I’m totally being naive here. Please feel free to call me out on it. Tag me if you want.
But as a reminder, for the sake of privacy when it comes to personal email addresses, please use BCC, blind carbon copy, always. I’m sure it was a mistake, and I forgive you. I make a lot of mistakes as an indie lit publisher. We’re all just trying to figure this shit out and help each other. Those who aren’t: I’m sure someone knows about you.