by: Heather Hickox
“Literature is not the same as publishing.”
This motto, created years ago within Coffee House Press, developed out of the fear sweeping the publishing industry surrounding the surging popularity of e-books. The sky is falling, was the general consensus, with the fear not only that “print would die,” but that Literature (with a capital L) would be irreparably changed as well. Early on Coffee House understood that literature and publishing are not the same thing. The art won’t change, just the way it’s distributed into the world. In the years since the initial panic Coffee House has made a name for itself as an innovator in the field of publicity and marketing books. The small house, which labels itself not only a trade book publisher but as an arts organization, prides itself on publishing diverse multicultural voices and books that cross boundaries in terms of race and culture as well as form and artistic expression.
Coffee House has stayed true to its roots as an arts organization by branching out into areas outside of traditional trade publishing, through the implementation of a creative, innovative way of marketing books. The press is utilizing digital media such as podcasts and social media platforms to establish a connection between writer and reader. Coffee House has created residency programs and library initiatives that ensure the writer isn’t shackled to his/her keyboard, but is actually interacting and establishing relationships with the reader. One such initiative is the writer-in-residence program with The Floating Library.
The Floating Library is a large wooden raft that floats on Minneapolis’ Cedar Lake and serves as a library. The idea is that people paddle their canoes to the raft and are free to select a book from the curated collection of inspiring, artist-made books. Coffee House sent poet, Steve Healey, as resident to The Floating Boat to curate a new collection of poetry available to the public. Healey’s residency culminated in a midnight poetry reading on Cedar Lake in early August. It is the hope that the unique environment inspired creativity and results in the production of new art to be introduced into the world. This is just one example of the innovative ways that Coffee House Press is shaking up the world of publishing.
*** Heather Hickox earned a Bachelor’s in English at Middle Tennessee State University in 2015 where she was the recipient of the 2015 William J. Connelly Writing and 2014 Martha Hixon Creative Expression Awards. She is now pursuing a Master’s of Professional Studies in Publishing at the George Washington University. Her work has been published in several editions of Collage: A Journal of Creative Expression. Heather is currently working on her first collection of poetry.