Monday, June 20, 2011

Indie Spotlight: Artistically Declined Press

Have you ever wondered what inspires someone to start up their own publishing company? Sometimes, it starts as an outlet for artistic design.

Meet Artistically Declined Press. Officially conceived in August of 2009, co-publisher and editor Ryan Bradley explains how ADP was given life:

The Birth

"The impetus for Artistically Declined Press started with my love of design. Sure, I was plugging away as a writer, but I'd been a hobbyist designer for years and was looking for an excuse to do more work in that vein. I knew with my limited experience of designing stuff for the bands I'd been in and small stuff like that it would be hard to convince anyone else to let me do design work for them, so I thought about creating a series of ebooks for writers whose work I really liked. One of those people was Paula Bomer, who I had gotten to know through various online avenues.

One day Paula and I were chatting online while I was at work (at the time, managing a small independent children's bookstore) and I told her that one day it would be cool to really run a press, do some print books, maybe a journal. Her response was "do it." We talked a bit more and she convinced me. So, the press was born."

With the birth of anything, there must then come a name. And just how does one name their publishing company? Is it handled with the same care and caution as a new parent, choosing something that lends itself to a cool nickname while also avoiding the possibility of a harsh one?

The Name

Ryan explains: "The name itself came from one of the many 5-minute bands I had before the punk band I was in for four years. The name "The Artistically Declined" had always stuck with me, and seemed like a fit for who I am and what I was looking to do as a press. It's fun, irreverent, doesn't take itself too seriously. My goal with the press was to support the writing and writers I loved who deserved more attention while also providing top-notch design. I was lucky enough to have a friend and supporter like Paula who wanted to go on the adventure with me, acting as an adviser and co-publisher. Her experience in the writing and publishing world far exceeds mine, so though we are across the country from one another we took the plunge, so to speak."

You forgot to mention the cool nickname, Ryan! The ADP!! How much cooler can you get, am I right? I mean, am I right?!

So a press is born. And then named. The next logical step would be to seek out writers who are worthy of carrying your name on their spine. So how does a virgin press woo it's first novel? Does it display it's colorful tail feathers and strut around the barnyard? According to Ryan, you simply approach an author you admire and... ask!

The First

"Ken Sparling was the first writer I thought of contacting. I had become a sort of fanboy and had a few email exchanges with him; he seemed incredibly gracious and inviting. So, I emailed him, told him what we were doing and said "hey, I know you've got a relationship with Pedlar Press, but I also know you've been hand-making copies of your second book, HUSH UP AND LISTEN STINKY POO BUTT for ten years. Would you be interested in releasing it as a paperback?" He wrote back and said "I'd love to do this." I really didn't expect that part to be so easy. I expected to toil trying to find a writer willing to take the gamble with us.

From there it's been a whirlwind. In August we'll release the third issue of SENTENTIA, our lit journal. We've released two novels, Sparling's aforementioned HUSH UP AND LISTEN and Ben Tanzer's YOU CAN MAKE HIM LIKE YOU, a collection of poetry, TO THE RIVER by Rose Hunter, and most recently a small collection of my stories called PRIZE WINNERS. In October we'll release another collection, Roxane Gay's debut, AYITI, which I expect to make a huge splash."

The Pride

So what does ADP pride itself in? For Ryan, "ADP is about the chance to publish great writing paired with great design. Simple as that. There are definitely small presses out there that have amazing design work, but I think those are outweighed by the ones that, simply put, have shitty design work. A lot of people don't have the money to get great design work, or it's simply an afterthought to the writing they deal with. For me the two go hand in hand. Pairing great writing with lazy or ugly design work is a disservice to the writing.

Of course there are many challenges to running a small press as well. Chiefly, making the time. Running a small press doesn't bring in money, so ultimately it's like having a second full-time job, and since I am the editor and art director, maybe it's like having three. Or more. (Should I even mention I do freelance book design?!) Sometimes I think about a big press, how they have copywriters, proofreaders, designers, editors, marketing and pr people and I start to think, "holy cow, how many jobs am I doing here?" Haha. And before all these roles I am a writer, one who is actively trying to make something out of this pursuit, though my writing often takes a back seat to the press. And, above all those things I am a husband and a father. So, time is definitely the enemy.

And I am realistic. I don't think we are necessarily publishing better work than anyone else. Or that we have any more love or passion for this business. We publish writers who grab at our guts with beauty and ugliness. Writers who make us breathe differently with their words. And I know well enough to know that if I respond to a story or a poem or a novel, that others will, too. I know enough at this point in my life to trust my gut."

The Giveaway

So now that you've learned a bit about the awesomely indie ADP, would you like to read one of their books? Sure you would!! And you would be in luck, because we happen to hear that ADP is willing to send one lucky commenter a copy of Rose Hunter's poetry collection....

In order to be considered to win this copy,
Simply leave a comment regarding ADP or the book itself (and a way for me to contact you!)
Contest will end on June 27th.


  1. encouraging to read about a designer turned writer turned editor turned publisher turned father turned indie author!

    more than a few times i was tempted to give another poet my copy of rose's to the river, but i am a poet turned selfish turned promoter and so instead i've encouraged others to own a copy of this collection of poetry. it's something i don't want to go without. but should i end up with a second copy (!) i know exactly who i will gift it to.

    sherry o'keefe

  2. No one is getting my copy of "To the River" so it's great you're giving one away.

    Enjoyed reading how ADP came into being.

    John Riley

  3. yes I would like to read one of your books!

  4. Congrats to TooMuchAugust! She is the winner of TO THE RIVER!!!!

    Sherry, check your email!

    Thanks to John Riley and Hull of a City for commenting!