This is the eighth 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.
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Interview with Editor Giancarlo DiTrapano
How did Tyrant Books start?
Ah man, I got to pass on this one. I’ve been asked it and have answered it so many times in interviews (all online) that at one point I just started making shit up to keep it entertaining. But maybe I’ve never answered it like this: How did Tyrant Books start? I moved to New York and I started it and I didn’t stop yet.
Tell us a bit about Tyrant Books. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
Tyrant Books is, to quote Christian Lorentzen, a one man institution (with a team of freelancers, I might add) so I publish what I enjoy reading. If it pleases and grabs me, then I will try to publish it. That’s all editing really is. If you have a certain taste, a taste that others might also have, then put work and (if you have any) money behind things that you like and you may see that others will feel the same way as you do about it and gravitate toward it and give it support. I’ve had so much support. People like Brian Evenson, Michael Kimball, Noy Holland who have been there since the beginning, were essential in making this happen. Tyrant stuff isn’t for everyone, but nothing should be for everyone. Or at least nothing that’s worth anything. You know what’s for everyone? Water. Water is for everyone. And if you’re publishing something for everyone, well, you’re publishing water.
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?
The Atticus Lish book just launched so I am pretty busy handling that. I’m been in a bit of a haze reading all of this good press on this book. It’s so well deserved. He worked so hard towards a beautiful result. Having the Times and WSJ give gushing reviews to a book from a small press makes me hopeful. So much more attention needs paid to books from small presses.
Forthcoming I have Megan Boyle’s LIVEBLOG which is gonna be a really big thing. I can feel it. And I got a couple other things I’m not really talking about yet.
What about small/independent press publishing is particularly exciting to you right now?
The same thing that has always excited me. That indie presses don’t have to answer to a corporate hog who will shoot down a book because it isn’t “marketable” enough and won’t bring in money. Small presses are usually just a few people, so deciding what to publish becomes more idiosyncratic, which is good. It is my opinion that the fewer editors there are working on a journal or novels for a small press, the better. One person has a certain taste and the work is more cohesive and has more personality. When you have 10 people deciding what stories should go into a single journal of short stories, chances are, it’s gonna be a mess. It’s usually obvious who out of the group should take the helm as editor. Egos need to be set aside for the good of the project. You have to yield to the one with most vision. Because it’s not who publishes what that matters, but just that it gets published. It doesn’t even matter who writes the book or not. Just as long as it gets written.
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 Tyrant Books?
I cope how everyone else copes: alcohol, cigarettes, sex, and drugs.
I feel pretty impartial to reading fees. It does take a lot of time to read through slushpiles. But if you are charging writers to submit, you better be giving every submission the read that it deserves. I haven’t noticed printing fees going up. I don’t know what the “what” is in the last part of that question. Look, I have lost a lot of cash on the Tyrant. Especially the journal. We were in all the Barnes and Nobles and indie bookstores and at best broke even. I sold my house in New Orleans to do the Tyrant and it’s been worth it, even if I don’t have a house anymore. Just last year I was thinking about closing shop and was sniffing around for a job but something happened that is allowing me to keep publishing. Don’t mean to be cryptic or anything, it’s just something I can’t speak on yet.