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On the Impotence of Small Presses

or

The Need for Literary Terrorism[1]

 by

Natalija Grgorinic & Ognjen Raden

 

Literature unlike, or at least more than any art form has become the object of commerce, in the sense that any word attains its public value not through its meaning but by whether it is marketable or not. This has resulted in the fact that it is impossible to utter anything unless it can be bought or sold, everything falling outside of this narrow paradigm becomes a simple non-discourse, the channels of communication get interrupted by publishers, the very people who take upon themselves the task of enabling dialogue between an author and an audience.[2]

It makes no difference whether you like it or not, the function and the main, if not the only reason for existence of publishers is to facilitate communication between the author and the public. It is a regrettable and historical inconvenience that the publishers have been allowed to inhabit such a important position but once they had claimed it for their own they had become if not force then certainly a factor to be reckoned with. It seems or had seemed to be a type of symbiosis one could find an explanation for regardless of how preposterous the notion of tying together art and commerce might appear, and it had remained acceptable exactly because of the belief that publishers indeed facilitated communication. But what had happened in the late 20th century and had established itself as the modus operandi for the 21st century was that the publishing houses assumed the function of their owners’ mouthpieces or, in other words, that the capital began to speak openly using the words of, more or less, unsuspecting authors.

It presents no strain to prove this fact. By being counted among numerous acquisitions of big media conglomerates, which in turn are counted among equally numerous acquisitions of big industrial conglomerates, publishers became involved in the business of providing what the public wants to hear rather than what the authors want to express.[3]

But what does the public want to be communicated to it? What is it that the honest, buck-earning folk want to hear? The answer is not even well hidden within the very question, because what the good, simple, honest, hardworking, salt-of-the-earth, everyday, small people want to hear is – exactly what they are. And the problem would not exist were it not for the fact that good does not equal right, or moral, or logical. Simple does not imply the shortest possible way to the source of the matter. Honest does not provide any clues to whether the truth is being spoken. Hardworking means almost everything except loving what one does. Salt-of-the-earth leaves aside the pepper. Everyday is a cheap knock-off of eternity. Small is nothing but that which cannot ever grow.

In other words, the author has been hindered in what his or her main function is.

Only, what is the function of the author[4]?

Imagine a society that thinks of itself as good and yet everybody who takes part in that particular society would freely agree it, the society, is not perfect, is far from perfect, is not trying to become perfect, has abandoned all attempts to become even better. Nevertheless, in such a society exists a group of people who call themselves the authors, but won’t contradict if they are addressed as the artists, or the innovators, or the free spirits. What the name of a free spirit actually means is that the person bearing it does not see eye to eye with the rest of the society it belongs to. What the title of an innovator means is that it’s applied to the person inventing other ways of doing things people usually do, and even inventing altogether new things to be done. What the label of the artist means is that the particular person being stuck with it is directly dealing with what most, if not every other person usually does. What people usually do is called living, although living in itself does not imply an active approach to life.

So the author wants to tell people, the public, how they should live their lives, take charge, take responsibility and the opportunity to improve the society they belong to. In the days of television, the Internet, public relations, and politics incorporated, who needs a bunch of literate busybodies determining trifling things such as the contents of truth, the moral law, or the essence of humanity? Not I, says the average member of the public and pounces his soft thigh with a loosely closed fist. And here we come to the question of class.

Set aside for a moment that what you think you know and consider this. In the society of a Western type there is but one class of people – those who have money, any amount of money, who are because if it to be treated as they rightfully deserve – as consumers[5]. Of course, this one class has a memory of other classes that had historically preceded it and is most of the time, when not working (although it shudders at the thought of being called a “working class”), when not earning money, engaged in spending money (so, yes, it would like to be called a “spending class”) for the sake of being comfortable. In order to be completely comfortable, a member of the spending class needs to become someone else for even a shortest span of time. Among other activities, enjoying the products of literary design seems to be a popular way of substituting one’s identity for a ready-made character. The main concern of the publishing industry is to cater to the urge to abandon oneself, to be someone else without engaging in the actual realities of being, to experience the suspension of one’s existence by playing a risk-free daydream role. To feed this particular need of the market, the publishing industry harvests different realities and transforms them into assembly-line fictions, by extracting truths and adding popular supplement dogmas[6]. Similar as they may be to it, the products of this industry have nothing in common with the works of literature.     

