What are some upcoming trends for the next year?
Looking forward, I’m seeing another wave of books adapted from online projects, but I’m seeing a shift away from humor and gift titles. More and more, online platforms seem to be a place where artists can think through parts of what will be a bigger whole. For example, this fall Clara Beaudoux’s The Madeleine Project (New Vessel Press) turns a Twitter feed of real-time discoveries from the author’s Paris storage room into a larger, more cohesive portrait of the time and the woman who created the artifacts.
We’re seeing the same transformations in action at Chin Music Press right now. Chin Music author Zack Davisson gathers a lot of his initial folklore research and translation on his blog, Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai. Both of his fall books with us, Supernatural Cats of Japan and Yokai Stories, take those initial field reports and reframe them in response to specific pieces of art depicting Japanese monsters.
And, of course, just about every genre is turning toward the political.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
We’re always fans of hard-to-categorize work at Chin Music Press, and I’d love to see a genre-blending book on science or social science. Clear, accessible prose that weaves in—or leaves room to weave in—literary perspectives or bold, gorgeous visual representations that can viscerally drive home the importance of the facts.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
Solipsistic travel writing. Especially doing so much work with Japanese and Japan-focused literature, we’ve seen our share of manic-pixie-dream-Orient narratives. It’s not just a cliché: it’s lazy, and it’s downright dangerous.
What do you want to change about publishing?
Diversity in the workforce. I’m a young, middle-class, white woman, and there are a lot of young, middle-class, white women around here. We’ll age, but this is still the demographic that is structurally privileged to be able to participate in internships while also being coached to give our labor more freely than white men. (There are also, unsurprisingly, many white men in the industry, especially in the top positions. None of this is news.) The internship/apprenticeship model is a wonderful learning opportunity, and one that the industry depends on economically. But it places huge barriers of access on who can even afford to come to the table once they’re invited.
I think in general the economic model in publishing is going to have to give sooner or later. One area I’ve been thinking about a lot is the way we put together events. Literature and music seem to have similar promotion setups—let’s get three or five artists with the same vibe and get an audience who likes that vibe to buy tickets (or come for free and buy the full take-home product). Which is fine, except that you depend on mostly preaching to the choir. I’d like to see more events that purposely mix mediums or perspectives so that events are a process of discovery as much as they are a chance to see the people you already like doing the things you already know you like.
What’s unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
We have a strange and hard-to-explain geographical mix—literature from and about Japan, plus New Orleans writing and regional Seattle titles. It seems like there shouldn’t be crossover, but there is. As eclectic as our catalog is, the Japanese book design that first inspired it tends to tie everything together. And over the years, we’ve seen New Orleans writing about Katrina converging with Japanese writing about the Tohoku earthquake. When art comes out of these precarious places, you see incredible, urgent attempts to articulate and preserve a sense of the community that’s getting washed away. Sitting on the Seattle fault line, we’re always waiting for the “big one,” and I think that creeping awareness makes it important for us to raise local voices and try to use our platform for civic change.
Our literal corner of Seattle is unique—we’re headquartered in Pike Place Market with an office and a showroom. We bring in books and displays from regional publishers and artists and sell them alongside our books. When we’re working, we’re kind of hidden (plus I’m not sure all of the tourists believe that, yes, we’re really making books in the back), so it’s always exciting to eavesdrop on people discovering our books.
Cali Kopczick is an editor at Chin Music Press, based in Seattle; a writer; and the production manager/story editor of the upcoming documentary Where the House Was. She lives in Seattle.