If Robert Lasner hadn’t written his first novel, Ig Publishing might never have been started. “I was an English major in college, but I didn’t know anything about publishing, and to be honest, I wasn’t that interested in it.” He was dating his future wife, Elizabeth Clementson (Clementson is publisher of Ig; Lasner is editor-in-chief), who then worked at a literary agency, and a friend with some extra money suggested they all start a press to launch his novel. It was this partner (who left the company early on) who came up with the company’s unusual name. Lasner tells Show Daily, “His father was a colonel in the Marines, and when he was a little kid, one of his younger brothers used to run around screaming the word, ‘Ig, ig, ig!’ and it used to drive their father crazy. What was funny was that this guy who was in the military and could deal with war couldn’t handle the word ‘ig.’ ” So the nonsense word made up by a toddler stuck. Lasner adds, “A few years ago, someone said, ‘You know, “ig” should stand for ‘independent grievances.’ We thought that was kind of cool because we also do political stuff.”
When the company started 10 years ago, it published Lasner’s novel, For Fucks Sake, as well as a unique guide book for its time, New York City’s Best Dive Bars. Notes Lasner, “They both sold really well—my novel wound up selling 6,000 copies, and the dive bar book sold almost 10,000. We had no distributor; we didn’t really know what we were doing. So we actually thought publishing was really easy. You publish books that you want, you come up with these ideas, and you sell.”
After a few years, they hit some tough times and were on the verge of folding. But then they started doing reprints and everything turned around. Says Lasner, “We did this book called Propaganda by Edward Bernays—it’s one of our bestselling books. We have sold 50,000 copies. The book was written in 1928, but he’s considered the father of public relations. What we didn’t know was that apparently every academic in the world teaches this book and there were no copies, so we tapped into a market that we didn’t even know about! And that kept us going through the lean years.”
The company had also signed up with Consortium for distribution, continued publishing literary fiction, and branched out into politics. Lasner explains, “My wife and I are political junkies. We decided, ‘Let’s just do books that we love,’ and by this time, the political blogosphere on the left had gotten very big. It was a good way to get nonfiction books cheap because the authors were not household names, but they did have followings. So we were doing a book of someone who might have thousands and thousands of readers.”
Literary fiction is still a first love of Ig Publishing, and at BEA, they will be giving away galleys of The Care and Feeding of Exotic Pets by USA PEN West Fiction Award winner Diana Wagman. It’s the story of a woman who is kidnapped. She’s the daughter of a famous actress and the ex-wife of a game show host. “It’s superliterary and suspenseful,” says Lasner. “You can’t stop turning the pages because you keep wondering what’s going to happen next.” The company will also be giving away its first-ever Ig tote bags.
For the future, the publisher plans to continue with its political and fiction agenda and also doing some reprints as e-books only. “We’re going to call it ‘rEquired rEading’ books—reprints for the academic market,” says Lasner.
Today at 4 p.m., Ig Publishing will join other publishers in the Consortium group (3903–3909 and 3904–3910) for an aislewide party, so you can join them in raising a toast to their first 10 years.