Small Press Interview Series: human error publishing
a conversation between Erica Charis-Molling and founder Paul Richmond
Erica Charis-Molling: Let’s start at the beginning. How did the press get started?
HEP: Human Error Publishing was a natural extension of the skills I had as a professional Juggler. I was an earlier adapter of computers in 1985 when they really became available for the every day person. I realized what it could do as far as me getting out my promo, letters, early web sites, etc.
In the seventies I used a minograph machine which you could say was self publishing back then. I published, or printed, many of my poems and handed them out. Magazines were created. When the technology changed with computers ability to print on demand, it made sense to me instead of waiting and hoping some publisher was going to publish my book. So my first book was the first book published by Human Error Publishing. There are now 23 books by 15 -16 authors.
ECM: Tell us a bit about the press. What sets your press apart from other publishers?
HEP: I am not a vanity press, I am not paid to print your book. I perform at many events; I run many different kinds of events for word artists. I approach people that interest me at these venues to get their work out and to ask if they have a book. It would sell. I take a low commission so the goal is to get money into the writers’ hands as soon as the first book is sold. I help people create the book they want, with the poems they have created. There is some discussion when something might not make sense.
ECM: Can you give us a preview of what’s forthcoming from your catalog, as well as what in your current catalog you’re particularly excited about?
HEP: I hope in a few weeks to have published the Swedish Beat Poet Laurette Bengt O Björklund; we are coming out with an English version of one of his more successful books I Missed Woodstock to go along with the event’s anniversary. “He is not at the festival. He is in jail in Turkey”
There are many books in my catalog I am excited about, recently Friends, Foe, or Family by Deborah Tilson Clark, a VA author, is getting a lot of great reviews, readings, and book sales. There is something for everyone: poems, prose, short stories, work by veterans, fiction, non fiction.
ECM: What are you visions and goals for the press? Where do you see publishing going in general?
HEP: In the last few years everything has changed and I am sure it will continue to. Everything is print on demand, so there is no need to have 100 books in the basement unless you have a number of readings coming up and you are selling. There are very few publishing houses supporting or promoting authors. The authors who are making it are the ones who go to readings, travel the country, and work social media. The book is one of the many ways people can support you and get your work out. It is in your hands. You need to be motivated and not wait to be accepted. If you are truly getting out there and performing your work, you have a pretty good idea if people are relating to it (unless you are in denial that everyone leaves the room when you take the mic). The material in the books has been tested and has found an audience. How much of an audience besides your mom? You will find out.
ECM: What’s in your reading pile, either from your press and from other presses?
HEP: I am reading the submissions I have solicited for the press, but I also read a lot from the library. I always bring 5 to 10 books home after ordering books online from all the libraries in MA. So if I read an article about a book that interests me, or if a friend recommends a book, I just request it. Sometimes I read a few pages and put it down, and other times I sit down and read the whole book, and am sorry when it is over. I read everything about anything.
ECM: What advice would you offer someone looking to publish with you?
HEP: Talk to me. Show me your work. You can point me to your social presence, or videos of you reading. Or, if you are just starting out, you can send me some work and if I like it we can talk some more.
ECM: What advice would you offer someone thinking of starting a small press?
HEP: Hit the casino; buy the lotto tickets if you are hoping for a fortune. You have to have a passion for it. It might be that your passion for your own work will lead you to publish the first book because you want control over the ISBN, and you want it to come out before you die. One thing leads to another, 12 years later I an not only publishing my own work; I have 16 and counting authors that will be with Human Error Publishing. Good Luck, look forward to reading what you publish.
Erica Charis-Molling is a creative writing instructor and librarian at the Boston Public Library. Her writing has been published in Crosswinds, Presence, Glass, Anchor, Vinyl, Entropy, and Mezzo Cammin. She’s an alum of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and received her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Antioch University.