Interview | Kelly Davio, Eyewear Books | Indie Publisher of the Week

Are (were) your parents great readers? Tell us a bit about yourself.
My mother was an avid reader in my childhood, and she taught my siblings and me to read when we were very young. I grew up in California in a house filled with books.

Did you want to work in the publishing industry from the start?
No, I taught English at the secondary school level for many years before publishing and I found each other.

Has your vision from when Todd Swift started Eyewear Publishing four years ago evolved?
One of the most important developments for our press has been the introduction of Squint Books, our nonfiction division focusing on timely politics and pop culture titles. While poetry remains the beating heart of the press, our nonfiction books, by authors such as Okla Elliott, Sonya Huber, and Chris Jackson, have been an excellent way to reach a wider readership and, we hope, they make a real contribution to the cultural dialogue.

Another development I’ve been actively working on since coming to the press has been increasing our list of US authors. Eyewear has always been transatlantic in its aims, and we’ve had a wonderful opportunity to develop our presence in the US marketplace by acquiring titles by notable US poets, including Alice Anderson and Terese Svoboda, who have new books with us this fall.

How do you balance originality and profitability publishing general-interest trade rather than educational or technical books?
No one starts an independent press in order to get rich; we publish books we love, and we do our best to get them into readers’ hands while remaining financially viable. That means continually learning from our ups and downs and refining our processes accordingly. We have to ask ourselves, ‘What went well? What could go better? What should we do differently next time?’ whenever we release a book.

Your views on writing?
To echo Dorothy Parker, ‘I hate writing, I love having written.’

What makes you decide to publish one writer, and not another?
It’s a sad truth that there are more good books being written than will ever find publishers. We can’t take on every promising author or every worthy book. We have to focus on projects that we love (and what a subjective thing that is) and authors who are committed to partnering with us to make their books successful.

Technology and the rise of Kindle and iPads etc have revolutionised the publishing industry. How have publishers adapted to industry changes?
We’ve begun experimenting with ebook conversion for some of our titles, particularly those political titles that appeal to a wider readership than do our literary ones. Ebooks have some real virtues: we can distribute ebooks worldwide in a timely manner without having to rely on many other links of a supply chain. On the downside, however, no one in the industry has found a reliable way to make poetry work in ebook form, as line breaks are always adversely affected. Poetry, it seems, is safe from digitization for the moment.

Do you think the physical book will die away eventually?
Maybe. Maybe not. Personally, I won’t weep for the physical book any more than I would for the papyrus scroll; I believe that the written word will endure no matter the vehicle.

Your views on marketing and distribution?
The more orderly the process and the more work one can do in advance of a title’s release, the better.

How do you relax?
I love to cook. Because publishing is such a slow process, it’s nice to have a hobby in which I can spend an hour or two making something and have immediate, gratifying results.

Your favourite qualities in a person?
My favorite qualities in people — regardless of their gender identity — are persistence, kindness, loyalty, and creativity.

For what faults do have you most tolerance?
Pettiness and snobbery.

Your chief characteristic?

Your chief fault?
I take on more projects than I should.

Your bedside reading?
Currently, Anne Enright’s The Gathering and Bill Bryson’s The Road to Little Dribbling.

Your favourite prose author?
Kazuo Ishiguro.

Your favourite poet?
That’s an impossible question, as I find new poets to love all the time. But Madeline DeFrees, T.S. Eliot, John Berryman, and Sylvia Plath are the writers to whom I return the most often.

Your favourite heroes and heroines in fiction?
The more woefully imperfect the protagonist, the better I like him or her (make of that what you will). Hazel Motes (Wise Blood), Offred (The Handmaid’s Tale), Etsuko (A Pale View of Hills) and Ignatius J Reilly (A Confederacy of Dunces) are all favorites. Women get to be heroes, too.

Your heroes and heroines in real life?
My real-life heroes tend to be writers who use their work to help make our world a little better. Roxane Gay, Rebecca Solnit, and Ta-Nehisi Coates all fit that bill. I don’t like dividing people by gender.

Your greatest achievement?
The next one.

Format © BookBlast Ltd, London.

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georgia DC

Bilingual editor, rewriter, French-to-English translator. Has written for 3am magazine, words without borders, The Independent, The Lady, Banipal, Prospect Magazine, Times Literary Supplement. Currently writes for The BookBlast Diary. Founder (1997) of London-based writing agency BookBlast.

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