 

Once we’re clear on that we realize that there is but one fraction of the entrepreneurial activity involved in presenting and promoting actual literature. They call themselves small presses, more out of mimicry than out of modesty. Low expectations are easy to meet and easier not to miss if not met. They hold the one and only channel of communication between the author and his/her public, which, if you once again consider they call themselves small, is not a particularly big deal. They are also independent, meaning they are open to any serious offer of a takeover; they are alternative too, meaning they copy that which they want to become, and as small as they are they all want to get bigger. Guilty they are too of a number of great feats, but mostly innocent of anything that wouldn’t resemble imitation.[7] And successful imitation is the foundation of any surviving business, is it not?

Of course, truth is also that small presses are the only real innovators[8] in the book business. At least they used to be. Now they mostly keep an eye out for any crumb that might fall off the big guys’ table. They are ever vigilant. They see everything, they miss nothing… well, almost.

There are limits to what kind of a new thing the small presses are willing to present, and these limits are not set by the small presses, or that part of the public that manages to discover their books, but by what the media conglomerates have labeled acceptable. The secret of successful small publishing is not to stray too far from the norm, but just far enough to provoke the refined tastes of the readership.[9]

This is seemingly a strategy beyond reproach, from the perspective of good business, but under closer observation it becomes clear that a small press will have no public unless it carves it out for itself and its authors from the corpus (or the corpse!) of the general public. In other words Mohammad will have to stretch his legs in order to reach the mountain and find a few rocks that are willing to listen to him. It is in the nature of a rock to enjoy silence almost as much as it enjoys what it wants to be told, and an average reader is precisely such a rock. In this the publishing industry and the small presses have seemingly divided the market, the former providing what is desired to be heard, the latter providing a lack of sound.

Only a rock cannot escape a sound, pleasant or not, it has to endure it, grow accustomed to it, accept it, in time – in more or less time. From a market point of view, it was always true that everything can be sold, but among things that can be sold there are those that are easier to sell than others. Understandably, if one is catering to the existing needs of the public, one will deal with commodities that are easier to move. But since the media conglomerates are already doing it, there is no point in competing for that type of a market, thus a truly innovative small press should look to the needs that are not even experienced yet, move away from the immediate necessity and anticipate the needs of the future.

Still, even the most idealistic argument cannot look over the fact that in order to print books you need to have money, because reforming the publishing business will take some considerable time even without attempting to reform the printing business. Some small presses have ingenious solutions to the problem:

Natalija & Ognjen,

We need to find the money for the initial print run. There are scenerios[10]:

1. a rich uncle
2. university english dept. that you belong to
3. a rich uncle
4. yourselves
5. limited edition art sold online via both of our contacts for about 8 months to raise enought to do the limited edition AND the retail object.

I love what you guys have said about the booksellers and publishers kicking the authors out of the relationship. i mean to put the author back into the literature equation. revolution!

mregor gilne can help us with editing. do you guys do your own paintings? i want to get you in touch with the painting scene out here. let's work together to make this book a success and all the hard work we are both putting into writing a success.

the reason i have been trying to get budgets for the books before printing them is because i do not want to become a debt slave like the rest of the united states has become, and, when the stock market and economic crash comes, which it will, i do not want to be sold into debtors prison. don't fool yourselves, these capitalists have a long history of doing just that, the united states is essentially a weird outgrowth of nineteenth century values. the twentieth century was completely lost on the americans. but you knew that already.
best,
dot

Have you noticed the part where the editor of a small press inquires whether the young LITERARY authors “do their own paintings”? You have? Good. Then please, read on.

admit 2 !

