Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Multimedium publishing and the future of the literary press (Part 4 - Final)

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Part 4: The corporate structure of the multimedium publisher

Even I find it fascinating that as most media driven industry begins the slow destruction of their vertical structure that the future of books is probably dependent on creating a more vertical one. Of course vertical corporate structure means that a business owns multiple levels of manufacturing. For example, the car company that owns the tire company. Businesses are getting out of this.

Major record labels, at present, act more like distributors than actual record labels. Most of what we imagine record labels do is now controlled by the team surrounding the artist. The larger the musician, the more likely that they have their own record label and use the major they are connected to for distribution. Yet, the future is the reverse for publishing (as stated earlier).

Why? How many presses own paper companies? Or actual printing presses? None? Very few? But every single press can own their own app. More so than any other industry, literary presses gain to benefit the most from the vertical integration that going digital provides. And if you're a small press but you have access to a Lithographic press? Even better. Have writers with regional charm (like slam poets) who aren't ready for the big time? Give them a professionally produced chapbook. Maybe you've discovered a talented writer? Then introduce them exclusively to your readers via your app. Leak chapters of a new book via your app. Invite your readers to a signing via your app.

And while you're at it, hire a grant writer – you'll need them full time. Someone has to apply for that spoken-word album grant, the web-show grant, the documentary grant. And we can take it even further.

While looking for a home for my wonderful novella, I discovered a fairly new trend in publishing -- the publisher as a non-profit business. There are hurdles to this, but it opens up numerous fundraising options, including collaborations with charities. Unfortunately, I haven't found a publisher that qualified for charitable status -- imagine that! People buying your books could qualify for tax breaks! If only my BA in Law delved deeper into that segment of corporate law – I was more interested in intellectual property and contract law. Anyway, collaborations with charities open up the opportunity to apply for private grants.

“Does culture or race benefit from the multimedium publishing house?”

Uh...No? This is an awkward way to end a month worth of blogs, when race has been tied to a few past posts. Okay, how about a hesitant yes. Here's why:

If presses are open to audio exclusive spoken-word projects, it is more likely that people from cultures where aural tradition is integral shall become engaged with the press. Maybe, publishers lose their exclusive, elitist aura to these communities. Maybe this opens the doors of communication needed to expand the readership of a publishing house, and in turn, more writers from that community share their writing with that house.

I don't believe in race. I believe in culture. I believe in community. I am black not because of the colour of my skin, which has gone from a dark chocolate to now a nice coco as I become more sedentary. I am black because of the names on my family tree that are redacted – marked out in black ink – because of my family's unfortunate link to slavery. Race does not exist. Communities exist in Canada, just not a Canadian one. Too much of what passes for culture here is an Anglo-Saxon teeth grinding as they bear with their savage neighbours, while commodifying the sugary parts of our cultures. That's not culture, neither is imitating aboriginal traditions while throwing them in prisons for fictional crimes.

True culture comes from genuine, open communication and fair trade. Canada is at the precipice of deciding whether she wants to truly become an equal society. As history has shown us, the people who shall record these moments are not the media, but the artisans. Whether publishing houses will be a part of spreading the word, or get caught up in academic self-aggrandizing is up to them.

Part 5: Conclusion

“Sunshine is the greatest detergent.” I've heard my mother say that many times but never knew what it meant until yesterday. Yesterday, I was in a lot of pain, and in that pain I posted something, that I should have kept in my head, on my personal Facebook page. A page which I have cut down to primarily friends, and people who I thought were close associates.

Literally 3 hours after my post, I learned who my friends were – the people who saw my pain and reached. I also saw people who used my pain as a pulpit to preach their righteousness, and a small number who decided to spread my pain as rumor and humor to the person who caused my pain and to others for amusement.

Sunshine is the greatest detergent. It shows you all the dirt and grime so that you can wash it away. With this poignant lesson learned, it's time that I set the greatest detergent on myself. Why did I take this wonderful opportunity now when my next book is being launched next year? This may be the only opportunity I have to share my ideas and thoughts about writing and the book industry for a number of years.

After “A Mingus Lullaby,” I plan to take a 20 year hiatus from writing poetry for print. Furthermore, if my novella fails to get published it's unlikely that I will attempt to publish the novel I'm working on, or the novella that I'm working on for at least a decade.

It's not the writing. I find writing incredibly easy. I would be surprised if I've spent more than 24 months physically writing the 3 manuscripts that I've completed. It's the politics. The childish behavior, and that authenticity is trumped by who you know. Quite frankly, I'm not a politician, I'm an artist. Furthermore,the invention of the Guttenburg Press was never to create authors who thought they were better than the people reading their work. The press was created so that the common man, had the opportunity to read text in their own language.

For centuries the Church controlled information by handwriting documents in Latin. Last I checked, none of us write in Latin, so what's with the elitist demeanor that I am constantly dealing with? I am tired.

My dream to become a writer began when I was 10 years old. When I was 17 I ended up in Canada because a high-school teacher pulled my mother aside and informed her that teachers were altering my grades and plotting against me... All I've ever wanted to do was write, that never changed. If that means inventing a new medium, then that's what I'll do.

I'd like to thank Guernica Editions for bearing with my idiosyncrasies for the last 4 and a half years. I would also like to thank Open Book Toronto for allowing me to share my ideas.

Sunshine is the greatest detergent, and I hope that my posts have helped you as much as writing them has helped me.

Dane Anthony Webster Swan

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Dane Swan

Dane Swan is a Bermuda-raised, Toronto-based internationally published poet, writer and musician. His first collection, Bending the Continuum was launched by Guernica Editions in the Spring of 2011.

Go to Dane Swan’s Author Page