On "Being Indie" is a monthly feature hosted here on TNBBC. We will meet a wide variety of independent authors, publishers, and booksellers as they discuss what being indie means to them.
Meet Rose Metal Press.
Abigail Beckel, co-founder and publisher of Rose Metal Press, has worked professionally in the publishing industry for more than 11 years. She is also a published poet.
Kathleen Rooney, co-founder and editor of Rose Metal Press, is the author, most recently, of the essay collection For You, For You I Am Trilling These Songs (Counterpoint, 2010). Her second solo poetry collection, Robinson Alone, will be published in Fall 2012 by Gold Wake Press.
I discovered these two ladies and their amazing small press a few months ago through The Lit Pub, a cool website that promotes specialty indies of all genres. By now, you know that I love to hear the story of how these rockin' presses came to be and how they define indie, since the term is applied in so many interesting and (sometimes) contradicting ways. I encourage you to get to know these guys... they've got a great catalog building up and take chances on some amazing literature.
On Being Indie
In his memoir The Business of Books, Andre Schiffrin writes that, “We have seen the development of a new ideology, one that has replaced that of Western democracies against the Soviet bloc. Belief in the market, faith in its ability to conquer everything, a willingness to surrender all other values to it and even the belief that it represents a sort of consumer democracy—these things have become the hallmark of publishing.” Elsewhere in the book, he discusses how the corporate mindset of non-stop growth at all costs has done serious damage to the commercial publishing industry, and to the range of opportunities available to writers and readers.
Being indie, to us, then, means not surrendering all other values to the market and unsustainable growth for the sake of growth. It means that a book that may encourage the growth and expansion of literature and the boundaries of the writing community might not make a lot of money or publish more than a thousand copies. We are mission-driven, but the mission is not money, it’s getting more great and challenging writing out into the world and into readers’ hands.
Being independent, to Rose Metal Press, means, among other things understanding that even if an endeavor is guaranteed to be a relatively small one, that does not make it inferior to one that aims to be enormous. And though we have grown, and hope to continue to grow, over the years, Rose Metal Press chooses to stay small in terms of how many books we publish a year (3) and sees this size as a source of strength. It allows us time to work closely with each author and then really promote each book thoroughly via review outlets, reading tours, and events, and other ways to create buzz for our authors.
Compared to trade publishers, we have more creative freedom because we are independent and a nonprofit and can publish and encourage the kind of writing that we see as ground-breaking and innovative rather than focusing heavily on the marketability and projected sales numbers of any given project. We obviously want our books to sell, but the quality of the work takes precedence in our process of choosing what we’ll publish.
Being independent also means, to us, that we have the opportunity to help bring attention to not just the authors we publish, but to the inventive and unusual cover artists we choose, to our up-and-coming book designers, and to other small publishers also publishing our authors or similar works. Being independent means participating in an endeavor that often feels refreshingly like more of a community and less of an economy. It's more collaborative, with lots of opportunities to seek out and promote imaginative work of all kinds rather than just competing in that space with other innovators.