Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Interview - Dan Holloway, curator of the eight cut gallery press

Are you debating with yourself whether Amazon's policy is fair, whether the current system for book publishing works or not? Well, there's a new publishing house proposing quite an alternative for the publishing market: not only they don't care about the mainstream publishing but also they run away from it. 

Did I get your attention? Good! Please meet Randomities' honorable guest, Dan Holloway, curator of the newly born eight cut gallery press and a writer to whom 'underground' is like a middle name. 


Dan Holloway is a founder member of Year Zero Writers, and curator of eight cuts gallery and eight cuts gallery press. His articles on publishing, short stories, poems, music and poetry reviews, and papers on post-communist Europe have appeared in print and across the blogosphere. He is the author of the novel Songs from the Other Side of the Wall, and the collection of stories and poems (life:) razorblades included (left), both available from his website.

Mari: Welcome to Randomities Dan! Please tell our readers how the eight cuts gallery press came to be and what's its philosophy and main goal. I'm also curious about the name.

Dan: Thank you so much for inviting me here. eight cuts gallery press is one part of eight cuts gallery. The idea had been building after I blogged last year about the need for literature to have more curators prepared to get excited and whip up some hoopla about the great writers who are out there. As time has gone on and no one seems to have filled the role, I decided I’d throw my hat into the ring.

The goal is simple – to get people excited about great writing. The philosophy is equally simple – there’s great writing out there you don’t know exists, and you should. Not by making it conform to the traditional preconceptions of what stories and books are, but by putting it out there in whatever shape it wants to take and selling the public a ringside seat.

And an integral part now is the Chris Al-Aswad Prize http://eightcuts.wordpress.com/eight-cuts-prize/ for outstanding contribution to breaking down barriers in the arts, named in honour of an amazing guy who was the vision behind www.escapeintolife.com.

In terms of the press, I think it’s a model that can work for alternative or underground works. There were also very specific books I really wanted to get behind, and that spurred me into doing something now.

Mari: The pleasure is ours, mine and the readers'. :) 
Please tell us, is there a special meaning for the gallery and the press' name? How did you come up with "eight cuts"?

Dan: Sorry, I completely missed that bit! I have no idea where the eight cuts bit came from. I spent a couple of months trying to make it mean something deep but failed miserably. The gallery bit is partly to get across the crossover with art, and a new way of doing things for literature, and partly to make people think of Six Gallery where the Beat Poets gave their famous reading.

Mari: You have a rather unusual approach to several aspects of the publishing market. For instance, you don't attach an ISBN to the paper books. Is there a particular reason for that approach? 

Dan: The main reason is to ensure I can control distribution. I want to avoid our books being sold on Amazon or in the big chains if I can. It means more for the kind of books we publish to work with a small group of carefully selected outlets – to build relationships with them, and with our readers direct.

And I honestly don’t understand ISBNs. No one has been able to come up with a good reason for why the book business distributes as it does other than “just because”.

Mari: Well, it seems to be standard to the publishing market. I wonder if not having an ISBN could hurt the company's and maybe even the author's credibility. 

Dan: I’m not sure with whom we would lose credibility. Maybe with the mainstream, but that doesn’t worry me. We would lose much more credibility with our readers by trying to fit the corporate model. I DO care about authors though – they need to be 100% clear what we’re about. I don’t mind if they go on to a big publisher, but we’re not here as a route into the mainstream. We’re here to give people a way of being read without having to get into the mainstream.

Mari: Another distinctive approach is on the financial aspect of the business. On your website you say:
1) you'll take no money from sales; 
2) you'll not retain any rights; 
3) you'll split 60% of the company's profits with the participating artists; 
4) you'll take royalties from the authors only in case of long and shortlisting for major literary awards. 
This sounds like a pretty revolutionary system to me, in which the author is practically a business partner. Did I get it right, is this where you're heading?

Dan: Good lord, no – I wouldn’t want authors to share the bad bits of running a business. It’s more like a movie where people get paid on profit-share. 

1. Yes, except where we have had to pay for marketing costs with prizes (it’s a condition with the Booker, for example, if you get shortlisted). 
2. Absolutely 
3. This refers to eight cuts gallery, as opposed to the press. This is the part of the project where I may make money personally by building the brand, holding live shows, selling merch. The press is only part of the whole, remember.
4. We won't be charging royalties - instead of passing on 100% of the profit, the author gets 50% of the profit, until we have recouped.

So, with eight cuts gallery, the artists (those contributing to the eight cuts gallery exhibitions) get 60% split between them; the authors get 20% split between them; and we get 20%; with eight cuts gallery press, we still get 20%, but the remainder is split between the writers.

Mari: Please tell us how your submission process works. What are you looking for and how should writers submit to you? Should they send queries, synopsis, fulls? Can they send by post or only electronically?

Dan: Our full submissions info is at http://eightcuts.wordpress.com/collaborate/submissions. 

The long and the short is that we take submissions electronically but there is no prescribed format – whatever the writer thinks shows their work off best.

Mari: Please tell us a bit about Charcoal and The Dead Beat, the first books that are coming up through eight cuts gallery press this year (2010). What makes them a fit for eight cuts in your view?

Dan: It’s very hard to say what an eight cuts book is like without using all kinds of categories that don’t really apply. I guess urban is a word that would apply. And both are rich, complex, but written in great language. Most of all, they are deeply serious book in the sense that each author has tried to convey some deep sense of personal truth through them, and that’s something I really believe in (http://yearzerowriters.wordpress.com/2010/03/06/confessional-art/).

Ah, no wait, I think I have it. It’s what they have in common with my last book (which I will bring out through eight cuts). For all much of their subject matter is death, they are actually books about life.

