This week we check in with Nanci McCloskey of Tin House Books
What excites you about working for a small press?
I’d have to say the opportunity to get excited about each and every single book we publish. I know it’s an incredibly unique (and favorable position) to work on a scale that allows me to throw myself full-heart into the books that we publish, it never feels like a job to support these titles.
How did you get drawn into the world of small press publishing?
I was working as a literary agent in New York and had just sold a book to Tin House, and in the process got to know some folks here. My long-term boyfriend had just accepted a job in Portland and I took the chance. It was a risk, but moving across the country for a job at Tin House was the best decision I ever made.
Many writers never consider submitting their work to a small publisher. What are they overlooking?
They’re missing out on a lot of smart and detailed attention. We’ve had authors leave Tin House for bigger houses and then return to publish subsequent books with us. I think that says a lot. When we publish an author’s book every single employee reads it — from the design intern to the publisher. You’re being invited into a family with Tin House.
What small presses do you love (in addition to your own)?
Oh gosh, where to start… I love Europa, New York Review of Books, New Directions, Coffee House, Button Poetry, and Two Dollar Radio.
What’s the most challenging aspect of being a small press?
I’d say getting good placement at retail chain stores is probably our biggest challenge. A big house can buy a whole table in the front of the store, but we have to be a bit more creative in our approach.
What’s the best part of being a small press?
I think it’s being proud of each book we publish and the gorgeous package our design team puts together.
Name a book from your catalog that you think everyone should read.
Divide Me by Zero
by Lara Vapnyar and The Last Taxi Driver
by Lee Durkee.
Share a memorable experience you've had on the job.
One of the most exciting experiences was receiving a fan letter from Toni Morrison
after she read Agaat
, a 600-page South African translation. She was recovering from hip surgery and read it in a matter of days. A few months later, PEN World Voices invited the author of Agaat
, Marlene van Niekerk, to be on the stage with Toni Morrison in New York. One of the most thrilling days of my professional career for sure.
What do you wish more people knew about small press publishing?
I guess I’d like people to know we’re buying books because we love them. We don’t publish more than two books a month, and every single title gets an acute amount of attention from the editing, to the cover design, to the copyediting, and the publicity and sales. Books simply do not get lost with a small press.
What makes for a perfect book in your eyes?
A book that is deeply concerned with language and has a plot that keeps me turning the pages will always get my attention. And I’m a sucker for complex, psychologically interesting characters.
Why do you think books remain so popular in the digital age?
I don’t know what’s more perfect than a book to entertain, enlighten, and change you. When you read a book, you’re investing a lot of yourself and to my mind, nothing rewards you more.