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12 or 20 (small press) questions with C.A. Mullins on Bottlecap Press

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CA Mullins interviewed by rob mclennan

Bottlecap Press is an independent publisher of poetry and fiction, chapbooks and full lengths, based in Alton, Illinois, and on the internet. Its goal is the publication of works that strike the reader as alarmingly, frustratingly, artistically human.

C.A. Mullins is the founder and editor in chief of Bottlecap Press and author of a handful of things that don’t really matter in the long run, as well as a half-written novel that he swears is going to be good. He tweets as @iseveryonealone, and he also tweets as @BottlecapPress, but those ones are a little more corporate.
1 – When did Bottlecap Press first start? How have your original goals as a publisher shifted since you started, if at all? And what have you learned through the process?

Bottlecap started in mid-2014 during a period of my life where I was looking for a publisher for some of my own writing, but had trouble finding one whose philosophies aligned with mine. I had a lot of trouble understanding mainstream publishers’ royalty rates and strict rules for submission, and I was terrified of editors stripping my intent as an artist. Since then, I’ve become more acquainted with the thriving community of small press editors, many of whom I’ve found to have similar goals. I think the biggest change in Bottlecap’s philosophy has been that in the beginning, I believed that the key to keeping royalty rates high was trimming fat and cutting out middlemen. Over time, I’ve become a lot more open to making bigger investments into more of the secondary functions of a publisher (setting up readings, marketing, etc.) where in the beginning, a lot of those aspects were more barebones. At first, our primary service was printing, and that suited our goals at the time. Since then, we’ve evolved into something much more community oriented. We experiment with a lot of new ideas, but our core philosophy has remained the same: to respect the rights of the artist.

2 – What first brought you to publishing?

For me, it was a eureka moment more than it was something that had ever been a part of my long term plan. I was living in a small town in Alaska, working a summer job, and my landlord raised my rent without my knowledge or consent. I needed then more than ever to become self-sufficient. Because I was having so much trouble finding an appropriate publisher for my own work, it’s only natural that the idea of self-publishing would cross my mind. So I learned how to bind books, left Alaska, and blew my last $500 on printing supplies. It was right around then that I started introducing myself to people in writing and publishing communities. Within six months, I started getting involved with other authors, and soon after, I invited my old friend Brendan Kolk to be my co-editor. I haven’t looked back since.

3 – What do you consider the role and responsibilities, if any, of small publishing?

In my mind, the biggest role of independent publishing is to be a viable alternative to mainstream publishing. It’s important for an independent publisher to take on challenging work and give voices to those who might be taken advantage of by the mainstream system. Being able to keep up with the big fish in publishing and being able to offer the same or equivalent services even when resources are limited. Thriftiness is a big one. Finding creative solutions to problems, and learning from them. Small presses are not just smaller businesses that do the same things in the same ways– we are the innovators in this industry. You’ve got to be scrappy, and you’ve got to find ways to make things work even when they seem impossible. You’ve got to treat your authors like human beings and prove to them that they made the right decision in publishing through your press. Support them and thank them for supporting you.

4 – What do you see your press doing that no one else is?

Of course, I have to preface this question by saying there are a lot of great indie publishers doing a lot of great things. I can’t stress that enough. But I think one thing that makes Bottlecap unique is our experimentation. We’re full of ideas, and when we get a new idea, no matter how off-the-wall it may seem, we act on it. This especially comes into play in our marketing. We’re not afraid of losing touch with our roots, of changing, of growing, and this gives us a lot of freedom to explore. We have active plans not only to publish books, but publish other types of media as well. When our authors have requests, even if it’s not the sort of thing we’d usually do, we figure out how to do it, and we make it work, even when it sounds crazy. Another thing I see in Bottlecap that I don’t see in many other presses is a certain level of efficiency. We do have our weak spots as far as efficiency goes (specifically time management, which we’re trying to get better at), but we’ve only got two main editors and we’ve published more than 40 books in the last two and a half years, each fantastic in its own right. Both our quantity of new releases and our quality of new releases are very high, and it’s something we’re really proud of. Somehow we’re still able to find time to print, to distribute, to market, and to answer interview questions (even if it takes a little longer than we’d want it to.)

Read the full interview @ rob mclennan’s blog

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