Saturday, March 21, 2020

12 or 20 (small press) questions with Nicole Haldoupis and Geoff Pevlin on Applebeard Editions

Applebeard Editions is a small, independent Canadian publisher specializing in flash fiction/nonfiction and prose poetry. It was formed by Nicole Haldoupis and Geoff Pevlin in late 2017. Since then, Applebeard has published three books: Release Any Words Stuck Inside of You (June 2018), Release Any Words Stuck Inside of You II (December 2019), and U Is for Upside-Down House (December 2019). The Release Any Words Stuck Inside of You series is an annual anthology of Canadian flash (non)fiction and prose poetry while U Is for Upside-Down House is a collection of flash fiction by Ottawa writer and comedian Jordan Moffatt.

Nicole Haldoupis is a writer, editor, and designer from Toronto. She’s editor and co-creator of untethered, editor of Grain, and co-founder of Applebeard Editions. Her work can be found in Bad Dog Review, The Feathertale Review, Bad Nudes, (parenthetical), Sewer Lid, The Quilliad, antilang, and other places. Her debut book, Tiny Ruins, is forthcoming with Radiant Press in Fall 2020.

Geoff Pevlin is a writer, designer, coder, publisher/editor at Applebeard Editions, and an innkeeper at the Rendell Shea Manor. He’s from St. John's, Newfoundland, and his fiction and poetry can be found in ArcThe FiddleheadRiddle Fence, and other literary journals across the land. More at

1 – When did Applebeard Editions 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?

We started in late 2017 and released our first title (Release Any Words Stuck Inside of You) in June 2018. Our goals have not shifted. It’s our aim to promote the underserved genres of Canadian flash fiction/nonfiction and prose poetry. We have learned that there is a tremendous amount of high-quality work in these genres being produced every day in this country and that there are simply not enough markets to help them see the light of day! We hope to expand that light as much as we can.

2 – What first brought you to publishing?

Nicole Haldoupis started untethered, a literary magazine based in Toronto, in 2014 with Stephanie McKechnie and Sophie McCreesh. Before that, she interned and volunteered (in editorial, production, and design roles) at Toronto-based literary journals Descant and Existere, where she discovered a passion for making magazines and publishing new Canadian writing. She did an MFA in writing program at the University of Saskatchewan from 2014 to 2016 and wrote a collection of flash fiction as her thesis project (which will be published as Tiny Ruins with Radiant Press in Fall 2020), and while researching for this project had a really hard time finding Canadian flash fiction anthologies.

Geoff was brought into the fold while working on his MFA thesis. He realized, while researching his own collection of prose poetry, that there is dearth of this genre in Canada and figured there’s a gap in the market.

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

We wouldn’t want to impose our own arbitrary roles and responsibilities on any other small publisher, but we see our role as simply giving a voice to a wide variety of diverse writers from across the country. We are not here to publish the next bestseller (although that would be nice!), but instead we hope to highlight the tremendous work that’s out there in the Canadian literature scene, screaming out to be read.

4 – What do you see your press doing that no one else is?

We focus on short prose forms such as flash fiction/nonfiction and prose poetry. As far as we can tell, there is no other Canadian publisher whose mandate is to advance these specific genres.

5 – What do you see as the most effective way to get new books out into the world?

If only we knew! This is the most difficult aspect of publishing for us—promotion and sales. We really enjoy the processes of editing, design, and layout of a book. But it’s another kettle of fish to convince people to part with their hard-earned money and buy that book.

We’ve had tremendous success at our book launches, but of course the problem with launches is that they’re not scalable. At the moment, we’re resisting the temptation to list our titles on Amazon, as we’d prefer not to contribute to the success of a massive American corporation.

Truth be told, though, Amazon probably is the most effective distribution method, unfortunately. For us, appearing in brick and mortar bookshops has been lacklustre at best. We are working on finding a Canadian distributor but have had issues since we are still quite new, our print runs are small, and our margins are already razor thin without adding another middleman into the mix.

6 – How involved an editor are you? Do you dig deep into line edits, or do you prefer more of a light touch?

That completely depends on the piece we’re working on. We prefer to take a light touch (considering that most of what we accept is already of publishable quality), but sometimes issues arise that require a deeper examination.

Either way, we think it’s critical to maintain the voice of the author and respect their choices if they don’t agree with our suggestions. We have no desire to impose our will. We want writers to be happy with what they’ve published with us, so we take a balanced, respectful approach.

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

At the moment, we sell our books at launches and on our website ( Some independent bookstores stock our titles as well, but it is difficult to get sales this way, in our experience. Our print runs have been small (between 100-300 copies) but will hopefully grow as our budget/distribution does.

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?

