Submission Guidelines: “We don’t currently accept unsolicited manuscripts for publication, but we encourage everyone to submit to Ghost City Review. This is where we look for new writers to publish.”
Interview with Kevin Bertolero, Publisher-in-Chief
How did Ghost City Press start?
In high school, I was really into Alt-Lit and that was my gateway to indie publishing. I started learning about the writers and publishers involved, and the more research I did, the sooner I realized that what they were doing wasn’t that complex. I had been putting together little chapbooks of my own work for years, and figured that could do the same for other writers, too. I saw what Spencer Madsen was doing with Sorry House, and he published this article called “I Made the Mistake of Starting a Small Press and So Can You” which really convinced me to go all in on the project. I had support from friends I made at the Colgate University Writer’s Conference, and within a couple of months we put out our first book. My publishing process has changed quite a bit over the past few years, but the motivations are still the same. I really only want to publish work that I love and help grow the indie lit community. If there are other young writers out there thinking of starting a small press, I hope they go for it! Hopefully I can be an inspiration for them like Spencer Madsen was for me. The community can only benefit from more work being put out into the world.
Tell us a bit about Ghost City Press. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
When I started Ghost City Press, the original goal was to publish writers from the Syracuse area. I had a lot of friends writing about life in the suburbs surrounding this post-industrial city, and I thought it would be cool to do something local. Then I met some writers from Buffalo and we expanded to publishing poets from Upstate New York. With social media, though, we found some writers and an audience down in West Virginia, and really since then our roster has continued to expand. I think now our main goal is to help the indie community grow and thrive. I’m really interested in publishing new and emerging writers alongside established members of the indie lit community. In January of 2016, we launched our very own journal, Ghost City Review, giving us the opportunity to publish even more emerging and established writers. With the internet and social media, we’re connected in a way that wasn’t possible even a decade ago. It’s changed the way indie publishing works and I’m so excited to be a part of this community. I think Ghost City has found a positive way to contribute.
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?
My co-editor, Joseph Barchi, and I are currently putting together Ghost City’s 2017 Summer Micro-Chapbook Series. Last year we had 42 poets write for us and we raised over $2,000 for everyone who was involved. The poets get to keep 100% of the donations made for their titles, so it was really great to see how generous this community really is. This year, though, we have 70 writers involved and will release a new micro-chapbook every weekday for fourteen weeks! My goal is to raise at least $5,000 for the artists involved. It’s great because we have a lot of established voices from the indie publishing community who are participating, but alongside them we have a huge list of new and emerging writers. I want this community to grow and I think we’re giving people the opportunity to share their work. All of the micro-chapbooks are available for free, so this is a chance for readers to get a taste of somebody’s writing to see if they like it. Readers also have the option of donating to the poet if they like their work, and we’re providing links to all of the poet’s other published works so that our audience can support them by buying their chapbooks and full length collections. They’re all short publications, too, and are perfect for reading in the car, on a train or bus, or on lunch break at work.
In the future, I’d really like to publish some novellas and novels. Short story collections and essays would be cool, too. I have this idea for a novella series I’d like to do, but I need to find some fiction writers who are interested. Fiction is something we haven’t really had the chance to publish yet, outside of Ghost City Review. I also really want to put together an anthology of LGBT poetry with all proceeds going to the families who lost somebody in the Pulse Nightclub shooting last year down in Orlando. I want to find a way to give back to that community.
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.
For me, the best part of indie publishing is the strong sense of community between artists, writers, and publishers. I’ve been able to develop some really great relationships with creative people across the country and this has led to a variety of collaborative projects and contacts. Everybody is looking out for one another and supporting each others work.
That being said, I think the community could stand to grow a little larger. While there is this tight sense of community, I feel like at times it might be too exclusive. I want to see new artists, poets and writers thriving in this community. We’re all so connected via social media—which I think is what has allowed this community to grow as much as it has—and this is how Ghost City has really reached out to people. Especially when it comes to our Summer Series, everyone helps promote the work of other poets involved. This year, having 70 writers participating, I hope that all of the poets will talk to one another and create contacts and grow their social circles. For readers, the summer series is a chance to get to know the poets, and for the writers involved, it’s a chance to get to know one another.
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 Ghost City Press?
I’ve said this before, but I hate dealing with money. It’s the worst part of this job. I started Ghost City Press so I could publish the writing that stood out to me and that I thought needed to be shared. I’m not in this for the money, and all of our profits go right back to the writers and to the press, allowing us to publish more titles each year. With indie publishing, there are so many books I want to buy and writers I want to support, but if I’m paying $10 or $15 for each book, that adds up quickly. I know it’s not easy to purchase every title we publish, or to support every poet in the community equally, and this is why I started the summer series. All I ask is that readers pay what they can. Every dollar counts, and if somebody only has $1.00 to give, and they choose to give it to one of our poets, that means a lot to me. Nobody in the indie community is getting rich from publishing these books (and if they are, I’d like to meet them), but that doesn’t stop us from publishing them. Especially in a country run by Donald Trump’s administration, I think poetry and art are more important now than ever. Unfortunately the truth of the matter is that artists need money to survive and to continue creating art. I hope that Ghost City can help poets do that.