Writing is the ultimate artisanal art, yet even high-quality writers often fail to attain the exposure that their content may deserve. Large-scale publishers too frequently focus on a tiny pool of well-connected and commercially successful authors who can generate a guaranteed profit, while works of genuine literary value fall into obscurity for no other reason than because they’ve been drafted by authors who require just a little bit of coaching or who lack a powerful agent. The market dispute in the summer of 2014 between Amazon and Hachette illustrates the degree to which writing is considered a commodity to be homogenized and packaged for resale, rather than a form of art worth celebrating.
We at Caffeinated Press believe the industry can do better. We can lead a national renaissance in the vocation of “microbrewed writing” and in so doing, provide a viable third way for writers and readers to share compelling new stories with each other.
Simply put, the mission of Caffeinated Press is to publish works of literary merit by writers who are connected to West Michigan. That last part is important: We’re not looking to be a national press. Our writers and readers know the joys of Pure Michigan and understand the specific sociocultural makeup of our regional community. Authors need not be present to win, however; any author who has lived, studied or frequently visited West Michigan falls within our scope. This geographic emphasis helps us to focus on our core demographic and to ensure that we deliver the right product to the right people at the right time and at the right price.
We aspire to grow a local and self-sustaining literary culture in West Michigan that rivals ArtPrize in size, scope and vibrancy — and in so doing, build a community-relations model for other regions to emulate.
Because our mission is cultural, rather than financial, we believe we can afford to reinvest revenue into the writing community. As such, we are willing to spend the time to work with promising new authors who can tell good stories but require additional technical guidance, and to risk low-margin project if that product tells a beautiful story in a compelling manner.
In today’s market, almost anyone can self-publish; however, self-publishing entails the assumption of certain risks: The costs of editing and procuring ISBNs, the time and effort spent formatting a manuscript into competing print and e-book formats, and the herculean lift associated with a one-person marketing operation. It’s not a surprise, then, that according to a 2012 story in the UK’s The Guardian, “the average amount earned by DIY authors last year was just $10,000, and half made less than $500.”And that’s assuming you can afford the estimated $6,000 just to make your self-published manuscript viable!
Furthermore, the publishing industry has elevated “platform” — a term of art referencing the social-media presence of an author — to a near-fetish status. Some publishers won’t even look at manuscripts from authors with fewer than 1,000 Twitter followers, for example, while others look carefully at the degree to which an author can take significant or even primary responsibility for sales under his own name and brand.
And if your magnum opus has room for improvement? Fuggedabowdit. No wonder some people think the industry is broken.
Caffeinated Press thinks differently. We believe that promising content from promising local writers can be tuned by our editorial team into print-worthy copy. We believe that it’s the job of the publisher to handle the administration of ISBN numbers, cover art, formatting, proofing, printing, distribution and marketing. We believe that writers should write, readers should read, and that it’s our job to connect the two seamlessly.
The company has assembled a team of more than a dozen editors to serve on the Editorial Committee. These editors have varying experience — some are fiction writers, some have former journalistic experience, some have English degrees — and it’s the editors as a whole who, by majority, determine whether an inbound query is clean enough to work with and presents a compelling story that can at least break even in the local market. The assessment process is both blinded and holistic; the editors don’t know who’s submitting, and we do not impose any constraints as to genre, content or length on any submission.