Tuesday, August 03, 2010

12 or 20 (small press) questions: Meredith Quartermain on Nomados

Nomados is a Vancouver micro-press founded in July 2002 by Peter and Meredith Quartermain. It now has more than 30 books to its credit, including titles from authors well known in English Language avant garde writing (George Bowering, Daphne Marlatt, Robin Blaser, Rachel Blau Duplessis, Charles Bernstein, Sharon Thesen and Lisa Robertson). Nomados focuses mainly on chapbooks and occasionally publishes perfect-bound books. The press emphasizes poetry but also publishes essays, plays and fiction.

Using digital laser technology, we print in batches of 75, 100 or 150, according to demand, up to 300. The books are printed on 80-lb, acid-free, recycled paper. Funding for the press comes entirely out of our own very small pocket. We try to recover costs but often don’t. We get no grants. Our publicity occurs via launches, poetry readings, email lists, the authors themselves, word of mouth and mail flyers.

We sell our books directly to individuals, libraries and bookstores, offering a 40% discount on orders of 10 or more. We generally ship with an invoice, adding in shipping costs, and we accept Canadian, U.S. and U.K. cheques. No credit cards. You can find us at www.nomados.org/nomados.htm.

Meredith Quartermain's Vancouver Walking won the BC Book Award for Poetry in 2006, and Nightmarker was a finalist for the 2009 Vancouver Book Award. Matter, which came out in 2008, has been described as "prescient, daring." Her work has appeared in magazines across Canada including The Walrus, Canadian Literature, Matrix, The Capilano Review, West Coast Line, Event, Prism International, and other magazines. She taught English Literature and Composition at UBC and Capilano College, and enjoys leading writing workshops at the Naropa Summer Writing Program and the Kootenay School of Writing. She does the typesetting, proofing, most of the liaison with authors and printer, and most of the design for Nomados. Peter Quartermain manages sales & subscriptions, banking, and some editing.

1 – When did Nomados first start? How have your original goals as a publisher shifted since you started, if at all? And what have you learned through the process?

Nomados was founded in 2002 with the publication of Wanders which included 19 poems by Robin Blaser with 19 response poems by me. In many ways the nomadic idea, taken from Blaser's poem "Nomad," has continued to guide our operations. We wanted to be free to wander through the literary world and publish whatever took hold of our imagination. But it has to be said that the terrain that we wander in is definitely open-form writing – mainly poetry, but we have also published fiction, an essay and a play. I have learned much about other writers' practices and about editing – when to stet and when to nudge. I look forward to further education.

2 – What first brought you to publishing?

I was aware of the long tradition of pamphlet and broadside publishing by poets themselves – thinking of people like Robert Duncan and Vancouver's Tish group. Also magazines like HOW(ever) and F(l)ip which grabbed low-budget DIY methods of production and provided a voice and a gathering place in the literary community. Also Peter and I had operated Slug Press, a hand-set letterpress, for many years.

3 – What do you consider the role and responsibilities, if any, of small publishing?

To go in whatever direction the publisher likes. To have complete freedom to design and circulate material that they find worthy of sharing in the community.

4 – What do you see your press doing that no one else is?
We are publishing poetry and other work that we are drawn to; no one else but us can determine that. Nomados is a reflection of our personal wanderings and explorations. We are not trying to define abstractly what we like ahead of time; rather we are responding to what we come across.
5 – What do you see as the most effective way to get new chapbooks out into the world?
The word "effective" suggests mechanisms of capitalist marketing. We are not trying to be mass-market publishers. In our commodity-driven society, we are constantly harangued to buy products based on their supposed ability to keep us in fashion, or keep us from appearing out of the loop, or make us look good in some way. Whereas in fact we don't need most of these objects. Better that our readers should investigate our books because they are curious about the author's work, or they've heard from someone else and the book sounds interesting to them. Often it is the authors themselves who generate sales by reading from the books.
6 – How involved an editor are you? Do you dig deep into line edits, or do you prefer more of a light touch?

