Zumaya Publications, a small press publisher based in Austin, Texas, and headed by the magnificent and articulate Elizabeth Burton, is celebrating its fifth year birthday this month (Happy Birthday Zumaya!) and as part of the birthday celebration, the authors would like to tell you how they were published by Zumaya to help you understand how important their small press publisher is to them. Today we have as our guest, Carole Waterhouse, author of The Tapestry Baby..
Learning through Publishing
By Carole Waterhouse
As a creative writing professor at California University of Pennsylvania, much of my time is spent not only writing and seeking publication for my own fiction, but also working with student writing. In fact, one of the classes I teach is called Writing for Publication, where I help guide students through the rewarding and frustrating experience of getting their first publications.
Teaching the class has made me more daring about trying out newer approaches to publishing my own work. When I completed graduate school in the mid-1980’s, everyone followed essentially the same approach to publication. We built up credentials by submitting stories to literary magazines and then, if we chose to try something book-length, looked for an agent and hoped for publication by either a large publishing house, a mid-sized independent publisher, or a university press.
I still think that’s a good way to go, but it isn’t easy. The popularity of MFA programs means there are a significant number of very good, serious writers, all competing for the same markets at a time when funding for the arts isn’t always a high priority. While I had very good luck with my stories being accepted in literary magazines, my experience with agents and large publishers was mixed. I worked with a very good agent for awhile and received many favorable comments from a number of major publishers about the style and originality my work. The marketability, however, was another question. My writing tends to be a little different, and in a traditional market place, that can lead to concerns about sales. I received a lot of rejection letters that were different versions of we’d like to, but we’re not sure there’s an audience.
I started looking into smaller presses, like Zumaya, that didn’t require an agent, not only as a way of marketing my own work, but also to “test-drive” them for my students, exploring different alternatives they may want to consider. I was delighted when I heard from Liz Burton, the owner of Zumaya, that she had accepted The Tapestry Baby, my third book (two others were published by another small press) because she thought it was unique. Writing something that was a little different and that took chances was something she saw as an asset, not a liability, and she has been encouraging throughout the editing/publication process. What I’ve found is that small can also mean very personal, not only in terms of the relationship with the publisher, but also with the other authors. There’s lots of e-mailing back and forth, constant support, and the attitude that we are all in this together, so let’s see what we can do to help all of us succeed.
For me, wishing Zumaya a Happy Birthday is celebrating not only a small press, but a spirit that encourages uniqueness and originality.