Four literary magazines with book publishing imprints—McSweeney's, Open City, Fence and Verse—have created a Web site to promote their books, magazines and literary events around the country. Launching on October 15, Big Small Press Mall (bigsmallpressmall.com) is a sleek, no-frills Web site that offers information about each publisher, a schedule of upcoming literary events and an e-commerce area where browsers can buy individual books, discounted bundles of titles from all four presses and magazine subscriptions. "The growth of corporate publishing has inspired us to assert ourselves more, to keep doing what we're doing. By banding together, our voices are louder. The Web site is a fun, grassroots way to make noise," said Joanna Yas, managing editor at Open City magazine and its eponymous book imprint.
Although the presses are geographically farflung and distinctive in their styles, they see an advantage in cross-promoting their titles, which skew toward a hip, young readership. "We all have highly individualized approaches to publishing," commented Rebecca Wolff, founder of Fence magazine, adding, "we hope that the Web site will lead to cross-pollination between the four presses." Drawing on a joint database of 14,000 addresses, bigsmallpressmall.com will relay news and reading schedules to subscribers and site visitors via e-mail.
Of the four presses, San Francisco—based McSweeney's is the best known, largely due to the visibility of its founder, Dave Eggers. After writing the bestselling memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (S&S, 2000; Vintage, 2001), Eggers turned his back on his New York publishers when he opted to publish his first novel, You Shall Know Our Velocity (Sept.), through McSweeney's. The novel is already off to a fast start, with the first printing of 10,000 copies almost sold out, according to McSweeney's president, Barb Bersche. In a little more than two years, the press has published 11 titles—including The New Sins by former Talking Heads bandmember David Byrne (2001) and The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature by Neal Pollack (2001), which HarperPerennial picked up for paperback. Most of its books are sold through its Web site.
Twelve-year-old Open City magazine began publishing books in 1999, featuring the work of emerging writers such as poet David Berman (Actual Air, 1999) and fiction writer Sam Lipsyte (Venus Drive, 2000). The nonprofit magazine and press are headed by the writers Thomas Beller (Seduction Theory and The Sleep-Over Artist, both from Norton) and Daniel Pinchbeck (Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism, out this month from Broadway), though neither has published his own books through the press. Elizabeth Schmidt, who is poetry editor at the New York Times Book Review, is also on the masthead as a contributing editor. Distributed by PGW as part of the Grove/Atlantic list, Open City's top-selling title is Berman's poetry collection Actual Air, with 10,000 copies sold.
Fence magazine, whose board includes literary lions Rick Moody and Jonathan Lethem, is known for its challenging poetry and packed readings in New York City, where the five year-old magazine is based. Fence Books has published four titles in its first year, including the poetry collection Zirconia by Chelsey Minnis (Nov., 2001), with the University Press of New England handling distribution.
Fourteen-year-old Verse magazine, an outgrowth of the English Department at the University of Georgia, has also gained attention for its promising young poets. The top-selling title at its two-year-old press, located in Easthampton, Mass., is Joe Wenderoth's collection Letters to Wendy's (2000), which has sold 5,000 copies after three printings, according to editor-in-chief Matthew Zapruder. Small Press Distribution is currently repping the press's 13 titles.