My involvement varies with the project. Sometimes I get very involved it the author needs me to do that. Once I arranged for a fabulous editor – Colin Smith in Winnipeg – to do detailed fact-checking etc. However, I don't assume I need to massage the text, and on some projects I've done little other than find typos.

7 – How do your books get distributed? What are your usual print runs?

Our print runs are from 75 to 150 usually. If the book sells very quickly we occasionally print a second run and we have done as many as 300 in the past. But pressures on my time as well as storage capacity have held us back from that. Our books are sold by several outlets: Woodland Pattern Book Center (Milwaukee); Open Books (Seattle); and Apollinaire's Bookshoppe (Toronto). They are also distributed via our website and through the authors themselves.

8 – How many other people are involved with editing or production? Do you work with other editors, and if so, how effective do you find it? What are the benefits, drawbacks?

Mostly it's just Peter and I doing the editing, but as I mentioned above we have on one occasion had help from the excellent editor Colin Smith, who I believe is now an assistant editor at CV2.

9– How has being an editor/publisher changed the way you think about your own writing?

I have come to see how valuable editorial help can be in the composition of a piece, but I think this is largely as a result of showing my work to various writers in residence and friends and getting really great suggestions. There's no question that the right editor, someone who really sees what the work is attempting, can often help a writer to add significantly to the work, or to shape the work fruitfully. But it has to be the right editor. The wrong editor can do a lot of damage. So it is a sensitive area.

10– How do you approach the idea of publishing your own writing? Some, such as Gary Geddes when he still ran Cormorant, refused such, yet various Coach House Press’ editors had titles during their tenures as editors for the press, including Victor Coleman and bpNichol. What do you think of the arguments for or against, or do you see the whole question as irrelevant?

Apart from the two books of mine I published when we first started Nomados, I have no intentions of publishing my own work via Nomados. I don't think you can make rules on this, though. People's situations differ. I thank the stars that Hogarth Press published Virginia Woolf's work. On the other hand, sometimes it makes it too easy for writers to publish less than the best work.

11– How do you see Nomados evolving?

Our approach has always been to follow our interests rather than map out grand schemes. I think we will continue pretty much as we have.

12– What, as a publisher, are you most proud of accomplishing? What do you think people have overlooked about your publications? What is your biggest frustration?

My biggest frustration is not being 2 people so that I could devote one of me to doing more production and marketing work for Nomados. As to what we are proud of, well all of our books, really, but particularly good was to have published two titles by Robin Blaser. It was also really great that Lisa Robertson's book Rousseau's Boat won the bpNichol chapbook award, and that Larissa Lai's book Eggs in the Basement was a finalist for the award.

13– Who were your early publishing models when starting out?

Tish and Robert Duncan as noted above. But on the design side, I remember being impressed with cover designs reproduced in Ralph Maud's edition of Charles Olson's letters to his publisher Don Allen.

14– How does Nomados work to engage with your immediate literary community, and community at large? What journals or presses do you see Nomados in dialogue with? How important do you see those dialogues, those conversations?

We organize book launches. We attend literary events looking for people we'd like to publish. We keep aware of people whose work needs to get out but isn't getting out enough.

15– Do you hold regular or occasional readings or launches? How important do you see public readings and other events?

For authors in our home city we hold launches and readings. These are one of the main ways we sell books.

16– How do you utilize the internet, if at all, to further your goals?

Our website is our main marketing tool. www.nomados.org/nomados.htm

17– Do you take submissions? If so, what aren’t you looking for?

Because we are wanderers, and we don't want to lock ourselves in to lists way ahead of publication date, we don't take submissions.

18– Tell me about three of your most recent titles, and why they’re special.

We submitted all of our last 3 titles for the bpNichol award and one was shortlisted, but all of them are great: Jacqueline Turner's The Ends of the Earth is full of wry wit, taking on politically loaded topics and dealing with them most adroitly; Louis Cabri's highly inventive –that can't torques phonemes with world-shattering punch and refreshing formal verve; and Larissa Lai's Eggs in the Basement uses a nifty procedural key to invade gender-making, war-making subjectivities.

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