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Sunday, January 19, 2020

Interview With Founder of Award-Winning Upstart, Running Wild Press



   Upstart Indie Press Gaining Recognition As A Breakout Publisher With Award-Winning Books




Running Wild Press, a small indie publisher with nearly two dozen titles in its four year publishing history, has produced two books selected by Kirkus Reviews as Indie Books of the Year for 2019.

“We publish stories that cross genres with great stories and writing that don’t fit neatly in a box,” says Founder and Executive Editor Lisa Diane Kastner, who is also an author.

One of the two book-of-the-year selections is Frontal Matter: Glue Gone Wild by Suzanne Samples, a moving memoir about the author’s struggle to live with terminal brain cancer at age 36. The other is Dark Corners by Reuben “Tihi” Hayslett, a series of explosive essays and narratives written with unsettling illumination that touch upon racism, LGBTQ, and the human condition in a Trumpian world.

“The book marketplace is growing and expanding, because publishers like Running Wild Press are wisely filling a void. We target stories that the public craves by lesser pursued authors. Those stories that aren’t perceived to be safe to publish,” says Kastner. Her press is promoted to the media by the PR firm that I work for, and in getting to know them, I can say they publish some terrific books that would otherwise go unpublished.

The book industry publishes over 4,000 titles every single day yet some stories don’t see the light of day and that’s Running Wild Press’s focus.

Some recent local and national accomplishments of Running Wild Press include these:
        Short stories have been nominated for the Horror Writers Association Brahm Stoker Award.
        They have had several stories nominated for Pushcart Prizes, PEN Awards, and the National Book Award.
        Their books have been included in gift bags for presenters and nominees for the SAG Awards and the Grammy Awards and were included in gift bags for VIPS who attended the George Lopez Celebrity Golf Tournament.
        They sponsored a mini-literature festival at Gatsby Books in Long Beach in partnership with the Long Beach Literary Arts Center.
“We started the press because we read too many great stories that never found a readership,” adds Kastner. “We wanted to create a platform.  We look for unusual tales that mainstream publishing won’t pick up because the story is not neatly defined.”

For more information about Running wild Press, please see:  www.runningwildpress.com.

Below is an interview with Running wild Press Founder Lisa Kastner.

  1. Lisa, what inspired you to launch an indie book publishing company, Running Wild Press?
When I ran a writers community and a non-profit writers organization, I encountered tons of brilliant writers who weren’t published. I’d ask why and many times the answer was that they received beautiful rejections that simply said that the story didn’t quite fit the publication.  Or they tried to get agents and the agent politely said that she didn’t think the piece fit with her list and wished the author well. These were truly great stories which couldn’t make it to readers. So I decided to create a publishing house that focused on great stories with great writing that didn’t fit neatly in a box. That became Running Wild Press.

  1. What challenges have you been confronting? Honestly, our biggest challenge has been getting the attention of most mainstream publishing, reviewers, and marketing circles. We’ve been blessed to receive amazing reviews from Kirkus but we’ve submitted our books for review to other mainstream reviewers to no avail.  This is a shame because I’m positive that if they’d simply read the stories, they’d love them.

  1. Does the book publishing universe have room, in the marketplace for yet another publisher, given some 4,000 titles are cranked out every day in America? Absolutely. There’s room for everyone. We should all be working together to help each other so that we can get our stories to readers.  No one reads only a single story. Readers are readers and many read across genres and forms, so let’s give them lots of options.

  1. You are a writer and editor as well. How does it feel to put on the publisher thinking cap to determine which books should be published? At first it felt like I didn’t have the right to do that: a kind of Imposter Syndrome. Then one day I was looking at a lovely memory book I was given when I graduated from Fairfield University with an MFA and most of the comments were about what an amazing editor I was and how I had an eye for talent. Seeing those comments from professors and fellow students gave me the courage to get over my Imposter Syndrome and give it a shot. Of course, with every title we put into publication, I get that feeling again, but when we get amazing feedback from reviewers and readers then I know we made the right choice.

5.      Are you shocked at having two books selected by Kirkus Reviews for Indie Book of the Year in 2019? Absolutely! I was shocked when half of the titles we submitted for reviews received starred reviews. Imagine my thrill when we also had two books named to the best of 2019. I was completely overjoyed. The authors, Suzanne Samples and Reuben “Tihi” Hayslett, as well as their editors more than deserved the destinctions. The works speak for themselves.

6.      What trends are you seeing in book publishing today? There’s a greater emphasis on independent publishing. More authors are taking the plunge to either start presses and publish others or to focus on their own work and self publishing. There’s also more hybrid authors -  authors who both self publish and publish with bigger houses. Once upon a time, that was considered a no-no. Now it’s pretty common. Also, once upon a time, if someone published in one genre then they were stuck in that genre. For example, if you were published in horror then publishing houses and publications only reached out to you for horror stories. Now, authors are published across genres quite frequently.

  1. Define what you like to green-light for Running Wild Press. I’m the first to review all submissions. Nothing goes forward without my approval. When I’m looking at submissions I’m looking for a strong story set up in the initial five pages, I’m looking for a strong voice. I want to see something in the narrative or way that the story’s being told that’s a bit unusual or unique. And I’m looking for a perspective that we haven’t necessarily seen before. I’m also looking for cross genre - so stories that don’t fit neatly in a box.  For example, Suzanne Samples FRONTAL MATTER: GLUE GONE WILD is a memoir about her experience with fighting brain cancer but it’s told in a flash fiction style of writing that’s more stream of conciousness. It has a very funny and positive outlook, which was refreshing. For DARK CORNERS by Reuben “Tihi” Hayslett, Tihi’s collection shares stories with unique points of view and in-your-face narratives.

  1. Why do you believe most publishers ignore publishing the type of books – narrative poems, short stories, novellas, niche non-fiction – that you run towards with open arms? I honestly think that mainstream publishers shy away from those forms because they don’t think that they can make money off of them. The reality is that a narrative poem is simply a great story told in a poetry format. Short stories and novellas are the easiset forms of writing to be translated to film or television because of the story arcs, structures, and narrative threads. Those are missed opportunities.

  1. You say too many books come from whites and males. Why do you think the books published don’t reflect the diversity of Americans? Before we started the publishing house, I would have said that it’s purely an unconscious bias. I do believe that there is an unconcious bias but it’s not the only reason. I think part of it is that sometimes writers simply don’t know where to send their works so they’re sending them to the wrong publications or publications that are already gluttoned with submissions and tend to stick with authors they’ve already published.

I also think that, for whatever reason, white males are more persistent. For example, we recently had a call for novellas and at one point only a third of the submissions were authored by females. So, I posted on social media and asked for more females to submit their novellas. Guess what happened? I received a slew of new submissions - from males who wrote from a female protagonist’s perspective. Seriously? Somehow the men perceived that as a call for them to send their best female imitation?  Women especially need to get better at simply going for it, otherwise we’ll never get to equilibrium.

10.  You say you are a small press that brings great stories from new voices out into the world. How do these specialty stories push boundaries of genre and perspective? One comment I received about FRONTAL MATTER: GLUE GONE WILD by Suzanne Samples from a reviewer was that they’d never seen a memoir about cancer that was so funny and optimistic. Each book that we publish gives the reader something new, something unique to experience.  This year we’re publishing TURING’S GRAVEYARD: STORIES by Terence Hawkins. It’s already gotten a starred review and it comes out in May. Terry brings these funny, snarky, dark and complex characters and stories to life. He takes genres and puts them in a blender then pours them out to see what happens. It’s a blast. Another example of someone willing to let the stories run wild (See what I did there).

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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2020. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America.


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