January 26, 2011

The people who make indie publishing possible


The casual reader rarely realizes the amount and variety of work that goes into finding, editing, producing, promoting, and distributing the books they pick up in the bookstore, bring home, and learn to love. So today we’re going to tip our hat to two of the people who are integral to Melville House‘s success.

Last summer, Melville House hired Christopher King as Art Director and he immediately took over every visual aesthetic of the company from the covers of the books to the spacing conventions of the em dashes in our books (I’ve yet to see him leave his desk since). Now, with our Summer 2011 Catalogue, his distinctive, stylish work has begun to spark notice.

The Caustic Cover Critic blog was the first to spot and admire King’s work. Now they’ve interviewed him more about his influences and ideas. You should read the full interview (and see the covers for yourself), but here are a few highlights:

Last summer I took over as art director of Melville House, and, as I’m reminded on a daily basis, it’s pretty much the best job ever….Any designer who’s ever faced the firing squad (a.k.a., packaging meetings) could appreciate what a relief it is to seek approval only from our two publishers, who are, remarkably, willing to indulge just about all of my harebrained schemes, and who are almost never heard to say, “make the title bigger.”

Needless to say, if you told my five-year-old self he would actually get paid to draw dinosaurs someday, he’d probably pee his pants.

Another essential book-industry job that rarely receives his or her due is the sales rep. These are the endlessly literate, enthusiastic, dedicated people who devour thousands of books every year in order to let bookstores and libraries know about the most exciting new titles. At The Dewey Divas and the Dudes a blog dedicated to “The adventures (reading and otherwise) of book reps on the road” we were thrilled to see library sales rep Maylin Scott singing the praises of Melville House:

…the stacks of paper and catalogues and drop-ins can be overwhelming. But one of the independent presses that I’m really proud to represent, just keeps infusing this cynical sales rep with electric (and ecclectic) jolts of amazing creative energy, passion and originality that completely recharges me.  This is THE press to watch in 2011…

Last but not least, they are doing something this summer that I’m still chuckling about – it’s an absolutely brilliant idea.  For most publishers (and authors, I suspect), it’s a nightmare when two books come out in the same season with the same title.  Well, Melville has embraced this challenge and this summer are publishing, not one, not two, but FIVE books in their Art of the Novella series, all by different authors, all titled The Duel. Dueling Duels.  I love it!

I’m getting up at dawn on five summer days and reading them all.

Indie publishing is a pitched battle against a multitude of adversaries: the endless clamor of mainstream entertainment, the near impossibility of being noticed against the hyper-visual backdrop, the physical challenge of getting books out into the world, the deadening apathy of much of the culture. It’s the creative energies of people like Maylin and Christopher that keep us alive.