Over the last year or so, we’ve had the pleasure of reviewing many books published by The Permanent Press, so I was very happy when Martin Shepard agreed to answer a few of my questions and tell the readers more about his wonderful publishing house!
After reading the interview, check out Martin’s blog, The Cockeyed Pessimist!
What is your role at Permanent Press?
Martin: I’m the co-publisher, along with my wife, Judith. For us to publish a book (95% being novels) we both have to like it enough from the 5,000 or so queries and submission we receive each year. Judy reads over 90% of the submissions first, my taking a look at the other 10% percent. If it passes, muster Judy does a thorough edit several months later. My time is spent primarily in keeping the books we do each year on schedule, promoting what we publish, doing a monthly blog, and working with our cover artist, Lon Kirschner, and Susan Ahlquist, who does out typesetting, working on our yearly catalog, keeping up with those who ship books, taking returns, and insuring that customers pay us in a timely fashion.
What is the history of Permanent Press and what is your mission?
Martin: We started 31 years ago, doing a broad spectrum of fiction and non-fiction, but within the first ten years focused increasingly on quality fiction.
How many books do you publish a year?
Martin: 12 to 14
What do you look for in authors and books that you choose to represent?
Martin: Something original, that goes beyond genre. Artful writing. A manuscript that’s hard to put down because it involves us emotionally. Authentic and believable dialogue. and motivations. Characters you admire and would like to get to know better or at least have over for dinner. Descriptions that put us immediately there. A book that increases our knowledge of the world and its ways. Metaphors to die for. Any or all of these things ring our bells.
What is your biggest challenge in spreading the word about your books?
Martin: Finding like-minded critics online or in-print who share our aesthetics; brainstorming with our authors to see what we can collectively do in helping spread the word. Never giving up on a title and keeping good books in print for as long as we are alive and publishing.
Your books sell on Amazon for closer to $20, while many mainstream hardcovers sell for closer to $10. How do you overcome this obstacle?
Martin: I think most mainstream books are ones we’d never be interested in publishing. Nor do I see our higher prices as an obstacle. If you look at the list prices of Best Sellers, they are not that much different from ours. If we do a hardcover for $26 to $28, and Amazon sells them for $18 to $20, that’s not a problem for people interested in quality fiction. Also, all our new titles go on Kindle where the price is even lower. Plus we give 50% discounts to any reading group ordering 5 copies or more.
What is in store for Pemanent Press going forward?
Martin: To keep refining our standards and do just what we’ve been doing. We go forward by not changing course, not tacking right or left, but just following our own vision, while giving talented novelists, who are denied the opportunity to showcase their work by bottom-line/bottom-taste conglomerate publishers, an opportunity to find a home with us.
Check out the great Permanent Press books we’ve reviewed in the past:
Time Among the Dead by Thomas Rayfiel
Drake’s Bay by T. A. Roberts
Seducing the Spirits by Louise Young
Three Minutes on Love by Roccie Hill
Small Kingdoms by Anastasia Hobbet
Houri by Mehrdad Balali
A Theory of All Things by Peggy Leon
Elysiana by Chris Knopf
Pretend All Your Life by Joseph L. Mackin
The Chester Chronicles by Kermit Moyer