The Corner Office: Indie Thinking Drives Dzanc Books
Steve Gillis and Dan Wickett are proving that the independent press is alive and well. In 2006, the co-publishers—Gillis, an author who made good in the stock market, and Wickett, a blogger who founded the Emerging Writers Network (EmergingWriters.typepad.com)—founded Dzanc Books with the goal to champion great writing. Now, with two years of business under their belts, the nonprofit press continues to garner attention for its crusade to help put good books into readers’ hands.
• What are the biggest challenges facing smaller, independent publishing houses?
Steve Gillis: Right at the top of the list is being well-financed. There’s a lot of motivated independents that are starting small presses. They go book to book, and then they fall by the wayside. When Dan and I decided to do this, we decided to make sure that we didn’t start until we were extremely well-financed.
Beyond that pragmatic concern … getting your books in the stores is tough. When we started … no one knew us from Adam. … We really had to establish ourselves and form our connections, and make everyone realize we were a legitimate competitor. We hit the ground running and let it be known that we’d be around for awhile. We showed them our list and our financial plan. I’m certainly not belittling those presses that are putting out one book a year, but that’s not what Dan and I wanted to do. …
Dan Wickett: … [When] we approached the distributors we [had] heard of prior to having that first book out … they said, “When you have your seventh or eighth book, we’ll begin to look at you.” It looked like we would have four years of me calling every store in the country. … We decided … to spend a little heavier than planned. Anytime we got any press, if we got a review in a place people had heard of, if we got any kind of highlights online, we would make sure the two distributors that we were most interested in got those releases. We worked with Coffee House Press. Their publicists had a lot of contacts we didn’t have …. We got a little bit more press in industry magazines. The strategy seemed to work.