Starting Out as a Publisher

Picture of Guy PettitAuthor: Guy Pettit

Tell us a little bit about Flying Object. How did it come about?

Flying Object exists because of a compelling feeling that small and independent poetry presses need a space to call their own. A space for, generally speaking, younger writers who I think are doing the most forward thinking work in poetry today; work being both writing and publishing. I know “forward thinking” is an easy target of a phrase but I’m going to stick with it. I’m not going to pretend that we represent even a fraction of all that is out there but I will say that we are attempting to establish ourselves as a place that represents and supports the writers (and musicians, artists, publishers) that we are most excited about. I suppose it’s that simple. We’re an exhibition and performance space, a letterpress, a publisher (our imprint is Factory Hollow Press), a tiny bookshop, and a space for workshops in book-arts, creative writing, and anything else the people who get involved can come up with. Western Massachusetts, where we are located, is an unusually resource-rich and supportive community.

Have you always known you wanted to pursue the publication side of writing? If not, how did that become clear to you?

I don’t want to pursue the publication side of writing. I want to support and provide opportunities to writers, artists, publishers, and musicians that I admire and that are often people I’d call my friends. I’m actually more interested in the performance of writing than the publication of writing. I care more about an active community than publishing books. A dream of mine would be to meet with a group of people once a week and come up with ideas (and maybe even put them into action) to support each other’s work in innovative ways. I’d like to keep the distribution and performance sides of writing exciting. The publication of writing, too. I’m not saying that we’ve been at all successful but at least with Flying Object there has been plenty of chance to soak up those possibilities and even try out some experiments. There is someone alive behind the writing and it’s important to me to remember that.

What sort of challenges did you encounter when first starting a press? What challenges do you encounter now?

It has always been a challenge to come to terms with the fact that a lot people just want to get published and not offer any resources of their own to this community. By no means do I think everyone can or should start a press but I do find myself occasionally tired by generally listless writers who complain about not getting published. Despite there being hundreds of presses we have to remember that there will never be enough presses. In the men’s water closet in a bar Northampton somebody put it this way: “Start your own shitty band or stop bitching.” It’s not eloquent but there’s certainly some truth to that.

What’s the hardest part of your job? What’s the most rewarding?

The hardest part of my job is the bookkeeping. We’re a 501(c)(3) and keeping up with the paperwork is soul-crushing. If you know anyone who wants to volunteer their time to help us that please send them our way. And the most rewarding is when, during an event or workshop or exhibit, I meet someone who shows a seemingly indefatigable enthusiasm for this tiny segment of culture that we occupy; someone who is proud and confident and good-spirited about the whole thing. Because we all forget why we’re doing this sometimes and it takes friends to remind us why we do.

How has your experience as a publisher changed the way you might approach a book at the bookstore?

My respect for all the energy that goes into producing books has certainly grown since beginning to publish them. I like “curated” book stores the most, I think. And I really appreciate a book that stands out because of its design.

What’s the most exciting part for you in the publication process?

Hearing an author read for the first time from a book of their work we published. The idealism.