We're not in trouble, we've only begun to fight.

the limited edition thing is working and with our collective energies we can raise the monies and awareness requisite to see the book into the retail phase.

the idea of this collaboration that you are doing needs to be made manifest in a project with art and maybe some statements but in the best avant garde tradition. together we can get lots of people places and collections to spend 50 dollars apiece for a limited signed very special book with art by you two. the limited edition can be framed anyway you want, in terms of segments or compete texts, drawings and artwork on cover and inside. the retail later would be something more packaged and put on the title list as a "novel".

the idea is to raise money thru the limited that we hawk thru the website and emails for at least a 6 month period of time. the first two that i've done have each raised 2000 dollars each. that's just the beginning, i believe, as it definitely takes about 3500 to get a retail item printed in the correct manner. print on demand models i use for the poetry books. for other titles it doesn't make sense to do small runs because the warehouse uses a lot of copies for promo and selling and the like.

we can talk further about this on the phone if you like.

i'll be around today ,
best,
dot

By now you are surely intrigued. This is something else, you say to yourself. And it is. It’s something completely else.

n&o,

okay, a lot of questions, here's a few answers:

I've been publishing these books for a while now, so your concerns over the "business" side of things are more for yourselves than for me.

i also now have an idea that will allay both of our fears and questions about this project and allow us to test the waters, so to speak.

let's do your collage idea[11], independent of the text, of the book, just do like one or two of them and put them up for sale on the website, singed and numbered and sell for like 25 dollars or some such. then let's see what happens while we tell people about it for a 6 month period of time. it will allow us to offer something to our constituents and text the way that would work and allow us to produce something and go thru the motions.

we could do a 11 by 22 inch sized print of the LA collage. it allows us to get your name out there and stuff. what do you think?
dot

Thus in just three emails two novelists are reduced to play badly the roles of collagists, which is bad in itself, but not half as bad as, for example, paying for your work to be read by an editor, or enter a contest where the combined fees paid by all the contestants conveniently cover the first prize = the editor’s honorarium (no, there’s no honor in that, our friends)[12].

In a consumerist society an author with a book that has not been published is a helpless, hapless drone. If the book doesn’t reach any audience, the work is fruitless, the work, in a manner of speaking, does not even exist. Everything that is usually suggested to an author in order for the work to be presented to an audience is wrong, both morally and artistically, regardless of the fact how sane it might be in terms of good business. Because the author is not a sane businessman, if one displays a sane businessman’s behavior one does not even attempt to write literature. One might engage in the enterprises of literary design, but not in literature as art. So there is no use in telling an author to have a specific audience in mind, because what that really means is to have an audience of publishers (and occasionally agents) who presume that they recognize and understand the tastes, needs, and dispositions of the greater public. In spite of what is proclaimed by business owners, no truly great book was written with a specific audience in mind, the only need that an author should be expected to cater to is one’s own need to communicate. Yet in order to communicate the author requires mediators, middlemen, otherwise one is free to hang one’s words on the thin air.

What, on the other hand, a small publisher needs to do is not to go under, but to stay afloat financially speaking, jeopardizing, in the process, less of one’s own business postulates and more of the author’s artistic vision. The problem thus is not in running a good or bad business, or printing good or bad literature. The problem arises when the diversity of venues and ideas gets reduced for the sake of the sale, when publishers become so market-minded that they all come to think alike, when the flow of ideas and innovations gets so reduced by the funnel-shaped frame of mind of the small presses that the time comes when there are books which no publisher is interested in supporting and books which any of them would gladly accept. The publishers themselves then cease to be an audience, the public ceases to be an audience, and the only audience for an author to address is the market, which exists without anyone seemingly taking responsibility for it, a veritable deus ex machina, a thing of its own oppressing any free discourse. This, however, is only the business side of the argument. There are books that fail to get produced because the market says they oughtn’t be produced.

