Today’s the day I come out as the proud, arrogantly bold son of a bitch behind New Bayou Books. It’s a Louisiana based LLC I started a few weeks back, and one way or another, it will be the spark that ignites some kind of revolution. Literary or personal, something amazing is fixing to happen.
It started for me in the fall, when I finished the second draft of my first real novel, Tattoos and Tans. Even with much work still to be done–a round of editing that was like the literary equivalent of a salt water colonic, courtesy of my editor, Brooke, as well as critical feedback from my wife and from my brother from another bad ass mother, Toby–I had the feeling that something energizing was on the horizon.
At the time I was still hung up on the traditional writer’s dream that I didn’t know has already been dead for many years. I would finish the manuscript, write clever letters to agents who would be so impressed with my wit and style they’d come out of the woodwork to work with me. And then I would pick the best one and it would be like the movies from then on . . . me and the agent of my dreams would form a cosmic bond, and he would fight for me and the day I signed my first publishing deal would be like the big scene in the movie of my life.
It would basically be just like I imagined it back in the mid 1990s, when I was still in college and the dream first took hold. Except for real this time. And with a book that wasn’t a straight up Confederacy of Dunces rip off.
But then–I don’t know if it’s age or impatience or just some divine piece of insight that came to me–I started reading about the state of the publishing industry and digging deep into what new writers can actually expect from a traditional publishing house that deigns to sign them. And I found out–you already know this–it isn’t much.
Forget about a marketing budget. Forget about input to cover design. Forget about an advance–which it turns out in the best case is nothing but a high interest loan against future sales.
And then I heard an interview with Sturgill Simpson. When Rick Rubin asked him what advice he’d give to new musicians trying to make it in the business, he said it plain and simple: don’t sign anything. Hmm. Maybe the traditional writer’s dream is gone.
But Sturgill got me thinking . . . he got me thinking about Dischord Records and the DIY ethos. Those guys weren’t in the habit of asking for permission to make music and put it out. Back in the 1980s, when you had to actually go to the copy shop to print flyers, or mail a master tape to a pressing plant to get your order of 500 or a 1000 records–Ian Mackaye and his friends were unwilling to give up control of their art, but they were willing to do the work to get it out into the world.
If they could do it with music when it was hard, then I could do it with books right now, when it’s easy. Besides, I’m too fucking old to go asking for permission or validation from anyone else. Aren’t we all, no matter what age we are?
Deciding to publish independently was a minor breakthrough.
For me the real excitement came when I realized how underserved and underrepresented south Louisiana is when it comes to books. It’s a such a rich, vivid, and fucked up culture (I am from there, so I have no qualms about saying it plain) . . . but how does that show up in the literature? Trot out your tropes. Swamp things, vampires from New Orleans who make the occasional hunting expedition in the countryside, motorcycle romance, detectives named Robicheaux who resemble absolutely no one you know or would ever want to meet.
It wasn’t an opportunity I recognized. It was a vacuum. But don’t get me wrong–I can’t fill it. I think I’m probably a decent writer. If I have any aptitude at all on that front, it’s the ability to write like people speak. Sort of. (If you want to judge for yourself, email firstname.lastname@example.org for a free copy of Tattoos and Tans.) But one thing I can do, it occurred to me, is create a platform and raise a flag for Louisiana writers and readers who see the same void and want more.
And so that’s where New Bayou Books comes in.
We will publish books that are written like people talk, about characters you know (or wish you didn’t), in episodic formats you’re familiar with. At a minimum, we will put some reputable and entertaining books out there. But trust me, the real goal is not so modest.
I have nothing less than revolution on my mind. An explosion of bad ass Louisiana literature.
So if you made it this far, the only question left to answer is: Are you with me?