This is the sixteenth in Entropy’s small press interview series, where we ask editors about their origins, their mission, and what it’s like to run a press. Find the other interviews from this series in our Small Press Database here and under the Resources tab at the top of the page.
Interview with J. David Osborne, Editor
How did Broken River Books start?
Broken River Books started after a conversation with Michael Kazepis, who now runs King Shot Press. Jeremy Robert Johnson’s Swallowdown was going on an indefinite hiatus, and we felt like there needed to be a publisher that filled the gap and expanded upon what JRJ was doing with that project. So I acquired five books by great authors, went to Kickstarter, and asked for $5000. People seemed jazzed by it, we hit our goal, and I’ve just been working on keeping that momentum going.
Tell us a bit about Broken River Books. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
My major literary influences are James Ellroy, Patricia Highsmith, Jim Thompson, James Sallis, Walter Mosley, etc. etc. My aesthetic for Broken River is to publish novels with a pulp bent that are just left of center. I want weird books from confident writers. I wouldn’t say that I’m into experimental fiction, so much. My biggest influence when I started the press was to do for books what El-P did for indie hip-hop with Def Jux…you just knew that if a record came out through them, you were gonna get something different, but that it’d be quality and it would have that feel.
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?
The biggest thing on my plate right now is March Madness, for which we’ve launched another Kickstarter. I enlisted the help of Alan Clark and Brian Allen Carr to edit a few books on Broken River, in addition to hiring Constance Ann Fitzgerald to launch her own imprint, Ladybox (which will publish books solely by folks who identify as female) and Michael Kazepis to start King Shot Press, which reflects his particular aesthetic. The goal with it is to release 12 books on the same day, which is no small feat for a little press that runs on a very limited budget. Then we’re putting out a poetry collection by Robert Spencer and a novel called Zero Saints by Gabino Iglesias in the summer.
What about small/independent press publishing is particularly exciting to you right now?
I really dig the spirit of the whole thing. I like the community. I like that people seem to be into what other people are doing. I like the variety. It feels like now you can find someone with similar tastes to you, and follow their press and never be upset. It’s much less hit-or-miss. You know Lazy Fascist is going to put out great work. You know CCM is going to put out great work. What’s amazing is the sheer number of people who are able to do this, and the sheer number of work that gets published, now.
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 Broken River Books?
With reading fees, while it’s not something I’d personally do, if that’s how you want to do it, cool. Printing costs aren’t really that bad. As for book costs: I think books should be more expensive. For awhile, about a year ago, it seemed like you needed to put your book at $2.99 on the Kindle or it would be passed over in favor of other books. However, I’m not entirely sure what obligation a reader feels toward a book that she got for dirt cheap or even free. Like, I have a lot of free books on my Kindle…and I’m not sure I’ll read them. I know it’s a “mileage-may-vary” type thing and some people just suck up all the books they can, but for me, I don’t. I did read the hardback Area X by Jeff Vandermeer that I paid a lot for. And I enjoyed it, the paying for it, and the reading. It felt like it had weight outside of the obvious weight of the book (it’s heavy).
I don’t know, I just feel like books should be paid for. There’s a concept of trying to get the book into as many hands as possible, but I’d rather have as many readers as possible, and I’m not sure I’m getting that if I’m giving books away or selling them for bargain-bin prices. Also, a lot of my authors spent a shitload of time on these things. They deserve something.
How do I cope? I edit books about romantic elves freelance, I write giant monster books for hire, I ghostwrite, I sell translation rights to the novels I’ve written, I take my cut of the novels that I’ve published. It’s always a bit of a struggle, and each one of those odd jobs took a long time to get up and running. But you get in the zone. If you’re ever not doing something, you’re doing something wrong.
Some of the books I publish move 400 copies a month, some move 1 or 2. It’s a gamble. But we’re working on making it not a gamble at all.
The terrible job interview question: if you could ask yourself a question, what would it be?
Have you ever wondered is Florida real?
Recent Broken River Books releases:
Broken River Books on Entropy:
Interview with Constance Ann Fitzgerald, Tiffany Scandal, and Rios de la Luz on Ladybox Books
Interview with Michael Kazepis, author of Long Lost Dog of It
Review of Incarnations by Chris Deal
Review of Jigsaw Youth by Tiffany Scandal