Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Founder's Tale, Round Two

Artists and artisans of every possible stripe, editors, publishers, gallerists, curators, producers of theatricals: all are (too often unsung) entrepreneurs, who seed and nurture the arts, creating the ecosystem that parallels, critiques and reinforces the mainstream economy.  The Lobster & Canary returns to one of our favorite themes:  the Founder's Tale (click here for our example-filled March 4th, 2012 post, which inspired a round table we led at Arisia in January this year).

I am especially struck by the proliferation of small literary presses in the U.S.A. over the past two decades, at a time when major media conglomerates have acquired and consolidated so many of the older imprints (not in itself a bad thing, but an organizational trend that has logically favored least-common-denominator blockbusters as opposed to bolder, experimental, and decidedly off-beat productions).  Today's small-press founders are the latest descendants of Plantin and Manutius-- long live the Republic of Letters!

Jeffrey Levine, founder of Tupelo Press, tells the story of how he got started, in terms that I am sure are essentially identical to those of his fellow small-press creators:

"So, in 1999 I created this 'job' out of, well, nothing.  I knew what I wanted to do but I didn't really know very much about doing it. Strictly speaking, that's not really true. It would be more true to say that I didn't really know anything about it, except, I felt I had one important talent: that I could trust my judgment about what great writing looked- and sounded-  like. (Every entrepreneur needs a healthy dollop of ego.) So, I rented a little office on the second floor of the U.S. Post Office in Walpole, NH, and I found a desk and a chair, a telephone (remember those), a computer and a printer and set about learning my craft."  [For the entire interview, click here].

Why isn't this flavor of the Founder's Tale featured more prominently in the general business press, made into case studies for the business schools, held up as an exemplar at the venture capital pitch fests?

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