Becoming a Gatekeeper–and eBook News!

My essay on becoming a small press publisher has just been published by Souvenir, a new online literary magazine. Read “Becoming a Gatekeeper.”

It’s my own personal manifesto, created from the sense of writerly community, and given power by the shifts in the traditional publishing industry. Here’s an excerpt:

“Nobody gave me this power, and maybe I have no right to take it, and that terrifies me. Some days it feels like dress up, putting on a superhero costume and calling myself a publisher. A gatekeeper. But I believe in promoting and publishing local authors, so I’m donning my satin cape and jumping into the giant gap between the major New York houses and the self-publishers—vowing to make something magical happen, not just for my authors but for readers seeking that sweet mix of literary language and plot.”

It has taken me much of this year to accept the fact that I’ve given myself the power to say yes or no to other people’s manuscripts, and then to put them out into the world as book form. In fact, only after I wrote “Becoming a Gatekeeper” did I realize I was calling myself Forest Avenue Press’ founder. Which is static. Quiet. Unassuming. In writing this piece, I gave myself permission to start using the title that’s more appropriate: publisher.

A Simplified MapOf course I’m also the book-shipper, the publicist, the editor, the bookstore liaison, the order-fulfiller, the accountant, and the public relations firm. We’ve had tons of great coverage and reviews lately, including this piece in the fall ForeWord Reviews. Reviewer Kristine Morris writes:

“Beautifully crafted and marked by incisive wit, Allred’s fifteen interlinked short stories reveal the rich, dark tangle of events and emotions that lie beneath everyday happenings in small-town America, unearthing the sibling rivalries simmering beneath the surface of apparent conviviality, the devastation of divorce, the deadening sadness that follows, and the way innocent young people awaken into first love.”

In terms of taking the reins, or rather donning my superhero cape, I’ve set up some direct-from-publisher options for people who want to buy our first fiction title, A Simplified Map of the Real World by Stevan Allred. Our paperback is available, hand-addressed lovingly if a bit sloppily (reporter handwriting, sorry) by me, for $18 plus shipping. For a limited time, inspired by Amazon’s new MatchBook program, we’re giving away a free PDF with each purchase.

You can also buy all three of our ebook formats–ePub, .mobi, and PDF–bundled together for $2.99 through our Gumroad page. We opted to include the fifteen lovely illustrations by bookseller Laurie Paus, as well as the Faulknerian map of Renata, Oregon, hand-drawn by the author, so you’ll be getting 294 pages of content including those bonus lovelinesses.

Ebooks are now also available on Amazon, which would help our sales rankings, although we keep more of the profit from Gumroad. I’m new to this whole ebook thing, so if you have any suggestions on which one I should steer people to, please let me know in the comments! I know a lot of you are expert ebook sellers, and I’d love to hear your perspectives. (The paperback will be available on Amazon starting Thursday!)

Our ebooks were created by an incredibly helpful, patient, and reasonably priced designer, CW Walker. Cyrus has a reputation for finding unconventional solutions to design problems, and that’s certainly been true for our partnership. He worked really hard to get our illustrations working, and he has given me all kinds of email support, from suggesting better ways to do things to offering helpful hints–and some much-needed perspective–during some intensive printer issues. I’ve so appreciated his encouragement.

Cyrus is a graduate student at Portland State University, set to earn his master’s in publishing in 2014, and the founder of Cyrusfiction Productions. Since 2012, he has been the layout and design artist, art director, and production manager for Dark Discoveries magazine. Cyrus is also a published author of fiction and nonfiction, and he does ebook conversion and other publishing-related tasks for JournalStone Publishing, Forest Avenue Press, and other individual clients. I wholeheartedly recommend him for ebook conversions and any other publishing needs you might have. Although I set out to hire an ebook conversion specialist,  Cyrus has quickly become a full-fledged member of the Forest Avenue team.

About Laura Stanfill

Publisher, Forest Avenue Press
This entry was posted in Books, Fiction, Publishing, small press and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Becoming a Gatekeeper–and eBook News!

  1. Reblogged this on What The Hell and commented:
    From the “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself” file. Good luck, Laura!

  2. First of all: e-books! Yay!

    I almost did the E-book Happy Dance, but then I remembered that I’m at work. 🙂

    As for the rest, that’s a great essay. I am entirety in favor (in most situations) of people doing things that seem to need doing, even if they don’t appear to have the appropriate rights, permissions, or superpowers.

    • I knew you’d be pleased, Anthony! We even decided to add the 15 lovely illustrations to our ebooks, thanks to Cyrus’ know-how. And although I never thought I’d charge out and do something like this, I respect and admire others who have, and I’m watching them closely as they follow their dreams, so I can learn from them. Still, I may need a superhero cape one of these days. Red satin, I’m thinking.

  3. jmmcdowell says:

    What a fantastic essay, Laura! And you most certainly have every right to call yourself a publisher. After all, even the largest houses started out with a first book. And I think in this ever-changing world of publishing technology, there is a need for individuals like you who have the vision to bring readers and writers together in new ways. Here’s a virtual toast to many happy years for Forest Avenue Press!

    • Oh thanks, jm! Cheers to you, too. Now I feel like a publisher, on the eve of our first national release, but it took a while to get here. I’ve always admired Max Perkins, Fitzgerald’s editor, and I remember hearing that agents now fulfill the roles editors used to fulfill, but I get to do all of that good stuff as a small-press publisher! The close work with edits, the encouragement and personal conversations with authors, and being part of a partnership, something that’s bigger than whatever manuscript we’re working on.

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