Content Tagged ‘emily smith’

The Future of Publishing: Meg Reid of Hub City Press

In our newest series, The Future of Publishing, we’re excited to reintroduce alumni of UNCW’s publishing program, including former Ecotone and Lookout staffers, who have gone on to careers in the industry. To help celebrate the launch of Lookout’s redesigned website, we begin with a profile of Hub City’s Meg Reid.


Reid designed the cover to Trespass: Ecotone Essayists Beyond the Boundaries of Place, Identity, and Feminism

Lookout Books is more than a haven for books that matter; it’s a teaching press under the auspices of the Publishing Laboratory at UNCW, making it also a haven for apprentice editors and publishers. The imprint and its sister magazine, Ecotone, offer students hands-on opportunities to gain experience in editing, marketing, publicity, design, and everything in between. Meg Reid, Director of Hub City Press in Spartanburg, South Carolina, was among the first class of students to support the work of the newly founded imprint.

The Lookout publishing practicum, taught by publisher Emily Smith, “completely prepared her for working for a small press,” Reid says, “which involves balancing a lot of plates and wearing a lot of hats.” While working for the press, she drafted grants, planned author readings and book tours, and wrote design briefs for artists.

“I always liked that we were called on to talk about the books in public often. I learned how to summarize a book, while communicating its important themes and resonances—a skill I use often now, pitching reps and booksellers,” Reid notes.

As part of her graduate work in writing and publishing, Reid enrolled in the Lookout practicum class multiple semesters and helped publish three titles: Edith Pearlman’s Binocular Vision, Steve Almond’s God Bless America, and John Rybicki’s When All the World Is Old. She found it exhilarating to help build the imprint. “Edith’s book was a strike of lightning—we were brand new and suddenly in a national spotlight. I still regularly gift people Binocular Vision—to my mind, it’s the gold standard of short story collections.”

As director of Hub City Press, where she has worked since 2013, Reid now publishes between five to seven books a year in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. She oversees the publishing program and helps realize Hub City’s mission to find and advocate for extraordinary voices from the American south.

“Though our mission is more geographically specific, we share Lookout’s commitment to finding and nurturing underrepresented voices—voices that might not otherwise be heard,” Reid says, “and like Lookout, through robust marketing and publicity efforts, enter them into the larger literary dialogue. By offering these voices a national platform, we’re able to transform and expand the national perception of the American South in literature and beyond.”

In 2014, Reid led a campaign to prevent the censorship of Fun Home by Alison Bechdel and a Hub City Press book: Out Loud, edited by Ed Madden.

Poet Terrance Hayes supporting the Hub City campaign

“We came up with the idea of the t-shirt campaign and a few weeks later we had authors like Ann Patchett, John Green, Junot Diaz, Terrance Hayes, and other huge names making statements and wearing the shirt. The campaign was covered in Publishers Weekly and the Guardian. It was a really amazing moment.”

Reid continues to innovate through her daily work, which includes coordinating Hub City’s literary outreach—workshops, readings, and an annual conference—in addition to overseeing its acquisitions and three book prizes. Recently, she’s “really enjoying finding writers—especially those whose manuscripts may have been overlooked by larger houses—cultivating relationships with agents by making them more familiar with what we do, and then working with the authors to edit and refine their books.”  

Over the years, Hub City has brought home sixteen Independent Publisher “IPPY” awards, including six gold medals, and published a Kirkus Book of the Year in 2015, an NPR Best Book of 2016, and the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Prize in 2017. Carolina Writers at Home, a collection of twenty-five North and South Carolina authors writing about the houses they live in, was edited by Reid.

As if she wasn’t busy enough, Reid also moonlights for Lookout. The cover to Trespass: Ecotone Essayists Beyond the Boundaries of Place, Identity, and Feminism was designed by Reid, who as a student editor for Ecotone remembers pulling contributor Jill Sission Quinn’s essay “Sign Here If You Exist” from the slush.

“I championed that piece and it not only ended up in the magazine it also won the John Burroughs Award.” She adds, “Reading for Ecotone gave me a really strong eye for finished work that was ready for publication. I liked coming into an organization with a set mission and then combing through submissions to find pieces that were a good fit.”

One of Reid’s proudest moments, she says, was organizing a reading in April 2012 featuring Edith Pearlman and John Rybicki. Working closely with two different authors across different UNCW departments and deciding on logistics, Reid notes, “was an immense undertaking and one I couldn’t have pulled off without an incredible amount of help from Emily. The resulting evening was lovely and only a day or two after my thesis defense! It was a whirlwind but felt like a beautiful capstone for my time at UNCW and with Lookout.”

