In the discussion with poet and editor Garth Graeper, I was most interested to hear about his experiences working with one of the big six publishers compared to his work with small presses like Ugly Duckling Press. My prepared question reflected this interest: “How does editing and publishing differ between big publishing presses and small presses?”
Garth talked a lot about the intimate nature of the small press compared to the almost-industrial world of ‘Big Six’ publishers. The small press, he said, allows for a more hands-on approach to the publishing and editing process. Editors for a small press have more liberties with formatting and editing where they would be contained to a firm template in large presses. With smaller presses, the author is more involved and welcomed into the process of publishing. They have at least some say when it comes to how their work will be presented, whereas large presses do not normally allow authors to have a say in layout or final content for their piece. These differences are impactful for both author and editor. Both are restricted more by large presses, though the work is more widely distributed and advertised. Small presses do not reach as large of an audience but do give author and editor more freedom when it comes to how the book is presented.
One of the other interesting things we talked about with Garth were the Park Books, which he provided each of us with. These small books were distributed around Central Park for passersby to pick up and enjoy. These books were small and compact, which make them ideal for leaving in small places for others to find and pass around. In an interview with Brooklyn Poets, Garth credits his work with small press with helping his understanding and appreciation for unique poetry projects like the Park Books:
“[Ugly Duckling Press] helped me understand the myriad joys and difficulties that people bring to poetry (and how much I cannot be without it). The poetry community I first connected with had a very DIY spirit, which inspired me to create lots of handmade projects, including the Park Books, a series of little books of anonymous poems that I would leave in parks.”“Garth Graeper.” Brooklyn Poets, 7 May 2018, brooklynpoets.org/poet/garth-graeper/.
The fact that Garth’s work with Ugly Duckling Press was so encouraging of this unique venture with the Park Books says a lot about the freedom of creativity provided to artists working with small presses. A larger press may not have supported or inspired such a unique venture, but a smaller press has the ability to interact more with authors personally and foster creative ideas.