The Rumpus interviews Siglio publisher Lisa Pearson

Interviews, News Section, Reviews

March 19th, 2019

(Interview)

THE RUMPUS

Into the Margins: Talking with Siglio Press

LISA MECHAM

Originally published November 21, 2018

Siglio Press is celebrating its tenth anniversary this month. Its books—authored by Joe Brainard, Marcel Broodthaers, John Cage, Sophie Calle, Karen Green, Dorothy Iannone, Ray Johnson, Jess, Nancy Spero, Cecilia Vicuña, among many others—have received devoted readerships as well as critical accolades from the New York Times, the New YorkerNew York Review of BooksTimes Literary SupplementLondon Review of BooksLos Angeles TimesBookforum, and more.

Siglio’s mission statement reads:

Siglio is a small, fiercely independent press driven by its feminist ethos and its commitment to writers and artists who obey no boundaries, pay no fealty to trends and invite readers to see the world anew by reading word and image in provocative, unfamiliar ways.

Publishing at the intersection of art and literature and pushing the boundary of what the page can do, Siglio founder and publisher Lisa Pearson was interviewed about its mission statement and what the anniversary means to the press.

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The Rumpus: I thought we’d break down the mission statement for Siglio, starting with what it means to be a “small, fiercely independent press.”

Lisa Pearson: “Small” means it’s just me. I wear every single hat except distribution, and while I manage production, my books are generally printed overseas. I have had amazing interns but since I moved [from Los Angeles] to New York and I live way out in the country, it’s just really me, in my barn, in the Hudson River Valley. “Fiercely independent” goes with the “small.” It means Siglio inhabits territory far outside the publishing mainstream without institutional affiliation so I am liberated to think about how to do things differently when they need to be done differently—as they often do.

I’ll give you an example. In a recent interview about her new book Frail Sister, Karen [Green] said she is proud of the fact she has a publisher who wasn’t worried about her making work that might lose readers. What I think she meant was that as the work got darker, more complicated, perhaps more oblique, she felt no pressure to make the work more “accessible.” Instead, I encouraged her to stay true to her vision because my job is to realize her vision in the shape of a book and then cultivate an audience for it. Independence gives me the ability to work on behalf of my authors unmitigated.

Rumpus: What are the challenges of being so fiercely independent?

Pearson: That my work on behalf of my authors is unmitigated! I also have to fight harder for my credibility. Bookstores don’t just order forty copies of every book I publish without blinking as they do with frontlist titles from a big house. My job is to convince people these are compelling, essential works, and I have to do that at every level: from my distributors (so I get good catalog placement and they communicate excitement to their reps) to the bookstores (who often have to think harder and expend some energy to consider where to put my books in the store) to reviewers and editors (who are investing energy and time into writing about and giving space to a Siglio book).

Getting any book published by an independent press into the hands of readers is challenging. Getting an uncategorizable, hybrid image+text book into a reader’s hand: That’s a herculean task.

Continue reading at The Rumpus.

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