Third Man Books, an imprint created by Grammy Award-winning rock musician Jack White and announced last summer, has quickly gained a foothold in the industry. The book endeavor, which will be overseen by White's business partners Chet Weise and Ben Swank, has just signed a North American distribution deal with Consortium, and is set to publish three books in 2015.
On Third Man's inaugural list is Hidden Water, by the late poet Frank Stanford. The title is a companion volume to Copper Canyon Press’ compilation of Stanford’s poems, What About This? Both titles, which will be published in April, were edited by Michael Wiegers, Copper Canyon's executive editor.
Described by Weise as "a deep cuts kind of compilation," Hidden Water, which is getting a 5,000-copy print run, includes Sanford's unpublished poems, as well as facsimiles of his drafts, letters, and artwork, plus a download of Stanford reading his poem, "The Boathouse.”
The Truth Is We Are Perfect by Janaka Stucky, a former mortician and the 2010 National Haiku Champion, will be published in May, also with 5,000-copy initial print run. Pain: The Board Game by Sampson Starkweather, a collection of poems featuring a board game modeled on the popular 1970s-era board game, Life, will be published this fall with a tentative 2,000-copy initial print run.
Third Man Books hopes, Weise told PW, to produce “at least” five or six books each year, “with a mind to do even more in the future.” An early history of hip hop and a book on baseball are in the early stages of production.
“We’re going to do a lot of different things,” Weise said, explaining that Third Man Books is the extension “both philosophically and literally” of Third Man Records, which was founded in Nashville by White and Swank in 2001. The company has evolved into a hub for the creation and distribution of “any and every form of expression, from music to poetry, fiction to film.”
To that end, Third Man Books was launched to “further explore the music of language,” by publishing contemporary poetry, literary fiction, biography, as well as music and photography books and poetry chapbooks. The company’s motto is, Weise noted, “Third Man Records & Third Man Books/Where Your Turntable’s Not Dead & Where Your Page Still Turns.”
While White is “hands on” and “knows everything we’re doing,” Weise said that he and Swank oversee the daily operations of Third Man Books. The 24 employees at Third Man Records also assist in the new publishing venture.
In August, Third Man Books made its debut with Language Lessons, an anthology with 300 pages of poetry and prose from a variety of writers. Those with pieces in the collection ranged from Nashville locals making their publishing debuts, to Pulitzer and National Book Award finalists C.D. Wright, Adrian Matejka and Dale Ray Phillips. Language Lessons includes two vinyl music LPs, and five broadsides.
“We definitely started with what we know,” Weise said, “We’re an indie label and are doing the DIY thing. We found a kindred spirit in Consortium. It makes sense that we would go together.”
For her part, Consortium president Julie Schaper noted that she’d “often thought that indie music fans overlap with indie fiction fans; Third Man Books is proving that notion true. I look forward to a long, fruitful partnership that generates lots of new ideas and creative collaboration."
Even David Steinberger, president and CEO of the Perseus Books Group, Consortium’s parent company, weighed in with words of welcome to Consortium’s newest client publisher. "We, and the publishing industry, just got a lot hipper with [Third Man Books’] foray into the literary world,” he stated in a release. “I am confident Consortium can offer the best springboard for Third Man to continue to surprise audiences and defy expectations."