Interestingly enough, I woke up this morning planning to write this post about publishing and our new Spark Wheel author and how much I love this work. Then I read this Slate article. So that's a complication. It's a complication because in many ways I agree. There are issues of privilege and gender and the exploitation of labor, and yet... I don't think it's possible to do this work well, the work of writing, editing, publishing without loving it. I don't mean to say that it's adequate compensation because it's not. The work that we do at Spark Wheel is actual work. Not much of it is fun. I don't enjoy sending out contracts, or dealing with licensing requirements, or filing tax statements. In Design is a fucking pain in the ass. Though actually seeing a book or journal come together is a thrilling experience, there is also the less thrilling aspect of combing through text to make sure there is only one space after each period. So many writers still hit the space bar twice. Whether they are unable to break the habit or are simply assholes is unclear. In any case, this part is not fun.
If you think there is money being made in indie publishing, you're out of your mind. There's a reason most of them are non-profits and it has to do with the lack of profits. Most publishers I know spend a good portion of their time writing grants. Jen and I spent a lot of time debating the non-profit route, but ultimately, we decided we didn't want to be in the business of raising funds. Maybe someday this will change, but I frankly doubt it. We like the way we do business. It's streamlined, it's flexible, and we're able to minimize the amount of non-fun work that we do. Sometimes this means we have to throw our own money down, and so we do. I get that this reflects our own positions of privilege in that neither of us is attempting to support ourselves with this work. Most of our colleagues need a financial return on the hours they put in, and they should get one. We should too. In the meantime, we're going to keep doing the work that we love, and the work we don't love that comes along with it.
Why? Because one morning in November, before my children were even up, I was sitting at my computer, coffee in hand, scrolling through our submissions page. I was looking at full-lengths. I've told you about my screening process before, cover letter, first page, acknowledgements, a few random pages, and then, if I like it, it's off to a reader. I was maybe five submissions in. I read the cover letter, and it was good--personalized, professional. And then I read the first poem, and then the second, and then the third. By the time the kids were eating breakfast, I was e-mailing Jen, I just finished reading our next book. Our fantastic editorial board (Gary Dop, Sarah McKinstry-Brown, Shanan Ballam) got back to us in under a week. Last night, we finalized the cover. So yes, Jen and I get to do what we love. We get to do things like this.