But of the small portion of books defying the market, most of them are produced by small presses, more often than not a single person impersonating a press. Here, if the market is left out of the picture, the criteria that a book needs to satisfy are personal preferences of the publisher. What this usually means is that the one-person-press will support a book he or she feels strongly for, which in turn means he or she will support a book that speaks to him or her alone on a very deep, personal, dare we say, intimate level.[13] This might be the book that one would write oneself providing one would know how to do it. In other words, a book that would receive support of such a publisher would be the one in which he/she could recognize oneself as an author. What the actual author becomes here is a sort of a surrogate mother (publishers might view it differently, but then again this argument is not written by publishers), an author released from authorship, since the final decision, whether a book reaches an audience or not, is taken out of the author’s hands and placed in the hands of the publisher. Observed from this angle (all) small presses are vanity presses, all are involved in self-publishing more than in the publishing of the other, and all small publishers abuse their role of the middleperson, competing for the foreground with the author.

The solution to this problem seems a very obvious one – instead of a publisher assuming the role of the author, the author should take matters into one’s own hands and become a publisher. But whatever you might have heard, there is a deep, indeed abysmal difference between the reception of a self-published work and that brought forth by a “legitimate” press, and this difference has been in huge part worked upon and deepened by the presses attempting to deal with the disloyal competition. For the system of literary production is such, that any benefit from self-publishing is removed from it, for the longest possible period of time. A self-published author will usually not be granted an audience, criticism, or any academic scrutiny (not in his/her lifetime, to be sure), simply because to offer one’s work is not enough, one needs to be in the position to reciprocate favors prior to receiving any. Help, understanding, support, and acclaim come to those who don’t depend on them, in order for the kind, benevolent energy not to get lost or diluted. Just think how terrible it would be if the university professors would start teaching from books by self-published authors. Who would in turn publish those professors? A horrible, horrible image indeed.

That is why a work of art, that art that finally reaches the audience, has to pass through at least a double if not a threefold circle of utter selfishness. Since it is an essentially selfish urge to put words to paper and expect anyone to read and/or admire them. It is an essentially selfish urge to publish such words, to insert oneself in the role of the go-between, to earn merit on the basis of transporting it, to indulge oneself in the abandonment of the illusion that noble deeds are equally pleasant and comfortable. It is equally selfish to recommend a work of words, because what the one making a recommendation hopes to communicate is some of one’s own identity, that in the process of critique some of that divine authorial dust will rub off of him. Because, isn’t it so: every time you clap your hands a new critic is born.

 

Admittedly, this would be a poor argument without there being some solution to the problem offered. What we suggest is basically a departure form the prevailing perspectives on authorship, publishing and the audience, in terms of literary art.

Firstly, the author must be clear what are his/her choices if determined to create art. No audience should exist in the author’s mind, except the entire mankind. This is somewhat a shotgun approach, by shooting high one might hit nothing at all, but only by shooting high can one hit high, unless one is a very bad marksman indeed, in which case it’s best to stay out of his/her range. Next, the author must come to terms what represents the new in the world of art. New exists, it is attainable, it might not be recognized until it gets a bit older, but it is there nevertheless, and no concession should be given to those who try to have the new fit the old. Furthermore, there is no art that sells. What is usually sold under art is the impression of art, the glow that emanates from it, the smell of the roast, the radioactivity of plutonium, not the story itself but the story about the story, not the ideas but the socks that the ideas wore, the secondary effect, the aftershock, the tsunami, the mould of the cheese. Art cannot be sold. It can be produced, promoted, offered, appreciated, debated upon but it cannot be sold. It can be packaged, but when sold in a package it is the package that’s been sold, not the art.

The readers need to be roused from their slumber. They need to be pulled by the small of their hair for being tricked into believing that what they have been offered, that what is freely there for the taking (providing one pays for it) is in any shape or form art. Sure they like to flatter themselves and like even more to be flattered to that they are connoisseurs, that they recognize and treasure art and all those high and lofty sentiments that are nothing but the cellophane on the product. They need to stop allowing themselves to be fooled, they need to accept that the new that’s been sold to them is the old they accept and are comfortable with. Art is not pleasant, it’s not cozy, or comfy, it is hard, as hard as life is, it demands involvement, does not cater to complacency, is not offered on a silver platter but sought after, tracked, traced, actively looked for.

