“What have you been up to lately?”
“Oh, uh, not much. Started a new publishing company.”
“Yeah? How’s that going?”
“It’s going FREAKIN’ AWESOME!”
“Oh, wow, sounds great.”
“It is. It really, really is.”
“Uh, hey, are you crying?”
“I’ve been trying to format the same document for nine days.”
“Help me… oh god, help me…”
That’s how all of my conversations have been this past week.
The last six month chunk of my life has been a frenzy of activity. On the Hitchen’s Scale of Inhuman Mental Stimulation, this period in my life rates a solid ‘8’. And take it from me, that beats out all of my academic experiences and most of my self-employment. Oh, but it’s not about the drama and the constant, ever-increasing workload. No, it’s about watching something grow from an idea into an actual… THING. It is amazing.
This entire enterprise began – as many good things do – with coffee. It was literally a dark and stormy night, last December, and there were only the four of us at our regular coffee night joint. We talked and gossiped for a bit, but it was clear that the night wasn’t going to be fun & games. Thad had been chewing on ideas about publishing for a while. He leaned forward and said, “You guys wanna hear this idea I’ve got?”
It wasn’t so much the market conditions, or the idea that we needed to jump into the business now. There were plenty of reasons to avoid getting our hands dirty with the insanity of running a publishing company. But there was a really, really compelling component of that first discussion: An Egalitarian Ideal. Because the overhead is so minimal, we could make sure the authors got a huge piece of the pie. Because we are all cool, urban, post-college, writers and editors and teachers, we could create a workers collective out of our company – a place where we shared the work and the rewards equally. None of us are the boss – all of us are the boss.
And it’s not that we’re really shy about being “the boss”, or whatever. Between us we have decades of experience in teaching, professional publishing, editing and running a successful business. We all individually have our own needs and writing aspirations and we’ve all put in our time “in the trenches”, but we want to create a better environment than what we see. The internet marketplace for writers can be a wonderful place, damn it – and we want to leave it better than when we found it. All glibness aside, we really think that this is an idea that is very different – and completely sustainable – for the future of book-selling.
My comrades and I – and every author that we’re working with at the moment – are all on the cusp of something new and amazing. Anytime a new project takes flight it’s pretty exciting, of course, but I think we’re doing good things here. And I really do think that the quality and content of our works – our words – will change things. I can’t wait to see what happens next!
Patrick Jennings-Mapp is a co-founder of and an editor at Escape Collective Publishing. When he’s not reading, writing, or editing, he can be found in the coffee shop – eating scones, sipping coffee and resisting the urge to smoke a cigarette. Also, he sometimes imagines that his life is central plot to an extremely weird – but boring – film.