Monday, January 15, 2007
How have I not written about this yet?
As most of my half-dozen or so regular readers already know, I've been working for the past several months on an "e-publishing" side project—Revelator. I've hinted at it on this site, and even plugged the books on occasion, but I've never really talked about why I'm doing it, or what I hope to be able to accomplish through Revelator.
Before I get too much further, I should make clear that there are two other people actively working as editors at Revelator and the goals and rationales in this essay are both my own, and since we work as a collective, no more important than either of theirs. That's why I'm posting here and not on the Revelator site: I'm not speaking on behalf of Revelator, but only for myself.
I've mentioned before that I started a lit mag when I was in college, and it was probably the defining experience of my college years. I've always wanted to be a writer, but almost as much I've wanted to be part of a movement—a group of writers with overlapping goals who talk about each other's work. Like many a solitary person, I've sought a group to be a part of, and like many an aspiring writer, I've found that if I wanted to share my own work, I was going to have to create my own opportunities to do so.
My magazine, The Offbeat, took on something of a life of its own, and I found myself working on the magazine as much if not more than on my own writing—I've written about my feelings on that phenomenon in the past and I won't revisit them here. More importantly, I found my group of like-minded writers, and was able to champion them through The Offbeat.
It has been several years since we all left MSU, and we are nearly all in different places. Some of us are writing, most of us struggle to do so, and none of us have attained anything even resembling commercial success.
I have missed publishing. I have missed reading new work from writers I am enthusiastic about. I know people who may just be able to break into the publishing world if encouraged to continue and given the opportunity for their work to find its way into the right hands.
Originally, the idea for Revelator was to produce chapbooks that would be available through subscriptions. (See One Story magazine for a good example of something similar.) It quickly became apparent that my fellow editors and I had neither the money nor time necessary to invest realistically in even a basic small business model. The obvious solution was to eliminate the money entirely—produce electronic chapbooks in PDF format for free distribution online. This turns out to have been the right decision for a host of reasons, not the least of which was that it freed us from all physical constraints involved in production and design. A good printed chapbook can neither be too short nor too long, but Revelator has been able to produce both short collections of poetry and relatively lengthy prose pieces without concern for either maintaining a minimum length or the cost of producing a larger chapbook. Additionally, we have been able to use images and color as beneficial to the overall design instead of having to worry about the production budget.
My expectation is that the work we print will be both polished and rough—polished enough to hold interest and show potential, rough because they are the early works of emerging writers. My thought has always been that if we saw a piece that was obviously ready for commercial publication that we would attempt to direct the author to the proper channels. Don't expect to read any "New Yorker" stories on Revelator, although I sincerely hope that some of our writers will find their way onto those pages. Expect good stories and good poems, fresh, new ideas, wit and sincerity, a concern for craft and art, and a surprise every now and then. We are going to spend most of our time working with the circle of writers we know and respect, but the three of us running Revelator have some fairly different circles and our own ideas about what sort of art most needs to be championed.
I hope that you'll read our chapbooks, and print them out if you'd like. Talk about them with your friends. Send an e-mail to an author or leave a comment on the Revelator page. We chose three word balloons as our logo because we hoped that we would start conversations. So get talking.