Tique | art paper asks eight questions to an international art book publisher about its motivation, practice and role today. This week: Ediciones de a Poco.
What motivated you to start publishing?
A few years ago I was translating a novel from French to Spanish and wanted people to read it in Dominican Republic where I am from. As I was getting close to completing the translation, I realized I needed to publish the book myself to get it out there the way I wanted it to look, in an appealing edition. Instead of self publishing one book, I decided to create a platform to present novels, short stories and poetry collections I liked from authors I had been following. In my mind I was opening a small space for conversations about topics, styles and aesthetics that I thought were relevant. I started collaborating with contemporary artists for the covers of those publications but I had no plans to do art and photo books back then. De a Poco, the name of the publishing house, means “slowly” or “bit by bit”. I intended to print a couple of books per year, depending on the time and the resources I could gather. I have kept this rhythm and tried new things along the way, including artist books, photo books, postcards and zines.
How would you describe your role in the creation of a publication?
It depends. With art and photo books, I usually work from scratch, either initiating projects or editing an already existing material. For the past few books I have been working with Javier Reyes, a Dominican designer based in Barcelona, and we have been editing together the publications we work on. We spend lots of time selecting images, trying sequences and building adequate narratives. I have also invited artists from abroad to come to my country and develop a book project there. In that case I have improvised an artist residency for them. Sometimes I welcome proposals that are almost finished. This usually happens with literature books.
What do you look for in a project?
I look for work that adds a layer to my vision of the place I am working on. I see the new books I publish as pieces of a puzzle that should fit with earlier publications, while expanding the questions and the themes addressed before. After focusing for a while on projects articulated around the Dominican Republic, now I am interested in connections, in books that create links between the different areas of the Caribbean region.
What advice would you give to anyone planning to make a publication?
Go for it. Follow your instincts. I started Ediciones de a Poco with no experience in the field of publishing. I just had the will and a general idea. Things evolve, clarify and change along the way. Having said that, I would recommend to anyone engaging with one or a set of publications to take his time, to invest in thinking about the content, the message, the layout and the texts included; to examine seriously if the editorial choices result in a message or an experience that another format of presentation, for example an exhibition, wouldn’t give you; to try things out over and over again; to discuss the project with other people, to listen to opinions. It is also important to consider how important is the publication being made for the artist involved, for a particular context or audience, even how it relates to other books. This helps to make the right choices about the format, the print run and the distribution efforts to be undertaken.
What do you consider to be your biggest challenge?
To adapt to the limited technical and financial resources available in my context, and to work creatively within those parameters.
As a lot specialised (art)bookstores are disappearing, is it harder to present the publications to a wide audience? Are you using new channels to reach them?
There are no art bookstores in the Dominican Republic and very few general bookstores. The audience is small and it has always been hard to distribute there. This has been my starting point and it has taught me not to expect much in terms of sales and to be inventive. My publications have been displayed in pharmacies, bars, restaurants, cinemas, art galleries, bookshops that have sinked, gift shops, pop up stores. Some places work, others don’t. Retrospectively it’s fun to see the map of all the locations Ediciones de a Poco books have been sold over the last 6 years in Santo Domingo, how they have been appearing and disappearing around the city. Internationally, I sell in specialized bookstores, online and through a distributor. Art book fairs are attracting a lot of people and are excellent places to reach an interested audience, but I haven’t had the opportunity yet to participate in any as an exhibitor.
What do you find the most rewarding?
I did not have any academic background in art, design, photography or knowledge of printing when I started Ediciones de a Poco. Making books in the past few years has been a rich learning experience where I have discovered all the steps and aspects of the process. It has also connected me with people with whom I have now a dialogue and collaborate on a regular basis.To see the books traveling and reaching unexpected places is of course rewarding and makes me happy.
I have also discovered along this journey an exciting and inspiring international scene of publishing. I am now more aware of the diversity and richness of the books being produced today.
What does the future hold?
These past months have been hard on us in the Caribbean, with strong tropical storms causing lots of devastation. So hopefully no more hurricanes for the future and more books, for sure. Probably also new directions. I like trying new things and have been open to change until now. I am working on a couple of publications – keeping the balance between literature and visual books. I am also looking forward to more collaboration between writers, artists and publishing initiatives in our region. Finally, since I am now based in Belgium, I hope I can participate in fairs and books related events in Europe.