|For this week’s feature, Sapling talked to Joe Pan, Managing Editor/Publisher of Brooklyn Arts Press
Sapling: Brooklyn Arts Press publishes full-length books and chapbooks (in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction), as well as art monographs. Tell us a bit of your story—how did the press come to be, and what should people know about you?
Joe Pan: People should know we’re open to publishing anything, pretty much, if the work is strong & we admire it. Our bread & butter is poetry, with some fiction & art mixed in there, but that’s slowly changing. Right now I’m interested in opening BAP up to novels, hybrid & weirdo texts, nonfiction chapbooks, lyrical short fiction, art collaborations that involve various media (like print books with web-based counterparts), & the like. We will always be a press that publishes the first or second poetry books of emerging writers because that’s what we mostly receive during our submissions season.
As for how we came to be, BAP grew out of a need for small presses with open submission policies that charge no contest or reading fees. It also grew out of my own sense of adventure & egotism, since the first book I published was my debut collection of poetry.
S: As the Publisher and Managing Editor of BAP, what is the hardest part of your job? The best part?
JP: I think you’ll get different responses from various publishers, but the difficulty of dealing with printers tends to be high on everybody’s list. The first book a new printer creates for you is always nearly flawless—they thrive on new business. The second book will arrive with the cover image printed at a lower dpi than your submission, or it will have pages falling out because of problems with the glue, or the final interior paper will be of cheaper quality or lesser weight than the paper used for the proof. I’ve experienced each of these problems & am much more involved in quality control checks at each stage of the process than when I first started out. Another major difficulty the small press faces at times is an adherence to strict deadlines (blurbs by this date, cover art by this date). Life happens, & when you depend on so many people to finish their respective jobs in order to move forward, you must be prepared to either handle the stressful complexities that arise from managing inflexible timetables or create situations where work can’t pile up.
The best part about running a small press is sitting in the audience while one of your writers reads from her first book of poetry at her first book party. The emotion present in these moments will blow you away. You get to enjoy the pride they take in their accomplishment, the subdued ecstasy of it being finished, when they kind of let go of the thing, finally, when the book becomes real, in effect, as it is first shared in this way with these listeners & future readers. There arrives a personal satisfaction, at some point during the evening, in having helped make this thing happen, a satisfaction that arrives in a fluster & then dissipates quickly, for some reason. But it was there & you felt good about it & everyone claps & gets up to socialize & you sit for a little bit longer & watch it happen & drink your wine.
S: BAP will be holding an its annual open reading period this coming June. When you bring a new author on board, what does the ideal author bring to you?
JP: Well, the ideal emerging author brings a sense of urgency & humility to a project, along with a desire to make his book the best it can be; he realizes his work is good but probably needs a healthy dose of editing; that what he wrote is not a precious object but a still-developing system, alive, & therefore growing, malleable, until it is finally not; he is an avid proactive self-promoter (ie, he’s willing to set up a reading at his local bookstore, or if he teaches, his university/college/school; he uses social media; he has videos on YouTube of him reading; etc); he has a complex understanding of where his work stands in relation to the work of other authors (or if really special, different camps, cultures, languages, & eras), & is confident in his ability to express these relationships from the perspective of a student, though he is humble & self-mocking of his own work & in no way self-congratulatory; he is generous with the time he gives to other authors & quick to make friends; he is above all curious—this is the ideal emerging author, from a publishing perspective. A smart, kind, efficient workhorse who loves literature the way literature deserves to be loved, & who will continue writing books with this goal in mind. This will make you proud while also growing your catalog, with the hope that his future readers will find their way back to earlier publications, one of which you own the rights to. The ideal accomplished author, for lack of a better term, from a publisher’s perspective, would be someone already famous for his talents who has sent you his latest surefire hit of a novel because he wishes to help launch your small press into the stratosphere by building a cult around it. Half of his book’s proceeds have been earmarked for dissemination to worthwhile charities. Also, he is a chef & loves cooking for you.
S: Where do you imagine Brooklyn Arts Press to be headed over the next couple years? Are there any changes you foresee taking place in the near future?
JP: Like I said, more long-form fiction & projects of interesting performance. In 2015 we will be publishing our first academic book with the Norwegian Theatre Academy, with support from MIT, the University of Kiel, & other renown international universities. After I took that project on, I realized the press had to change to meet my broader vision, devotions, & tastes. I really just want to publish work that excites me. None of us are here for very long.
S: What one or two small presses deserve serious recognition in the eyes of BAP, and why should more people be checking them out?
JP: Last summer I brought some small presses up for a residency at Mount Tremper Arts Festival in New York. Those presses were: Argos Books, Birds LLC, Epiphany Chapbooks, & Fewer and Further Press. These are run by people who love poetry, plain & simple, & they spend an enormous effort making sure good work sees the light of day. I also continue to be impressed by Wave Books, H_ngm_n, Black Ocean…I wish there was more small-scale fiction collectives out there, doing the kind of work Foxhead Books is trying to do. I understand that this is more than two small presses & I feel bad about it but I’m a talker & these are good presses.
S: What’s at the top of your list to read this summer?
JP: Manuscript queries & then full-length manuscripts, approximately 300-600 of them. I’m always weirded out by having to list the titles of books I’m reading for an interview, knowing they’ll end up in print, & if they turn out to suck, I can’t erase them. I have about 20 chapbooks I purchased or traded for at the CUNY Chapbook Festival that I’m eager to pace through, a few big old school novels from the turn of the century (this turn, this century), & some work by friends. That’ll do, I think.
S: Just for fun (because we like fun), if Brooklyn Arts Press had a brain, what three things would it be thinking about obsessively?
JP: It would obsess over its strange, newly developed cover art fonts, its burgeoning marketing initiatives, & the overwhelming anxiety it often feels early in the morning & late at night, stemming from a juvenile sense of predestination & doom. You’re gonna be fine little fella.
To check out Brooklyn Arts Press online, visit: http://www.brooklynartspress.com/
Joe Pan’s debut collection of poetry, Autobiomythography & Gallery, was named Best First Book of the Year by Coldfront Magazine. His poem “Ode to the MQ-9 Reaper,” a piece about drones, recently made the front page of The New York Times. He grew up along the Space Coast of Florida, attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, & serves as the poetry editor for the art magazine Hyperallergic. His poetry has appeared in such journals as Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, Epiphany, H_ngm_n, & Phoebe, his fiction in Glimmer Train &Cimarron Review, & his nonfiction in The New York Times. Joe is the founder & publisher of Brooklyn Arts Press, an independent publishing house.