City Spotlight: Exploring Seattle's Book Ecosystem
Smaller presses dot Seattle’s literary landscape. Copper Canyon Press and Wave Books are dedicated to publishing books of poetry, and are both resoundingly respected by poets and publishers. Wizards of the Coast and Fantagraphics Books are leading publishers of fantasy and sci-fi games, and comics and graphic novels, respectively. Chin Music Press has a small list with high production values, focusing on crafting books about contemporary Japan and now New Orleans. Founder Bruce Rutledge worked in Japan in various media jobs. When he and his wife were looking to leave Tokyo and find a city to start their press, they set their sights on Seattle. “We were looking for an environment where we could do what we do, have a family, not be as cutthroat, and do it with modest capital,” Rutledge explains. “We needed to have lots of indie bookstores, people who like to read, and who go to readings.” Seattle delivered, and then some. “There are a lot of small, inspiring publishers here that form a supportive community,” Rutledge adds. “Copper Canyon Press, for instance, was so helpful to us. We may be a small group but we are fairly close, perhaps because many of us are distributed through Perseus.”
Collaboration and cooperation are recurring themes when talking to publishers, packagers and literati in the Emerald City. “I’ve been so delightfully connected by cross-pollinators who introduce me to other book-related groups. Seattle is really proud of its reading and writing culture, and I see so many people wanting to work together to promote each other’s books,” says Tegan Tigani, children’s book buyer at Queen Anne Book Company, as well as a ghost writer and editor with Girl Friday Productions.
Kelsye Nelson was so influenced by the networking in Seattle that she turned it into a business. “Writer.ly sprung from Seattle’s writing groups,” she said. “My co-founder and I were sitting with a bunch of writers talking about how hard it is and realized we’d get farther together than on our own. Part of the new paradigm is that the author is taking over a lot of the responsibilities that were once the realm of the publisher — marketing, website development, copy editing.” Writer.ly empowers writers by providing an online marketplace that connects writers with the services they need to create their books and get them sold. Writers post jobs describing what they need and what their budget is. Freelancers bid on the jobs, and the writer chooses based on price, portfolio, reviews and experience. It’s like Priceline meets Match.com for writers.