• Taking Risks as a Publisher

    Posted Posted by Guest Writer in WBN News & Events     Comments 1 comment

    I was recently invited to talk about Anomalous with a publishing class for undergraduates, along with Sandra Allen the non-fiction editor for Wag’s Revue. My husband, Matt Landry, who is our web developer, came along to help me talk about the vision, and that’s something that both Sandra and I talked about in a surprisingly similar manner.

    Sandra and her co-editors started their journal to meet what they perceived was a need for legitimately literary online venues for publishing. She herself said they just didn’t know about many of the good online journals out there at the time, and so had a polemical start with their Manifesto, which more or less said (in 2009, mind you) that there were no great online literary journals. She laughed about it, but said it did get them some publicity at least, from people who took issue with their claim.

    In many ways it made me think of part of the impetus to start Anomalous, which also had to do with my perception that many literary publishers were ignoring the developments of new technologies (audio and ereader, in my case) that could make literature available in new and exciting ways. The “diffusion of writing in the forms it can take,” to quote our own vision/mission  statement. Of course, the internet and literary publishing are such wide, wonderful places now that I have no idea how innovative this is, but I wasn’t seeing it so I wanted to try it. To see if it would work, and produce interesting literary things.

    It struck me as interesting that changes in the landscape of technology should be the driving motivation behind our two, after all very different, publishing ventures. Wag’s Revue is interested in “fostering the new and great writers of our time.” In a way it seems to me as though they’re particularly interested in the kinds of writers that will eventually become canonical, established, “great” literary figures. Like The Paris Review, or Poetry. A venture that started small and up-start-ish and becomes the establishment itself. And that’s great, and many writers are hoping to become the canon of our generation of writers.

    Anomalous, on the other hand, has its own manifesto. You can read all 8 points of it here, but I think #4 gets to the heart of it: “We’re thinking about YOU and that thing you WROTE one time and how you showed it to us and we blushed.” Our writers are great, and some of them may even become the canonical figures of our generation, but that’s not our driving interest.

    So what is? I don’t know…it’s hard to put my finger on it. I worked for an amazing small-press venture for many years, where we published new work by the likes of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Seamus Heaney, Robert Pinsky, Lyn Hejinian, Fanny Howe, etc. etc. etc. And some amazing “new” (ish) writers (at least perhaps at the time): Tom Sleigh, Maureen McClane. And that work was wonderful, and stunning, and I loved every moment I got to work on it.

    But it strikes me that we don’t need more venues fighting over the same 10% of “great” writers. We need more publishers willing to take bigger risks, and that is something I hope we have been doing with Anomalous. That is really my goal–and the medium, the technology makes it easier and easier than ever to take those risks.

    But I’d love to know what other risky publishing ventures are out there that I’m unaware of. Does anyone have suggestions?


    Erica Mena is Founding Editor of Anomalous Press. She writes poetry, and translates, and makes hand-made books, and sometimes wishes she were braver. She moves more often than once a year, but never without her growing collection of mythical animals. She has been called Alluringly Short.


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    David Duhr

    I wonder if it’s fair to say that anyone starting a press or litmag in this environment is taking a risk?

    I very much agree about that 10% comment. However, with so many hundreds of online journals now the 90% is well represented. The question is, how do we make sure they get read?

    At Fringe we try to publish lots of new writers; but without also pubbing some of those bigger names, it’s difficult to get ourselves heard above the noise. I’m sure you’ve had that same discussion at Anomalous.

    Would love your thoughts, please comment.x