Interview with Jeremy Spencer, Editor
How did Scrambler Books start?
I had been doing The Scrambler zine for a few years (see question 6 below) and wanted to start publishing actual full length print books. I was reading stuff and seeing places like No Tell Motel with Reb Livingston and MiPoesias with Didi Menendez doing print books and magazines and decided that I would like to do that too. So I did. Reb was very helpful and patient with me via email and gave me a lot of good advice. The contract that I use is still based on her template for No Tell Books.
Tell us a bit about Scrambler Books. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
I like to read and write and always sort of have to varying degrees since I was in elementary school. Growing up, I liked biographies and comics. But I don’t mean like superhero comics, I preferred Garfield, Heathcliff, Calvin and Hobbes, The Far Side, that kind of comic. Funny shit. I basically started Scrambler because I have always like to read and write. In college I was influenced and read a lot about the history of publishing and especially how independent publishers such as Sylvia Beach and Lawrence Ferlinghetti started out. After I graduated from college and all that history of publishing stuff had sunk in for a few years, I decided that I wanted to somehow publish and edit something and that something has become Scrambler Books.
With Scrambler Books I have and continue to try and publish works and writers that I enjoy reading. I think I also try to give first time writers a chance.
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 want translation to be a major part of the future of Scrambler. Here are our forthcoming titles:
Licorice Candies; Stories and Poems by Cecilia Pavon, translated by Jacob Steinberg
Dream Logic by Dominic Gualco
No New Friends by Safy Hallan Farah
Stomachs by Luna Miguel, translated by Luis Silva
Brazilian Poetry is, an anthology of Brazilian poetry edited by Ana Guadalupe and myself
Murdered by Heaven; 25 Spanish Poets Born Between 1979 and 1995, an anthology edited by Luna Miguel and myself
What about small/independent press publishing is particularly exciting to you right now?
I think that right now because of the small/independent publishers, this is the most exciting time for books and readers. There are a lot of small/independent publishers that are doing their thing and doing it exactly how they want to do it if that makes sense. Most small/independent publishers can publish whatever they want without regard to if it will bring in $$ or not and that is exactly what they are doing which is good for readers. They are publishing books that they enjoy. I also really like sites like Real Pants and Entropy and am more than happy to contribute to these communities. These communities are good.
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 Scrambler Books?
Yeah, the money part of it sucks. It’s about to get real now but here we go…if someone thinks that they are going to get rich, actually let me amend that. If someone thinks that they are going to make money as an independent publisher of books, then that someone should not really even do it. The following is from the Paris Review interview with Grove’s Barney Rosset from 1997:
Do you think that it’s possible for a young publisher to do something like Grove again today?
In terms of editorial judgment, yes. If you had enough money. I told a friend the other night that if you want to be a publisher, you should inherit a lot of money. If you don’t inherit it, then you should marry a very rich girl. Preferably both! If you don’t have either, forget it. That’s the history of good American publishing. It was true for Knopf, Viking, New Directions, Scribner. Marshal Field financed Simon and Schuster when they were almost broke. He was a good capitalist: he bought Simon and Schuster when it was at a low ebb, and when it got successful he sold it back to them for what he paid for it.
How does Scrambler Books interact with your e-zine, The Scrambler?
The Scrambler started as a handmade zine in 2003. The first 4 issues were like that and were made up of my friends and I writing/drawing things under our own and pseudo names. Then in 2005 or so I bought the domain name thescrambler.com and put up a website within a year and made it all digital. In 2008 is when I started publishing full length poetry books under Scrambler Books and since then have published 20 books total.