Dark Coast Press: A Review

It is the dream of every author to be published. However, it is a difficult dream to realize; most manuscripts sent in to major publishers are rejected. As a writer, you’re forced to fit into certain categories of marketability in order to be considered; otherwise you’ll be tossed to the side and forgotten.

To combat this, legions of independent companies search far and wide for these innovative yet ignored authors, and make it their life’s work to promote them as seem their work published. One such publishing company is Dark Coast Press, which began as a local and regional business but now is slowly starting to expand and take its place on the national stage. Based in Seattle, it was founded in October 2009 by Aaron Talwar and Jarret Middleton. Talwar, a former editor from New Jersey’s Wiley & Sons, and Middleton, a New Hampshire-based author that serves as Dark Coast’s editor-in-chief, made it their goal to attract readers who dislike the current stream of literature coming from the major publishers and they publish writers who want to take risks. Dark Coast specializes in a wide variety of genres, including literary fiction, poetry, essays, and experimental works, and seeks “overall invention and innovation in writing from all genres.” They’ll publish anything that they feel isn’t getting the attention that it deserves, standing against the giants of the publishing world to deliver their promise to the masses. To this end, they stand alongside and support organizations like Indiebound.com and the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, which do their best to support and promote and nourish other independent publishing companies. To a similar end, Dark Coast also runs Pharos Editions, a project dedicated to publishing texts that were once considered to be lost forever.

Their book covers reflect their ideals even further.  Compared to the covers generated by places like Random House or Scholastic, Dark Coast’s covers feel much more unique. They have a balanced mix of colors, typography, and images. The typography usually literally takes center stage, with it usually being blown up to a large size and done in thick strokes. While it’s placed on top of the image, the title doesn’t interact with the background, with Hell Called Ohio being an exception by adding texture to the letters as well as having a smokestack take the place of the letter “I.” The covers are generally more “artsy” than most, sometimes with variations in texture or having some sort of painted image to focus on, whether it be League of Somebodies’ lion, or SWELL’s whale. There’s no rainbow-like explosion of colors either; each cover has its own limited palette to work with, with usually some sort of rustic look. However, Thirteen Fugues is the one cover though that diverges from the rest. Its text is much slimmer than most, and doesn’t pop as much. The overall design feels much crisper and cleaner when compared to the other images.

There’s actually a fair bit of star power when you consider the list of Dark Coast’s published authors. Jarret Middleton, Dark Coast’s first published author, carries weight because of his work as an independent publisher, and has published a few works himself. Samuel Sattin’s League of Somebodies earned a star from Publisher’s Weekly. Kris Saknussemm is one of the better-known authors of the bunch, having published 10 different pieces that have been translated into 22 different languages. The only one who could beat him would be Jennifer Natalya Fink, who has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize as well as the National Jewish Book and National Book Award, and as won a slew of other awards, including the Dana Award and STORY Magazine’s short fiction award. The other authors—Matthew Simmons (Happy Rock), John Hamilton (Hell Called Ohio), Corwin Ericson (SWELL), David Michael Belczyk (Elynia), and Jarret Middleton (An Dantomine Eerly)—are either new to the writing scene, or just haven’t reached similar levels of acclaim.

In addition, each of these authors is widely publicized. Authors Amelia Gray and Michelle Tea have written blurbs for some of Dark Coast’s published works. Publications such as The Boston Review and Publisher’s Weekly review and write blurbs for the books too. The company advertises interviews done by their authors, and links visitors to their website to reviews and book trailers. They make regular appearances to various readings and functions. They do their best to have the readers get to know their authors.

However, in comparison, there’s not much on the people behind the curtain. Outside of two-sentence briefs in their website’s missive, Dark Coast’s website doesn’t go out of their way to introduce and describe their founders. But at the same time, it fits the overall theme of the company. Dark Coast doesn’t want its readers to focus on the people who made all this happen; they want you to focus on the writers themselves and their work.

In this day and age, it’s getting harder and harder to have your work out there, as major companies focus on works that can be marketed to balance out the declining number of book sales. However, independent presses like Dark Coast serves as a viable, if not better, alternative to the literary giants, creating a welcoming atmosphere to new and established authors alike, focusing on having their talent be recognized rather than shunted to the side.


This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 20th, 2013 at 12:44 pm and is filed under Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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