Interview with Michael Salerno, Founder
How did Kiddiepunk start?
Well, Kiddiepunk essentially started as a zine that I made, way back in 2002. I made a couple of issues of that zine and when I got tired of it, I just kept the name as the name of the “press” for whenever I would sporadically make and release other zines. But it wasn’t really until 2011 that Kiddiepunk really became more of a “proper” press and I started publishing work by people other than myself. It was at that point that it really started to take the form that it’s in today.
Tell us a bit about Kiddiepunk. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
People that know Kiddiepunk know us for our pretty distinctive visual aesthetic and pretty narrow thematic focus: we mostly publish work that is centered around the theme of childhood in some way. I tend to view the press as an extension of my work as an artist and filmmaker, which has the same fixations. Basically, I just try to make the kind of press that I always wanted to see, but could never find. I like places like that, places that do one distinctive thing and do it well. We try to be like that. It’s always a constant evolution and a work in progress, but I like to think we’re doing a pretty good job. I feel like we’ve definitely carved out our own turf, which is important.
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?
Recently we released a little book by the Swedish artist Martin Bladh, called The Hurtin’ Club, which is kind of like an evil children’s book. Before that was the fourth issue of my zine Teenage Satanists in Oklahoma.
As far as the future, I never usually talk about the specifics of what’s coming up because I enjoy employing the element of surprise, but I can definitely say that it’ll be more of the same. Haha! In recent years, I feel we’ve really found our voice as a publisher, so now the aim is to continue doing things that solidify and expand this world we’ve created. There’s always a bunch of really exciting stuff we’ve got in the works: books, zines, collaborations with new artists and writers, etc. This summer, we are launching an eight episode web series called Kiddiepunk Cartoons, which is a first for us. They’re a bunch of interconnected short films built around footage I gathered on a trip I made to Oklahoma after a massive tornado and the films kind of of emit the aesthetic and energy of Kiddiepunk, in a moving-image form. We’re also planning a new series of very high-end, deluxe releases, which will be really special.
What about small/independent press publishing is particularly exciting to you right now?
There’s a lot to be excited about at the moment, I think. There are always new small presses and zines popping up and people doing really great and interesting work. It’s super easy to have all the tools you need at your disposal, and printing costs are more affordable than ever, so it’s a good time. Not that you particularly need money to make great stuff and to get it out into the world, but now you have more options, printing-wise, and can do really high quality small runs, stuff like that. The possibilities are kind of endless.
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 Kiddiepunk?
Sure. We do a lot of limited editions, so the numbers are fairly small for these releases, in the range of 50-100 copies. When we release non-limited, open editions, I kind of follow a similar track and only print a small batch at a time and then re-print when I need to. Of course, this makes unit costs a little more expensive than if we printed tons of copies at once, but there’s two main reasons behind my thinking: firstly, Kiddiepunk is run solely by me out of my apartment and I don’t have space to store thousands of books and zines, secondly, I try to be smart about the way I spend money, so I don’t dig myself into a hole by overdoing it. Feeling pressured to have to sell a mountain of books, isn’t exactly my idea of fun, so I try to just keep everything relatively small and manageable, which is important. This stuff is supposed to be fun.
At the moment, things are going well and I just try to keep it so that the releases make back enough money to cover their costs, allowing me to produce the next thing. Of any excess money that we make, above covering costs, 100% of that goes to the artists, though unfortunately there’s not usually a great deal left over due to printing costs and the fact that I try to keep things as affordable as possible, which often means selling things for barely (if at all) more than the price I actually pay for them. That may not be “smart” in the normal sense of the word, but I don’t really care. Kiddiepunk is almost like a big art project to me, and I’ve never used my art as a money-making source. It keeps things pure that way because I just do what I want and I only publish things that I love. There’s no pressure on any particular release to “succeed” on a financial level. It’s a punk mentality that is just kind of ingrained in my head. But it’s great these days because you can do these things relatively affordably and sell them directly to the people who are interested. You don’t need distribution, ISBNs, any of that stuff. You just need to put your energy into making something great. In the not-so-distant past, before the internet, before high quality digital printing, you really couldn’t do what I do now, so it’s cool.
But I actually like to keep things small too. Kiddiepunk is an underground press and it’s supposed to be that way. It’s there for anyone who wants to find it, but it’s not necessarily for everyone. People looking for a particular thing eventually find their way to us. I don’t really have aspirations of “Oh, I want to see Kiddiepunk stuff in bookstores all over the world and available to buy on Amazon or wherever…” No, I actually don’t want that. It’s not supposed to be that accessible. Maybe I’ll feel differently down the line, but for now I enjoy the thought of keeping it that way.
Bonus question, as we haven’t interviewed many international presses yet: What’s it like being based out of Paris?
Oh, I don’t know… Kiddiepunk is just based in Paris because I live there. When I started making zines, Kiddiepunk was based in my hometown of Melbourne, Australia, then I moved to Paris in 2009 and Kiddiepunk followed. For the kind of work I do, I’m not sure that location makes a huge difference, because the world of Kiddiepunk is kind of insular. I barely feel part of the publishing world at all, to be honest.