Interview with Kenny Leck, Publisher
How did Math Paper Press start?
It was born out of necessity. We had started the bookstore first in 2005 and right around 2011, we noticed that there was a relatively large number of manuscripts that had no publishers that were even looking at them.
I’d also have to add in the point that most of the unpublished authors had in due time become friends and patrons of the bookstore. With that in mind, we decided to take the plunge.
Tell us a bit about Math Paper Press. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
There are a few publishers that have been a main influence for our press. They are New Directions Publications, New York Review of Books, and Europa Editions.
Our aesthetic veers towards a sense of familiarity. The way our cover visual looks, it sticks to a strict format of how we classify the different genres that we publish. And by doing that, we are trying to build a visual cue for our readers whether in Singapore, New York, Taipei, or Russia to immediately recognise our titles wherever they pick them up from.
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?
Pushing forward, we are looking towards a series of children’s picture books, a series of photography focused journals, and of course, we hope to publish more content from Southeast Asian authors as well.
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.
Tilted Axis Press is definitely the most exciting small / indie press to us now! And what needs to change in the scene? I believe there’s a need to publish outside one’s comfort zone. At its core, publishing is about pushing boundaries, and expanding mindsets. And if our publishing is not doing either function for us, it is a signal for us to get our act together.
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 Math Paper Press?
I think every press works differently, and it should be left to each press to decide which methodology works best for them. My opinion has always been do what feels most logical, and what you feel works best for your press at this particular time. We have been hitting an annual gross of about $300K for the past three years. We definitely hope to maintain this average gross, and if the tides work in our favour, we hope to see the sales numbers to increase by at least 10% year on year over the next five years.