Mike Lecky runs Loose Teeth Press, an independent publisher in Vancouver. Although Loose Teeth’s only put out a half dozen books, every one of them is great, and you can get 20% off if you buy them using the promo code QUESTIONRIOT. Mike Lecky answered my questions—I’m Dan Copulsky—in January and May 2010.
There hasn’t been a new title or news from Loose Teeth Press in a few months (unless I’ve missed something). I assume Loose Teeth is still shipping books, but are you still actively working on bringing out new stuff? Is there anything particular fans can look forward to?
The last book we put out was Greetings! from Gumdrop Mountain, in November of last year. Our production schedule is tied mainly to two things: 1) how busy I am personally, since I end up doing most of the editing, copy editing, and typesetting myself, and 2) how many books we have lined up ready to go. Right now we’ve got a couple of manuscripts I’d like to do that are still being worked on by the authors, nothing that’s ready to come out ASAP. It really depends on how many good manuscripts I get sent—some years we’ll put out 2-3 books, others none. I don’t want to put out a less than great book just to be keeping busy.
You put a substantial amount of all your books online for free, more than most publishers would ever offer as samples. But you still generally save something for the print version, making you different than people who just make their books totally free online too. It seems like you started doing it this way because you were publishing stuff that was already mostly available online, but why have you kept doing it? Is this the best way to get people to buy books? The best way to make sure the people who buy books will love them?
You’re right, it started as an obvious choice because the first book we published was 70% online before we printed it. It made sense to keep that part up online, especially since most of the initial customers were finding out about the book through the online portion. A new writer publishing with a new publishing house, we didn’t have much of an audience besides the online fans. Since then we’ve kept doing it for mostly the same reasons. Offer something online that you think is very good, and when other people see it’s very good as well, they’ll want to buy it. The fact is that online promotion and marketing is so incredibly cheap. We can get a website up and show millions of people what the book is like for less than what it would cost to print 20 posters to put in bookstores.
You’ve published some writers who aren’t Canadian, but your submission guidelines say that you don’t want manuscripts from anyone else. As a writer who loves everything you put out and isn’t ready to immigrate just yet, it’s frustrating. Are you firm on the only Canadians thing? Why this focus?
The Canadian writers thing is solely a grants related thing. We have to publish a certain amount of books by Canadians in order to get free money from the government to print more books, and so we’re only taking submissions that help with that, for now. By the end of 2010 we should be in the clear and I’m going to open up the guidelines to anyone.
I hate that I have to do it this way, because while the company does have a focus, Canadiana is not it. As you’ve said, there are people who like everything that we’ve put out, and that’s what I’m really after—to get to a point where people are as much a fan of Loose Teeth as they are of an author that we publish. That’s why I broke the rule for Zach’s book Apathy and Paying Rent, I thought it was just such a perfect fit that I had to put it out, whether it got us closer to qualifying for Canada Council grants or not.
It seems like the more great books you put out the better, but there’s also something really awesome about having a press where it’s possible for someone to read every title you print. If you had the time and resources, and as many great manuscripts as you wanted, what would be the ideal size for Loose Teeth Press?
Ideally I’d like to put out two titles each season, spring and fall, I think. That’d keep me busy enough without driving me crazy, and it would make it so that you could release something that you might know ahead of time isn’t going to sell well, but is a great book, and not have to worry about money too much because there are so many other things going on.
I get a lot of offers from people who want to be interns, but since the office is a room in my attic, it would be a little awkward. If we had a more steady income I’d get a little office somewhere and have a couple people doing some of the work that gets repetitive when you do it alone. That’d be pretty great. I definitely have no intentions of becoming the next Penguin or HarperCollins. There are lots of people out there who own all of our books, and I really like the idea of that, “Here’s my bookcase, this shelf has my Loose Teeth books on it, I’ve got all first editions.” That sort of thing.
What projects are you involved in other than Loose Teeth? Do you live off these things or do you have some kind of day job?
I go back and forth with day jobs. I’ve worked at a couple of high end clothing stores in the last few years, the discounts help fuel my obsession with shoes…
As for other projects, I’ve got a hardcore band that I play in, and a new full-sized zine/magazine coming out later this summer. It’s a travel magazine, a sort of tongue-in-cheek homage to hobo culture called DOG + BINDLE. I’ve also been having a few meetings about doing a line of kids books in the same sort of vein as Loose Teeth—if a LT book is the perfect book for someone 16-22, than these new books would be the perfect book for that same person when they were 1-6 or their kids. I’m pretty excited about it.