By now, most readers are aware that Lookout Books’ debut book, Edith Pearlman's "Binocular Vision," has enjoyed rave reviews not to mention “center stage” status from both The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times.
Given this week’s news, it is worth your while to spend a few minutes with the mission of Lookout Books - -
Lookout is more than a name—it’s our publishing philosophy. When Emily Louise Smith, director of The Publishing Laboratory, and Ben George, editor of Ecotone, teamed up to found Lookout Books as the literary imprint of the Department of Creative Writing at UNC Wilmington, they pledged to seek out emerging and historically underrepresented voices, as well as works by established writers overlooked by commercial houses. In a publishing landscape increasingly indifferent to literary innovation, they envisioned Lookout as a haven for books that matter.
So what makes Lookout Books different? We solicit manuscripts from the pool of writers published in the department’s national literary magazine, Ecotone. We believe in developing lasting relationships and partnering with authors, setting a standard for editorial excellence, and publishing well-made and attractive original trade paperbacks. Books are vital to our culture, and we want to sustain them by rethinking traditional publishing models. At Lookout we offer authors 50-50 profit sharing, rather than the usual royalty structure, and reinvest profits in future titles. http://www.lookout.org/about.html (accessed 16 October 2011)
You missed this week’s news? This week, “Binocular Vision” was nominated for the nation’s preeminent literary prize, the National Book Awards. The twenty Finalists for the 2011 National Book Awards were announced on Oregon Public Broadcasting's morning radio program, Think Out Loud, in front of a live audience at the new Literary Arts Center in Portland, Oregon on Wednesday, October 12. In 2011, there were 1,223 books submitted for the National Book Awards. By genre the nominees included 315 fiction titles; 441 nonfiction; 189 poetry; and 278 young people’s literature titles (YPL). Not bad for a small, previously unknown university press. To see the lineup of finalists, visit http://www.nationalbook.org/nba2011.html (accessed 16 October 2011). Not bad for a small, previously unknown university press. Oh, right, I just said that.
The purpose of these reflections is not, however, to join the chorus of congratulations to Pearlman, Smith or George, each of whom more than deserves a “high five” or radiant smile, or both. No, the purpose is to offer a shout out for small, independent presses and an even louder shoutout that “books matter.”
The contemporary publishing landscape is defined and shaped by profound change. Descriptions of the new face of publishing generally include one or more of the following words, phrases or components - - all things digital, “e,” “E,” (which may be the same as “e” but whatever!), devices, online, pricing models, zero-capital cost distribution, mobile, collaborative, community, DIY - - and that’s for starters! Inside the industry, and outside, folks are talking about mergers, acquisitions, liquidations, and start-ups. They are muttering about the changing content landscape in publishing. Some folks are focused on the challenge of navigating the contemporary publishing landscape. Still others are engaged in continuous crystal ball gazing about the future of the book, or the future of books, reading and publishing all rolled up into one. The concept of “Books 2.0” is taking hold, with increasing chatter about the challenge of creating new value. It’s different out there. Everyone’s an author, editor, book developer, agent, publisher, critic, censor etc.
Enter into this mess - - I mean, mix, “Binocular Vision” and Lookout Books - - a book that matters and a publisher that understands that books matter. A quote on the Lookout Books site is worth repeating - -
“Books are vital to our culture, and we want to sustain them by rethinking traditional publishing models.”
I suggest that it is worth honoring great books and the publishers who make them accessible and by so doing, enrich our lives in immeasurable ways. A shout out, then to Lookout Books and a shout out that books matter.