Interview with Nikia Chaney, Founder and Editor in Chief
How did Jamii Publishing start?
Jamii Publishing started in 2013 when I was at the Millay Colony for the Arts. During a conversation with other artists the idea of how community service existed in the publishing world was raised. I felt that artists who were out there working the community, trying to create change often did not have time to do the “business” of writing. I hoped that there would be a way to help those artist by “gifting” them published books as that would only help them further in the community service goals. Hence Jamii was born.
Tell us a bit about Jamii Publishing. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
One of the first influences was the organization Inlandia in the Inland Empire of California. One of Inlandia’s goals is to foster community in that particular region. We at Jamii want to do this too, but with women and writers of color. We also like the idea of publishing work that is unique and might not get attention, the underdogs of the writing world. We also want to help artists who are busy and who do not see a published book as the ultimate goal in their careers. Finally we just need to love the work and know that the person is someone who shares our values in helping others.
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?
Forthcoming we have two anthologies, Soul Sister Revue: A Poetry Compilation and an anthology for Women Who Submit, an organization dedicated towards increasing the representation of women in the publishing world. We do hope to publish fiction and broadsides in the future.
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.
One of the most interesting things is the aspect of working so closely with the author of the book. Many of our books have covers and artwork that are chosen by the authors. We also have books with unique sizes and illustrations. We love new ideas and the more experimental the better!
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 Jamii Publishing?
We are most definitely a micro-press. We do not have a budget for marketing, and we let our authors know this right away. We have discussed the idea of reading fees, but truly I am against it. The original idea was that Jamii would be more altruistic in business dealings with a great deal of understanding towards the authors. Since our goals involve working with authors who are busy in community service, we do not seek to burden them with excessive obligations. We do retain publication rights and royalties, yet we do pay a percentage of the royalties to each author as well as give a steep discount for author copies. We also do not require authors to buy copies. In order to do this we cannot accept more than a few books per year for publication, but it is my great hope that things will change and Jamii will a part of that change.