Monday, January 23, 2023

dancing girl press notes | january 2023

I had intended to make an overdue run downtown today to pick up an order of covers, but woke to persistent drizzly snow that had me postponing until tomorrow. Even still, it was intended to be a day fully focused on press things, which I am still slowly treading back into after several months of pause--at first for logistical reasons and a lot of back and forth, then for mental health reasons that had my life pared down to the minimum I needed to make a living. 

Which means backlogged orders, and in process books to get out, and yes, the final round of submissions reading and responding, which with still a couple hundred completely untouched and another 50 at least set aside for further reading. It's made the response time lengthier, but it's looking to be a great schedule of chaps that have already been accepted, with probably another 15-20 I'd like to add to the list (though which ones is still up in the air.) Also, sending publishing agreements and more schedule info on what I have accepted for late 2023 /early 2024.

It occurred to me suddenly last week that next year, we are coming up on the 20th anniversary of the first dancing girl press chapbook. There is no way this could be at all possible, and yet, there it is. It also means that 20 years ago this fall, I was just starting my MFA program. While wicked alice existed prior to those years, the press is somewhat tied to that program, not really the poetry classes, where they all seemed slightly horrified I had the audacity to start a press (or at my audacity in general,) but a brief dip into the Fiction Writing programs Small Press Publishing class where I created first a print annual of WA, then my own little chapbook project as a test runner for bigger things that fall. Granted, that class imagined far larger goals for starting a press than a tiny chapbook operation.  I remember my classmates coming in with grand schemes and even grander budgets, none of which quite lifted off the ground. My tiny little print annual flew..mostly because my expectations were small..a saddle stapler, some cardstock, some paper, a word file. I did it all for less than a $100 for both the annual and my little chap. This was proper to social media, prior even to this blog (I was still on xanga at the time.) And yet, people found their way to the website, the crude little initial version I had built on Angelfire  for like 10 bucks a month where I hosted other early sites (where it still lives, more or less, at least the landing page, which then gives way to the shop hosted elsewhere.) 

The success of course, depended on the smallness. Keeping things manageable financially, with each book paying for the next. This is still the model that works, with other funds coming through from the shop goods in general. It's a lot more solvent and in the red than when I rented the studio space, but its still very much a micropress. Occasionally, I entertain the idea of full-length offerings, which are do-able as my own self-publishing endeavors attest, but I still love the handmade factor, the smallness factor, of publishing chapbooks. It's still a low-overhead endeavor, which makes it possible to continue even in times when many other presses and publishers went under. (Ie even if traffic is low and the economy shit, books can still make their way into the world, even if I am paying out of pocket myself.)

I also like that not much investment means that I can afford to take chances on authors who might be publishing their first work but aren't going to be big sellers, at least not right away. Or strange little weird books no one but me may love. Or books by authors who release a lot of work, but because their fans are split across so many new projects, they might not sell well initially (I sometimes am this author, I know what its like)  There is a pleasure in being small, but also really free. 

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