This is the fortieth 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.
Interview with KMA Sullivan, Publisher
How did YesYes Books start?
A moment of optimistic delirium.
Tell us a bit about YesYes. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
We have a wildly broad aesthetic. We look for work that is loud and gutting as much as we look for work that is quiet and intense. The key is, it needs to set us on fire.
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?
We are hugely excited about our recent releases. Danez Smith’s [insert] boy, released in December, sold out its opening print run (1000 count) in just four months—and that was done without Amazon. Emily O’Neill’s Pelican, released in March, is our first Pamet River Prize winner. This prize, open to a first or second book from women and gender queer writers, is one of the ways that YYB is working to prioritize diversity of voice in publishing. We are also excited about the just released North of Order by Nicholas Gulig. It is a book length poem of immense grace and intensity. As we look down the road we’ve got four electrifying Vinyl 45s (a chapbook series) from up and coming poets including Christina Olivares (winner of last year’s Vinyl 45s Chapbook Contest), Justin Philip Reed, Aricka Foreman, and Fatimah Asghar. These are poets to watch.
Beyond that, we are breathlessly working through our finalists for the next Pamet River Prize, we are about to announce finalists for the next Vinyl 45s and are currently accepting submissions for full-length poetry collections. And the second printing of [insert] boy will be available soon—it’s on a “preorder” sale while we wait for it to come in. There is a universe of goodness ahead!
What about small/independent press publishing is particularly exciting to you right now?
The most exciting thing, as far as I’m concerned, is the broadening recognition that the lack of diversity in publishing is a serious problem. We are in the midst of a surge forward in the publishing of writers of color, women writers, and writers under the wide trans umbrella. It’s about time. The movement forward will benefit all of us concerned with the strength and relevance of art.
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 YesYes Books?
We keep the quality of our physical product high, choosing cover and interior papers, trim size, lamination and, of course, cover art that is in unique conversation with each book. As a result of these decisions, printing costs can be steep. The fact that we do 1000 count runs lowers our per unit cost a bit but some of our product choices significantly drive up costs. In addition, we have chosen to support our books through touring and events. Since we generally publish first-time authors, we feel its important to help our authors build audience. Tour management and event planning costs a fair bit.
The main reason we can cover our costs is that we have a large, passionate, and dedicated editorial staff who are, for the most part, volunteers. Other than a part-time publicist, a part-time web-design editor, and our graphic designer, all of whom offer their services at below market rates, our incredible staff works for free. I work full-time at YYB (about 60 hours per week) for free. Since the editors work mainly for books and love I’d like to thank them right here for all they do. JoAnn Balingit, Heather Brown, Mary Catherine Curely, Mark Derks, Stevie Edwards, Alban Fischer, Jill Kolongowski, John Mortara, Beyza Ozer, Amber Rambharose, Phillip B. Williams, and Robert Whitehead—you are all amazing!!
We are currently in the process of switching up the way our books are distributed. We believe that will keep more revenue in house. The trick there is to balance revenue retention with national distribution of our titles. We’re trying a few different strategies. More on that, perhaps in another interview!