This is the thirty-fourth 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 Carl Annarummo, Founding Editor
How did Greying Ghost Press start?
Greying Ghost started with one man and one dream. Ha! No but really it started with me just wanting to work with some of my writer friends who were producing real quality work. My own writing situation seemed bleak at the time and I just wanted a way to stay involved. I had all the basic tools anyways so it just seemed like a logical move.
Tell us a bit about Greying Ghost. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
Well when I was growing up I was (and still am) into zines and weird books and record covers—pretty much all types of printed matter. I got into making zines in high school and got quite familiar with Xerox machines. When I got to college I was introduced to the Grolier Bookshop in Cambridge and there I discovered chapbooks by Burning Deck and countless others. When it came time to start up Greying Ghost I really wanted to run a zine/record label/book press. Like a hybrid of the three. I don’t really know if I ever formally came up with an aesthetic or a mission. I try and do everything with my own hands, from designing to printing to shipping. Each book is unique in its own way. Most are hand-stamped or pressed. The pamphlets Greying Ghost puts out have that zine feel to them, photocopied and folded. Like this answer I guess the press is sort of this rambling rolling dervish.
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?
I just finished up the new chap by Chad Reynolds. It’s called Drummer and it’s part of a larger series he’s invented that is unlike anything I’ve ever read. I published the first part, City of Tomorrow last year. Chad’s writing is unparalleled. Next is a collection of fiction from the great Gene Kwak that is gonna make the earth spin a bit faster. Down the line we have books by Toby Altman, Leanna Oen, and Dan Chelotti. It’s the tightest lineup this press has ever had. And it’s had some pretty awesome lineups.
What about small/independent press publishing is particularly exciting to you right now?
Just the sheer volume of great presses. It’s exciting to see what everyone is producing. There are presses that blow me out of the water with the quality and level of craftsmanship. And I think big publishers are noticing that and putting more effort into their own book design. But just seeing how many folks out there are willing to put so much blood sweat and tears into something that probably won’t make them a ton of cash or whatever is pretty damn great.
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 Greying Ghost Press?
This is where things get bit interesting. In the beginning I was doing print runs of 50-75 copies and they would sell out really quick. Then I started doing print runs of 75-90 and they still sold out but just a shade slower. I started to do print runs of 100-120 and sales really took a nose dive. So right now I’m kind of scaling things back. The thing is is that with the larger print runs I felt like I was making the best designed books I’ve ever made for the same price ($6-8 range). I had better equipment. I was learning how to do things properly. But for whatever reason sales just didn’t reward that. It’s really thrown me for a loop. I’ve always been lucky in that the previous chapbook has always paid for the next. Mostly because I do everything myself and so my overhead is low. I don’t take a salary from doing this. All profits of one chap go into the cost of making another. So right now it’s tough. With so many great presses and high quality books being produced there’s a lot of competition for bucks.
You posted on Facebook that you’re “going all in” this year “to stave off elimination.” What’s this mean specifically? Is closing the press really a possibility?
I can’t see it closing completely but I could see it going on hiatus or scaling back considerably. Hell maybe it’s time to retire that moniker and start from scratch with something new. It’s all up in the air at this point. How things go this year will say a lot about where things will go in the future. I’ll always be a book peddler. I’ll always be printing books. But there’s still so much more I could and should be doing to raise awareness of the press and that’s my focus for the rest of the year.