California indie Heyday Books celebrates 40 years in publishing this year. Coinciding with their anniversary is the release of The Heyday of Malcolm Margolin: The Damned Good Times of a Fiercely Independent Publisher. The book, which tracks Heyday's history--from its founding in 1970's Berkeley to its status today--draws from the experiences of founder, Malcolm Margolin, and is edited by Kim Bandcroft.
PW spoke with Margolin and Bancroft about Heyday's storied past, its upcoming titles, and why the time for The Heyday of Malcolm Margolin is now.
How has Heyday Books evolved over the past 4 decades?
MM: Heyday began in 1974 as a one-man band. Working from home, I wrote, designed, typeset, and had printed the first three books that Heyday published. Trucks pulled up to the house and I unloaded cartons of books onto the sidewalk. Books were then carried into the house, stowed under the kids’ beds, lined the walls, and filled the closets. In the afternoon, I’d load the VW Bus with books and make the rounds of independent bookstores and other outlets. In some sense it reflected the self-sufficiency movements of the Sixties and Seventies. I was searching for freedom, for independence.
Today I find myself serving as executive director and publisher of a nonprofit press, employing a dozen lovely people, and publishing some twenty-five books a year. I’m dependent on my staff for keeping everything going, dependent on my board for guidance and fundraising, dependent upon booksellers, sales reps, book reviewers, distributors, librarians, and everyone else who works to get our books out in the world, I’m dependent on foundations for grants, on individuals for support, and of course on authors for entrusting me with their manuscripts. After 40 years of working hard for independence, I find that I’m the most dependent person I know, and I rejoice in it. The other name for dependence is community, and indeed the depth of the community that has formed around Heyday is my deepest pride and greatest accomplishment.
How and when did the idea for The Heyday of Malcolm Margolin: The Damn Good Times of a Fiercely Independent Publisher come to Heyday?
KB: I had done some editing work for Heyday briefly around 1997 while I was also teaching. In 2010, when I decided to retire from teaching after nearly three decades, I got back in touch with Malcolm to see if he had any editing work. He helped me connect me with Ariel Parkinson, who had just written her memoir and needed help editing it. When I next saw Malcolm, I asked him when he was going to write his own memoir, given all the wonderful stories that he has tucked away. He tried to shrug it off. “Oh, I don’t have time to do that.”
“Let me record you telling your stories, then,” I suggested, and he agreed.
In October 2011 Malcolm and I made a date to start recording his stories, beginning with what he remembered of his early life in Dorchester during World War II and his descriptions of his immigrant ancestors. Such marvelous stories they were! I was captivated, and Malcolm seemed to enjoy digging back in time, as well. By February 2012, we had done several interviews. Malcolm then wondered if we could make a book out of these interviews, a book to tell the story of Heyday, just in time for its 40th anniversary in 2014. I agreed to the grand idea and set off to interview a slew of people connected to Heyday: many more sessions with Malcolm, as well as interviews with his family, friends, staff and board members of Heyday, and Heyday authors.
About 75 interviews later, we ended up with a tremendous record of how Heyday got started and how it has persisted, despite the hardship that the book industry has gone through. Even more importantly, I think, a book about Heyday is a book about Malcolm, the intriguing people he has come to know, and the unusual way he runs a business, with core values of love, laughter, and respect.
Was Bancroft being the one to pen it part of what made it the right time for a history of founder Malcolm Margolin?
MM: Yes, given that the 40th anniversary of Heyday was coming up fast, it was all the more serendipitous that Bancroft knocked on Heyday’s door and that she was able to throw herself into this project so whole-heartedly. But the gift was mutual, since it was a great opportunity for Kim to get to work on this biography when she was in the midst of career transition herself.
What Heyday titles are you most excited about for the upcoming fall season?
MM: Top of the list is San Francisco’s Jewel City: The Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915 by Laura Ackley. 2015 will mark the centennial of this extravaganza, and the book we are putting together will do it justice. It will be more than 350 pages, lavishly illustrated, and full of the optimism, playfulness, inventiveness, artistic courage, generosity, and faith in the future that marked those times. The book is magnificent, but in line with our mode of operating it’s more than a book. We are co-publishing it with the California Historical Society, working with the Society on a museum exhibition, and working with the City of San Francisco and a number of other cultural and arts organizations on outreach and—to call it by its right name—parties.
I’m also excited by California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists, by Gordon Frankie, et al. We worked with the “Bee Lab” at UC Berkeley on this one, and it’s an eye-opening exploration of a world under our feet yet hidden from sight, the world of wild bees. What a world! Do you know anything about the enemies of bees? There are things going on in the bee world that make vampire movies look innocuous. And for weeks I accosted everyone who came within hailing distance with accounts of “buzz pollination”—the ability of certain bees to vibrate their thorax to produce a middle-C note that causes the anther of the flower to tremble sympathetically and shake out the pollen. “Singing for your supper, I guess.
And of course I’d be a liar if I didn’t say that I’m excited about The Heyday of Malcolm Margolin: The Damned Good Times of a Fiercely Independent Publisher, by Kim Bancroft, and the opportunity it gives to sum up the last forty years and prepare Heyday for the future.