A chance conversation with her youngest sister—over who has the better looking hands—served as the catalyst for Jan Freeman’s newly released anthology Sisters from Paris Press, edited with Emily Wojcik and Deborah Bull. Because of the recession and cut backs by traditional small press donors, Freeman was forced to resort to creative fundraising to produce the book which took 18 months.
Even with an art auction and foundation support early on, Freeman was forced to contact friends of the Paris Press in May for an additional $59,000 to cover permission fees, printing costs, readings, and outreach. “In this challenging economic time, many of the grants Paris Press expected to receive were reduced,” Freeman wrote in e-mails and on the press’s Facebook page. “While the economy challenges all of us, it cannot affect the beauty of the seasons and the comfort and inspiration offered by literature. The publication of Sisters is critical to the future of Paris Press.”
The anthology, which fulfils the press’ mission to publish overlooked literature for women, brings together stories and poems by well-known and emerging writers, ranging from Margaret Atwood to Robin Becker, Catherine Chung, Delia Ephron, Muriel Rukeyser, and Alice Walker. It also holds personal connections for Freeman beyond her relationship with her own sisters. The book enabled her to work for the first time with her cousin, Deborah Bull, who introduced her to publishing 30 years ago. Freeman started Paris Press in 1995.
One of Freeman’s more original fundraising efforts involved selling dedications in the back of the book. “They make the book feel humble in a way; the dedications are so sweet and genuine,” she notes. Some are from one twin to another; others to college sisters; still others from men to mothers, aunts, wives, and sisters-in-law. In addition, Freeman sold 50 signed limited-edition prints of Jane Lund’s collage “Sister Dresses” (20” X 25”), which is reproduced on the cover of the book.
With this summer’s financial boost, Freeman was able to launch Sisters with a 5,000-copy first printing. To augment efforts by its distributor Consortium, Freeman has done local guerilla marketing for Sister’s at the last Ashfield farmer’s market of the season and at her hair dresser.
Already the book has garnered the press’s first People magazine review, alongside Sarah Palin’s memoir. Sisters received three and a half stars. At Amazon, the anthology has been rapidly growing in popularity and is among the top 5 books on siblings; top 20 literary collections. It’s too soon to predict whether or not it could become a mega-seller like Carol Saline and Sharon J. Wohlmuth’s photo-essay on Sisters, first published over a decade ago by Running Press. Still, the anthology has the same potential appeal to anyone who has a sister, sweet or cruel, competitive or complex.