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Mon, 23 Feb 2009 09:01
Seven Stories Press publishes books by top authors, fiction and non-fiction (social justice, human rights and radical activism), alternative health, women's health, and popular culture.
The Book Depository: What/who do you see as your primary market?
Seven Stories Press: Readers, and this includes writers. Reading is an activity that by its very nature tends towards bold ideas, strong voices, new ways of interpreting the world around us. So I see our primary market as the end user, the reader, rather than the various book-industry intermediaries. I have an abiding belief that readers want the most interesting, the most provocative, the most challenging material, and so at Seven Stories we're in the business of publishing authentic voices, rather than so-called experts, and to tell stories even when the stories we have to tell might be disturbing. We think that's our responsibility, that it's what readers want. We'd like to think the power of the message itself is a selling point. And sometimes it is.
The Book Depository: What are the principal challenges/opportunities you see at the moment in the business of publishing books?
Seven Stories Press: The principle challenge, or obstacle, is the industry-wide clinically depressed state at the retail level. We exist at the mercy of the retailers. And retailers, like publishers, need to be able to get up each day feeling curious, optimistic. At present the e-retailers have basically, in the U.S. at least, broken the hearts of the brick-and-mortar retailers, and have done so without picking up the slack. That is, Amazon is an absolutely wonderful bookseller when it is 20% of the marketplace, or even 25%. But when it gets to be twice that the effect is ruinous. I'm all for a successful Amazon, but only alongside a successful independent and chain-store brick and mortar retail sector. I am a firm believer in bookstores where you can physically walk in and browse. The success of the Mac stores, which was not predicted, shows just how enthusiastic people can be for the right kind of store environment. When we have a healthy retail environment, we'll have a healthy publishing environment.
The Book Depository: What brings you to the decision to publish a particular title/author?
Seven Stories Press: In the current financial crisis, we're being more selective than ever. First, someone among us who sits at the table during our weekly editorial meeting has to be head-over-heels in love. Then the naysayers who will try to assault the walls of the advocate's castle, often with me leading the charge, have to be fended off. Finally, the books that are going to work best for us are going to be the ones that really fit our program: eloquent political writing with an activist bent on the nonfiction side, and daring, ambitious, not trendy fiction on the literary side.
The Book Depository: What books are you most proud of having published?
Seven Stories Press: The ones I'm proudest of are where we got the book just exactly right, and people noticed. Kurt Vonnegut's A Man without a Country, of course. Chomsky's 9-11. Alan Dugan's Poems Seven. All of Howard Zinn's books. All of Octavia Butler's books. The Censored series. Our critical edition of Nelson Algren's The Man with the Golden Arm. Derrick Jensen's books. Lee Stringer's books. Peter Plate's books. There's no end to the list. But certainly the positive reinforcement that comes from the ones that have been bestsellers is hard to ignore.
The Book Depository: What books are you working on right now?
Seven Stories Press: We've just finished work on an important financial title by our bestselling author John R. Talbott (Obamanomics) that we're rushing into print for a May publication date. It's called The 86 Biggest Lies on Wall Street. And it's delicious. Other than that, I'm deeply immersed in the script of a one-evening performance that will take place on Monday April 6, in Chicago at the storied Steppenwolf Theater to celebrate the centennial of Nelson Algren's birth. All the words are Nelson Algren's, but Barry Gifford and I have taken on the task of scripting the evening into a performance that has drama and pathos -- and humor. The performers who will appear include Matt Dillon and Estelle Parsons, as well as the writers Russell Banks, Don DeLillo and Barry Gifford. We're calling it Nelson Algren Live: The 100th Birthday Celebration. It will be filmed by the director Hugo Perez, and copies of the dvd will be distributed free to schools and libraries across the country by the National Book Foundation. I try not to take on non-book related projects, but this is one I could not resist. And anyway, it will remind people that one of America's most exciting writers is still Nelson Algren, who died in 1981, but is still very much alive in our hearts and minds.
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