Former Lookout publishing assistant Kate McMullen also works at Hub City as assistant director, and Lookout founder Emily Smith was the organization’s first writer in residence. Reid remembers, “When I moved to Spartanburg, everyone knew Emily and Lookout Books and coming here felt like a kind of homecoming.”

 

Thank you to Lookout staffer Lindsay Lake for her contributions to this profile.

Behind the Scenes: How To Be Independent

I’ve worked at a local bookstore as long as I’ve known about UNCW’s Publishing Laboratory. They’re both small, independent, and full of people I want to be when I grow up. They both give loving homes to books that might be ignored at larger institutions.

Store photo blue

But here’s the thing about being small: it takes big effort. Huge, in fact. Let’s just go ahead and call it a gigantic labor of love. Small presses like Lookout compete with larger publishers before the book even makes it to the shelf (if it does that). Most indie publishers have limited budgets from which to offer authors advances for their manuscripts, and it’s not surprising that big numbers consistently compel great writers to sign with the big houses and their imprints.

Even when indie publishers bring great titles into the world (or, like Lookout, only one per year), it’s especially difficult for bookstores to sell the books of small presses. At Pomegranate Books, where I work, we often receive boxes of press kits and advance reading copies for the big books that big publishers want us to stock. Sure, we’d love to shelve every novel by our favorite indie presses, but will those titles move as fast as the mass-marketed books that everyone and their cousin want to read?

Pomegranate Books is small, but even for larger independent stores with more shelf space and more customers, there are different challenges to selling indie books. Trade publishers often offer volume discounts, or additional in-store advertising money to incentivize stocking and prominently displaying their books. So big-publisher books get coveted window display and shelf space even if a bookseller would prefer to give attention to her new favorite by an indie press. The New York Times wrote about this back in 1996, and it’s still a tiresome obstacle.

Instead of advertising money, Lookout offers gratitude to indie bookstores in the form of author visits, signings, and readings in their stores. At Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, Lookout’s publisher and editors tagged along with authors Steve Almond and Matthew Neill Null to offer free publishing workshops and to serve on panels after the authors’ readings. And Lookout celebrates indie stories such as Brookline Booksmith, which to date has sold almost six hundred copies of its first title, Binocular Vision: New & Selected Stories by Edith Pearlman! That collection found its way into the hands of hundreds more readers thanks to the generous support of booksellers at Harvard Book Store, Porter Square Books, and Politics & Prose, which hosted Edith Pearlman for one of her first public readings from Binocular Vision.

Millions of books exist in this world—in fact, I encourage everyone to purchase So Many Books by Gabriel Zaid, an exhilarating read published by another indie press, Paul Dry Books—but our store has fewer than five employees. Perhaps, if we had the time and human capital to dedicate regular hours to discovering new books by small presses, we’d be able to better hand sell their books. Instead, we struggle simply to stay up-to-date on the titles brought to our attention through large mailings and marketing budgets.

The better an independent press can convey its mission, purpose, and we-consider-every-little-detail attitude, the more inclined a bookstore’s owners and staff will be to share that appreciation for thoughtfully made books with their customers. It’s extremely difficult to verbalize or advertise that feeling, but Lookout serves as proof that it can work.

These five best practices from Lookout Books include things I wish I saw more of as a bookseller—from every press, big or small.

RiverBendChronicle1.    Authors

Lookout seeks works by emerging and historically underrepresented writers, as well as overlooked gems. Unlike large trade publishers, they aren’t beholden to stockholders or corporate owners, so they tend to be less motivated by profit margins. Bookstores know that they consider their publications works of art by literary artists, not just best-selling retail items (though they hope for that too!).

 

2.    Marketing

coasters
In developing media kits, Lookout makes or buys materials, when they can, from local or independent sellers. If a bookstore receives a promotional kit that includes unique, handmade materials, they’ll be more likely to give it attention. When Lookout staffer Anna Coe created coasters to celebrate the recent release of Matthew Neill Null’s Honey From the Lion, she ordered the wood slices from a supplier on Etsy and personally stamped and sealed every coaster!

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It’s Astoria to Zion Publication Day!

Lookout is thrilled to celebrate the official publication day of Astoria to Zion: Twenty-Six Stories of Risk and Abandon from Ecotone’s First Decade.

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We unveiled Astoria to Zion last week during the surprisingly sunny whirlwind that was AWP Seattle. EcotoneLookout, and Milkweed Editions co-hosted a book release party atop downtown Seattle’s gorgeous Sorrento Hotel. Longtime friend of Ecotone Ben Fountain, who wrote the foreword, introduced the collection; contributors Brock Clarke, Cary Holladay, and Rebecca Makkai offered fantastic readings from their stories. For more photos from the event, please see our coverage on Facebook. Check back here for upcoming video interviews with the gracious contributors as well.

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