Newsweek just published an article about Thought Catalog, the parent company of my publishing label, Thought Catalog Books. It’s an interesting, thorough piece, definitely worth a read if you have time. I actually got an invite to the party the article describes in its opening, but I couldn’t make it for some legit reason. Some excerpts:
‘This is an insanely special occasion,’ [site contributor Mat] Devine gushed. ‘On February 1 of 2010, Thought Catalog had 200 visitors. On February 1, 2015, Thought Catalog had 1 million visitors.’ He introduced ‘the man of the hour,’ Thought Catalog founder Chris Lavergne, who gave a brief speech thanking everyone who’d contributed to the company over the years, and then introduced the musical duo ASTR, which performed as partygoers stood around munching cotton candy.”
“Meanwhile, Thought Catalog’s books division has flourished, publishing eBooks by respected authors like Prozac Nation writer Elizabeth Wurtzel and, next month, philosopher Simon Critchley.”
“[Rachel Kramer Bussel’s] essay collection, Sex and Cupcakes, was published with Thought Catalog Books in 2014.She likes that Thought Catalog is thriving. ‘Seems like they’ll be around for a long time, and I don’t always feel that way. I’ve written for a lot of sites that have closed within maybe a year or two.'”
I was initially skeptical about publishing with an independent press. Since I was a teenager, I remember looking at big publishers’ logos and saying, “Someday…” I don’t know: there was something very staid and stable about the way their books were presented. The idea of being part of a tradition and adding to the great hall of American arts and letters really appealed to me.
After I finished graduate school, though, I jealously watched as my friends published gorgeous-looking books with independent presses who threw them lavish launch parties and drove from bookstore to bookstore, conference to conference, to promote their authors and connect with a local/national scene of passionate readers. To me, that was far more impressive than what I’d seen from former classmates who published with bigger, stodgier houses: they didn’t seem to be getting much from companies that had extravagant budgets and seemingly endless staff. I don’t know where I’ll eventually end up: my academic career has certain checkpoints, and major publishing houses are still more respected by academia. And, of course, there’s a question of scale and audience.
But I do want to say that, in an increasingly digital age, readers care more about the book itself than the company (or even the media format in which it’s presented). Stories from smaller journals like Hobart are being featured in the Best American Short Stories anthologies, and Tinkers, published by a small press (Bellevue Literary Review), won the Pulitzer. Per the Newsweek article, Thought Catalog Books doesn’t make a huge profit, but I’ve had an enormously positive experience: Mink Choi edited my manuscript and her advice was as sound and practical as any of my MFA professors’.
My publishing company has been wonderful about promoting my debut novel. The deeper I get into the process, the more I learn about how hard–and expensive–it is to get anyone to pay attention to a single novel among a sea of novels (not to mention other types of media). Through the past year, I’ve been somewhat shocked at the amount of money and effort Mink has put into supporting my book. It’s been great to see how many friends, colleagues, and complete strangers have offered congratulations and pre-ordered the book–that has truly meant the world to me. But designing a beautiful cover, guiding the book through its actual production and design, managing the logistics to set up readings, sending out review copies, and creating a comprehensive marketing plan: in all honesty, that sustained, seemingly endless effort has been one of the most surprising and humbling aspects of publishing a book.