We only settle on reSet as the series name at the last minute. I liked the association with starting over, resetting a breaker; I liked the idea of setting, or re-setting, type. I liked the idea it conveys of starting over. These are books which have been previously published at some point in the nation's literary history, but which have fallen into neglect for one reason or another. They are Canadian classics, books which deserve a wider audience. We are resetting the clock with them, ensuring that they remain available, yours to discover.
What’s the goal with this imprint?
I think I touched on this in the previous answer. What we're trying to do is bring important books back into print, back into the public awareness. We're hoping that as a series people will try them out, fall in love, and begin to trust our judgement here: that these are books worth reading, books worth our attention. There's so much focus on the new these days -- in publishing, in life -- that we often overlook work of lasting value merely because it isn't. We're trying, in some small way, to rectify this. As with everything ese we do, it's a work of love.
Why did you and John Metcalf start it and how did you begin your collaboration?
I began working with John Metcalf a decade ago. As with much else at the press, our association was accidental. At the time, I had little inkling I'd soon be embarking on a career as a publisher. I was a bookseller who organized a literary festival. I was sent a review copy of a recent memoir by Metcalf, An Aesthetic Underground: now a reSet book. I found the book so exciting I read it in a sitting, determined that I'd move beyond the blank notebooks I was making as a bookbinder, and start a small publishing company. I expected it would be a sideline, limited edition chapbooks, catering to a collector market. But my ambitions for it quickly grew. And through most of this period, I've had John alongside me, to guide, educate, cajole, nag, encourage.
Your books at Biblioasis Press are quite handsomely designed and it sounds like – no surprise - Reset’s are too. Why put so much effort into design and who do you get to design them? Where is the printer located?
Thank you. Design's important to us. I've always been a bibliophile, attracted to the tactile aspects of bookmaking. I got into it in part because I was taking bookbinding classes. But design is also one of the most imprortant aspects of properly marketing a book. No one wants to read an ugly book, and in this digital age, when we have access to so many tools, there's no excuse for poor design other than incompetence. Good design is just another element of caring. Ugly books are as sure a sign of a poor publisher as there is out there. In this sense, you can judge a book by its cover.
We wanted our reSet series to be a series, and hope it will become identifiable as such. So, again, the design of the series is part of the marketing and promotion around it. We hope that the books themselves will become desirable as physical objects, collectible in their own right.
We use printers all over the country. For reSet we use Webcom in Toronto, mainly because series designer Gord Robertson can go there to oversee the printing, and catch errors before they mar the effect he is hoping to achieve. It's about control.
How do you finance all this?
By publishing other books which pay our bills, mainly. We receive some government grants, thoug nothing specifically for this series. Paying for it all, that's where the real magic is at. Hopefully people will buy them: that's the surest way to keep us in paper and ink. They can find them in our bookstore -- 1520 Wyandotte -- and in better stores across North America. And, of course -- sigh -- online.
Sounds like you’re breaking the mold as a Canadian publisher in de-emphasizing “CanLit” nationalism – how and why?
I figured pretty early on that if the first question a publisher asked of an author is where they are born than he's probably not very good. As Mavis Gallant said, the only question which matters when looking at a work of art, when sitting down with a book, is: Is it alive? That's what we are looking for, and we'll get behind it wherever we find it. It's led us to Angola and Mozambique, and Poland and Argentina and Romania.
Though, as a Canadian publisher, we still find most of our work , most of our authors in Canada. Nationalism doesn't come into it: it's passe, ignorant and insecure. It's a battleground best left to previous generations: there's nothing left to prove. The best Canadian work stands up to the best anywhere else. Munro, Gallant, MacLeod, Richler, among others. Our list reflects this.