Monday, March 24, 2014

Wordcraft -- Hot off the presses -- live & local in Texas

The 2014 SMU LitFest opened last week to a full room in the DeGolyer Library as five local editors discussed the state of literary publishing in North Texas. The participants were Matthew Limpede, editor of Carve magazine; Will Evans of Deep Vellum, a press publishing English translations of foreign authors; Ronald E. Moore, a poet and composer whose Baskerville Publishers is expanding its repertoire from biographies of opera stars to poetry; Mark Allen Jenkins, editor of the newly renamed Reunion: The Dallas Review, arts and literature magazine of the University of Texas-Dallas; and Joe Milazzo, co-editor of the experimental literary journal (out of nothing).

Dallas Writer’s Garret co-founder Thea Temple opened the discussion with a question to the panel about the role of technology in the future of publishing. The revolutions spawned by the Internet, print on demand technology and electronic publishing, all agreed, have made a wider variety of literature available. But in themselves, these won’t keep small presses running unless they can provide the quality of writing communities of readers expect.

“We started (out of nothing) as an ezine because there was no overhead,” Milazzo said. “But that was not a good enough aesthetic reason.”

“When I took over Carve in 2007,” Limpede said, “I decided to go to a quarterly format,” seeking quality of writing over quantity. And although still publishing online, Carve has taken the retro-seeming step of publishing a paid subscription premium print edition with added content, in the hope of nurturing an emerging literary community. Make that, a twenty-first century print edition also available on iPad.

For Evans, whose Deep Vellum press is sponsored by the Writer’s Garret, being able to communicate with translators over the Internet has been key to his dream of establishing a Dallas-based literary press. “Previously, I would have had to make contacts at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Now, Frankfurt is a place to get together, after signing rights to texts. Independent publishers have much more power than they used to have.”

And what about the logistics of getting volumes printed and in customer’s hands, Temple asked?

Goodbye to the worries of not only publishing thousands of copies, but of finding warehouses to store them and locating distributors to get them into readers’ hands, Moore said, the worries that previously forced his Baskerville Publishers out of the literary fiction market. Now with print on demand publishing, he only needs to order copies he already has distribution orders for, enabling him to broaden his press’s niche.

So what does the future look like, Temple asked. How do small presses, which by definition don’t have larger readerships, expect to grow? And not only grow but engage in the larger issue of restoring reading as a respectable activity?

“We have to think about things like branding, aesthetics as much as text,” Limpede said. “Social media has turned out to be more powerful than I expected. Every press has to make their own definition of what’s okay for them.”

“What’s your definition?” Temple asked.

“For me, doing okay is getting my first book out,” Evans said.

“For us,” Limpede said, “okay (may) mean having a part time job, even a full time job, but it’s about finding your own community. For literature there’s no easy formula.”

“What ‘okay’ means,” Milazzo said, “has everything to do with readership. The reader completes the artistic endeavor.”

For more about reading--and writing--for these publishers, see,,,, and
Will Evans (l) & Matthew Limpede

(Next Monday, Dallas does readership, reaching every high school student--and more--during April’s Dallas Big Reads. But don’t wait until April 1--stay tuned for guerrilla early bird book distributions at local transit stations.)

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