What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I’d love to see more proposals for serious nonfiction by women, particularly if the topic is not related to women’s issues. For instance, this year we are publishing books about suburbia, the Great Migration, and food, all by women, and I would love to double that amount in 2020. I am also interested in memoirs by members of underrepresented groups about growing up in the Rust Belt. And we would like to start publishing fiction if we could find a manuscript that fits squarely within our mission.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
Nostalgic reminiscences of the good old days.
How do you work with self-published authors?
We work with authors through our newly launched Parafine Press (http://parafinepress.com), which offers a “hybrid self-publishing” option. Clients who sign up with Parafine will work with the same staff from Belt Publishing on their titles: We will edit, proofread, design, typeset, format, enter into databases, coordinate with printers, and even ship orders. Parafine Press authors receive the same high quality production process we use at Belt Publishing and a much higher share of proceeds (in return, they front the production costs). I think this model will give many authors a way to avoid traditional publishing, if they so desire, without having to learn all the many details of a very complicated industry on their own. We are very excited about it!
What do you want to change about publishing?
I would love to shrink the pre-publication advance window. The speed of the digital age allows publishers to produce books on a much quicker schedule. But the pre-publication trade magazines, catalog deadlines, distribution channels, and sales rep systems require a book to be completed and produced at least 6, and ideally 12, months before the sale date. This stifles a lot of potential and causes cash flow problems for small presses like Belt.
What’s unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
I like to think that we have more of a brand presence than most publishers. Many people know, when they buy one of our books, that it is a Belt title. This is not true for most book buyers, who rarely register the name of the press that released a title, even for their favorite authors or titles. The “brand loyalty” we find among our readers makes me extremely proud.
Also, we focus on a region but are not a “regional press” as most industry people understand it, in that our mission is not to celebrate the region—we do not publish glossy coffee-table books, for instance. We are looking for the best undertold stories about the area and the most sophisticated, serious, and promising writers. One secret goal of mine is to be known as the press that “snapped up all the great writers of the Midwest” who were being unjustly overlooked by New York. Finally, we also are committed to our authors’ careers: Although we have only published a few dozen books in the five years we have been around, we have four authors who are currently working on their second or third books for us.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I find helping create books to be one of the most fulfilling jobs imaginable, and as Belt Publishing grows, I hope to be able to continue to do so while also having fun and remaining flexible.
Anne Trubek is the founder of Belt Publishing and Belt Magazine, based in Cleveland. She is the editor of Voices from the Rust Belt (Picador), the author of The History and Uncertain Future of Handwriting (Bloomsbury) and A Skeptic’s Guide to Writers’ Houses (University of Pennsylvania Press), and has written for theNew York Times, theWashington Post, theAtlantic, and numerous other publications. Prior to founding Belt, she was associate professor of English at Oberlin College.