Brooklyn independent house Akashic Books will mark its 10th year with a big antiwar book from politician/activist Tom Hayden and a new novel from an old friend, Arthur Nersesian, whose novel The Fuck-Up launched the house in 1997.
Founded by Johnny Temple—bass player for the band Girls Against Boys—Akashic will publish 28 books in 2007, up from 20 last year. The house has new offices in the Can Factory, a renovated industrial space in Brooklyn, and four full-time staffers.
Temple is excited about publishing Hayden's Ending the War in Iraq, which offers perspectives on how Americans can stop the war by working within electoral politics and through grassroots activism. Temple said the book “fell into our laps on short notice” earlier this year. Hayden, Temple explained, had seen Akashic political titles by Mike Farrell and Robert Scheer and wanted a house that could publish the book by June. Temple has set a first printing of 15,000 copies and has hired a freelance publicist to help plan an eight-city tour for Hayden in June and another 10-city tour in the fall.
“The book is aimed at the undecided voter,” said Temple, “not just the radical left.” Such organizations as MoveOn.org want the book for organizing, and the national chains and media outlets have expressed interest as well, said Temple.
Nersesian's The Fuck-Up sold 7,000 copies for Akashic before Temple sold it to MTV Books in 1998, where it remains in print, selling 100,000 copies since then. Akashic will publish the new novel, The Swing Voter of Staten Island, in hardcover in October with a 10,000-copy first printing and national book tour.
Temple credits the press's steady growth to a focus on neglected African-American and Caribbean novelists (poet Amiri Baraka's short story collection Tales of the Out and the Gone has sold 7,000 copies since January) and on quirky fiction like Joe Meno's Hairstyles of the Damned(Akashic's bestselling title, with 75,000 copies sold since 2004). Akashic's Noir series of crime anthologies, among them New Orleans Noir and forthcoming titles set in Havana, Istanbul and Lagos, are attracting readers and foreign-rights sales. The small house is also aggressive about touring authors. “Between March and May this year, we had 40 author events every month,” said Temple.
Temple doesn't have to use rock 'n' roll money to subsidize Akashic anymore. “We've done far more than I ever dreamed,” he said. “The press breaks even and we're growing—we have to; we don't have financial backers. It shows that if you can stay in business, you can make it. We sell a lot more books now than we used to.”