2Leaf Press Needs You to Donate. Today.
It’s that time of year again, and this time around, I’m using a different approach, which is to talk honestly about 2Leaf Press and its quest for survival.
2Leaf Press is an imprint of the Intercultural Alliance of Artists & Scholars, Inc. (IAAS), a committed New York-based nonprofit organization that seeks funding from grantors, public fundraisers, and private supporters to promote multicultural literature. Unfortunately and in these times, while we have applied for numerous grants, they are not an assured part of our annual budget. As a result, 2Leaf Press is a largely self-financed, nonprofit publisher whose operation is funded by a fragile balance of sales revenues and private supporters that help cover costs. Unlike the market for popular fiction, the market for poetry, nonfiction and scholarly books that challenge the status quo is usually small. Private assistance, therefore, is important to our survival and growth.
One of the things I have found fascinating is that despite all this digital stuff we find ourselves immersed in these days, when an author holds a book in their hands, they shine. When people meet authors, it is with admiration, with a “Wow, you published a book” look. With all the ballyhoo of eBooks, there’s something to be said about holding a book in your hands and the visceral act of physically turning a page that, for many folks, will never by fully matched with pixels on a screen. Print books are here to stay.
So as the technology evolved, it was with no great surprise that people began getting involved with publishing books. On the one hand, this is a great thing: People are no longer held hostage to publishers; they can now freely express themselves by publishing their own books, whether they self-publish on their own, or create a small press to publish their books. And then there are those folks who jumped into the fray to create small presses simply because of their love for books. I think the ability to easily publish books is great especially for small independent presses because it is way cheaper to publish using print-on-demand and utilize online vendors rather than pay upfront costs to traditionally publish books.
But somewhere along the way, the art of publishing quality books has suffered, in part because most folks do not understand what it takes to publish a book. And in time, the idea of fast, easy and cheap usually involves skipping steps, some very important steps I may add, which often reflects on the quality of a book. Notwithstanding the importance of publicizing and promoting a book, I am talking about properly registering a book with an ISBN and LCCN so that people can find the book; editing, copy editing, and proofreading; and production and design. All of this work really makes a difference between the life and death of a book. The public has an expectation on what a book should look like and how it reads; in the end, an ill-formatted and badly written book will go down in flames. When I founded 2Leaf Press, it was not only about fulfilling a mission to publish people of color, or to tackle difficult sociopolitical and cultural topics, it was also to create and craft books that can compete with any large publishing house out there. It is why I receive pleas from not just around the country, but around the world from authors who not only want to publish under 2Leaf Press’s mandate, but because our books are of the highest quality. It also helps that in certain circles people know me as a geek goddess that believes presentation is everything. Some might even say it is an obsession.
Why do I say all of this? It’s because I have been publishing, believe it or not, since grade school (check out my Artistic Philosophy) working with cutout stencils, and eventually cold press/hot press, working my way up to software programs and the digital technology that is used today. It’s because I was raised around books, and it was the norm to walk into our household and see everyone reading books, all kinds of books and magazines like encyclopedias, National Geographic, and Reader’s Digest. Besides receiving books in the mail from book clubs, we visited local bookstores, and borrowed books from the library. Also, I was surrounded by family members who were deeply involved in the founding and sustenance of our local library, The Langston Hughes Library and Cultural Center in Corona, Queens in New York, which in time I also supported by creating literary programming there for almost 20 years. Producing literary magazines and books; publishing authors and implementing literary programs is a great part of who I am.
It’s because of all of this that not surprisingly, people tend to believe that 2Leaf Press has hip offices in some downtown loft with people swirling around doing all of this work, or that I am a jet setter running around town, when in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. We are a handful of hardcore people who donate our time and money, and work incredibly hard (often 12 hour days) to make this press happen, because we believe in the messages that good books can impart to the public, as well as the beauty of the book. Our books look so good and read so well that people are hard-pressed to believe otherwise. Sometimes excellence and professional fortitude can get in the way of reality.
And the reality is this: We are a fledgling black/brown run press pushing the boundaries by publishing multicultural literature that challenges the status quo. We are committed to publishing books that examine diversity, race and racism, which highlights sociopolitical issues with interesting and compelling literature. We use the personal narrative as the basis of our poetry, memoirs and yes, even scholarly works, to provide teaching moments to all. To highlight our humanity. To show our connectedness. And even as we strive for perfection in an imperfect world, it is important to all of us that it’s done with the highest quality possible, because we want our books to be taken seriously.
But the reality is that we live in a capitalist world, and we need money to continue doing this. Not only to pay operation expenses, but to help elevate the press to the next level with paid promotion and publicity so that the press can become self-sustaining. As we approach our fifth anniversary this October, we continue to pay out-of-pocket, and those resources are dwindling fast. There have been moments when we’ve stumbled due to lack of funds, but we’re always figuring out how to stay afloat, which is exhausting in itself but we do it anyhow so we can continue to move forward. And before you ask, let me jump in and tell you that grants for publishing is slim to none, a fact that cannot be disputed. There is also the issue of being careful who you take money from, which is why in this case there is a price to pay for “freedom of the press.” If there is anything to be said about 2Leaf Press and its nonprofit entity, it’s that we are not beholden to anyone or anything except our willingness to publish open and honest works.
I hate asking for anything; ask anyone who knows me well. But what I am asking here is very simple: If you believe, at the very least the idea of the existence of 2Leaf Press, please show your support. It’s not about crowdfunding (which is akin to a reality TV show/contest because everyone is looking at the numbers and the ratings to determine whether or not to donate); it’s not about giving out rewards for donating, a sort of pro quid pro scenario, which honestly, we simply cannot afford, it is simply this: If you believe it is important to support small presses who are willing to put themselves on the line to tackle important issues of the day, and in doing so, also support people of color to publish, then donate. If you believe that books are important because they show you pathways in your life and open one’s mind up to different ideas, donate. If you believe that books guide you and help you to understand different cultures and their evolution over time, then there should be no question in your mind. Donate. $10, $25, $50. Ask some friends to donate too.
And don’t forget to buy some books. Besides print books, most of our books are also available as eBooks as well and can now be bought directly on our new website at a 30% discount. Help us help us. Help us help you. Help us to continue creating great books, support our authors and equally important, the people behind the scenes who help make the books happen, because while books are food for thought, they cannot be eaten, and they certainly cannot pay our bills.
Your financial gift helps us achieve our mission and more, to maintain our standard of publishing excellence, contribute to our cultural landscape, and further the causes of education, culture, and intellectual inquiry embodied in the books we publish. Because without your support, there can be no press.
All donations are to The Intercultural Alliance of Artists & Scholars, Inc. and are tax deductible. Our Tax ID No. is 13-4116808.
I hope you will take all of this into consideration, and as always, I look forward to your support.
—Gabrielle David, Publisher