As for the publisher, a small publisher, he/she must come to terms with the fact that he is not an author, she is not an author, but rather that original reader who must transcend the laws of the market, must transcend one’s own pettiness, must look for the real innovation, fight against instincts of survival, because for art to be appreciated everybody involved must die, the author, the press, even the initial audience. In other words a publisher must not be an artist of letters, but an artist of dying, must be able to die a convincing death, yet stay alive, must be a Lazarus for the Christ of the author, must publish what one hates, and fears, and doesn’t understand, because if literature would be comprised of only what we love, are comfortable with, and understand, we would end up only with a rosy image of ourselves, us aging Dorian Grays, staring at the face we would like to possess, lying to ourselves for the mere pleasure of hearing our voices articulate the deceit.

But the main answer to the issue of narrowing down the audiences’ perspective on literature lies in authors cooperating on a more efficient level. What we suggest it this: it is deemed inappropriate, and proven ineffectual to publish one’s own work, by self-publishing the author communicates only with his/her most immediate surrounding. So, instead of self-publishing an author needs to publish – other authors. This way a network of mutually published authors will develop, each author rather selflessly offering his/her own audience to the other, and receiving the other’s audience in return. The principle is more or less similar to self-publishing because it calls for the proliferation of one-person-presses, but the main difference is that a communication channels are established, that there is an exchange of experiences and ideas. In order for the author to attract attention to oneself, he/she must step aside and help the other, because the other is in the exact same situation even if his/her ideas are not identical to ours. This is what needs to become the basis of literary discourse, or literary communication and collaboration. To be sure, there will still exist those individuals interested solely in presenting other people’s work and creating none of their own, same as there will still exist large media conglomerates dealing with commercial literature or literary design. There will also exist authors who do not wish to cooperate, who find their work is superior to the works of others, who will expect to be discovered, stuffed, and served with an apple between their teeth to the expecting public.[14] The point of cooperation in literary production, or publishing, to be more precise, wouldn’t be to do way with any of them, finally they are their own biggest problem. But what could be achieved by authors collaborating is the diversification of the literary discourse, expanding of the definition of what is literature, of what is deemed publishable, readable, acceptable. The public does not know what it is ready to consider or accept unless it is confronted with it. Publishers, small or large, should not be in the position of determining what is and what isn’t literature. Literature is whatever authors produce, not what gets printed, not even what gets read, and the public needs to be under constant pressure of the new, the real new, the kind of new that is raw, bleeding, alive, not wrapped in plastic, the public needs to be constantly tested, because authors around the world are constantly testing themselves; limits to what literature is and can be need to be ever expanded, pressed upon, and that is exactly what the obligation of small presses needs to be – to press, to persist, to push, expand, dilate – and not to placate or patronize. Admit it, we are all in the business of what we don’t yet know, and because of this it is preposterous to set limits and boundaries, to set rules and etiquettes, the space of literature demands to be liberated over and over, again, once more, in your lifetime.

Thus what could be hoped for by organizing a new front in the struggle for the minds of the readers is that by stealing some portion of the market from media conglomerates and other publishers uninterested in constant change they will be forced to broaden their definitions and set aside their antiquated patterns. Change is what every market fears, change beyond its control, and change is what the authors must produce in order to shift the balance of power to their own advantage. This is what the essence of literary terrorism is about. The innocent will suffer, exactly because they are innocent of any action. The adversary is by far superior in what he deems is most important, namely, the money. The authors need to organize, they need to test the power of the powerful, and need to fight for what belongs to them, for what they have a right to – their audience – because there is no art in which the artist can be denied his/her audience to such a degree as in the art of letters.

And?

Is this it, you ask. The brilliant new solution to every writer’s predicament?

