Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Small Press and Obscure Publications

Most new literary magazines last only an issue or two. Would-be editors and publishers can learn a great deal from the failures and successes of others. Before I started Asylum magazine, I looked carefully at other independent literary magazines that been around a long time. An excellent article by Marvin Malone of The Wormwood Review laid out a few simple rules for longevity. From Malone and others I gathered that it was important to single-handedly control all aspects of the operation—from the editing to the finances—to keep expectations for growth realistic, and to plan for both the content and the funding of issues a year or more in advance of publication. With these basic concepts in mind I launched Asylum, which had a ten year run and grew from a distributed base of under 200 to roughly 2500. I'll post more about Asylum magazine and Asylum Arts Publishing in the future.

I learned a lot about what not to do when running a small press from my experience at Unicorn Press (more on this in another post). Though I avoided making the same mistakes, I managed to make others. A few years ago Paul Rosheim launched a wonderful small press that publishes an on-going series of terrific books. Obscure Publications produces very small editions in an inexpensive format. Rosheim gives the entire press run to writers rather than attempting to sell the books. Ironically, his decision to stay out of the mainstream of book publishing and distribution has insured the success of his operation. Though never reviewed in major media, OP books have collectively achieved an impressive reputation among the ever expanding group of avant-garde writers who participate in the project...

The Obscure Publications books are part of the rare books and special collections unit at the Indiana State University library. The photo above shows OP books on display in the rare book unit windows (the book on the bottom shelf of the center window is one of mine). For more information, visit their web site: http://library.indstate.edu/about/units/rbsc/obscure.html

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