Indie publishers share the love


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Hear from one of the readers, Michael Morse, below. Morse read during Mission Creek Festival's Wednesday set of events, reading excerpts of poetry from his new book, Void and Compensation. Morse graduated from the University of Iowa's Writer's Workshop in 1992.

Multimedia compiled and edited by Lily Abromeit

Writers struggling to get their work published used to have few options when it came to publishers, but today’s digital marketplace opens up many doors for the aspiring champions of the written word.

The Indie Presses Book Fair is a forum for attendees of the Mission Creek Festival  to discover new and classic writing from a bevy of local and national independent presses.

“Mission Creek [and the Indie Presses Book Fair] has a great do-it-yourself feeling … a great local spirit and a national audience,” said Michael Newton, the editor at Ugly Duckling Presse, a publisher featured at the fair.

Editor Nick Twemlow of Canarium Books, another attending publisher, said most of the books in the United States are published by small presses.

He defines a small press as any publisher outside of the “big five,” a group including companies HarperCollins, Hachette Book Group, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster.

“Small presses need book fairs,” Newton said. “It’s a good way to sell some books, but it’s also a chance to talk with people in the public who we often don’t [see].”

More than 15 presses will be represented at the event, which is being held at the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

Representatives from the New Belgium brewery will be on hand to offer beer to patrons as well. 

“It’s pretty downbeat, but it’s very professional … [and] a great chance, if you’re a fan of writing or a young writer, to find out what small presses are doing,” Twemlow said. 

Tables showcasing published work will be arranged throughout the back area of the Mill. Books will be available for purchase, often at a discounted price. 

“My favorite part is just getting to talk to the people who come through,” said Holly Amos, an editorial assistant for Poetry Foundation. “It’s great to hear what poems or essays people respond to and which contributors get them excited. I also love pointing out things that have been in the magazine that might not be on folks’ radar.” 

Some authors will appear to sign books and answer any questions people may have. Many of them will also be giving free readings during the Lit Crawl on Friday – an invasion of Iowa City businesses by more than 60 authors from across the country.

Venues include Forbidden Planet, NoDo, Dublin Underground and the Clinton Street Social Club.

Newton said he was particularly excited for this event.

Several of the books available for purchase were released days before the fair, on Wednesday.

Michael Morse will exhibit his book of poetry Void and Compensation, which was recently published by Canarium Books.

 “[Void and Compensation] deals with love, love lost, the voids that are created by breakups and larger loses like people dying,” Twemlow said.

Emily Wilson, another partner with Canarium Books, recently released a book of poetry titled The Great Medieval Yellows.

“[The Great Medieval Yellows] is a gorgeous book; it is intensely musical,” Twemlow said. “It is a book looking to the natural world for solace.” 

Ugly Duckling Presse is showcasing the poetry of Ben Fama in his newest offering, Fantasy.

“[Fantasy] is a book about loneliness, identity, and how the Internet has affected those things,” Newton said.

Twemlow said Iowa City is particularly well-suited to host this kind of literary showcase.

“There are a lot of readers in Iowa City — young, old, and in-between — [so] there’s a chance to find a whole new audience,” Twemlow said.

Many independent presses are not very profitable. A good portion of the people running them are in it strictly because of they are passionate about writing and providing a platform for people to share ideas, he said.

However, some independent presses confront different pressures.

Poetry Foundation is an offshoot of the oldest monthly magazine devoted to poetry in the country. It was established in 2003 on the strength of a major financial gift from philanthropist Ruth Lilly.

“Though [Poetry Foundation] may not face the same financial issues that other presses face, we still have to adapt to the changing ways in which people read and find content,” Amos said. “There are more literary presses and journals now than ever before, many of which live on the Internet … The book fair gives us a chance to showcase a lot of issues at once … It gives us a chance to show people why we’re worth reading,”

Amos, Twemlow, and Newton agree there is no shortage of good company at either the book fair or the Mission Creek Festival.

“There’s a kindness to this crew of people,” Twemlow said. “It’s like [Mission Creek] is a labor of love.”

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