Interview With Red Hen Press

Logo of Red Hen Press

Author: Kate Gale

What makes Red Hen Press a unique part of the publishing community?

We are the biggest indie press in Los Angeles, so we are occupying a niche of the literary marketplace that is not overcrowded.  New York has many publishers and Minneapolis has three large indie presses, but Red Hen Press is a national press with a West Coast presence and our nearest big indie press is San Francisco.

What sort of qualities do you look for in a manuscript or piece of work that you are considering for publication?

We look for manuscripts that show literary excellence, that we believe will continue to be read indefinitely and that are written by authors who we will development a significant relationship.  We are not looking for one off books, but for an author who can sustain writing great books over a series of time and continue challenging themselves.  Both David Mason and Camille Dungy are good examples of this kind of sustained excellence.

What is the readership like for Red Hen Press?  What do you imagine your typical reader is like?

Lovers of poetry, literary fiction and non fiction who look for work that is out of the box, where there is something cutting edge, something dark and strange under the surface.  A good example of this would be Parnucklian for Chocolate by B.H. James forthcoming in spring of 2013.

How has Red Hen Press evolved over time?

In the beginning we were looking for emerging authors with the idea that their second or third book might have the level of excellence.  Now we are only publishing emerging authors only if they have that level of excellence.  We also have a strong marketing department. In the beginning our books were basically marketed by word of mouth and a tiny publicity marketing team.   We have stabilized the production schedule and standardized the process now that we are distributed by the University of Chicago.  We have  formalized author involvement with the press which helps lessen the stress in author/press relationships.  We started in one room.  We’re now in 3200 square feet above a bank in Pasadena with a group of twelve staff and interns.

What type of opportunities will the press be offering in the future?

We will continue to offer $5000 in awards a year–$3000 for the Benjamin Saltman Award, $1000 for the Ruskin Poetry Award and $1000 for the Red Hen Short Fiction Award.  The last two awards are published in The Los Angeles Review. We also publish the winning poetry manuscript every two years for the  Letras Latinas Award, and the annual To the Lighthouse award which is the winner of the A Room of Her Own Poetry Prize.  We will also continue to have internship possibilities at the press.

What is the next exciting thing happening at Red Hen Press?

We plan to be fully staffed by the end of 2013.  We expect significant book sales from the first poet laureate for the city of Los Angeles, Eloise Klein Healy who has a new selected coming out spring of 2013 called Wild Surmise.  The release of our ten spring titles.  Our two top fiction spring releases, B.H. James, Parnucklian for Chocolate and Andrew Lam’s Birds of Paradise Lost.  Both are going to sell amazingly well.  They’re ground breaking—funny, cool, sad, wild, dark, strange and they pull you into their orbit and keep you there.