Tuesday, December 13, 2011

TCR Publishing Series: Gival Press

The Committee Room begins its series of articles on publishing with a look at the Gival Press.  Founded in 1998 and based just outside Washington, DC, Gival's focus is on publishing high quality literary works in English, French, and Spanish. Gival also sponsors fiction and poetry contests and the literary journal ArLiJo.

Gival's founder and chief Robert Giron recently sat down (figuratively speaking) for an interview with TCR.

Eighteen Questions for the Head of a Small Publishing House

Q: Why did you want to start a small press?
A: The idea begin back in 1980 when I translated a Mexican poet's poetry collection; I tried unsuccessfully to find a publisher for it. I left El Paso in 1981 with the idea of one idea starting a press; this did not happen until 1998 but after I had taken courses in publications management and after working as an editor.

Q: What does Gival mean?
A: I made up the name with the first two letters of Giron, but I wanted a word that could be pronounced in English, French, and Spanish, which it can. Later on, I discovered that there are streets in France and Israel with the name.

Q: Can you explain Gival's bird symbol?
A: The thunderbird is a major icon in the Southwest Indian tribes and the triangle (three is a magical number) in the logo is pointing downward--from the heavens to Earth. The triangle is important because during  WWII gay men had to wear a pink triangle while in prison. The wings go outward to encompass the words Gival Press, like the global scope of the press.

Q:What experience did you have in publishing?
A: I took classes at George Washington University and worked an as independent contractor and editor for publications in Washington, DC. This was after I had taken courses in creative writing at the University of Texas at El Paso before moving to Washington in 1983.

Q: What were the biggest challenges in getting started?
A: The publishing industry has changed since 1998 and while we have been small we have been able to keep it small and change quickly and prepare for what is happening in the publishing industry. The major publishing companies of New York are just now finally catching up but Amazon.com is quickly changing the future of publishing.  That plus keeping the cash flowing in to keep up with the expenses. Fortunately, I have been able to invest heavily in the business which has kept it going.

Q: How many people work for Gival?
A: We are a small independent press. I'm the main person and I hire independent contractors to do: the book design, editing, distribution, and reviewing, etc.

Q: Gival's guidelines state that "we publish work that has a social or philosophical message."  Could you elaborate on that?
A: We want works that are truly well written but I also want the work to have a purpose other than to simply entertain but this purpose should not be didactic. The story and the characters are the important elements but how one tells the story makes the purpose clear without hitting someone over the head with a frying pan.

Poet John Gosslee reads in Gival Press event at
 Arlington (VA) Arts Center, October 2011
Q: Can you tell us some of Gival's current titles?
A: In Fall 2011 we have the following coming out:

Fiction: The Winner of the Gival Press Novel Award, Gone by Sundown by Peter Leach, which is about towns in Missouri which would routinely force "colored" people out of the town during the Depression.

Fiction: Show Up, Look Good by Mark Wisnieswki about a Midwestern woman who moves to New York City and survives post 9/11.

Fiction: The Pleasuring of Men by Clifford Browder about a young man in the 1890s who goes into male prostitution to survive in New York City.

Poetry: The Silent Art, Winner of the Gival Press Poetry Award by Clifford Bernier, a collection centered around jazz. 12: Sonnets for the Zodiac by John Gosslee in English, French, and Spanish.

Poet Clifford Bernier reads in Gival Press event at
Arlington (VA) Arts Center, October 2011
Q: Gival's Poetic Voices Without Borders 2 won the 2009 National Best Book Award for Fiction and Literature Anthology from USA Book  News.  Can you tell us something this anthology?
A: I wanted to have a collection that was trilingual, so this has poems in English mostly, but also in French, and Spanish. In addition, it has the winners of the Gival Press Oscar Wilde Award for the best poem about GLBT life. This has done well.

Q: How many copies do Gival books usually sell?
A: This varies per book and title. Poetry varies from ten to one-hundred. Fiction from twenty to four-hundred.

Q: How many titles do you publish per year?
A: Usually about four per year; six in 2011

Q: What have been Gival's biggest sellers?
A: As a literary press, we haven't had a NY-type "hot seller" but certainly the memoir by Elis Avery titled The Smoke Week about 9/11 has sold well. Another good seller has been Maximus in Catland by David Garrett Izzo about a cat that saves the world--great for cat lovers and science fiction.

Q: Gival sponsors four annual contests -- a novel contest, a short story contest, a poetry volume contest, and a single poem contest.  What benefits are derived from running a contest?
A: We see lots of mss from a variety of authors: both established and emerging writers. This is the most interesting aspect of publishing for me. The excitement comes through in the work but as an educator I often have to teach the emerging authors the business sort of speak. The contests also put the name of the press out there and as a result we have gotten many well known authors.

Q: What happens when a manuscript is received at Gival?
A: Prior to the Wall Street crash in 2008, we used to have an open reading period for poetry and fiction, but we have not opened it up again. In truth, because we get so many good mss via our novel award and poetry collection award (both annual contests), there are many mss which do not win which we would like to publish. In fact, we have published some that didn't even place as a finalists. I keep notes of those mss I feel have potential and have gotten in touch with authors after the contests. With these mss, I certainly have little time to seek out others; nonetheless, authors do contact us and we ask only those we are truly interested in to send us their ms for our consideration.

Q: Gival recently started an online journal ArLiJo. Why?
A: After we stopped the open reading period, I wanted to give authors a venue for getting their work out there and to help create an audience for them. ArLiJo, which stands for the Arlington Literary Journal Online, costs little to sponsor via Gival Press and it gives authors a link to an established press. Some of these authors we have published or have gone on to publish. Payment for online publication on ArLiJo is any book published by Gival Press.

Q: What are the distribution channels for Gival Press books?
A: We distribute books via BookMasters in Ohio and they have contracts with Ingram and other outlets for bookstores, etc. Plus we sell books on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. In addition, we now sell Nook and Kindle ebooks. Before Nook and Kindle, we used to have ebooks with Booksurge.com but it was bought by Amazon.com and then the industry changed. We waited to see how the ebook industry was going to do before we entered it again. Now we make all books available as softcover and Nook and Kindle ebooks.

Q: What are the biggest challenges in keeping a small press going?
A: Keeping up with the changes in the industry and maintaining quality and making sure all the bills are paid.

Q: What advice would you give someone interested in starting a small press?
A: Think twice about doing it. Keep your day job (unless you have tons of $$$ you can put into the press) and learn about the industry. You have to love what you do and have a commitment to work day and night and weekends, knowing that many may not acknowledge you or appreciate what you do, but somewhere there are folks who do and once in a while they tell you in person or via email and that makes all the difference.  Then I know that what I believe in has changed someone's life for the better--going back to the mission we created for Gival Press, to publish works that have a message and that have the power to change lives, even if in the the smallest way for as it goes this accumulates like a snow ball and rolls into a huge boulder that will affect the globe.  Remember our outreach is global not just the USA. In fact, I jokingly say the universes.