Friday, December 16, 2005

Interview: Publishing in Windsor

Parts of this interview were published in Windsor Business Magazine (2005)

Q: Tell me about Literary Arts Windsor.

A: The literary and arts community in Windsor and the surrounding area is one that is growing. Literary Arts Windsor is a relatively new non-profit group founded by myself, Dan, Lenore and a few other local booksellers, in an attempt to establish a network for local writers and an educational outreach program for the community. Response to our organization has been positive, and our membership is growing. The main focus of the group has been the Windsor book festival, but we also have a chapbook competition and a reading series.

Q: What are your organization’s ties to the Windsor community?

A: All of the local publishers have been linked with the University of Windsor at one point — Lenore taught there, Marty still does, and Dan, Laurie and myself have all gone to school there — but we also have ties with other aspects of Windsor life. Both Dan and I have fathers who worked in Chrysler, and we both worked there as students. I am incredibly grateful to have gone to school and received two degrees while working at a student job that paid so well. Because of this opportunity, I came out of school with no debt and a trip to Europe.

Q: How did you get into publishing? What was your first project?

A: Kaleidoscope, for me, was a type of apprenticeship. I started the journal so that I could connect with other authors and publishers, and so that I could learn the trade. I think people who go into publishing are naive people, loving literature but not knowing the work involved. I knew about poetry, that was not the problem. What I did not know was marketing, promotion, distribution, how to typeset, use design software, create a web site, network with other professionals. This has all been a learning curve. I am getting better at all of the above. Kaleidoscope was an experiment. It was never meant to be anything long-term. Now I am doing what I find most rewarding — single author collections.

Q: How much does it cost to publish a book? What is the break down?

A: The cost of a book depends on many things: the print run, number of pages, quality of paper, colour or black and white, cover and binding. Additional costs incur if you have to pay someone to do the layout and design. After I finished university and decided this is what I wanted to do, I took a course in design to keep my costs down.

Q: Why did you go into publishing? Why poetry? What motivates you?

A: It is very hard to explain to someone why I publish poetry books. Most people do not understand why I have continued for over five years at a business that consistently loses money. And when someone from a business magazine asks me to break down the figures, I am hesitant to go into much detail. I don’t think like that, and in this business you can’t. Publishing poetry will never be profitable. At best, publishers will make a marginal bit of money. But literature cannot be about the bottom line, and publishing should not be run by the same principles as other businesses. Even the largest of publishing houses receive grant money to publish poetry. Poetry will always have a small and devoted few, but the few that do buy will never make any publisher rich.

When people do things for little or no money, it is a calling. That is how I look at publishing. I do it because I see literature as valuable, because I see publishing as meaningful work. I am hopeful enough to believe that what I do matters, and that in a small way I help continue the dialogue between authors and readers. The work is not glamorous, typesetting and copyediting can be tedious, and there is nothing fun about sending an author a rejection letter, but when I see a project come to fruition I feel incredibly proud. To be involved in the production of a book, whether as a writer, editor, or publisher, brings an amazing sense of satisfaction.

People who love books get this. They get the drive, the passion, the frustration. They understand why a person would dig deep in their own pockets to support a project they believe in, why when the book festival in the second year lost money, the board members opened their own cheque books. It is because all of us have been affected by literature. It has moved us, opened us, inspired us, connected us. You ask me what I get out of publishing — the answer is involvement. Through publishing, I have met other writers, made lasting friendships, and contributed in my own small way to the continuation of an art that I love. What could be more rewarding?