While the majority of small publishers have gone digital, and many authors have retreated to self-publishing their own works, there still remains an audience for hardbound copies of new books. Much like vinyl record collectors, there will always be an audience for the physical editions, and local publisher Binary Press is more than happy to help provide that to local authors. The company has given a place for local authors such as J.A. Carter-Winward, Kurt Rasmussen and Carol Lynn Pearson to get their works out across several outlets while allowing them to maintain the rights to their own material in the process. Today we chat with one of the people behind the company, Megan Olsen, as we discuss their formation and the work they've done for local authors. (All photos courtesy of Binary Press.
Gavin: Hey Megan, first thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am 24 years old and work as a publicist and poetry editor for Binary Press Publications. I am also a student at Weber State University and participate in many of the undergraduate programs such as Metaphor, an undergraduate journal, and Sigma Tau Delta, an English club. I have a four-year-old daughter whom I dedicate all my success to. In my spare time I write poetry, read and go skiing.
Gavin: How did you first take a formal interest in books and literature?
I have always been interested in books and literature. Ever since I can remember I have been reading and writing. I realized I wanted to make it a career when my Editor-In-Chief, K, asked me to help with marketing for the press. With all my various jobs with Binary Press, I get to focus on promoting and reading literature, which is alright with me.
Gavin: What were some of your favorite titles growing up that inspired you to write?
When I was in high school I found a local bookstore that had a very extensive poetry section, not many bookstores do. I found Reagen Butcher’s Stone Hotel
and Jim Morrison’s L’America
, after reading these cover to cover I realized poetry had less boundaries than I had thought. I vowed right then and there to keep reading and writing poetry.
Gavin: You're currently studying at Weber State University. What made you choose Weber and how is their English program like for you?
The English department is amazing, there are many opportunities for English majors to shine, whether you have an emphasis is in creative writing or technical writing, I have found the courses and professors to truly invest in their students. Binary Press also uses one of my professors as a line editor for several of our publications. Weber State hosts the only undergraduate literature conference in the country each spring and has a premier undergraduate writing program. I should graduate within the next year and a half.
Gavin: What was it like for you breaking into publishing?
This career choice was something I had only fantasized about. When K, the Editor-In Chief, offered me the job I was immediately overcome with bewilderment. How was I going to do this? The wonderful thing about Binary is the fact that it is not a typical New York publishing house. The focus of Binary is to connect with its authors and readers, this also means the employees must be dedicated to the written word and be willing to connect as well. My job and the job in literature is to connect. I get to work directly with the authors, the editors and reach out to the community as as I continue my schooling. It is a dream job.
Gavin: How did the company of Binary Press come about?
K started the company and decided in a nod to one of his favorite authors, Franz Kafka, to take on the initial moniker of “K” for his position. I think he felt that starting a publishing company in the digital and self-publishing era was a little bit like walking through a Kafka novel, which it often feels like, even to me. The 0101 or Binary part of the press name came from thinking about Borges’ Library Of Babel
, a short story that if you set up a criteria for a book size – pages, lines and characters – you could calculate out the number of all the books in the library and theoretically know how many books there are in a library that contains every book that has been written, will be written and could be written. The library would contain the book with the story of each individual’s life, with each individual’s name and every possible pseudonym. It is a pretty damn big library. K decided that given that all of our pages, lines and characters can be reduced into binary code that the smallest library of Babel would consist of just a one and a zero. All of our literature can be reduced to a 1 and a 0 – sort of boggles the mind. Our job as a press is to step into the library and pull out a book that readers will find compelling and unique.
Gavin: What was it like putting together the company and making it sustainable to put out new works?
It is a challenge working for a start-up publishing company. Funds are tights so you get to wear multiple hats like I do as publicist and poetry editor. I’d rather spend my days editing poetry, but we have to figure out how to make the company viable. Everyone has to do marketing, editing, formatting and it is a communal effort. Our authors, editors, staff and readers all contribute to making the venture work.
Gavin: How did you go about finding writers and manuscripts for publishing, and who were some of the first to come on board?
