Small Press Profile

Sips Card: Sharing Stories on the Go

Sips Card LogoI first read about the Sips Card in the pages of The Writer and learned shortly thereafter that one of my favorite artists, Kristen Solecki, is on the team behind this ingenious new way of sharing fiction. (Kristen’s art, by the way, graces the cover of To Be Friend a Fox, a volume of poetry by the late Richard Pearce, which I edited in 2010.) Given my interest in spreading the word about new sources of fiction and in Kristen’s work, I was happy to have the chance to chat with the artist about her latest endeavor.

What is the Sips Card, and where is it available?
Sips Card is a writing publication that shares the work of independent writers with independent coffee shops. A Sips Card is a business card with a QR Code, that when scanned, downloads a short story or poem onto your cellphone/smart device that is meant to last as long as your cup of coffee. They are available in participating coffee shops around the country, and in Scotland. You can see our current locations at If you are interested in becoming a venue or would like to recommend one, please email us at

How did you come up with the idea?
It was a cold day in December and we were reading on a couch, trying to stay warm. Tim was explaining to me the idea of using QR Codes to market my artwork. We then were talking about sharing other media through the codes and we somehow connected the thought of reading, QR Codes, and coffee shops and spent the next two months developing the idea into what it is today.

Is there a way for readers to ask their favorite coffee shops to carry the Sips Card? In other words, how can we help spread the word?
Most definitely. We love hearing about favorite coffee shops from our readers and writers and want to support venues who support their community. There is no cost to the coffee shops or the customers. Once a shop is on board, we ship them the current issue with a compact display stand they can use as they wish. We create a page for them on our website and then ship each new issue as it is published.

Can you tell me a little bit about the works you’ve published in your first year? What was it about these stories that jumped out at you and made you want to publish them? Along similar lines, do you have any advice for writers who might want to submit their work for publication?
We’ve published a wide variety of stories and poems in our first year. We are open to all types of general fiction that has strong characters and appeals to a variety of people. We look for work that breathes with a life of its own and prefer narrative poems because we feel they compliment short fiction best.  However, we don’t only publish narrative poetry.
A well crafted story, with great character tension, along with a professional looking submission will grab our attention. We want to know that the submitting writers and poets care as much about their work they are submitting as we do about the work we publish.

Thanks, Kristen for the opportunity to chat about the Sips Card. It’s a great idea, and I hope it continues to gain in popularity!

“Each Novel Can Be a Lifetime” – Seniors Reign at The Permanent Press

Martin & Judith Shepard—both 77-year-olds and co-publishers of The Permanent Press (founded in 1978 and considered by many to be America’s  premier independent literary press), are happy to announce that, among the nine novels being released between October 2012 and June, 2013 five are by fellow septuagenarians and two by octogenarians.

“Who would have expected this?” asked Martin Shepard. “Quality fiction often makes for unusual company. Last year eight of our 16 books were mysteries, one of which, Leonard Rosen’s All Cry Chaos, was a finalist for the Edgar Award, Chautauqua Book Prize, Anthony Award, Macavity Award, and for ForeWord’s Literary Fiction Prize. But none were written by seniors. And now, more than half our recent fiction comes from much older writers. These seven seniors can still write the pants off most younger novelists. All have had distinguished careers and still have plenty of gas left in the tank. Judy and I are so pleased that they entrusted their newest writing to us.”


  • October:     K.C. Frederick, 76, Looking for Przybylski
  • November: Anne Bernays, 81, The Man on the Third Floor
  • December:  Suzanne McNear, 77, Knock, Knock


  • February:    William Eisner, 78, The Stone Lion
  • April:          Daniel Klein, 73,  Nothing Serious
  • May:           Christopher Davis, 84, The Conduct of Saints
  • June:           Marc Davis, 77, Bottom Line

Accounting for this trend, Bill Eisner, 78, whose novel The Stone Lion comes out in February, notes, “A writer’s life is his working capital: the people he has  known, the situations he has encountered, the places he has seen, the experiences  he has had. Older folks simply have more to draw from. Much of my own writing  was inspired by the lives of the people I have known, but once a person is transposed to fiction and given the roundness and completeness that fiction demands, he or she is so changed as to be unrecognizable even to the person who inspired the character. When you are older, you have seen and done enough to provide sufficient material for a lifetime of writing.”

Supporting Eisner’s assertion, Marc Davis, 77, whose novel Bottom Line will be available in June, adds, “I’ve got loads of stories from my days as a newspaper reporter, here [in Chicago] and on the Texas-Mexican border.  I also have tales of the commodity futures business, in which I made some bucks buying coffee options in the wake of the Big Brazilian Freeze of 1976, tales of my career as an art teacher, and painter, with a fistful of prizes, and then my work in advertising, winning two Tempo Awards and one Echo, for my direct mail campaigns for the art of Norman Rockwell, and others, on collectors plates.  And lots of others, including a story about my Dad, a Chicago newspaper man during the Front Page era, who ‘shot’ Dillinger exclusively, with a camera.”

All of this, Davis notes, “disproves again Scott Fitzgerald’s remark that there are no second acts in American lives.  Apparently, there are second, third and fourth acts, and curtain calls, with encores.”

Yet the writer’s life is no walk in the park, according to Christopher Davis, 84, whose The Conduct of Saints is due in May: “The work is difficult, both the reading and the writing. People will say they love to write. Even good writers say so, but I think they are talking about desire and expectation. They mean they love good art and, because they have sometimes made it happen and because they love their creation, they hope (it is a desperate and pessimistic hope) to do it again. Since this creative work involves instinct and thought in a contest that is resolved by means of the manipulation of words (instead of paint or clay or sound), and since the language we use as a medium in the art is derived from the language we use in our ordinary lives and gives a false appearance of being the same thing, writing is one of the hardest jobs men and women do.”

Seconding this opinion, KC Frederick, 76, whose Looking for Przybylski is due in October, adds,  “It’s always been a miracle, looking back at my earliest notes for a fiction, that already latent in those obscure scratchings was a  complex entity that would someday breathe and move.  To make it happen, though, meant using every tool in the tool box as well as every instrument in my little orchestra.  When the fiction’s done a sense of ending goes along with the feeling of achievement: this thing is finished, it doesn’t have to be done again, let’s try something new. But then there’s the blank page. Next time around you have to start as a baby, learning to speak all over.  Each novel can be a lifetime—doesn’t that complicate how writers calculate their ages?”

Designing for a Small Press. Big Rewards. (smaller fees) – Essay by Lon Kirschner

In the Fall of 1991, I received a phone call in response to a promotional mailing I had sent to publishers advertising my studio’s book jacket designs. The promotion was unique in that it was quite small, only 3 ½ by 5 inches and arrived in a hand-addressed envelope. This gave it the look and feel of a personal invitation, not another mailer from an art studio.

As I write this in 2012, printed mailings and telephone inquiries seem quaint but were a very human way to make contact with a prospective client. Someone had to take the time to open the envelope, hold something in their hand, read some copy and then, if you did it right, make a phone call and have a conversation. Aside from the conversation, this is much the same way a well-designed book jacket should work. Something sparks your interest, you pick it up, read some back or flap copy and, if the package is right, you’re hooked.

That phone call was from Martin Shepard, who along with his wife and co-publisher Judith, run
The Permanent Press, a small independent publisher of quality fiction.

Marty and I spoke for several minutes, long enough for us to feel each other out. During that first
conversation I learned several things:

1. Marty was a sincere and honest man who published because he believed in his authors and
their work. He published what he and Judy would want to read.

2. He had an artist’s sensibility and knew the importance of a good cover and its impact on how a
book would be perceived.

3. Independent publishers do not have deep pockets.

For some designers, point 3 could have been a problem, but we agreed to give it a try due to the fact that the print schedule of the press would allow me to work on several covers at a time, but the most exciting part of this venture would be the working relationship I would have with The Permanent Press.

There was Marty, and there was me. No account guy, no marketing guy, no focus group guy. It was just us two guys. This could be a dream client.

My first assignment was Postcards from Pinsk by Larry Duberstein. I read the manuscript, got to work and turned in my cover concept. Marty loved it. All was right with the world.

Then the phone rang.

It was Larry, “The character on the cover is too fat. Can we slim him down”?

Dream client?

It must be said that Larry Duberstein is a wonderful person and author and meant no harm in his comments. He genuinely loved the cover and even more so when an eraser (pre-computer) solved the cover’s slightly “weighty” appearance. We went on to produce another half dozen covers together (without ever once again
needing an eraser).

The point of this is that although my ultimate approvals come from the publisher, I as a cover designer have become very aware of the author and their feelings of wanting to be involved. Marty and I have developed a policy that works like this: “We welcome your suggestions and will always listen to them but we make no promises.” This sometimes proves difficult for an author. They have worked tirelessly on a book and have a unique and emotional relationship with it, they feel they know exactly how the cover should look.

Is it a good or a bad thing to let an author be involved in the development of a cover? After more than
20 years and well over 120 covers, I still haven’t fully decided. I can’t say that I have ever taken an author’s suggestion and created a cover based solely upon it. What I can say is that if you stop and listen, you may get a better understanding of the author’s intent even if the graphic representation presented may not be quite right.

This brings to mind a wonderful book, The Chester Chronicles by Kermit Moyer. The story of Chester’s life is told by stringing together a series of short stories. Individually, each story can stand on its own, but together they become a life. A life that is dominated by the relationship between a boy and his father.

Kermit did not make any initial suggestions for a cover design. The original concepts I created were not quite right. They just didn’t do the book justice. After several emails with the author I began to get a better understanding of where we should be going. The final cover, an image of a vintage car heading down the road has a nostalgic overall feeling. The cover reflects the power of the father figure and also serves as a subliminal reminder that life is a road that must be travelled. Combined with some retouching, a typographic treatment and color scheme, it became the complete package. When I found this image, I knew it was going to be the cover due to my contact with Kermit. When Kermit saw the final design he was thrilled, it was everything he wanted the cover to be.

Many times an author will make one little suggestion that in fact helps elevate the cover and gives it an extra push. A suggestion by the brilliant Leonard Rosen to include a figure of his protagonist on the cover of All Cry Chaos was something that both Marty and I resisted. We felt it would confuse the bizarre cover image but in the end, the addition of that figure in such a strange landscape set the stage beautifully for the first Henri Poincaré mystery thriller.

There is nothing more satisfying than having an author tell me that the cover is perfect. It is what I strive for. As a cover designer, I get one chance to state my case as opposed to an author who gets to build his case page after page.

Most of the covers I produce do not have the input of the author. I read each manuscript as I find it very hard to grasp a book wholly by reading several pages of a synopsis (unless that is all that is available). I have been asked many times if it is worth the time and effort. My answer to this question is that more than once the idea for the cover has come on page 209 of a 211 page manuscript.

This is not to say that I choose to illustrate a particular moment in the story, it is more likely that something in the text sets off an idea that in the end becomes the basis for the cover.

My hope is that when someone reads a book, they will look back at the cover and say to themselves “yes, that is what this book is about.”

The world of publishing is constantly changing. Internet shopping and digital delivery present new challenges to authors, designers and publishers, but in the end, no matter what the form, a book is still a book—an idea pieced together with words from an author’s unique idea. In much the same way a cover is still a cover—a package to present that unique idea whether it be printed on paper or illuminated on an e-reader.

Many years ago, the Creative Director at Bantam Publishing said to me, “If I can get them to pick up the book, then I have done my job.” In this day of internet book selling and online browsing the rules may have changed slightly but the basic concept hasn’t: “If I can get them to click on it, then I have done my job.”

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Lon Kirschner is a graphic designer who has designed logos, packaging, film posters and of course book jackets. You can see more of his work at

Small Press Profile: Miss Nyet Publishing

In this post, I’m trying something new by profiling a small press. My goal is to present a new profile every few weeks (or months) to let aspiring writers know about presses that are in the market for new work and also (as always) to help promote independent publishers. If you’re a publisher who’s interested in having your small press profiled, please feel free to drop me a line at marc at This week, I spoke with Delphine Pontvieux of Miss Nyet Publishing, whose debut title, ETA: Estimated Time of Arrest, is now available.

Publisher Delphine Pontvieux

Where does the name “Miss Nyet” come from?

Miss Nyet means “Miss No” in Russian. It was the nickname my grandfather and godfather gave to me when I was a child even though we are French. Like every other kid, I went through a phase of saying “no” to everything. It did not stick as I grew up, but when I was searching for my company name, I thought, “Don’t publishers say ‘no’ to 99% of the queries and submissions they get? How appropriate would ‘Miss Nyet’ be for a publishing company?”

Really, it is just a facetious reference, and I like the way the name rings. It sounds cool, in a tough, yet inviting, sort of a way. As for the company logo, it is a swimming mermaid, because I am deeply in love with the oceans and the underwater world at large.

Why did you start Miss Nyet Publishing? How does your background in marketing factor into your efforts in publishing?

I have worked for 10+ years for very successful, 100% independently-owned record labels in the past. As a result, the independent model of doing business has always been very much engrained in me, especially when working for an industry largely dominated by ‘major’ companies. I always took it upon myself to get the work done. It can be risky at times but also very rewarding. Thus, when my novel was nearing completion, I never really thought about shopping my manuscript to agents and so forth. My editor, who used to work for a big publishing company in New York, advised me to try the ‘traditional route’ first, because she thought I had a good chance of finding an agent. So she presented my book to four of her prominent agent friends in LA, which is seldom heard of. I got a reply the very next day from one of them. She liked my writing, but thought the story was too political for her audience. I did not hear back from the other three. I told myself, “OK, so we tried that. Now it’s time to really get to work.”

While I was putting the finishing touches on my novel, I contacted a lawyer and laid the foundations for Miss Nyet Publishing, LLC. It made all the sense in the world to me. I WANTED to create my company, just as much as I wanted my book to be read.

By releasing my own work first, I am learning the ropes, as well as getting acquainted with many interesting people who work in retail and media. I make mistakes, learn from them and find a better way to do things. I am laying the foundation so that I am ready to release the work of other authors when the right time and opportunity come my way. It is a tough road, but there is not a day that I don’t learn something new, or regret the decision I took, and it is all very exciting. I am lucky I can put the experience and expertise I acquired while working in the music industry to the book-publishing business. I think my outlook is a bit unique because I have a fresh take on things, and I’m not afraid of breaking the rules because I don’t really know what they are just yet.

My motto is don’t wait around for someone to discover your worth. It may take years, or it may never even happen. Be proactive about the goals you set out to achieve!

What sets Miss Nyet apart from other small publishers?

It is hard to say, because the company is so young, still. I want my company to serve as a springboard for talented and undiscovered authors, a place to go for new writers who aren’t afraid to work hard to turn their dream into reality that allows them to develop from the ground up over time. If, somewhere along the way, someone’s work gets under a larger book publisher’s radar and the author is given the chance to move on to the next level, then we’ve done the right thing at the level we’re at. Small presses and large publishers should complete each other, not compete against each other.

What’s your ideal submission? Who is your ideal writer? Who do you want to work with?

I would love to find a great horror manuscript with a gripping plot that forces you to sleep with the lights on and characters who are so compelling and credible you recognize that there are people in the world like them.

Another original thriller with extreme sports and/or music as the backbone of the story would also be a great find.

My ideal writer would be a cross between Edgar Allan Poe, Emile Zola, Albert Camus and Stephen King. Are you out there?

Who would I want to work with? Stephen King. I’ve pretty much grown up with one of his books in my hand.

Do you have any projects currently in development?

Right now, I am focusing my efforts on the sale and promotion of my first novel, a thriller entitled ETA – Estimated Time of Arrest, which just came out in December and is getting very positive feedback. I am also getting started with novel # 2.

ETA: Estimated Time of Arrest

The process involves creating a network of media contacts, establishing relationships with bookstores and setting up accounts with distributors and chain retail suppliers, among many other tasks.

Wearing the writer’s and publisher’s hat at the same time can be exhausting work.  I also have to contend with the “Oh, so you’re self-published?” one-liner more often than not. To this, I reply, “Yes, indeed. But it makes all the sense in the world, because Miss Nyet is the company that I would choose for a publisher at this stage in the game. It is going to take time and effort to establish Miss Nyet and put the company on the map, but I am confident it will happen, and that I will get the chance to work with exciting authors in the future.”

For more information on Miss Nyet Publishing, visit just in… Miss Nyet Publishing is now distributed by Baker and Taylor books. What this means in practical terms is that it should now be easier for your to order ETA and all future Miss Nyet Titles through the big bookstores like Borders and Barnes & Noble.