Rust Belt Chic Press, which launched in 2012 to publish an essay collection by its editor-in-chief, Ann Trubek, about her hometown, Rust Belt Chic: The Cleveland Anthology, continues to publish books about the cities of the industrial Midwest. Now called Belt Publishing, the company, which took the new name last year, is about to release its fifth essay collection.
The Pittsburgh Anthology, edited by Eric Boyd, contains the work of nearly 40 contributors, including LaToya Ruby Frazier, Robert Gibb, Amy Jo Burns, and Robert Qualters. But the bigger milestone for Belt is Aaron Foley's How to Live in Detroit Without Being a Jackass; the November title is the first book being published by the house that is not an anthology. Both the Pittsburgh Anthology and How to Live in Detroit will be released with an initial print run of 3,000 copies.
“I decided to publish a book,” Trubek explained of the origins of Belt Publishing, “So I created a teeny tiny press.” Partners began distributing the press to retailers about six months after its launch. Belt also continues to sell direct to consumers through its website, and at events. While declining to disclose net revenue, Trubek said sales “are up very strongly” in the fiscal year since the press was renamed Belt Publishing.
Since releasing Rust Belt Chic, which has sold 6,000 copies to date in print and e-book formats, primarily through direct sales, Belt launched an online magazine, also called Belt, that publishes nonfiction and first-person narratives about the Rust Belt region. Last year, Belt released a compilation of articles from the magazine, Dispatches from the Rust Belt: The Best of Belt Magazine. Belt has also published anthologies about Detroit (2014), Cincinnati (2014), and Youngstown, Ohio (2015) that, like Rust Belt Chic, feature poems, essays, and visual art by a mix of both emerging voices and well-known authors.
The press currently publishes two to three books annually--anthologies about Akron, Ohio, and Buffalo, NY, have been scheduled for 2016--and none of its eight employees are full-time. Trubek herself was, until recently, a visiting professor at Oberlin College.
Describing regional publishing as generally perceived as “positive or nostalgic,” Trubek considers that Belt's “edgy” anthologies are titles that spotlight the literary culture of Rust Belt cities while also recognizing problematic issues endemic to these cities.
The anthologies Belt is publishing also aim to "focus on places that are under-written about.” Choosing Youngstown as the subject of a new anthology, she noted, was done because, despite the city's small size, it remains “a bellwether” for the post-industrial U.S.
“We try to make every book as locally-produced as possible,” she said. Not only do the editors of each anthology live in the subject city, but contributors also have strong ties to the place. Keeping things local is even kept in mind on the production side, as Belt works only with Midwestern printers.
“Each book has a theme that emerges; each one has a different feel,” Trubek said of the steadily growing list of Belt anthologies, “It’s a combination of the editor and of the city itself.”