So, WP had more articles than could fit in the Riverwest Currents Woodland Pattern issue, January 2010. Below is one of the articles that didn't appear. We love the article and wanted you to see it!
Pre-Calculus for Small Press Publishers
by Nicholas Michael Ravnikar
The other day, I drank coffee while Chuck Stebelton ate a BLT. Chuck is the Literary Program Manager at Woodland Pattern. He asked me what I was going to write about for this issue of The Riverwest Currents.
Then a guy with a beard brought Chuck a second sandwich because there had been a mistake in the kitchen. Chuck offered it to me.
“No thanks,” I said. “I was going to write a little bit about how I've been doing this documentary about small presses in the Midwest and how Woodland Pattern fits into that.”
Chuck was a very attentive listener, even while he chewed a BLT with cucumbers on it.
I said something like: "One of the difficult things about doing a documentary about small presses in the Midwest is that small presses typically resist quantification." Except it probably didn't sound that good.
What I didn't say was: At any given time, there is a known quantity, Q, of small presses and then there is a variable quantity V, so that an expression for the set of all small presses in the Midwest [SP(M)] would read something like SP(M) = Q + V.
Which is to say that small press economics doesn't need to give the caveat common to other market analysis. With small presses, ceteris is never paribus. (You'll have to pardon my conjugation; I never took Latin.)
“That's why Woodland Pattern will always be vital," I said. “Because it's the actual experience of an individual confronting a wall of books that, for all intents and purposes, are alien artifacts waiting to be understood and eventually interpreted.”
In a project like a documentary that aims at being analytical, you've got to at least start by wanting to ask questions that beg for statistics. How many small presses are there? What are the average number of publications annually by each in every quintile? How many writers published annually, and how many copies per? Etc.
Even if we had something like an Institute for Small Press Market Research (leaving aside the questions of ideological consistency) there are always those who publish all kinds of things who probably wouldn't bother to register with the aforementioned ISPMR. I know I probably wouldn't.
Then I thought, when I get my hair cut I always notice a couple hairs that are longer than the rest.
"There are a lot of stray hairs," I said.
Chuck nodded and swallowed. “You don't have to know what you're looking for when you walk into Woodland Pattern.”
Then I said: “It's a lot like a poem that way.”
Chuck told me it that sounded like it would make a good article.
Nicholas Michael Ravnikar is the organizer of The Racquetball Chapbook Tournament which will take place on April 10th at 9am sharp. For more info on the tournament visit