As even published writers will tell you, the chance that the story you've spent so much time composing will ever see its way into print is a minor one. But while most aspiring authors burn the novel long before the thousandth rejection slip hits the mailbox, others seek alternative methods for getting their work into print. Tucked away like a secret fort in the vast jungle that is contemporary fiction, independent small presses provide an outlet for writers whose work hasn't found a place at any of the mainstream publishing houses.
According to Kevin Sampsell, a longtime Powell's events coordinator and occasional Mercury freelancer who also runs his own small press (Future Tense Books), there are many routes toward small-press publication. "A small-press publisher may seek out a writer whose blog or self-published writing appealed to them," Sampsell says. "Other times, writers approach publishers with work they feel best suits that particular press."
For the past seven years, Sampsell has managed the small press section at Powell's Books, making him single-handedly responsible for introducing countless readers to authors they might've never known existed.
Know-how was put to good use in organizing the second annual smallpressapalooza, a nearly five-hour marathon reading co-presented by Powell's Books and the Independent Publishing Resource Center. The 15 authors represent a wide range of material, from the more well-known presses (University of Iowa Press, Future Tense Books) to the self-published. Emiko Badillo's zine Broken Hipster bravely recounts her undergoing a life-saving operation to receive a kidney she nicknamed Jude Law. Local author Jeff Stewart's novel, March of Time and Skin, tells the gritty tale of a young man wandering through the blue-collar West. And poet Zachary Schomburg, author of the wonderfully surreal collection The Man Suit (published by Black Ocean) plans to read from his new chapbook, The Pond.
Amid all the news of mainstream publishing houses downsizing staff to survive recession, Smallpressapalooza is a refreshing reminder that small presses, and the people who read and write for them, are as strong as ever.