Introducing Small Press Distribution

Omnidawn Publishing - one of the publishers supported by Small Press Distribution - was founded by husband-and-wife team Rusty Morrison and Ken Keegan to create books that are closely aligned with each author’s vision, and to provide an interactive and rewarding publishing experience for poets and writers.

It encourages authors to participate at every point in the decision making process of book design and book production, and thus far all have taken an active part, deciding on or providing cover art and assisting in the design of the interior of the books. At present, it publishes poetry.

In 2003, Lyn Hejinian's The Fatalist, published by Omnidawn, was chosen as one of The Village Voice's "Our 25 Favorite Books of 2003" and was also mentioned in Publishers Weekly's "Best Books of 2003" section.

Rusty was the co-winner of the 2003 Robert H. Winner Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America. She also teaches at Saint Mary's College and co-edits the poetry journal 26.

What are the main challenges that you face?

“One of the main challenges is to 'break even' financially. Even though neither Ken nor I take any pay for running the press, Omnidawn Publishing loses a fair amount of money each year. Poetry books are generally published in quantities of a thousand copies or less, and it is impossible for such runs to pay the expenses. This is generally true with poetry publishers unless they are lucky enough to receive grants to help with the expenses. As a result, a majority of poetry presses only last a few years.”

How long have you worked with SPD and on what scale?

“We have worked with SPD since we began our press in 2001. SPD is our primary distributor. SPD keeps our books on their shelves, they publicize our books through their catalogue, the go places where book sellers can see our books, such as BEA, and promote our titles. They are responsive to us, and are always available on the phone to help if we have questions. With SPD, we do not have to send out single copies as orders come in, which is the case with Baker & Taylor or Amazon. They also allow us to sell our books on our web page, which is often not the case with other distribution systems.”

What has SPD done for Omnidawn?

“At present SPD is the only organization of its kind in the book industry; its primary objective is to serve authors, publishers, and readers rather than to make money. All other distributors are for-profit businesses, and as such they are essentially for sale to the highest bidder, i.e. large corporations, which is precisely why media consolidation continues. For-profit distributors choose what to carry based on previous experience of what will sell to the largest audiences, not on book quality, whereas SPD attempts to bring a wider range of new and exciting books to readers, trusting that interest will generate.”

Are bookstores responsive to promoting books away from the mainstream publishing scene?

“When we began the press, we attempted to contact bookstores ourselves. We found that most stores are uninterested and in many cases unwilling to talk to publishers. This is not entirely the case - some of the local independent stores are very responsive and have been willing to work with us to have readings and celebrate book publications. City Lights in San Francisco, Diesel and Cody’s Books in Berkeley have been terrific. But our best way of getting books into stores and keeping them there is through SPD.”