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Tiny Magazines Everywhere: Or, Why Do We Still Publish a Zine?

In 2002 we published two books by Carol Emshwiller (a novel, The Mount, and Report to the Men's Club and Other Stories), a favorite author with six previous books to her name. Last year our first two books (Kelly Link's Stranger Things Happen and Ray Vukcevich's Meet Me in the Moon Room) were well received. We are committed to publishing short story collections and novels by authors we feel are slipping through the cracks.

In 1996, long before I ever thought I'd publish any books, I started a small press zine, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet (LCRW). Whenever I flipped through the magazines at Avenue Victor Hugo Bookshop in Boston, MA, where I worked, I was frustrated that none seemed to have just the right mix (fiction, a spot of poetry, a flash of humor, maybe some art) that I thought would make the perfect magazine. Eleven issues and many long nights at the computer later, LCRW goes from strength to strength.

In 2000, we took our first real step toward publishing books when we published two chapbooks, 4 Stories by Kelly Link and Five Forbidden Things by Dora Knez. The chapbooks -- deliberately designed as low-priced editions to introduce new writers and give them a step up between publishing stories and books -- gave us confidence in our design and production capabilities. At about the same time we set up a half-decent website (oddly enough, we still have a half-decent website, www.lcrw.net, but it's larger now) and, with the advent of Paypal, our zine and the chapbooks were suddenly available to anyone...who had the urge to look us up.

LCRW and the chapbooks complement our books: they give readers a way to sample our authors without popping for the more expensive books -- the zine is only $4, chapbooks $5, and the books $16 -- and the zine and chapbook reach very different audiences than our books. Our books are carried by Ingram and Baker & Taylor -- our biggest LCRW distributor is Last Gasp.

LCRW also gave us our entrance into the print world. We already had the bookseller's and consumer's point of view on books; LCRW showed us the world of bookselling from the supplier's side. We learned the importance of being nice to busy people who don't have much time for you, how important small things (ISBNs, design, distribution...!) are, and that a finely-judged persistence is necessary to bring your products to the right people's attention.

Publishing LCRW taught us (in small affordable steps) marketing, distribution, design, how to work to deadlines, and most of all, the importance of professional proofreaders. In the last couple of years, we have actively encouraged many others to start their own micropublishing houses, and are very happy to report (and sometimes sell the results on our website) that some few people have taken up the challenge.


The View of History from 2001

Thanks for checking out the Small Beer Press pages. Small Beer Press exists to publish good writing. We do a twice-yearly small press zine, a couple of chapbooks a year, and in July 2001 we published our first two books, trade paperback short fiction collections by Kelly Link (Stranger Things Happen) [reviews] and Ray Vukcevich (Meet Me in the Moon Room) [reviews].

Our books can be ordered directly from us but we encourage bookshops to order from distributors. Both titles are available from Baker & Taylor, Ingram, and Consortium, which means you can walk into any bookshop in the land and order them. The books are already listed at Amazon.com, bn.com, and Borders.com. We do hope that you will patronize local bookshops (you can find these online at Bookweb.org and IndieBound.org), but, whatever floats your boat.

Kelly Link and Ray Vukcevich are both available for interviews. They can be contacted through us at [email protected]. We are a small press with all that entails (no foreign offices, no expense accounts (boo!), small ad budget, and a decent collection of CDs we actually had to pay for. We appreciate and encourage your interest in the small presses.

A long, blowzy, yet sober -- much interrupted and definitely unfinished -- look at the genesis and continuance of a small press:

Ray Vukcevich, Meet Me in the Moon RoomSmall Beer Press was begun under a different name in 1996, we renamed it to something that wasn't a bad joke no one else thought funny in that year of changes, 2000. We intend to publish one or two quality books a year until our money runs out/we lose our day jobs/we get fed up of reading slush. We are mainly powered by Gavin J. Grant who can answer most of your questions. In publishing our first books we were led to many good decisions and stopped from making too many mistakes by our friend, the late Jenna A. Felice, who is missed more than words can say. Bryan Cholfin (of Crank! and St. Martin's Press, not in that order) was another invaluable source of publishing and printing knowledge. Would we have found the wonderful people at Thomson-Shore without Jenna and Bryan? No. Would we have set the books in Centaur, probably not. (Yes, we bought Centaur. You should buy a font too. Even if it's just a fun, cheap one like Missive -- which we bought at the Paper Source in Cambridge, MA, and used to set the interior titles of Meet Me in the Moon Room.) Many other people answered questions and were generous with their time for which we are immensely grateful. The power in publishing is there for the taking and we encourage you to take it up. Buy an old copy of PageMaker or QuarkXpress on eBay and just go. Our first zines were made using Microsoft Word, it took a while and they aren't the prettiest things, but we moved up and on. Everything finds its own level. Yours may be handwritten and photocopied, electronically distributed, or typeset by a professional. We say go for it.

Beginning in late 1996, with the publication of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet vol.1 no.1 (volume numbering later dropped for simplicity's sake and the realization (or, when thinking about it in the UK, the realisation) that it was not appropriate), Small Beer Press has slowly grown from being distributed only within the boroughs of Boston to a small amount of international distribution, decent-selling chapbooks, and now books. It felt like a well-paced and natural expansion. It is only the larger sums of money that get spent on producing the books that make it a little more nerve-wracking. However, they are both of such high quality that we are quietly confident that we won't take a complete bath (maybe a small summer shower) on them.

Stranger Things HappenFrom the very first issue we have tried to publish high quality fiction and we have been helped in our close association with the wonderful writer Kelly Link. Her cornerstone story from the first issue, "Travels with the Snow Queen" won the James Tiptree Jr. Award in 1997 and set the standard for future issues. Recently Ellen Klages story, "Flying Over Water," from issue no. 7 reached the final Nebula ballot. A number of the stories by such authors as Dora Knez and Sten Westgard have been given honorable mentions in Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror series. Kelly Link's story "Shoe and Marriage" from the chapbook 4 Stories, has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award. Since we only publish twice a year we are very limited in what we can publish. Stories have come to us from authors we have solicited, from people we know, and people we don't. We encourage people to read the LCRW before submitting because we have very limited space and we know what we want.

Although we had not published Ray Vukcevich before issue no. 8, we had enjoyed his stories in many magazines and anthologies. Then we realized (no 's' this time) that he had been publishing great short fiction for more than ten years and no one had published a collection by him. We jumped at the chance. Seeing Rafal Olbinski's art on the front just makes it a package we are incredibly proud of. We hope you will enjoy them too.

Questions? Email us and we will probably respond. We are a small, lightly-staffed publishing concern, so if it's more than a day or two -- and believe me if you're writing from a book shop, paper, magazine, or zine, the answer will be a lot faster :) -- maybe we are just on vacation (ha! The thought of it!).

Reviews and press coverage

Basic information

Gavin J. Grant
Small Beer Press
150 Pleasant St., #306
Easthampton, MA 01027
413.203-1636
www.smallbeerpress.com

 

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