We called Perennial Press to chat about all things indie publishing. Perennial Press is a small press that focuses on experimental work, publishing several books/chapbooks/zines per year!
Perennial: I was just wondering what made you start Art and Type and your origin story?
Natalia: Yeah so me and Susan are both in NYU, we’re both Studio Art students who met freshman year. We have a lot, like a lot, of common interests haha. Susan has worked a lot with publications and she suggested coming up with our own kinda brand or collaborative work. Then we started planning it in May 2020 and officially launched in Summer 2020. We work with contributors and for each issue, the contributors get a share in what we raise. We’re basically like a not-for-profit art collaborative, and for this third issue we are donating to the arts.
P: I’m so glad that you guys launched and now you’ve been around for two years almost? That's very exciting!
N: So our first question for you is pretty much the same, so tell us about Perennial, what it is and if there is someone apart from you that runs it? What is their role?
P: So Perennial started around April 2019 when I put out an open call for zine submissions. I wanted to make an opportunity for artists. As I was putting the zine together, I realized that we had gotten so many amazing submissions that I wanted to make it a full book. I was really into publishing so I decided to publish it under a press, Perennial Press. All of this was done alongside Tiffany Niles, who is our other editor. We actually met on instagram. When I put out the call I asked if anyone wanted to help edit and she replied so we started working together. I literally couldn’t do it without her, we always run ideas off of each other. We put out our first anthology with 23 contributors in october 2019. The year after, we put out a chapbook series with some poets, and then in 2021 we put out our first single-author, full-length collection, This I Can Tell You. This year we have a novel, two poetry collections, and another anthology coming out.
Susan: That’s so much!
P: Yeah, lots of projects.
S: So how do you go about selecting the works? Do you receive whole manuscripts?
P: So for our anthologies, they’re always speculative-based. Either speculative fiction or poetry and art kind of in the sci-fi realm. Tiffany and I go through and see which submissions best fit the theme and feel the most ready for publication. For our full-lengths we do an open call for manuscripts and go over them together. We really try to uplift and publish work from marginalized artists and publish work that either touches on themes of trauma and resilience in our histories or visions of more just futures. We make sure that the work is in line with that and that the work is ready for publication. Our team is all volunteers so we consider that in terms of making sure work is ready to be published and doesn’t need too much editing. For each full-length we do three rounds of edits but we can’t do too much more than that. Right now we have myself and Tiffany as editors, as well as two others, Adesina and Jaiden.
N: How do you find resources or funding to produce the copies? Do you have any advice?
P: I’ll be honest, we don’t have any outside funding, but what we do is when we have a book coming out, we will open pre-orders. All the money raised from that goes to pay for the printing. We really don’t make profits and if anything, if we are ever short, I fund it. That’s not very sustainable but getting grants in the future would definitely help.
S: Yeah definitely in the same boat on that one, but we carry out way less projects. We have two releases per year.
But what would you say makes Perennial different from a larger publishing house?
P: The attention that the author gets. We are only publishing three or four works per year, so for each author, we try to get them every opportunity possible for interviews and press. We want to connect them with people who are doing similar things or who their work is in conversation with. I think that attention is really priceless and authors might not get as much publicity as with a large press, but many books at larger presses don’t get big budgets either because those places put out thousands of books per year. Only a select few of them get that special attention or push, so authors end up doing their own publicity. For us, with the authors, we are so excited about their books. We’re not publishing to you to make a profit but because we really believe in their work and are passionate about it, so I think that is really powerful as well. We can also publish really experimental works or things that won’t be bestsellers, because that’s not our goal. Our goal is to publish amazing work but not necessarily to make money off of it, so we can publish things that are on the margins and more experimental.
N: I know you touched on it, but what is your mission and guiding principles?
P: Above all, we want to publish things that are new and aren’t being published by the big five publishers. Stories that aren’t being heard. Stories are being told everywhere but not all of them get put on the printed page.
S: What do you look forward to doing with Perennial or what would you like to do?
P: Ah there’re so many things! I definitely want to collaborate with more people. It’s so cool to get to talk to you two today, and I just think there’s so many people out there with the same goals. We all want to publish cool artists and authors but maybe we don’t have the resources, so I think building that community together can be really powerful and a vehicle for supporting our authors, and the art and writing scene in general.
N: In this whole collaborative effort, how do you sell the issue? Do you partner with stores? Is it online-only?
P: So our main way is our website, but we also do sell in person across stores in the U.S. We have also been in a few stores in Canada and one in the U.K. These are really small independent bookstores that have zine selections, small press selections, that sell our work and that we are very grateful for because we can reach people we would never reach otherwise.
N: What would you consider is the biggest challenge of running Perennial and what advice would you give?
P: That’s a great question, I mean the biggest thing is selling books. With all the types of media we have today, it is hard to sell books in this landscape. But I will say, readers will find the books they need to read when it’s the right time for them. Most of the books I read were not published this year, but five to ten years ago or more. I always have to remind myself of that, and that we may not sell out of copies this year, but we will still be selling this book in five years and people will still be finding it. It’s really cool to make that physical artifact that can last a really long time and have lives of its own. The other issue is the physical printing of the books and testing the covers, the paper, the spine, and the layout. The production is always harder than I expect each time and it's definitely a process.
S: Well I think those are all our questions! Thanks so much for answering them, and also I wanted to say thank you for sharing our open calls. Especially in the beginning, we were starting from scratch and getting that extra traction really really helped.
P: No problem! The first issue is always the hardest, but over time people will find you on their own and it gets better from there.