Far from the cubicles of corporate Manhattan publishing, Eric Obenauf, 26, and Eliza Jane Wood, 28, run a publishing outfit called Two Dollar Radio out of their home in Granville, Ohio. The husband and wife sport tattoos of the company logo on their wrists. They put photos of their two-year-old daughter, Rio, and their dogs, Hoon and Scarlet, in their book catalogues. They both work second jobs: he waits tables and manages a restaurant; she proofreads textbooks. They used to live in New York, but the cost of living and running a business was too high, so they moved to Ohio, near family. “We have grass and stuff,” says Obenauf. They also have a fledgling publishing company that's on the verge of busting out from tiny to an official small press.
Two Dollar Radio has meager roots: its first book was Obenauf's own novel, Can You Hear Me Screaming?, which sold 300 copies as an e-book. Three years later it is publishing The Drop Edge of Yonder, the first novel in more than 20 years by counterculture reporter Rudolph Wurlitzer, who was previously published by Knopf; Two Dollar Radio launched it last month with a 5,000-copy printing.
Obenauf and Wood met in 2000 as NYU undergrads. He was studying dramatic writing, she art education. After graduation, they married and moved to San Diego, where Obenauf came upon André Schiffrin's The Business of Books. They each read it and, in 2005, with no publishing experience, decided to start a publishing company. They named it after a comment from a “loud and obnoxious drunk” at the bar where Obenauf was then working, who told Obenauf, “Don't mind me. I make more noise than a $2 radio.”
Today, Obenauf describes the books he and Wood publish as “bold, for publishing, and [making] more noise than a $2 radio.” The house has published five books, all paperback, and all novels except for one. They've had moderate success: Vagabond Blues, a novel by Emmanuel Burgin, was a San Diego Book Award finalist, and another novel, The Drummer by Anthony Neil Smith, was reviewed in the Chicago Tribune. In addition to Drop Edge, the spring/summer '08 list includes 1940, the 15th book by Jay Neugeboren; and Erotomania: A Romance by Francis Levy, which PW reviewed favorably. In October, Two Dollar will publish Crust, a novel by 71-year-old Lawrence Shainberg, who has received praise from Norman Mailer and who, like Wurlitzer, hasn't published a novel in more than 20 years. Two Dollar currently publishes three books a season, and print runs range from 2,000 to 7,500 copies. Obenauf and Wood hope to increase output to six to 10 books a season next year.
Some submissions have come through Akashic Books publisher Johnny Temple, who Obenauf contacted after reading Temple's article in a “revenge of print”—themed issue of Punk Planet. Now that word is building, says Wood, submissions are coming from other sources, too.
Two Dollar adheres to a DIY aesthetic: its catalogues are 5”×4” photocopied pages stapled together. Obenauf works with writers on big-picture editing; Wood copyedits. Obenauf handles jacket design, and they both work on the books' interior layout. The house doesn't advertise, although it just started mailing excerpts from forthcoming novels to booksellers. It produces about 100 galleys for each book for the review media and runs a Web site at www.twodollarradio.com. Obenauf's brother, Brian Obenauf, handles publicity from his Brooklyn home, and Consortium distributes the books. Obenauf and Wood attend book festivals throughout the year.
“We have to support ourselves with other jobs,” says Wood. “But our passion is Two Dollar Radio. We're slaves to it.”