In the recent New York Times piece “Book Publishing’s Big Gamble,” we learn that Ryan Chapman at Atavist takes his cues for how he thinks publishing should work from indie record labels. It might seem strange to some, but Chapman is pretty dead-on in his thinking when you consider the parallels between the book publishing world and music industry, and how far indie record labels have come in terms of big sales and acts like Bon Iver (Secretly Canadian) and Arcade Fire (Merge) winning Grammys. It isn’t exactly the meek inheriting the earth, but indie labels’ rise in prominence shows that an appreciation for the art, a willingness to put out work by lesser-known bands, and a more hands-on approach to promoting the finished work has helped more than a few of them become successful, and could be a good model for the big publishing houses to look at. With that in mind, we decided to pair a few of the best indie publishers with some of the best indie music labels and ideas to see how they compare.
Kevin Sampsell has a philosophy similar to Calvin Johnson’s in the early 1980s in terms of putting out stuff he knows is quality, popular format be damned. But instead of 7″ singles or cassette tapes, Sampsell puts out everything from great chapbooks by authors like Aaron Gilbreath to small collections by writers’ writers like Gary Lutz and the debut essay collections of up-and-comers like Chloe Caldwell. The best part is that, just like former K artists like Beck and Modest Mouse, you know the big labels will come sniffing around for Sampsell’s authors sooner or later.