Cobalt: Tell us a little bit about Short Flight/Long Drive (SF/LD). How did you get started? What do you publish?
Elizabeth Ellen: We started SF/LD in 2006. Aaron was spending a lot of time editing Hobart and I helped with that but wanted my own project to work on so we decided to do a book division and put me in charge of it. We don’t really have any rules for what we publish. Pretty much whatever strikes my fancy. Probably at one time we said we’d never do a poetry collection, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we did. So far we’ve mostly put out story collections, though we’ve also done nonfiction (The Sicily Papers) and a novel (The Avian Gospels) and a novella (I Have Blinded Myself Writing This).
Cobalt: How do you obtain the manuscripts that you publish?
Ellen: Various ways. We have acquired two from slush, two by asking the author if they were interested in publishing a story collection, one via a friend of a friend championing the author’s manuscript, and one via a contest. Oh, and I put out my own collection. So that was pretty easy to acquire.
Cobalt: How many SF/LD books have come from previously unpublished authors?
Ellen: All but one: Karl Taro Greenfeld’s NowTrends. Karl is the author of several books. Everyone else: it was their first book.
Cobalt: Let’s assume that you’ve just read a manuscript, love it, and are making that phone call (or sending that email) to the author. How does your end of that conversation typically go?
Ellen: Well, it seems like with each book the process is slightly different. With someone like Mary Miller, for instance, I emailed her to ask if she’d thought of putting out a collection (she hadn’t). She wasn’t even sure, at first, if she had enough stories (she did!), but she was interested in seeing what we could come up with. She sent me many stories and I read through them and we agreed on what we wanted to include. Then we worked together on editing the stories and deciding how the stories she be ordered. This probably all took place over a few months, through many, many emails. After that we consulted David Kramer, a wonderful artist in New York who we first contacted about my Future Tense chapbook. David worked with us on Mary’s cover. I had been in love with the old Dell paperbacks I’d found in a used bookstore and wanted to emulate that look with Mary’s book. One of the Dell books had a map on the back cover and I thought this would work well with Mary’s book, as one of her stories was set in Gatlinburg, and I was excited to see what David could come up with. After we got the stories edited and assembled and the cover approved, we sent Mary a contract and some $$ and Aaron got to work on the book layout. We also sent out approximately 30-40 advances of her book, to various magazines and interested persons we thought might want to review or promote it. The last thing we did was help set up a mini tour, mainly on the west coast, as well as Chicago, and a handful of other random cities. Mary’s book is pretty indicative of the process, though, as I said, each book and author are unique and require unique handling.
Cobalt: Tell me about the design process for SF/LD books and where the author fits into it.
Ellen: Each book has been a unique process. With Michelle Orange’s Sicily Papers, for instance, given that it is a book of nonfiction travel writing, the passport design just seemed to fit. We never played with any other cover. With our latest book, however, Dylan Nice’s Other Kinds, Aaron and I spent a number of weeks discussing cover ideas with Dylan, and bringing in David Kramer (who had also done the cover art for Mary Miller’s Big World as well as my chapbook, Before You She Was a Pit Bull) to see what was feasible. David did a couple different mockups and we showed them to Dylan and got his input. We really aim to match the feel of the book to the cover, obviously. And to please the author. As well as ourselves.
Cobalt: Why do you think there has been such an influx of independent publishers over the past several years, and where do you think this market is going?
Ellen: It’s become increasingly easy to publish without the backing of big companies due to desktop publishing and the use of the Internet and social medias for hyping your shit. Seems like it’s more up to the individual – author or small press publisher – and how much work he/she is willing to do as far as promoting his/her self or his/her press in getting the work out and having a voice. Seems like this is becoming more true all the time. The size of the press seems less relevant than how much hyping you’re willing to do.
Cobalt: What one thing separates SF/LD from other independent presses?
Ellen: Ummm…our awesomeness? I think our design quality is pretty top-notch, as is the quality/diversity/uniqueness of the manuscripts we’re accepting. That’s at least two things. Shoulda just left it at “our awesomeness.”
About Elizabeth: Elizabeth Ellen is the author of Before You She Was a Pit Bull (Future Tense), Sixteen Miles Outside of Phoenix (Rose Metal Press) and Fast Machine (SF/LD). She coedits Hobart and oversees Short Flight/Long Drive books. Most significantly, she’s from the Midwest.
Some awesome links: