On October 16 and 17, some bibliophiles from the visual arts community met in Vancouver to explore ways we can better connect our publications to audiences. Among the participants were organizations with resources and knowledge that could be mobilized in service of a collaborative, networked dissemination project.
No one’s saying we are opposed to making money, but in artist-run culture we don’t make books under the false hope of turning an impressive profit. For many of us, publishing is a passion project that’s become a signature part of our programming mandates. Even on lean budgets, we hustle to make the things that we want to make. Our agenda for the October meetings? How can we work together to develop more effective methods of reaching our audience and promoting our work?
At the meetings, which were held over the course of 2 days, all were in agreement that it’s engaging the social life of the book that keeps us satisfied as publishers. Our dream is to inject a strategic amount of energy into tweaking and networking existing systems and supplement with key new projects. Here are some existing structures that are already at work in our respective organizations and projects:
- Online repositories and collections, i.e. e-artexte
- Newsletters, i.e. Instant Coffee
- Specialty bookshops, i.e. Formats, Art Metropole, the Or Bookstore
- Book fairs, i.e. VA/BF
- Pop-up bookshops, i.e. Halifax INK
- Online and print catalogues, i.e. Sélection, Risograph Atlas
- Reading groups, i.e. No Reading After the Internet
- Facebook groups, i.e. TXT
- Indie POD initiatives, i.e. Publication Studio
- Niche online sellers/distro, i.e. 3LW (in development phase)
Other models we want to bring into play, either tested and true or experimental:
- Exploring the e-artexte digital repository as a national dissemination hub that can reach libraries, booksellers, other institutions (ref. 20 latest additions to e-artexte)
- Travelling salesperson/rep
- Indie subscription model, i.e. Papirmasse
- More corporate subscription boxes, i.e. Book Riot (US)
- CSP (community-supported publishing) model – quarterly centralized pickup that is also a social event
- Comic store strategy: dedicated drawers for subscribers to redeem in-store
- Nationwide interactive map of brick and mortar shops, i.e. one for London being developed by 3LW
With disparate desires and resources at play, the task at hand is to begin investing in the connective tissues between these structures. To facilitate this, we suggest using the TXT fb group. Which of these ideas inspires your fancy? Seems just a small infusion of labour away from becoming a reality? Do you have other resources to share? Are you looking for a partner on a project? Let’s keep this brainstorm rolling!
In March 2015, an ad hoc group of independent art publishers began to coalesce around the name TXT, with a home on Weird Facebook and anchored in several IRL meetings over the last few years, at first at the NYABF. With ARCA as its ambassador, members of TXT wrote to the Canada Council for the Arts requesting that art publishing be recognized as a form distinct from the requirements of the book industries (both Anglo & Franco), and that ARCs and other art organizations with expertise in publishing be considered for support in the new funding model. While the response from Council was non-committal, this initiative helped to underscore huge community interest in arts publishing, and also the need for collective structural projects to support this work.