Well, if it sounds a trifle too familiar it is because it already exists in some small extent, and no, we don’t claim to have invented it. But what we suggest is that it needs to become a wide-spread practice, that the authors need to work to give this particular type of publishing more credibility, in fact to refuse to provide any further credibility to other, orthodox types of publishing. You’ve been told, and they’ll be happy to tell you again, one cannot live of writing, and so the authors perish and presses survive, the former seemingly in the business of dying and the latter in the business of living. Well, that is exactly what needs to be changed. If there is no living to be made in writing there certainly shouldn’t be any living to be made in publishing. Because what is an author? A human being. And what is a press? An enterprise. So if any logic and order is to be restored in the literary production the presses will have to be sacrificed for the sake of the authors, and not the other way around, a business will have to get into the business of dying, into business of bad business, a business will need to live long enough to distribute a work of art and then die in order for the art to live. 

 

 



[1] The term terrorism is here for a number of reasons, the most important of which is that today it refers to the last possible means of fighting a superior adversary. In time when no other means of resistance and struggle is possible, when all channels are controlled and owned by whomever you’re fighting against, terrorism is the only possible venue for your frustrations. What it postulates is that the innocent should suffer because of their inactivity, the honest, the righteous, the god and law-abiding will be hurt because they are not innocent at all, because they are made comfortable by what ever is oppressing those who resort to terrorism. When it comes to literary terrorism it does not however involve violence. Raids on Narnes & Bobles, Handom Rouses, Doarbers would only create corporate martyrs. In fact, even mentioning their names would further promote them. In its nature the Internet is perfectly ignorant, it has a soul of a machine, it shows a type of mathematical sympathy for the financially unprivileged. To include correct names of the oppressors in a text condemning them would result in a number of misdirected visits. The Internet knows no irony, or criticism, it is powered by the atom of the search word, a contextless term, it turns a sequence of letters into a logo before they are given an opportunity to form or relay a thought. This is also why the term terrorism is used, when a number of synonyms could have been utilized. In a literary discourse those are all just words, but when posted on a web page they become magnets of human interest, both positive and negative. Because of all this reckless games with words are to be encouraged, evil does not exist in the word prior to the act that the word describes, any call to bring down the oppressor is just, people have a right to self-determination. No one has the right to speak on behalf of the other.

Of course, terms such as “impotence”, or “bomb”, or “kinky sex with animals” will result in numerous other misdirections, but people who don’t know what they are looking for should be misdirected from time to time. To any other less benevolent Internet roamer, member of a law enforcement or intelligence agency, all we have to say is – this is literature, what are you doing here, get out!       

[2] Here we do not even wish to consider literary agents, whose existence is equally miraculous as that of a dry sponge at the bottom of a sea. As far as agents are concerned they can die and decompose since they in no way contribute to the advancement of literature as art. Never had, never will. What’s more, we take this opportunity to ask them nicely to abandon the use of the adjective “literary” in stating and promoting their profession. It does not belong to them and they should kindly return it. We won’t ask twice!

[3] In order to serve that purpose, to tell the people what the people want to hear, there is a type of industry that is known as big, or corporate publishing. This industry deals in printing, promoting, distributing and selling the labor of craftsmen who engage in literature-like production. Not only by creating artifices that imitate life, but that also imitate the art of literature, these laborers engage in what could roughly be named as literary or word design. But don’t be confused, although in appearance very similar to actual literature this activity is in fact a branch of the entertainment industry the purpose of which is to put you to sleep, make you comfortable, docile, and keep you at the level of complete imbecility. Throughout our text we will not refer to this literary-like activity as literature. In the sense we discuss it literature is above all art, meaning that it is and should be free, all connotations of the word free included.

[4] One suggestion can certainly be found in Jean-Paul Sartre’s “What is Literature?”, and can be paraphrased, in a nutshell, as a need to address and expand the freedom of the reader. For Sartre, literary text becomes a sort of a blueprint which a reader can use to exercise his/her own freedom. This function, according to Sartre, had been most in tune with the necessity of the moment in times preceding and immediately following bourgeois revolutions, when the author as a member of the bourgeoisie sought to promote the freedom of the class he/she belonged to. This is certainly confirmed by the position of Friedrich Schiller, expressed in his letters “On the Aesthetic Education of Man”. “If man is ever to solve that problem of politics in practice he will have to approach it through the problem of the aesthetic, because it is only through beauty that man makes his way to freedom,” says Schiller.

