Interview with the Anonymous Editor(s)
How did Zoo Cake Press start?
We know how difficult it can be for talented artists who are underrepresented to publish their literature and art, and we wanted to do something about it, so we did.
Tell us a bit about Zoo Cake Press. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
Zoo Cake Press seeks to promote underrepresented voices in literature and art. We like to publish poetry, short stories, flash fiction, genre bending/blending texts, collages, and pieces of writing that aren’t easily classified. We like surprises. We want Zoo Cake to be a place where people feel supported.
We ask our authors to make suggestions regarding the aesthetics of their books. This means authors are involved in choosing book design, layout, artwork, typeface, materials, etc. Because of this, our aesthetic varies. However, we make all of our books by hand so there is definitely an aesthetic of care running through everything we do.
It has always been important to us that our authors be the focus of our press, and the editors/creators of the press be anonymous. We have many people helping to make Zoo Cake possible, but all of them want to put the authors at the forefront.
We have liked the idea of a collective from the beginning, and we are always working to put this idea into practice. We continue to ask our authors to be involved past the publication of their books and many want to be. They have participated in chapbook competitions, reading submissions, helping find artwork, etc. We’re always open to their ideas on new things to do at Zoo Cake. We care so deeply about their input because they are the reason ZCP exists.
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?
Currently, we have free, readable, e-versions of two limited editions chapbooks whose physical copies sold out: Sarah Xerta’s RED PAPER HEART and Caitlin Scarano’s The Salt and Shadow Coiled. We currently have two micro issues, #1 featuring Joe Milazzo and #2 featuring Lillian Kwok that can be read on our website. This summer and fall, we will have six books coming out from the following writers: Naima Woods, Carleen Tibbetts, Elizabeth Schmuhl, Isobel O’Hare, Emily Hockaday, and Isabelle Davis.
What about small/independent press publishing is particularly exciting to you right now?
We love all of the beautiful thoughts, words, and art being shared. We get inspired daily and we hope we’re inspiring others as well. The ability to be a part of the conversation is extremely exciting.
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 Zoo Cake Press?
Zoo Cake Press is volunteer run. In terms of numbers, we’re able to operate because we get pretty close to making back all of the money we put into making a book (we’ve been short before but we’re still doing well).
Right now, we’re only able to print a limited run of books. One day we’d love to be able to pay everyone that works for the press, but we don’t want to charge reading fees in order to do this. We see money as a barrier for those submitting, and we want to be as inclusive as possible so we do not charge a reading fee.
You’re one of the newest presses we’ve interviewed. What has surprised you about this first year of small press-ship? Has your anonymity, in particular, posed any challenges?
Something that surprised us in our first year of being is how quickly our books sell out. We typically do small print runs (50ish and under). Some have sold out in one day! We’re hoping that as we grow, we’ll be able to print larger runs. One of our new authors wants to do a pre-sale, and we’re going to be trying that for the first time this fall.
So far our anonymity hasn’t posed any problems. People at first are a bit confused by it, but it seems like people do understand our reasoning behind it. And really, since our authors are at the center of everything and are very public facing, the press doesn’t feel anonymous to us.