When the lights went out during Hurricane Sandy, Bellevue Literary Press began a somewhat nomadic existence. First the press, which is distributed to the trade by Consortium, took up residence in the offices of Consortium’s parent company, Perseus Books Group. But a day-and-a-half later, when a space suddenly opened up on the NYU campus, Bellevue took up temporary residence there—sans mail or phone service. According to publisher and editorial director Erika Goldman, power won’t be restored to the press’ offices on the sixth floor of the administrative wing of the Department of Medicine until February or March. But despite what she refers to as “unforeseen complications,” the press is moving forward.
Last week Bellevue launched two projects to mark its fifth anniversary: a new Web site and logo that depicts its commitment to both literary fiction and nonfiction at the intersection of the arts and sciences. It is also keeping its publishing schedule on track. Given the difficulties of others in the storm, Goldman says simply, “we’re very lucky,” although she does acknowledge that Bellevue lost momentum because of Sandy. “It’s disorienting to us. We had to reconstitute our team and our team deadlines. There are group dynamics that are more delicate than you know.” Plus, every few days she wishes she could access a file from her hard drive. Even so with the help of Web development firm Sonnet Media, the press now has a site where it can showcase the 32 books that it’s published since its founding in 2007, along with new ones like Pascale Kramer’s The Child, translated by Tamsin Black, to be published on January 1. It’s one of eight Bellevue titles due out in 2013 and one of several works in translation.
“Eight books a year is full capacity,” says Goldman. Some years she has had to cut the list to focus on fundraising. When Paul Harding’s Tinkers won a 2010 Pulitzer Prize or Andrew Krivak’s The Sojourner was a finalist for a 2011 National Book Award, the publishing schedule also slowed, to keep up with publicity. “While we’ve never compromised on the quality, we have had to cut back on the quantity,” notes Goldman, who looks to Eduardo Halfon’s The Polish Boxer, translated by Daniel Hahn, Ollie Brock, and others, which received a boxed review in PW, as another potential prize-winning, disruptive title.
But like all disruptions, some good things have come from the dislocation post-Sandy. While Bellevue was at Perseus, president and CEO David Steinberger invited the staff to sit in on a marketing meeting. Goldman found it valuable and says that she would like to set up an ongoing relationship. “I think we would benefit from gauging the marketplace from a large press perspective,” she says. Still, while Perseus was generous, she’s happy to be back at NYU. She’ll be even happier when she can return to her office amidst the scientists.