Q & A with Gregg Wilhelm from CityLit Project

Posted: September 28, 2010 by fsucenterforcreativewriting in Interview

Gregg Wilhelm from CityLit Project answers some questions for us on CityLit Project and publishing.

How did  CityLit Press  get started?

I’ve been kicking around the book publishing business since 1992.  When in 2004 I founded CityLit Project, Baltimore’s nonprofit literary arts center, I knew that I eventually wanted to get back to publishing books in addition to promoting the literary arts in general.  Meanwhile, the entire book publishing model radically changed where I can now Skype with authors around the country for free, produce quality books when necessary via on-demand digital printing, release e-book versions of titles if I so choose, and promote books via our dynamic web site and social media.  So not only can I better control the economics of book publishing, I can for the first time in my career take risks with literary art that I believe in (poetry, short fiction) and hopefully can find an audience for.  That’s thrilling!

How have you seen the publishing industry change, and how are you responding to it?

See above.  Professionally, I’ve transitioned from attending the annual Book Expo America mtg to the AWP Annual conference, where the energy level is exponentially higher than it was during the last few BEA’s I attended.  I much prefer approaching publishing from the artistic perspective than the bottom line mentality of larger publishers and book chain retailers.

What are your opinions on self-publishing, online or in print?

I’m all for it and believe in the democratization of the process, even if it might lead to inferior literary art and a much more crowded marketplace.  Besides, there’s a rich tradition of self-publishing (Whitman, Franklin, John Grisham).  It’s my job as a publisher then to publish quality books and escort it above the noisy marketplace.  It’s my responsibility as a promoter of new voices that writers know exactly what they are getting themselves into when self-publishing so that if they opt to take that route they know what is involved and manage matters professionally.

What benefits does a small press offer writers?

Passion about the project, keen attention to every step of the process, creative and collaborative marketing strategies, and the ability to adapt to new opportunities more quickly than a typical large house.

What mistakes should writers avoid when submitting to CityLit Press?

Writing poorly.  Sloppiness.  Misspelling my name (that’s not an ego thing, it is a have-you-done-your-research thing).  Overstating a project’s market potential (“Oprah will love it” is both rarely true and I can’t market a book in a way that really leverages an Oprah “bump”).

Other than what’s listed in your submission guidelines, what are you looking for in a submission?

That’s the damn thing about how we as a small press operate; I will offer to publish things that move me. How do you articulate that in submission guidelines? And, of course, what does NOT move me may very well move another editor, so it is all very subjective.

What events/publications do you have coming up that we should look out for?

Baltimore Writers’ Conference (CityLit Project, Towson University, Johns Hopkins University) on Nov 20 2010 at Towson University with keynote speaker Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (winner of the prestigious Orange Prize, given annually for the best novel written by a woman in English and recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship).

Spring Into Writing retreat at New Germany State Park in March 2011 (see Gerry for details).

An Easy place / To Die poems by Vincent A. Cellucci (Feb 1, 2011) a sequence of poems about New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Gregg Wilhelm

Check out CityLit Project and an earlier post by us for more information!

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