October 28, 2011
INTERVIEW: Johnny Temple
by Melville House
Transcript of an email interview conducted with Johnny Temple, founder of Akashic Books …
Moby: You’re in Frankfurt right now. What’s the thing you’re hearing about the most there?
Temple: There seemed to be a bit of a buzz around a young Israeli author whose debut book of linked short stories was either phenomenal…or overly hyped, depending on who you were talking to! It definitely made me curious to see what all the buzz was about.
M: How has the success of “Go the Fuck to Sleep” changed your life/Akashic books?
T: While we are beyond delighted at the success of Go the Fuck to Sleep, my life and life at Akashic has not changed that much. We do not plan to expand and the fact that we will have our first profitable year since Akashic began publishing simply means we have a financial cushion to enter 2012 with–something we’ve never experienced before! Beyond giving myself and staff larger bonuses than ever before, we plan to save most of the profits so we can continue to publish great literary fiction.
M: The city noir series is working really well for you, and now you’re branching off into narcotics. The Speed Chronicles sound amazing. How did you get Bill Vollmann, Tao Lin and James Franco to sit down and write stories about Meth?
T: Thanks! We’re very excited about the new Drug Chronicles series. Similar to many of our Noir anthologies, we rely heavily on the editors to secure the stories. In the case of The Speed Chronicles, the editor Joseph Mattson is a great writer himself AND he works at one of the best bookstores in the country — Book Soup…Through his active life as a writer and bookstore employee he had tons of contacts and he was the one who secured Vollmann, etc.
M: Do you read slush (unsolicited manuscripts)? Does anyone at Akashic? How many unsolicited manscripts do you think you get a year?
T: We do still read some unsolicited manuscripts, but not many. We get several queries a day and usually aren’t able to take a look, though every once in a while something grabs the attention of me or another Akashic staff member and we agree to check out the mss., but this is a small number of unsolicited that makes it into the slush pile.
M: What do you look for in a manuscript? How do you decide to publish and author?
T: Our process of selecting books is so idiosyncratic…There’s not really something specific we look for…overall it’s down to personal tastes of myself and staff (Johanna, Ibrahim, Aaron, and Zach) and unidentifiable things that either draw us to a ms. or not…I can’t really explain what we look for in a ms. BUT, with regards to an author, we do look for someone who is enthusiastic to work with us on publicizing their book and is eager to do readings, media, and in general, be as creative as possible in brain-storming promotional ideas with us. We also look for someone who’s nice and treats us with respect … and understands the amount of work required by an author AFTER the book has come out, not just during editing process.