I’ve been asked, from time to time: what do I think of publishing at a time when anyone can sign up with Amazon or other companies, and get their work printed up and sold online resembling quasi-legitimate books.
My answer: right on, and good luck!
Thinking back to the ‘80s when we first published books through Amok Press, and a few later, Feral House, we were definitely considered tiny town and half-mad upstarts. The publishing machine, that we saw in person at the yearly book conventions, seemed ungodly huge and intimidating. Who were we to even consider issuing unlikely books like Apocalypse Culture and 1920s hobo literature?
At the time we ran into a good deal of luck. Our first released book, the novel Michael by Joseph Goebbels, was typeset and glued on boards by me at night in the offices of a small publishing company I worked for during the day. At the time, we didn’t know how unlikely it was for our first publication to get reviewed by The New York Times. (It required two decades and one hundred and fifty further books to get our next book reviewed in the “paper of record”.)
Back in the ‘80s the internet was not distracting everybody, and so books (along with self-published magazines and xeroxed ‘zines) were the primary sources of fresh and curious information. The corporate publishing machine as seen in chain stores, wasn’t as fine-tuned as they later became. Employees at the Barnes and Noble outlet on 8th St. and 6th Avenue in Manhattan were so fascinated by Apocalypse Culture and a couple other of our titles, that copies were displayed on front tables. Hell, they even erected a large front window display for Apocalypse Culture. This would never happen today, even if we poured in many thousands of dollars of money into Barnes and Noble coffers. This book was not family-friendly, NPR-promoted, and decidedly anti-corporate in tone.
So, is there a place today for DIY publishing? More than ever, in both electronic and physical book formats. Billions and billions of books, as astronomer Carl Sagan once uttered about the vastness of space and the number of stars. Every single human is now a publisher. The question is: how good is the book, and who will fucking notice its existence in this vast internet cloud.
The question today remains: if books are so fucking common, why bother buying and looking at any of them?
Feral House and Process Media goes through an intense curatorial process for their non-fiction titles. Every single book we issue goes through many drafts, copyedits and proofing edits, design and redesign, and above all, the collection and reproduction of costly images.
These days, most books actually lose money, and do not pay back the costs, and certainly not the time and effort, expended on the antiquarian conceit known as book publishing.
How can each book distinguish itself from the galactic dust cloud of Amazon.com? That’s a good fucking question.