Laurel Reed Books first began publishing small editions of poetry during the mid nineteen nineties. Sometime during the beginning of the 21st century the literary rag mag The New Chief Tongue surfaced as an eclectic ensemble of mostly Canadian and American poets. Over the years LRB has published at least 30 different titles by as many as 20 different authors. The press also produces broadsides and pamphlets that sometimes appear under the title ‘Your In Samples’ which is a numbered series.
Laurel Reed Books is operated by poet Kemeny Babineau and roving editorial persona non-gratis Nic Coivert. Babineau’s latest work is After the 6ix O’clock News published by Bookthug. Coivert is best known for his series of mud-paintings and least for his infiltration of the Canadian literati, he also largely eschews the internet.
1 – When did Laurel Reed Books 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?
Laurel Reed Books began as a eureka. Back in the mid 1990’s I was still composing on a typewriter but I was short on paper so I was putting the same sheet into the typewriter but manipulating the page so I would have a clean space to type in. That was when I realized something everyone else already knows; if you arrange the words properly you can actually get 8 small pages out of 1 regular sheet of paper provided you do a little folding and cutting. That was my eureka, a discovery that was centuries old.
2 – What first brought you to publishing?
Frustration with not getting published elsewhere.
3 – What do you consider the role and responsibilities, if any, of small publishing?
The role is to try and engage the public with poetry that is not mainstream, and to introduce authors and works to people who are already engaged in poetry culture.
4 – What do you see your press doing that no one else is?
Producing economical limited edition hand made chapbooks. The emphasis here is on the economical, my print runs don’t cost a lot, I save money with added labour and I use my off-cuts. Other presses are also doing this of course but I think Laurel Reed has achieved a look of its own.
5 – What do you see as the most effective way to get new books out into the world?
Personal sales. You need to go to small press and artisan fairs.
6 – How involved an editor are you? Do you dig deep into line edits, or do you prefer more of a light touch?
I don’t want to have to do a lot of editing. I do read texts over very closely and often offer small suggestions or spot typos but I find too much interference from an editor can ruin the terroi of the work.
7 – How do your books get distributed? What are your usual print runs?
I don’t have a distributor, obviously. Print runs are under a 100 and over 50.
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?
I mostly work alone. Nic Coivert lends a hand at times, and I have been known to press my daughters into paper folding or stapling.
9 – How has being an editor/publisher changed the way you think about your own writing?
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?
I find publishing my own work problematic because I either never finish, or I lose interest, or my plans become so complex I never begin. Consequently what I do produce through Laurel Reed is mostly of the impulsive nature.
11 – How do you see LaurelReedBooks evolving?
I’d like to hire someone more capable than myself to do set and design for a larger work at some point.
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?
I’m going to skip the first two parts of the question and answer the third part. Sales and marketing.
13 – Who were your early publishing models when starting out?
14 – How does LaurelReedBooks work to engage with your immediate literary community, and community at large? What journals or presses do you see LaurelReedBooks in dialogue with? How important do you see those dialogues, those conversations?
I basically just ask people whose work I’ve enjoyed to send me a manuscript for consideration, or sometimes they send me something out of the blue.
15 – Do you hold regular or occasional readings or launches? How important do you see public readings and other events?
I don’t do either, although I have in the past. I’m sure such activity is very important but I live in a fairly rural area so artistic ventures are a little like watering a dead plant.
16 – How do you utilize the internet, if at all, to further your goals?
The usual. Blog, website, facebook, emails.
17 – Do you take submissions? If so, what aren’t you looking for?
I prefer to ask for submissions, my publications are labour intensive and I can only do so many before the rest of my life begins to overwhelm me.
18 – Tell me about three of your most recent titles, and why they’re special.
Monty Reid In the Garden
Amanda Earl Kiki
Richard Stevenson Jazz Pops for Jack
I think they are all lovely arrangements of words and paper. Something for people to enjoy.