Thursday, May 22, 2008

"Reverse gentrification of the literary world"

The publisher is Akashic Books, an independent, Brooklyn-based publisher of mostly fiction and some non-fiction, started by punk rocker Johnny Temple. I knew of Akashic of course, and really enjoyed an adorable, clever, and engaging novel they published called The Boy Detective Fails by Joe Meno. I read it over a few bus trips back and forth to NYC one August. But I learned more about this small publisher, with just four employees, because of this article by Jamilah King, over at Wiretap Magazine. It's a nice Q&A with Temple that offers a good sense of Akashic's publishing mentality.

Temple is doing just what indies do best, which he sums up well in explaining why much of their fiction comes from a dark place, so much that it becomes a common theme: "it's definitely my own aesthetic taste, and we're a company that publishes things based on an aesthetic vision, not a marketing vision. I think following marketing trends is just a soulless approach to working with art. " Hurrah! Right on. In comparing the worlds of music and literature, he later says, "there are also a lot of dynamic independent companies who pursue aesthetic visions as a counter to the bottom-line mandate." And thank god for them, right?

Since WireTap is geared toward a younger readership, I believe, King then asks if he has advice for anyone looking to get into publishing, and Temple answers very truthfully:

I would say that if your main goal is to make money and a good living, then don't come into publishing. [Laughs] It's a humbling business. People need to make a living, but it's not a place for people looking to discover the next "big hit." That goes back to the reverse gentrification motto. The publishing world is in itself a socioeconomic stratum, and some of the people don't need to be making very much money.

But we do need new life, and new blood. I encourage any motivated young person to get into publishing. I love it. I feel so lucky to do what I do, but the hope of ever making "real" money isn't realistic.

Very true. And I can say with honesty that it's a frustrating exercise in watching people who don't need to make money fill the ranks. I say that as someone who has repeatedly sought out other forms of income to make due as I work in publishing, and it's exhausting.

But that's for another post. For now, check out Akashic and pick up a book. I for one, in going through my mystery writers phase, am interested in some of the noir stuff. After my Denise Mina frenzy, with all of her smart books set in Glasgow, I love the idea of their noir series:
On the heels of the stunning success of the summer '04 award-winning bestseller Brooklyn Noir, Akashic Books launches a groundbreaking series of original noir anthologies. Each book is comprised of all-new stories, each one set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the city of the book.
I'd like to see Boston or an even more obvious candidate, Houston, but I can certainly find something in this selection I'd enjoy. You?

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