July 24, 2013

Kicks Books surging as it recovers from Hurricane Sandy damage


After struggling with serious damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, indie publisher Kicks Books has managed to rebound and prosper with its unique brand of paperbacks, Alex Mutter writes for Shelf Awareness. The relatively young publisher’s warehouse in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn was flooded with six feet of salt water during last fall’s big storm, leaving almost all their inventory waterlogged.

Kicks Books publisher Miriam Linna has been involved in publishing and music for years. She and her husband Billy Miller founded Norton Records together, and in 1978, they started Kicks magazine, dedicated to obscure rock, soul, and rockabilly music. Per Kicks’s website, Linna’s own passion for pulp paperbacks led her to start publishing books, and the first in her line of “hip pocket paperbacks” was published in 2009—a collection titled Sweets and Other Stories by soul singer Andre Williams that he wrote while in rehab.

The pulp inspiration is clearly visible in the cover designs, which all have that vintage aesthetic about them. And it should come to no surprise that Linna has gone with this form, given Norton’s emphasis on vinyl records (which were stored in the same Red Hook warehouse as the books and also suffered water damage). She tells Shelf Awareness, “The idea behind the whole thing was to do a portable book you could put in your hip pocket. I didn’t like the Kindle argument that they were more portable than regular books. Just when they said paperbacks were dead, I decided to put out some paperbacks.”

Linna spent the days after Sandy dragging ruined and waterlogged books from the warehouse, and now, with help from a few sources, Kicks Books is up and running again. Linna’s printer offered to reprint two titles in special Hurricane Sandy editions, and two new titles are slated for release this summer. They also hosted a reading with author Harlan Ellison, a rare appearance for him, in Los Angeles to celebrate the paperbacks’ relaunch. As Kicks forges ahead, Linna says that publishing will remain a passion project for her: “In the grand scheme of things, these books might not be the next big bestsellers, but that’s not my concern. My concern is documenting history, and making sure it’s preserved. These are all senior authors—the idea of having their books out and fresh for new audiences, while these guys are still around and able to enjoy it, is really important to me.”


Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.