Small Beer's pro-Obama sale
As the election draws closer, supporters are making extra efforts to support their candidates, including one independent publisher. Small Beer Press, run by Gavin Grant and his wife, Kelly Link, author of "Magic for Beginners" and the new "Pretty Monsters," is donating 20% of this month's sales to Barack Obama's presidential campaign. Grant talked to me about what it means for a publisher to take a political stand.
Jacket Copy: You're going to donate proceeds from Small Beer book sales to Barack Obama's campaign. Are you sure all your authors are Obama supporters? Does it matter to you if they are or not?
Gavin Grant: I don't know which way our authors lean. Given the options, I would hope they support Obama. (And, of course, our authors will receive their royalties off the sale of these books.)
But do HarperCollins authors care that HarperCollins is owned by Rupert Murdoch and funds his right-leaning newspapers? Most probably don't. I don't think our political leanings being known will negatively affect our sales -- unless Rush Limbaugh calls down a fatwa upon us, and then sales would shoot through the roof. (Come on Rush, you know you want to.)
JC: Many of your books deal with slightly alternate realities. Are there any that might pertain to this election campaign, or the administration currently in the White House?
Gavin Grant: Maybe Angelica Gorodischer's "Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was," which was published in the mid-1970s in Argentina. It has no direct fantastical content, rather it's akin to reading an alternate history of a country that doesn't exist. Because it was the '70s, the book is more a series of allegorical tales than a direct damning of the administration. Something like Nicholson Baker's Bush-assassination story couldn't have been published there then -- the author would have been disappeared.
After the jump: who cares how readers view Gavin Grant?
JC: You were born in Scotland -- how has that affected your take on politics? Or on bookselling?
Gavin Grant: I grew up under Margaret Thatcher whose dictatorial and anti-humanist leadership definitely made me political. It did not make me a bookseller, though. I fell into that in L.A. (RIP Rizzoli's Pasadena/Santa Monica) after working in restaurants and so on. I liked selling books, ordering them, making displays, meeting readers and so on, so I kept with it.
JC: And -- as I asked Jen Lancaster, a conservative author who talked about her quiet support for McCain -- do you think your readers/buyers will judge you differently with this perspective on your political views?
Gavin Grant: I don't think this sale will surprise anyone who has seen our website. For the last five years or so, it has had a front-page link saying "The World Says No to the Ongoing War," which links to United for Peace.
Will some readers/buyers view us differently? Sure. But this election, as the year 2000 elections here in the USA showed, is hugely important. The USA is involved in two ongoing wars and is much less respected around the world than it used to be. The McCain-Palin future is no brighter.
Also: who cares how readers view me? The only way I might be useful is to point out that I'm a white, middle-class male, an immigrant and small-business owner who is very interested in immigrations, health insurance issues, tax plans and so on, and I support Obama.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photo credits: Kelly Link - AP/Nancy Palmieri. Gavin Grant - used with permission.