Interview with Caleb True, Managing Editor
How did Dynamo Verlag start?
I started Dynamo Verlag in the summer before my final year in my MFA program (2015) at Old Dominion University. There were a few motivators to finally do it. First, I’d been playing around with book design for a while and was getting more confident in creating books that I liked the look and feel of. A manuscript written by a colleague of mine – Telescopes and Other People by Josh Norman – exactly personified the kind of work I wanted to publish, and he agreed that I could publish Telescopes – it would be our debut title. So, I had a book, a website, and some confidence. Also, I had worked as fiction editor, assistant editor, and (was soon to be) the managing editor of Barely South Review, ODU’s literary journal, so I had the editorial know-how. Coming up with our logo design and tagline – Genius | Eclecticism | Originality – was next, and that was pretty much it – we were a press.
Tell us a bit about Dynamo Verlag. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
Our tagline pretty much says it all. We want, like, and champion works of Genius, Eclecticism, and Originality. That said, here are some writers we are enamored of:
Sabina Murray, Richard Brautigan, Rachel B. Glaser, Amina Cain, Roberto Bolaño, Nikolai Gogol, Nikolai Leskov, Mikhail Bulgakov, Ernst Jünger, Jarrett Kobek, Haruki Murakami, Dambudzo Marechara, Aimee Bender, Mary Caponegro, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Pierre Michon, Antonio di Benedetto, John Williams, Svetlana Alexeyevich, Richard Stites, Hannah Arendt, Sylvia Townshend Warner, Amos Tutuola, Naghuib Mahfouz, Yuri Slezkine, Isaac Babel, Edgar Allen Poe, Rumesh Gunesekera, Gregory von Rezzori, Zora Neale Hurston, George Bataille – you get the picture…
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?
Our early titles, after Telescopes and Other People, kind of found their way to us. We started out rescuing really good books from publishers who had gone under – Lucian Mattison’s Peregrine Nation, Matthew Sadler’s The Much Love Sad Dawg Trio, and Melissa Goodrich‘s Daughters of Monsters all were rescues. Our 2020 title, Driving Around, Looking in Other People’s Windows by CL Bledsoe, was the first book we selected from unsolicited submissions to the press, and currently we are running the Dynamo Verlag First Ever Book Prize (submission deadline was 31 January), for which we received a lot of awesome and competitive submissions. We are currently reading them all and cannot wait to announce finalists. The winner of this contest will be published alongside Andrew Squitiro’s Local Weather, a collection of essays about relationships and climate change, and we are currently talking to singer-songwriter Paul Bergmann about rereleasing his debut full length vinyl, 1, so we may very well be branching out into record label territory.
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.
What’s exciting about independent publishing is that it’s independent, and we can do whatever we want. Even more exciting than that is the ongoing diffusion of authority, away from big-business (big 5) publishing to smaller enterprises all over the place who are freer to do what they will, publish what they will, and generally champion better art. The problem with that, of course, is that some successful indies begin to institutionalize their success in the same way, growing into that which they once reviled, and the same problem recurs: one must separate from or work against established/establishing institutions in order to continue to innovate. That said, I can’t wait for our press’ first agented submission.
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 Dynamo Verlag?
I started a press because I wanted to design and publish beautiful, interesting books. Print-on-demand services (we use Ingram, for instance, to print most of our books) allow us to keep costs low. There are some downsides to POD; it takes some skill to design a good looking book within the parameters of these systems. On the other hand, we don’t have to hold closets full of unsold stock, and at the same time our authors’ books will never be out of print; we will never abandon any author because of poor sales or because a print run sells out. We are not interested in eBooks at the moment, but we’re also concerned about the environment and paper usage, so…that could change down the road. I’m open to ideas if they seem to make sense with a given project. I have strong opinions about art and about publishing, and while it can sometimes be difficult to get people’s attention, I do believe that one can build a devoted, engaged community around a press, just as punk rock communities often coalesce around a particularly beloved venue. That is in part why I call the press “Dynamo Verlag.” Verlag is a small, cool German word which means “Publishing House,” and I like the idea of a publishing house, rather than, say, a publisher, or a publishing company. It feels more congenial, warmer. Along the lines of community building, I started podcasting about a year ago, interviewing writers and poets in the hopes of building awareness of some of the great literature pouring out of the indies these days. Podcasts are fun, and easier for people to take a chance on (more so than buying a random book). In our episodes we chat about the writer’s journey and motivation, and at the end of each episode there is a reading of some kind. It’s worked really well so far and I think it is a fun and natural move into promoting works of genius, eclecticism, and originality – our own books as well as those of other presses in the indie community.
Recent releases from Dynamo Verlag: