It’s difficult to decide where to begin this blog. As I’m dragged kicking and screaming into the digital age, I recognize it as a necessity, but I can’t quite bring the bigger picture into focus. I’m unclear about who might be interested in my thoughts from the lower end of the publishing industry. Google-ing the definition of micropress it says: “a publisher that produces chapbooks and other small books on a very small scale” and yet the publishing group I belong to defines micropress as “publishing less than 25 new titles a year.” Apparently before I even begin I’m in the middle of an identity crisis!
Well, I’ll tell you who and what I am and you can define me any way you like. I was born in Virginia, grew up in LA, have lived in Colorado and Wyoming, then spent 18 years in Santa Fe before returning to Wyoming (and yes, I SO miss Santa Fe!). I’m a writer and an avid reader, a lover of books since childhood. Now, I’m the publisher at Pronghorn Press, a small press (or micropress?) in northern Wyoming established in 1998, with a list of 82 titles going into this year.
Three months ago we launched a new website, PronghornPressAudio.com offering professionally recorded downloadable audio versions of some of our titles and have more in the works. We are also just beginning to convert some of our titles to e-books for all the many devices people can read books on, though I confess I can’t imagine reading a book on a cell phone! (Please Note: I’m not completely out of the mainstream—I’m an enthusiastic Kindle user-so maybe you can just think of me as clinging to the bank of that stream!)
My background is commercial art and advertising design. I found my way into the publishing business by dint of necessity. Throughout the 1990s I designed a number books and catalogs in my freelance work. When an illness in the family forced a move, it also necessitated recreating a career and Pronghorn Press was born. We began with anthologies (Hard Ground, Writing the Rockies) linked to a writing contest that included all genres, but was required to deal with contemporary life in the Rocky Mountain region. (My distaste for the whole romantic concept of things “Western” will be discussed in a later entry!) The contests and subsequent anthologies continued for several years and two regions were added, Dense Growth, Writing the Pacific Northwest and Dry Ground, Writing the Desert Southwest. We even produced Foreign Ground, Travelers’ Tales.
I started the contest/anthology concept for two reasons. I was looking for a first book with a broad appeal and the hope that the authors included would help create a demand, and I also wanted to give authors a chance to acquire some publishing credits that were becoming increasingly necessary for those seeking an agent and a leg up toward the giants of the industry.
The anthologies and contests are behind us now and our focus is on good books in a number of genres. I crave more good fiction—it’s where my heart is—but it seems not much of it comes my way, either through submissions or what I can find to buy!
We have imprints for children’s books (PrairieWinkle), for self-help/human potentials (Higher Shelf Books), and for SciFi/Fantasy (Antelios). I also do a series called Women & Words. Because I’m small and have to work so hard at what I do, I decided from the beginning to only publish the things I liked and to work with people I enjoyed. It’s been an interesting ride.
And now, in the midst of the current economic situation, I find myself facing the same problems that the big houses in NY are said to be facing: changing markets, multiplying formats, software changes and a diminishing number of book review venues—and if THEY can’t find reviewers, you know I’m having trouble! The marketing difficulties walk a tightrope between the market itself and the glut of new titles available, Anyone and everyone can now publish with one the large number of online vanity presses, some reputable, others preying on aspiring writers. And don’t misunderstand. I’m a writer myself and I believe everyone who wants to write should be encouraged, and that people who want to self-publish should be free to do it. But, I would like to see a better understanding of what it takes to sell books—and what books sell—before the authors commit to self-publishing their work. (This, too, I will wax both practical and philosophical on in another blog.)
I have never been accused of being short on opinions, for better or for worse. I hope you might be interested in some of mine and I’m certainly interested in yours. Living where I do, I struggle to remain in some sort of loop that connects me to the thinking of the wider world, so feel free to comment. I’d love to hear what interests you, what you might like to know about publishing on a small scale, book marketing, your favorite books.
Put me in your loop and let’s see what happens.