[5] Indeed, the author belongs to this class wholeheartedly. “The writer consumes and does not produce, even if he has decided to serve community’s interests with his pen,” says Sartre arguing that there is no correlation between a literary work and the award the author receives for it. But along with the fact that there exists only one class (consumers), we must consider that among that small number of people able to envisage existence beyond the class of consumers literary authors stand shoulder to shoulder with other artist. Yes, we are all consumers, but some of us are able to imagine how it would be if that class was to be transcended. There are other modes of existence, the fact that they are not being exercised by anyone doesn’t mean that they are not there. So if in the time of the Enlightenment the role of the author was to promote the class he/she belonged to, today this role is diametrically opposite. The writer of today needs to see what are the problems of a one-class society. Socialism had collapsed because it had insisted on one (uniformed) class. Same will happen to the capitalist system. Alternatives need to be looked for and found. The paradigms of the past will not help us in that search, except as a way not to follow. But an endnote is hardly a place to offer a solution. We will develop this subject further in future.  

[6] A work of literary design, a product of the publishing industry could in a sense be compared to low-fat milk which is first reduced to an opaque liquid only to be “enriched” by added vitamins A and D. The fat that gets extracted is the truth, any truth a work of literature might contain, meaning any link that particular language-based construction might have with reality, and vitamins A and D are stereotypes, marketable beliefs and dogmas, ingredients whose purpose is to control and direct minds and actions of the readership.

[7] We intend to give not a paragraph to the print-on-demand phenomenon (an endnote will do). Those publishers are even not in the bookselling business. Their ingenuity is responsible for solving a bad publisher’s ancient predicament – how to take the public out of the equation? Simple, by turning the author into his/her own book-buying public. Instead of 12.000 readers all you have to have is 12.000 authors, e voila! One of them actually brags with that exact number on its web-site. And why not? Doesn’t each man, woman, child, pet dog has his or her own story? Life writes novels, our darlings, and people who pen them (or keyboard them) also buy them. Perfect!  

[8] Apparent contradiction stems from the fact that the term small press refers to the size of the undertaking, and that a new term has to be coined for those presses which are still concerned with innovation. We suggest that they are to be called authors’ presses, for reasons that we discuss in the remainder of this text.  

[9] What else is an author to think when ideas such as this one follow the rejected manuscript: “If you don't mind me throwing out an idea, I would suggest that you take the format of two writers in a more creative direction: the relationship of kidnapper, kidnappee; CEO, janitor; refugee, UN soldier; etc.” This goes but a trifle beyond the antiquated demand that art should imitate nature, don’t you think. Only what would this be, art imitates… Hollywood? And to disperse any illusions, this is a part of a reply by a small, very small press, which allegedly prides itself with self-proclaimed alternativeness opposing the commercial control of corporate publishers.

Here is also where we’d like to offer you a recipe for a bestseller. We decided it was best to hide it in the endnotes to force whoever might stumble upon this text to actually read. Anyway, are you ready? Here it goes – in order to write a bestseller you need to become someone else, the best choice would be to join the armed forces, for example air force, which would provide you with an opportunity to bomb some civilians, feel distraught about it, shed a secret tear or two, write about your experiences, making sure you mention you’d do it all again if, for example, democracy would be threatened by peoples with beards. And remember, whatever you do, act sincere, you’re sure to make it. It’s a cinch. Oh, yes, and find God while you’re up there unloading the bomb bay, it helps boost the sales.

[10] It goes without saying that these email messages are presented in their original form, the splendor of their charm and typos included. The only things that are cleverly disguised are the names of the perpetrators.