We (Nicole and Geoff) are the only editors at the moment. We usually have one or two proofreaders and have worked with two different cover artists. We do the layout and cover designs ourselves. The main drawback of doing the vast majority of the work ourselves is, of course, the tremendous amount of time it requires! But it also eliminates the need for another level of coordination, which is nice.

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

Editing/publishing other peoples’ work is effective in clarifying and becoming aware of certain tendencies in your own writing that you may not have noticed. This could be the overuse of adjectives, shifting verb tenses, wordiness, unrealistic characterization, etc. Any hackneyed piece of traditional writing “advice” becomes far less abstract and easier to apply to your writing when you begin to notice it in others’ work that you are trying to improve and bring to a publishable quality.

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?

We see it as a personal choice. Personally, we do not (and likely never will) publish our own work under the Applebeard Editions banner. We prefer to advance the work of other authors and keep our publishing and writing worlds separate.

At the end of the day, the publisher is the one who puts up the money and they have every right to publish themselves if that’s how they want to spend their own resources.

11 – How do you see Applebeard Editions evolving?

Applebeard Editions will likely stick to its mandate of publishing Canadian short fiction/nonfiction and prose poetry. The biggest evolution will probably be in the number of titles we produce. Our goal right now is to release two titles per year (an anthology and a single-author collection). We both have jobs and many other projects constantly on the go, but it would be nice—if the funding is there—to commit more time to Applebeard and produce more titles.

We’ve also discussed the possibility of one day creating an imprint which would focus on other genres: most likely broader forms of poetry (allowing for line breaks) and/or longer-form fiction/nonfiction (novels, book-length memoirs, etc.).

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?

We’re proud that we were once two idiots in a basement lamenting the fact that there were no recent Canadian anthologies dealing strictly in contemporary, very short prose forms. And suddenly we’ve produced two of them! It’s easy for us to still think of ourselves as two idiots in a basement but the fact is that we’re slowly advancing a very underserved genre in Canadian literature which makes a difference in our contributors’ lives. It is indescribably wonderful for people to come up, shake our hands, and thank us for what we’ve done. It’s all the better knowing that we’ve been able to not only bring exposure to these writers but pay them for their work as well. We’re also proud to provide platforms for the work and voices of traditionally marginalized communities. We strive to highlight the works of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis writers, writers of colour, new Canadians, queer writers, and all underrepresented gender identities.

Promotion and sales have been our biggest frustration. There are simply far too many competing forms of entertainment/distraction out there (Netflix, smartphones, social media, etc.) which yield promotional budgets in the millions of dollars. We’re trying our best to raise readers’ awareness of us. It’s a constant struggle and one that we’re sure every publisher/writer/artist feels every day. But it’s fine. We knew it would be this way.

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

We’ve had five book launches (in Saskatoon, Toronto(x2), and Ottawa(x2)). We are thinking about starting a regular reading series, but nothing has been finalized yet. Public readings are essential. Writing can be an isolating activity and readings are a great way to meet other writers and hear what they’ve been up to! CanLit is a small, often close-knit community and such face-to-face interactions go a long way to keep that scene vibrant and active.

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

The internet is critical for us. We use social media (@ApplebeardBooks) to promote our own titles, the work of our contributors, and CanLit events in general. Our website facilitates book sales, and we have a newsletter to keep our readers up-to-date on everything Applebeard.

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

We certainly do! We’re currently open for submissions to our third annual anthology (Release Any Words Stuck Inside of You III) and we’re also accepting book-length flash fiction/nonfiction manuscripts! Full submission guidelines can be found at

What are we not looking for? Racism, misogyny, bigotry, intolerance, or anything else of that ilk. Writers are free to write whatever they want, but that doesn’t mean we will give this type of writing a voice.

What we are looking for is flash fiction/nonfiction and prose poetry written by Canadians/permanent residents of Canada. For our Release Any Words Stuck Inside of You series, each piece must be 750 words or less and not contain any line breaks. The same is generally true for individual pieces in a single-author collection, although word counts can be more flexible.

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

Release Any Words Stuck Inside of You (editions I and II) is an annual anthology showcasing flash fiction/nonfiction and prose poetry by emerging and established Canadian writers. Simply put, this series is special because there’s nothing else like it being published in Canada (so long as we’re aware). There are some single-author collections, sure, but we haven’t come across a Canadian anthology published since the 1980s. And even that collection only focused on flash fiction.

And speaking of flash fiction, we recently published our first single-author collection. Ottawa writer Jordan Moffatt’s U Is for Upside-Down House is a collection of almost thirty (twenty-seven to be exact) flash fiction pieces. This book is special simply because it’s hilarious. We find writing humour to be very difficult and thus it’s hard to find. Moffatt’s stories are also straightforward, quirky, and incredibly accessible. We may be biased, but U Is for Upside-Down House is easily one of the funniest books we’ve ever read.

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