Being Eclectic, a Publishing Dilemma

As a writer, I often found myself trying to figure out which publishers would be a good fit for my manuscripts. Now that I'm a publisher, I have a different preoccupation: which manuscripts will be a good fit for my press?

When I first started Wild Sage Press, my set of criteria was simple: I had to feel passionate about the book, the book had to be extremely well written, and the author had to be someone who works well collaboratively. Style, genre, subject matter, geography - these were all secondary considerations. As a result, since the first Wild Sage Press launch in 2012, I have published an eclectic assortment of books, including three poetry books (one with gorgeous botanical illustrations), two children's books, one play, and one memoir. 

I am passionate about each and every one of these books, for different reasons. Blue Grama, How to Be a River, and Watermarks are wonderful examples of story-telling poetry that speaks right to the heart - accessible and engaging, even to people who don't usually read or like poetry. Dorothy McMoogle with Kumquat and Bugle incites me to bursts of happy creative energy, and the second children's book, Goldeye and Funnyfin, makes me smile and want an adventure of my own where I find unlikely friends. I hugely admire how the thought-provoking play We're Already Home uses whimsy and humour to bring vividly to life (on the page and on the stage) the challenges inherent in people of different backgrounds getting along. The most recent book - the memoir Tending the Tree of Life - is an amazing read: a charmingly told story, with intriguing vignettes about love and war, advocacy and LSD, and insights into a remarkable character. 

Eclecticism, however, is a challenge for a small publisher. Each particular kind of book requires a unique knowledge set regarding appropriate book reviewers, sales outlets, media, contests… A history journal doesn't care about a children's book; a children's book store won't carry an adult poetry book. In addition to doing most of the publishing tasks myself (with the help of some supportive volunteers and a few consultants) - editing, design decisions, grant applications, bookkeeping, inventory control, promotion - having to seek out completely different audiences for each different kind of book adds to the workload and makes life that much more complicated.

Ultimately, though, I love all sorts of books. I'm an eclectic reader, so it's not a surprise that I've become an eclectic publisher. How to decide? Could I choose children's books over poetry? Poetry over plays? Are memoirs the way to go? Or maybe it is just fine to be eclectic. I'll keep you posted.

- This blog was adapted from the April 2016 Wild Sage Breeze monthly feature.

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