Mari: Here are the tidbits Dan shared about the eight cut's first releases. You can read the first chapters of both books on their website. Thank you for being here Dan, and for your insightful and straight forward answers. Much success with your new venture! 

Charcoal, by Oli Johns
“Apparently there are three popular ways to kill yourself in Hong Kong.
Throw yourself off a building.
Hang yourself.
Burn charcoal in a sealed room.”
Oli can’t stop reading Deleuze, only it doesn’t seem to make any sense. And he can’t stop thinking about suicide. And Camus. And that sort of makes sense. But only sort of. And then he meets a seventeen year-old girl on the internet and they meet regularly for mindless sex. Only it’s not enough to stop the anxiety. And the obsession with suicide, although he knows he’ll never kill himself. And then there was that Korean model, the one who killed herself in Paris. And that writer, the one he met online. The one who said she’d tried to kill herself three times. The one who wrote that book…
The Dead Beat, by Cody James
It’s 1997, and the comet of the century is due some time about now, on its 3000 year roundtrip.
“Man, fucking Emeryville,” Lincoln said, pausing in his stride to hock phlegm onto the sidewalk.”
And so, for want of anything better to do, Adam and his meth addict friends end up in San Francisco, wondering where their place in the addict hierarchy might be, why no one has written a good book in over a decade, and what the fuck the comet might mean, when nothing on earth means anything.
And in a zip of light and a snort of meth the comet is gone, taking with it this last snapshot of earth for 3000 years, leaving Adam to wonder if it meant anything at all, or whether it was maybe just a bit cool that the sky looked different. Just for once. For the last time in his life.

Note: The photo above is supposed to be of the Six Gallery reading mentioned by Dan, although the website where I found it don't state its credits. Nevertheless, the article that goes with it is rather educating. 


  1. Great interview, and lots of valuable information. Thanks to both of you!

  2. This is an awesome interview. Congratulations, Dan on the launch of eight cuts gallery press! And just like the Six Gallery reading in San Francisco heralded in a literary revolution those years ago, I wish you great success with yours!

    Thank you, Mari-girl for inviting Dan to share this great information. :)

  3. --Phyl and Marisa: Thanks! I'm greatly honored to have Dan here at Randomities. He's a brave artist in all senses. Not only his writing is courageous but this initiative as well.

    I'm with Mari-girl, I hope this becomes a literary revolution as the Six Gallery reading that inspired the company's name.

  4. Nice interview - I will be keeping an eye out for all of Eight Cuts work :-)

  5. Mari, thank you so much for letting me ramble and thank you all :)

    Marisa, I would love to have a little of the Ginsberg dust rub off on us - funnily enough I've just been asked to write a piece for a magazine about why the Beats are enjoying such a resurgence - there really is something of that spirit in the air. It feels good, and I think I have the right two books to start with :)

  6. Really interesting stuff - thanks for sharing :)

  7. I was happy to read Dan's comment that he's there to give people a way of being read, without having to get into the mainstream. I wish a few more people would follow Dan's lead.

  8. --Olive: I wish the same as you. I think the writer has to have a certain profile to do so, besides being brave. The good thing is that there are many excellent writers who fit eight cuts' philosophy and quality standards. My fingers are crossed for them to get together. :)

  9. Mari, first of all thank you, the interview was extemely well handled.

    Dan, you already know that I admire the way you look at the complex marriage of the arts.

    I am a child of the sixties, and I have been excited by the "Revolution" that I can feel in the air. It's a familiar, exciting and long awaited resurgence of people who want to share a gift with others...I live in an isolated community here in Australia...and we already have two new Book cafe/galleries opened. People can pop in chat, look at the stunning artwork from local artists and read to the customers from their own work...it's building, and I feel another Aquarian age hovering on the horizon.

    Thanks for being on the rocket end of that.
    Yeehah...and here we go.

  10. Olive, thank you - can I share a link to one of the most fantastic places I've been in a long time - it's a shop in Manchester I came across o Wednesday called Good Grief

    It sells zines and handmade records (small "h", nothing as far as I know to do with George Harrison) - there is a thriving scene out there of people doing amazing things AND of people who want to read them/see them/hear them. It is, as Sooz says, an incredibly exciting time - I love the Book Cafe thing - in London there's a Poetry Cafe which is just wonderful (with a gallery/performance space downstairs), and in Oxford we are lucky to have the Albion Beatnik Bookstore - a shop devoted to books about jazz and the beat Poets that stays open with live events and coffee till way past midnight most nights. What's so good about this kind of thing is that it's driven by lots of people all doing a little bit to contribute because they love it. Of course there is a corporate spectre hanging, waiting for it to reac the tipping point before pouncing, and you can see it already in some of the slicker regular reading nights - but at base this is something grass roots, and that's the key to real change - for me that change is driven 1000% more by people staying up late at night drinking beers and sewing chapbooks together in their bedsits than it is by iPads.

  11. --Sooz: Thank you, and cheers for the two new bookshops!

    Also thanks for the follow. :)

    --Dan: I'm not sure I agree with your statement about the iPads. Maybe we're facing two contemporary movements here, one is the rebirth of the Beatnik and the other is the technological evolution that is changing how people read and *who* reads. Many people who wouldn't read a paper book read on their Kindle, iPad and such, so there's a positive element to the mainstream developments too. I hope you'll take advantage of it as well, even if you have a differenced philosophy and way of making things.

  12. Don't get me wrong - I love ereaders and the fact that they're bringing books to wider audiences. I was talking abstractly - I don't think they're bringing anything qualitatively new to literature. I do think they're super, though. And there will be ebooks where appropriate of all eight cuts gallery press titles

  13. --Dan: Ah, we absolutely agree then. Thanks for the clarification. :)


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