This is part of a series of interviews taking place with small press publishers. This interview series will be partially published online and partially in print, as a part of a nonfiction book to demystify publishing, published in January 2020 and written by Isabelle Kenyon.
Fowlpox Press is a publisher of fine poetry and art through its quarterly, Fowl Feathered Review, and chapbooks, both in Print On Demand and in electronic form. Launched in 2011, FP remains one of only a few small presses providing reading material for free or at cost. Virgil Kay is purportedly a rooster sporting a fez, as well as the editor of Fowlpox Press. When he isn't molting, he sulks.
How many people are in your team, both paid and voluntary, and how do you divide your roles?
It's always been me, myself and I. The team list on the website is a satirical one. I do farm out editing chores on occasion and credit is always given.
What genre of books primarily do you publish and how many a year on average?
We publish poetry chapbooks, and there were a half dozen of those per year, now less to allow for health and family. We publish a quarterly called Fowl Feathered Review. Proud of that one.
When did your press open for business and what was your first year like?
We opened in 2011 and things really took off when I moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia. The energy of the city helped.
What are the most rewarding things about running a small press?
The reward is putting poetry out there which I believe in.
What are the most challenging things about running a small press?
The challenge is doing it so anyone can access it--there is no contract, advance for authors, royalties, and I do it all for free. We want challenging work available for free. I know people who can't buy books. This is why I have free online copies and print copies at cost. Yeah, it's challenging, all right!
What do you take into consideration when considering manuscripts and how do you compile your season of publishing (if this is curated in any way?)
I don't have to set up a publishing agenda. Wonderful stuff lands in my nest all the time. I just have to polish it.
What does a typical book marketing plan look like for you? How do you continue to build your brand within a busy market?
Press releases and social media. Many authors jump from here to lucrative deals with bigger and better publishers. I build everything myself. All of it. That's why I'm exhausted. I'm Paris Pâté, artist, Virgil the editor, etc.
Any funny publishing stories?
I did make one author sign agreement that he could not sing like Carol Channing in the bath for one calendar year.
Did you have any work experience in the publishing industry before you started your press? If yes, how did this inform your work? If no, how did you learn your craft?
I wrote for years prior, worked at a newspaper and a small zine, had a zine as a kid. It was natural to me.
How have you seen the independent publishing industry change since you started publishing?
Has it changed? Yes. But nothing really weird enough coming out yet. No haiku on frozen pancakes, for example.
What advice would you give someone interested in starting their own press?
Don't take yourself too seriously, be flexible, reasonable, frugal, and LEARN.--Virgil Kay