One of our first writers to come on board was Carol Lynn Pearson. She has had a strong voice in the Mormon community promoting homosexual rights and understandings among the Mormons. We are proud to publish the Amazon Kindle versions of two of her books, No More Strangers
and Facing East
. We are very grateful to her for her support. We also added another local author, J.A. Carter-Winward. Her first book, written under the name JulieAnn Henneman, Always Listen to the Ravings of a Mad Woman: Sex, Porn and Postum in the Land of Zion
, received some great local reviews, including one in City Weekly
. She now has four novels, a collection of short stories and two books of poetry with us. Her poetry books have been described as a cross between Charles Bukowski and a Mormon housewife. This melding of literary culture and local flavor is something Binary Press is very interested in expanding and exploring. Given my affection for poetry, I am also proud of another of our authors, Kurt Rasmussen. Kurt is a local poet with a raw poetic voice. His first collection, Sunbathing in Winnemucca
, has just been published. His emotions and images can be as raw and rough as our desert landscape. Kurt is a howl of pain and compassion out of our sedentary lives and beliefs. Also upcoming this fall, we have the “flower-beard meme” guy, who has written a fun little humor book, The Analects of Facetious (Bastard brother of Confuscious)
. Not every publishing house has an author that is also an Internet meme. We are constantly on the look-out for authors that can give us a unique voice and outlook on the world.
Gavin: What was that first year of business like, both in getting word out and getting titles out to the public?
Our first year has been exciting. Getting the word out about our titles has proven the most difficult thing to do. Reading isn’t really a social event, so finding readers is the most difficult. One way we have been approaching this is to sponsor or participate in “literary events.” Just last month we had a large poetry reading at Only In Ogden, which included poetry performances by two of our authors and an open mic. There was free food, wine and over 60 people attended. There was only one minor “borrowing” of public property, one fire on stage and a lot of great poetry. At the end of the night, Binary was able to make an $800 donation to the two poetry slam teams in Salt Lake City – Salt City Slam and the Wasatch Wordsmiths. I was proud that we could contribute to the local literary scene in such a substantial way.
Gavin: What's the process like for you in finding new works to publish?
I haven’t got to the level where I get to decide what is and isn’t published. I know that we are looking for unique voices that complement what we are trying to do as a press. Anyone interested in submissions can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
and let me know what type of work you are interested in submitting.
Gavin: What sets you apart from other companies and makes you more viable than self-publishing?
Certainly the changes that have taken place in the publishing world have made it so that anyone can put out a book, but the result is a lot like Borges’ Library Of Babel
– every possible book is being published. Our publishing model is a hybrid of traditional publishing and digital self-publishing. The objective is to build a community of authors and readers that can sustain itself against the digital onslaught, rather than playing the self-publishing lottery. Not to mention that writing a book versus formatting a book versus editing a book versus marketing a book are all very different skill sets, so self-publishing can require you to be the cliched “jack-of-all-trades, master of none.”
Gavin: You publish both paperback and e-book versions, what made you decide to continue with hard copies when many newer companies are switching to full-digital?
Actually our goal is to have all of our books available in hardbound, softbound, Kindle, ePub and audio. Our first audio book, No Apologies, a collection of JA Carter-Winward’s poetry will be coming out this fall. We want people to be able to read our titles in whatever format they want to read (or hear) them. Throughout the next six months we are working to have all of our titles available in as many formats as possible. The digital technology actually is what makes this possible.
Gavin: Looking ahead, what new titles do you have on the way in the next few months?
Coming this fall, we have The Analects of Facetious (Bastard Brother of Confusicous)
and The Waiters
, a play that will have its world premier in September at Ogden’s Good Company Theater. Later in the fall, we should have a new book of poetry out by JA Carter-Winward entitled, No Regrets
. Also in the works in the coming months will be an anthology of local poets for which submissions should be open at the first part of September.
Gavin: For anyone interested in being published by you, what do they need to do?
Check out our website
for information on upcoming events and open submissions. If anyone is interested in joining with us in our efforts, they can always contact me directly.
Gavin: What can we expect from you and Binary Press over the rest of the year?
One of my projects will be implemented in the next couple of months, a poetry contest that uses and plays off the #hashtag mania. There will be actual cash money prizes for the winners, so I’m excited about that. The local poetry anthology will bring together divergent voices from across the Wasatch Front and give voice to writers that should be heard by more than just a few people in a coffee shop.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?
Yeah, of course – all of our titles. Seriously, one of the great perks of my job is that I have to read everything we publish. Our most recent paperback is TDTM
. This Novel is a mystery masquerading as a romance novel masquerading as a comedy. It touches base on so many important issues such as mother-daughter relationships, the art of perception, and how confusingly painful the discovery of oneself can be. I read this book cover to cover—wonderfully written and composed, this is a must read for anyone craving an enriching and entertaining novel.