The Rumpus, the omnivorous online magazine founded by author Stephen Elliot, is about to publish its first book, an anthology of personal essays by women called The Rumpus Women, Vol. 1, edited by Julie Greicius and Elissa Bassist, inaugurating the magazine's Paper Internets imprint. The book’s publication is affiliated with the innovative Rumpus book club, which we reported on a few weeks ago--looking back to the old subscription model for publishing, the anthology will be the December selection of the book club and so has a built in sales even before it’s published. According to Elliot, he and the book club’s organizers decided to publish the book because “there were no literary books that appealed to us being published in December”
The Rumpus is printing 1,000 copies of Rumpus Women, half of which Elliot considers already sold to book club members. (For $25 per month, book club members get a new book the month before publication and can then participate in online discussions about the book and a live online chat with the author.) The Rumpus runs on a tight budget, so, said Elliot, “the idea that we've already sold 500 copies to our members makes publishing the book possible. We'll sell the remaining copies on the website and in bookstores but not until a month after our book club members have received their copies.” Currently, the club has about 360 members, but Elliot anticipates that number growing to 500 by December.
As far as why a book of writing by female Rumpus contributors, Elliot said, “honestly, we've featured too many books by men and I couldn't stand the idea of another one. Then Julie Greicius, our senior literary editor, had the idea of an original collection of writing by Rumpus women.”
Just as the advent of the Internet and social networking has allowed The Rumpus, which is run by a paid staff of two, a handful of volunteer editors, and unpaid writers, to garner a huge readership, changes in technology have enabled the magazine to become a publisher: “Printing and distribution have changed so significantly and the ability to sell and distribute using the web,” said Elliot, make publishing possible in new ways. He went on to say that this kind of small-scale publishing is “one of the directions that book publishing is headed in this fragmented media environment.”