It can be very difficult for aspiring writers to find places that are willing to publish their work and this is especially true for authors without agents. Luckily, certain establishments such as Akashic Books exist that seek to foster emerging talents.
Based in Brooklyn, New York, Akashic Books is presently on hiatus from accepting any submissions for book projects, but they are still seeking submissions for flash fiction. In fact, Akashic Books has four long-running, online-only series of flash fiction titled: “Mondays Are Murder,” “Terrible Twosdays,” “Wilderness Wednesdays” and “Duppy Thursdays.” Recently, this Examiner had the opportunity to speak to Johanna Ingalls, managing editor at Akashic Books, about the company and its hopes for the future:
Meagan Meehan (M.M.): What inspired you to start Akashic Books and why was that name chosen?
Johanna Ingalls (J.I.): Akashic Books was cofounded in the mid-90s by Johnny Temple and his friends Mark Sullivan and Bobby Sullivan, both fellow musicians from the DC music scene. Bobby Sullivan was (and I’m sure still is!) a fan of the Akashic Records, and he gave us our name. Johnny spent the 90s touring with his band Girls Against Boys and it was after a lucrative record deal with Geffen that Johnny was inspired to use some of his personal share of the money to start the company, initially with the Sullivans who dropped out in early years, but still remain very close to the company (we published Mark Sullivan’s debut novel, “Jonah Sees Ghosts” in the early 2000s and will be publishing a nonfiction book of Bobby’s within the next couple of years). Initially it was started as a record company and book publishing company, but we quickly moved to just publishing books, as Johnny realized at the time there were plenty of indie record labels, but not as many indie book publishers (this has changed over the years and we’re delighted with how many indies there are in publishing these days). At the time, I was working in the music industry for the company who managed the band Johnny plays bass in, Girls Against Boys, so I started helping him out on the side in the early days, and after three years, in spring 2000, he hired me full time, and I left the music industry…And have been at Akashic ever since.
M.M.: What genres does Akashic Books publish?
J.I.: While we focused primarily on literary and crime fiction in the early days, we’ve definitely become more eclectic over the years. We still are most drawn to fiction, typically, dark, literary fiction, but we publish historical fiction, mysteries, crime fiction, and middle grade & young adult fiction. On the nonfiction side, we have a strong focus on pop culture and music books, along with some political nonfiction releases (usually lefty political books), some art books (both illustrated and photo), and a handful of memoirs. We also publish a little poetry though it’s not one of our main focuses. We’ve also just branched out into children’s picture books, starting with one by the reggae artist Ziggy Marley, “I Love You Too.”
M.M.: You also publish four types of short stories. How did you come up with the themes for them?
J.I.: The themes for the flash fiction that we publish online only stem from various print books. The “Mondays Are Murder” series is inspired by our very successful Akashic Noir Series which are location-based (usually a city) anthologies. “Terrible Twosdays” is a nod to our #1 New York Times best-selling humorous gift book for parents, “Go the F**k to Sleep,” by Adam Mansbach and its follow-up, “You Have to F**king Eat.” “Wilderness Wednesdays” celebrates our forthcoming novel, “Lost Canyon,” by one of our best-selling authors Nina Revoyr (“Lost Canyon” is the fourth Nina Revoyr novel we’ll publish). And, “Duppy Thursdays” comes from our ongoing commitment to publishing authors from the Caribbean.
M.M.: Does Akashic Books accept submissions from authors without agents?
J.I.: Yes. Though currently we’re not accepting book submissions at all, including agented ones, due to our backlog. But, we do not require an agent and have published many authors over the years who don’t have agents…and many who do.
M.M.: Out of all the books you have published has one been especially successful?
J.I.: Yes. By far our best-selling book is Adam Mansbach’s “Go the F**k to Sleep.” It’s sold over 1.5 million copies worldwide, has been on the NY Times best-seller list off and on since its release in June 2011 and is currently on the NYT list, four years after it was released. It was translated into over 30 languages including a language we’d never heard of until we received an offer for both Norwegian and Nynorsk (new Norwegian).
M.M.: Where do you hope Akashic Books will be ten years from now?
J.I.: I hope we’re still here publishing great literature. We are relatively unique in that we are a for-profit company with no backers or investors; our for-profit status means we can’t apply for grants or fundraising like some of our fellow nonprofits (of course nonprofits have their own set of challenges as well). So, we exist and survive on book sales which is a challenge, but one we welcome and work hard at making work. I won’t lie, though, we also hope to have a few more mega-hits like Adam’s “Go the F**k to Sleep,” as that book has helped stabilize the company and allows us to be adventurous with literary novels that may be harder to sell, but we still feel strongly about.
M.M.: Are there any upcoming projects and/or events that you would like to mention?
J.I.: There are so many it’s hard for me to choose! This fall we’re publishing two of my all-time favorite authors—Joe Meno (“Marvel and a Wonder”) and Nina Revoyr (“Lost Canyon”). The two authors are doing a national book tour together, including appearances at the Brooklyn Book Festival and top indie bookstores across the country including BookCourt in Brooklyn, Boswell Book Co. in Milwaukee, Powell’s in Portland, OR, and many, many more. I’m also very excited about our next Simon’s Cat book, “Simon’s Cat Off to the Vet” by Simon Tofield, and on the nonfiction side, the phenomenally witty and satirical Ian F. Svenonius (best-known as a musician in the bands Chain and the Gang, The Make-Up, and Nation of Ulysses) is publishing a must-read collection of essays called “Censorship Now!!” which includes Ian’s thoughts on IKEA, Apple, the 1980s film, “Heathers,” among many other topics. There’s no one out there like Ian in my opinion and he will be touring throughout the fall as well. In 2016, we’re looking forward to launching a new sports imprint run by Dave Zirin, called Edge of Sports, and I’m also excited about new novels by both Bernice L. McFadden and Elizabeth Nunez forthcoming in spring 2016. But this is only a partial list as we have many more great releases forthcoming.
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To learn more about Akashic Books visit their official website, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram.