I'm happy to announce the launch of Dead Mall Press, a chapbook press that will donate a large portion of its earnings to mutual aid, anti-carceral, anti-capitalist, and social justice organizations. I am accepting pre-orders on three different booklets now, which you can view and order here. They should be ready to ship on April 4th.
During this pre-order period, 60% of all earnings will be donated to the Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT) who are fighting against the unjust laws instituted by Gov. Abbot that persecute transgender youth and their families. TENT offers a variety of services and resources, as well as an emergency relief fund. I believe they are doing crucial work that deserves increased support right now.
Below, you can find a more detailed explanation of what the press is all about (in Q & A format).
What exactly is Dead Mall Press?
Initially, this project emerged from two impulses: 1) to find an outlet for a backlog of my own poetry manuscripts, and 2) to put into practice various ideas of mine about anti-capitalism and publishing. After a few delays, I began making my own booklets at the end of summer 2021. Following a period of research and experiment, I'm now happy enough with the booklets I'm making to begin putting them out into the world.
At first, I am limiting production to my own work, but once I become more adept at operating things -- taking orders and payments, getting books in the mails, promoting things, etc. -- I’ll feel more confident in asking others to trust me with their work.
Additionally, as indicated above, a crucial part of this project will be to donate a majority of proceeds to mutual aid, anti-carceral, and social justice organizations. In this way, the work of producing poetry will be directly supportive of non-literary political activity.
How will the donations and payments work?
This part is experimental, and will be adjusted as things progress, but a primary goal is to always donate at least 60% of earnings. Receipts for donations will be provided publicly (i.e. on this blog and via mailing list). Once I recoup the amount I have spent on getting the press started, I should be able to operate at cost (donating approx. 85%) at least part of the time.
When publishing others' work, DMP will offer a 50/50 split, with writer and press splitting earnings equally. In this situation, the press will still donate a majority of the 50% it keeps. Also, the writer will have the option to donate a portion of their earnings in collaboration with the press, but the choice is entirely theirs and any writer should feel entitled to keep their earnings.
Who will receive the donations?
As stated above, the first month of donations will go to TENT. In the future, there will be other recipients, and I will always make clear in advance where I plan to give funds. That way, those who purchase a book will already know where their money is going. In selecting recipients, I will be responding to world events and directing funds according to where they seem most needed at the time. In general, however, priority will be given to local orgs (southern Indiana), mutual aid groups (esp. as it impacts Black, Indigenous, and LGBTQ+ communities), Land Back activism, and anti-carceral/abolitionist work. Additionally, I will always try to seek out those groups most closely aligned with an anti-capitalist politics, though this is not always possible.
What are the costs involved in running DMP?
On average, it costs approx. $1.00 to produce a single booklet. Cardstock covers (65lb.) cost approx. 27 cents per, end paper is seven cents per, and a single sheet of 20 lb paper costs approx. 2 cents (times 5-10 sheets). We're looking at an average of roughly 50 cents strictly for cover and paper. Add on staples and ink, and we're probably looking at another 50 cents on average (at 7 cents per page multiplied by 5-10 pages).
Shipping costs fluctuate slightly, but on average this comes out to approx. $4.00. This includes the cost of mailers, cardboard inserts, label printing, taping, and Media Mail pricing. International shipping is about three times this much, but it fluctuates even more.
Added to the materials, we also have the costs of obtaining and maintaining equipment: printer, stapler, various tools for folding and arranging the pages, etc. Also, add the labor involved in designing and assembling the booklets, handling sales and shipping, etc. Lastly, add the value of the written work itself (whatever that may be). Ultimately, DMP's goal is to generate value through literary production in order to transfer it to non-literary political organizations.
Where can I order books?
Just fill out the form at the bottom of the webpage and make a payment at one of the selected sites. I will email you a receipt and shipping info. (Note: The email will come from "R.M. Haines" but the name of the press will appear in the subject line.)
Do you accept submissions?
Not right now. After publishing some of my own work, I will start to solicit work from people whose work I like or who express an interest in collaborating. I may eventually open things to more general submissions, but I want only to work with those who fully embrace the ethos of the press, understanding that fund-raising and autonomy are more important here than prestige or professional advancement.
Why call this a "press" if you're just publishing yourself?
First, why not? Second, I intend to start publishing others as soon as I feel confident enough that what I'm doing would actually add value to other people's work. I don't want to use other people's work as subjects in an experiment, so to speak. Additionally, if you read any of my essays on publishing, you will see that I am very interested in de-stigmatizing self-publishing among poets and highly critical of the professionalization and prestige-seeking that drives people to seek out a "reputable press" as the only legitimate route for their work. In short, I call it a press because I don't see any legitimate reason not to.
Why “Dead Mall”? What's behind the name?
First, as you may know, dead malls are real -- it's not just a poetical phrase. Second, the name is an homage to Walter Benjamin, whose great, unfinished Arcades Project is about the dead proto-malls of 19th century Paris. He saw something potentially revolutionary in that debris and in the architecture’s dream traces (however cheapened & deformed).
More personally, in the mid-1990s, my own first encounters with literature were inextricable from malls. I grew up in a very small town with a bad library and no bookstores nearby, and our household didn't have the internet (most didn't then). With no other real options, I would drive an hour to Dayton or Cincinnati (or be driven by one of my parents) and search bookstores at the mall. It was all embarrassing. Sometimes I would spend hours there, treating the store like a library, knowing no one, buying nothing. And yet, in the middle of all this -- perfume counters, absurd mall cops, the worst pop music -- I found books that showed me another world was possible.
In sum, the name Dead Mall Press captures all this for me: Walter Benjamin's search for revolution amid ruins and debris; my own young imagination living amid the traps of circumstance; the haunting overlaps between different historical moments and the materials that capture them; and the intensification of the book as commodity in the era of Amazon. All these come together for me in the name.