Interview with Dane Bahr, Editor
How did Dock Street Press start?
I’ve been asked this so many times. I don’t have a good answer for it. I enjoy good-looking books. I enjoy holding a well-made book. Our covers—and I don’t think this is arrogant—are some of the nicer ones being put out, and fortunately the writers we publish make the guts even better. We just wanted to make nice looking books.
Tell us a bit about Dock Street Press. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
When I’m looking for a book, I look for stylists. It’s not the just the story, it’s how it’s told. That’s a pretty boring thing to say, but it’s true. Our first writer we published was Kyle Coma-Thompson. That’s a writer who has a lot to say, and he says it in a way that really isn’t like anyone else. His stuff can be polarizing, and often puzzling, but the way he writes, the way he pays attention to the sentence is remarkable. He’s soon to be a force.
I also like novellas. Small books you can put in your back pocket. We’ve done a few of those. Some more to come.
I think our aesthetic is pretty straightforward. Our website reflects it, our books reflect it, even the typeset we use: it’s all in service to a clean, uncluttered feeling.
Can you give us a preview of what’s current and/or forthcoming from your catalog, as well as what you’re hoping to publish in the future?
We released Kyle’s second book, Night in the Sun, this year. Ben Tanzer’s Be Cool is coming up. We’ve done our first poetry collection by Tyler Flynn Dorholt, American Flowers. That one has full of color inserts, photos—it’s definitely a different looking book. We’re putting out a travel book (kind of) by Joe Manning. He worked on a freighter and wrote about it. Wonderful little book. We signed New Yorker cartoonist Tom Toro. He and I had a conversation this summer about doing something. I said a memoir about your ascension to TNY would be something people would love to read. He bit, and we’re putting it out next fall. It’s not in my nature be to be aloof, but that’s all I really feel comfortable talking about now.
We used to ask, “What about small/independent press publishing is particularly exciting to you right now?” We’re still interested in the answer to that, but we’re even more interested to know what you think needs to change.
The sheer volume of new voices. Voices underrepresented. It’s exciting that a lot of these houses are started by people with almost no business acumen (myself included), yet make it work. There’s still a hierarchy, however, there are cliques. I don’t like that. There is also the concern for distribution. They (distributors) really control which houses get noticed. I don’t like that, either. We just signed with Small Press Distribution. They’ve been good so far. Pretty accommodating. We have good feelings about it.
How do you cope? There’s been a lot of conversation lately about charging reading fees, printing costs, rising book costs, who should pay for what, etc. Do you have any opinions on this, and would you be willing to share any insights about the numbers at Dock Street Press?
I’m from Minneapolis. Three things Minnesotans don’t talk about in mixed company: politics, salary and religion. For me, for Dock Street, it’s the subject of the book business, the cost of printing, the travails of returns, blah blah blah. I can say that if costs become too great to put out the kinds of books we like, physically and so on, we’ll close up shop rather than release a lousy looking book under the lantern colophon. Short answer: pass.