Friday, September 10, 2010

12 or 20 questions: J.A. Tyler on Mud Luscious Press;

Mud Luscious Press is an online quarterly, a monthly chapbook series, and a novel(la) press. Interested in the most raw and aggressive literature, to date we have published 11 online issues, 50+ chapbooks, 3 novel(la)s, and 1 anthology, with another 6 novel(la)s and 2 anthologies already on deck through 2012. Visit for more details or to purchase one of our titles.

J. A. Tyler is the author of seven novel(la)s including the recently released INCONCEIVABLE WILSON (Scrambler Books, 2009) and the forthcoming A MAN OF GLASS & ALL THE WAYS WE HAVE FAILED (Fugue State Press, 2011). He is founding editor of Mud Luscious Press and is also on the editorial staffs of Dzanc Books, Rumble, BigOther, and Tarpaulin Sky. For more, visit:

1 – When did Mud Luscious Press 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?

Mud Luscious Press started as an online quarterly in fall 2008 and in winter 2008 we leapt into the chapbook industry, hand-making tiny 4x4 chapbooks of 1000 words or less and distributing three per month for $2 each. We collected all of those first 43 chapbooks into our first perfect-bound book FIRST YEAR { an mlp anthology} and once that title took off, we opened up our novel(la) series, which has produced three titles to date and has another six slated through 2012 alongside another two anthologies, one of our Stamp Stories project and another of the Lamination Colony archives.

Most importantly, what we have learned is that literature can be whatever you like. We didn’t know if people wanted another online quarterly, but then the submissions started piling up and the visitor stats grew. We didn’t know if people wanted to buy a handmade chapbook for even a mere $2, but they did and continue to. And we didn’t know if producing perfect-bound books was something we could tackle with finesse or success and believe now that we have done both. All of Mud Luscious Press started at my kitchen table, and I think about that any day that the editing schedule is a little thick or hectic or maybe I’m not seeing the usual 2-3 orders a day. Lit is what we make it, and it can be anything.

2 – What first brought you to publishing?

We started the online quarterly because I wanted to force myself to read more online literature. So if people were submitting work and wanting publication, I would have to read those works and judge their merit based on my own aesthetic biases. We started the chapbook series because Ken Baumann said on his blog that he had a long poem to read and would anyone like to read it and I said yes and read it and knew it needed to be in print in some vibrant but little form. We started the novel(la) series because Molly Gaudry submitted a chapbook to our series and I told her that if she made it into a book-length piece I would publish it. She did and we did. And here we are now, loving all that has happened.

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

I believe that small publishing needs to grow authors as well as catalogs, which is why you see Ben Brooks’ novel(la) AN ISLAND OF FIFTY just released but another of his books coming in 2012. We hope to keep our authors with Mud Luscious Press just like any major-house publisher would look to keep theirs. We want to be just as aggressive as our authors and their literature.

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

Mud Luscious Press is in line with only a few other presses in terms of pushing the novel(la) form to its greatest extent. We are also currently conducting our Stamp Stories project – 50-word stories printed on 1x1 cardstock and distributed with various participating indie presses. We also like to think that we are at the forefront of aggressive literature, language that is unafraid to break itself open and sift through the entrails.

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

Quite simply: find them, edit them, craft them into a book form, publish them, and make readers want and need to read them.

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

We do both the general sweeping edits during the rough draft stage (content, structure, organization, etc.) and line-edits of all varieties in the final draft stages (grammar, phrasing, rhythm, etc.)

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

Our books are distributed publisher direct at and online at The typical initial print runs are anywhere from 100 to 300 copies with second and third runs usually printed within the first year of a title’s existence.

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 have just recently brought on board an Associate Editor Andrew Borgstrom and there are absolutely no drawbacks to having another staff member. My burden is lessened, freeing me up to take on more projects and our quality is greater, with two sets of eyes to look at everything that is going up or out.

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

I am so much more careful now when I write. I take more time to hone my phrasing. I watch my words more closely. I know the mistakes too to avoid in terms of cover letters, solicitations, and all the other aspects of online and print publication.

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 Nichol. What do you think of the arguments for or against, or do you see the whole question as irrelevant?

I refuse to publish my own writing via Mud Luscious Press. Our press is for others, my writing needs to be elsewhere. I see how it works for someone like James Chapman, whose Fugue State Press is enormous and glorious and whose own writing is also enormous and glorious – but for me, I need a much more objective stance than what this would allow.

11– How do you see Mud Luscious Press evolving?

It is already happening I believe – we are re-issuing Ken Sparling’s DAD SAYS HE SAW YOU AT THE MALL in 2012 (originally published with Knopf) and Norman Lock’s GRIM TALES (originally published in TRIO with Ravenna Books). We have also recently acquired the print archives of Pindeldyboz and will soon house the remains of Lamination Colony. This kind of sprawl is where I believe Mud Luscious Press is heading, touching literature in all the places we possibly can.

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 are most proud of all our titles – they look good, they feel nice in your hands, and they are literature that needs to be read. We’re not sure if people have overlooked them, but if they have, they need to look again. My biggest frustration: not enough money in the coffers or time in the day for all we want to do.

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

We looked (and still do) to Calamari, Fugue State Press, and Dzanc books among others – all of these small presses are aggressive and forthright, know what they like and what they want, publicize as they see fit and under their own terms – these are presses that go to their passions like light – publishing work that always captures and holds our attention.

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

We have a news feed for anyone who wants to follow the happenings, make contact with us, etc. and we also try to have an open dialogue with as many other journals and presses as we can – our current Stamp Stories project (discussed above in #4) is a great example of this, something that has allowed us to cross-promote with a variety of presses and to tap into some of their great authors, a kind of snowball effect for both the immediate and the at-large community. We learn by what other presses are doing, we push because other presses are pushing, so I cannot say enough about how important this conversations within the literature are.

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

Our first official reading was in tandem with the FlatmanCrooked crew at Denver’s 2010 AWP – its was a puppet vs. author reading and one that we’ll do again very soon – also at AWP in DC 2011 we’ll be joining up with Pank, Annalemma, The Collagist, and Ampersand Books for various readings in and around the center of AWP. But other than those yearly kinds of readings / launches, we let our authors field their own reading schedules – we hook them up with as many reviews and interviews as we can, help publicize their scheduled readings, and otherwise make it a team effort to get knowledge of the books out there for all to see and hear.

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

The internet is where we are. The internet is our bookstore, our reading library, our archive, our newsfeed, our promotional guru, our sounding board, our relationship builder, and all the other things that go into making a press a press.

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

We are always open to submissions, have never closed that window since our inception – 1000 words or less for our online quarterly, 1000 words or less for our chapbook series, 15-35K for our novel(la) series – we always want aggressive and raw – we are not fond of straight narrative, genre writing, heavy dialogue, or thick exposition.

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

Molly Gaudry’s WE TAKE ME APART, Ben Brooks’ AN ISLAND OF FIFTY, and Sasha Fletcher’s WHEN ALL OUR DAYS ARE NUMBERED are the first three titles in our novel(la) series and are all special in their own ways: Guadry’s book is a novel(la) in verse, playing off of fairy-tales and the words of Gertrude Stein; Brooks’ book is a mountain of political disintegration, surrounded in a jacket of Derrick Jensen; Fletcher’s book is a surreal clanging of one person against another, how our relationships become cops in the backyard, building us oceans of clouds and glass.

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