[11] Not to confuse the gentle reader, here is our original “collage idea” with, as you’ll notice, slightly more emphasis on the actual novel than the collages we don’t and are not able to do:

“We thought about the limited edition and:

    a) it will include the integral text of the novel

    b) one idea is to put actual polaroids of LA, loose change, movie theatre tickets, supermarket bills, receipts, fliers (all of which we have in large quantities), but the question is what would be the best way to do it, make original collages (how many 100? 200? 500?), just insert them in the text (divide all objects in let's say five groups, find five places in the book where they'd fit the context, leave space for them in the layout, superglue them in the actual books? can this be done? in what time?)

    c) do original illustrations (how many? 5? 7? 12?) send you jpeg files for you to print them out (would this be original/handmade enough?)

    d) we teach and are students at an art college, so how about organize art kids to donate their scrap art, bits and pieces, sketches, something they cannot use and would throw away, make them cut their submissions to the size of the page of the book, print their names, links, wise words on the back of each illustration, could these things be bound together with the text as illustrations? no matter what paper/material they come on as long as they're the right size? would it be legal? (if you're interested in this we could check at our college for permission, maybe even organize a contest online, on our respective sites (we have 2))??? that way we could animate the largest possible group of people and who knows, maybe some of them would even buy the book (or at least their parents), and it would be a genuine collaborative effort???

    e) try all of the above and see what we come up with (our guess is we'd need at least 5 illustrations between parts of the novel [“Mr. & Mrs. Hide”] 1-2, 2-3, 3-4, 4-5, 5-epilogue (did we mention, the novel is now divided into 6 parts, 5 + epilogue, since it had to be organized in some way) - because the theme is reality vs. fiction, or reality in collaboration with fiction, so anything we can throw in works, even if it's just a piece of asphalt or a fistful of beach sand

    f) how much would it cost to throw the whole thing in a really plain cardboard box, include the illustrations and college kid's scrap art, bind those with the text, but also fill the box with loose change,  sand, leaves, cigarette butts, candy wrappers trash, because this is what our book is about - EVERYTHING!!!

    g) how far can we go, we need some guidance, and we need to do as little manual labor as possible especially because this'll be a bicoastal operation

    h) so we'd like you to think about it and reduce for us the list of options, the illustrations used need to be real, not only real in material sense, but they need to be reality, they need to be banal and dirty, and make no sense until the book is read, they need to confuse and possibly shock, but not to the extent of shit in tin cans or used condoms...”

 [12] All common and despicable enough practices indeed, from which the authors of this text had managed to steer clear of, and wholeheartedly advise the same to any author or reader.

[13] Consider the following segment of a rejection notice: “We are a very small publishing house operating out of our own pockets. We can only do two books a year, so we must be absolutely passionate about something to publish it.” Now, this would all be very well and fine if this publishing house would be clear on what they consider near and dear to them, but when it comes to promoting their books they paint the picture in the widest possible stokes in order to appeal to the widest possible audience. The picture appears less perfect when you consider that this same press held a manuscript of an author who committed suicide in the process of waiting for their answer. Should we even inquire if you had ever heard of a publisher committing suicide while waiting for an author to get back to him/her/them. Of course, once the death of the author became public, the publisher did the only (financially) proper thing and published the book authored by the poor corpse.

But the problem that needs to be stressed is this – no publisher is open to all authors, but simultaneously it is open to all readers, which is why there is more room than little to question the noble principles of publishers.

[14] Whoever thinks of literature as a profitable career will always encounter his/her counterpart. But the fact is if literature was to be thought of as financially sane, it would be a very sad human activity indeed. In the time when technological advancements, material advancements are so great the only course for actual, real progress is to be found in the realm of ideas. Don’t believe what you’ve heard, that the ideals of the past are the highest achievements of human spirit. In any other sphere of human activity such a contention would be absurd. To say that the ideas of the past are not to be surpassed is to say that the oxcart is the most advanced means of transportation. To be sure, closing the chapter on the intellectual evolution of human beings benefits those who are in the business of controlling the masses. Isn’t it perfectly easy and convenient to declare stupidity and ignorance a virtue? Every other branch of human endeavor has the in-built stipulation of progress, every one of them except politics, religion, philosophy and art. Why is that so? Could anyone explain, please. Why is that so?