Interview with Corbett O'Toole of Reclamation Press
WG: Wordgathering is frequently asked by new writers about places where they might have their books published, so I think that many of them will be excited to hear about Reclamation Press. Can you describe how Reclamation Press came about and its basic purpose?
CO: Reclamation Press was born in late 2016 when my friend Elizabeth (Ibby) Grace and I decided to start a new publishing house. We loved the idea of reclaiming disability wisdom which has always existed but often is only passed on orally. We want disabled writers to have access to a wider audience and books felt like the right medium for us.
As our tagline says, "We Publish Wisdom from Disability Communities." That is a complex and nuanced sentence for us. Disabled people live in overlapping communities of race, class, disabilities, languages, etc. Too often writing about disabled people presents us as one-dimensional.
We look for disabled writers who have rich and complex stories to tell in both fiction and nonfiction. Our first four books are by writers living in Deaf, physical disability, Autistic, mental disability, queer, chronic health, Latinx and indigenous communities. Their books range from science fiction to social activism.
We are interested in disabled writers who create worlds that celebrate the resilience and beauty of disabled people. Strong writing and a great concept grabs our attention every time.
WG: Can you elaborate on your statement, "too often writings disabled people present us as one-dimensional."
CO: I've been disabled all my life, yet I can count on one hand how often I've read a book that reflects even a small part of my reality as a person with a disability. Far too often, books are written by nondisabled people who are filtering the disability experience through their nondisabled lens. This results in books that feed into stereotypes about disabled people: We are inspirational / sad / tragic / dependent / incapable / scary / or just plot props.
I want books that show us as: capable people who make our own decisions with or without other people supporting us / (a)sexual and varied in that / members of diverse racial, ethnic and language communities / family members (including parents and grandparents) / instigators not just reactors / having lives that are not dependent on a nondisabled character / people at all ages.
WG: As a new press that has so far published relatively few books, what is your approach to finding the next book you will publish? Do you deliberately seek out specific authors or is there a process through which writers come to you?
CO: We are incredibly lucky that our first four books came with strong writers, different genres and very different perspectives. Two even came with professionally designed book covers. Starting with a strong base lets writers know that we are interested in well-written manuscripts and will produce them with an eye towards making them competitive in their genre.
We currently have four books in development. Two came to us through our existing connections and two we sought out because the topics are important to disability communities.
We are always interested in finding and supporting disabled writers with their first book. Getting published is incredibly difficult for anyone but for disabled authors the barriers are often insurmountable. We want to support disabled writers in getting published.
Disabled writers are welcome to contact us at any time but we only review manuscripts once a year.
WG: When you receive a manuscript that you feel that Reclamation Press would like to publish, what is the next step in the process for the writer?
CO: When we receive a manuscript that we like, we prefer that it is complete and ready to put into our production stream (copyediting, cover design, etc). Sometimes we receive a manuscript that has a great idea but needs more work.
For incomplete manuscripts, we communicate with the writer(s) to assess if they can complete the work that is needed. If they can't, then we cannot move forward with their manuscript since we don't have the resources to provide that service for them but we can refer them to professionals who can help them.
If we get a complete manuscript, then we communicate with the author(s) to discuss our process, timelines and capabilities. First we offer them a written contract that outlines each of our responsibilities. As a press we offer production services but not marketing services. We want the author(s) to know that up front. We want them to know the royalties we offer and who owns the rights. Once they sign the contract, then we move into production.
We take the manuscript and send it to a professional copy editor. Both the author(a) and Press review the copy edits. While the manuscript is at the copy editor, we start the cover design. We then present the author(s) with the proposed cover and with the copy-edited manuscript. If they sign off on both, then we begin book layout, finalize the cover design and set a sale date.
At the Press we spend a lot of time getting the metadata (key words, etc.) just right for their Amazon sales page. We closely follow the Amazon algorithm sales preferences so that we can maximize sales opportunities for the author(s). When that is completed, we review it with the author(s), discuss preorder strategies and finalize the on-sale date. Since we do not offer marketing or publicity services, we refer them to other professionals.
WG: In order to give writers a feel for the kind of work that Reclamation Press is looking for would you mind talking a bit more about the four books that you have published so far and what it is that you like about them?
CO: We publish Wisdom from Disability Communities – an idea that is rather hard to explain. We are looking for writing that is generated from an embedded sense of connection to the writer as both a person with a disability and a part of a broader disability community. This might only mean that they understand that any discrimination they experience is based in societal structures and not in any personal deficit. Or it might mean that they identify as a member of a disability community.
The writers we want to publish look at the world both from the individual disability experience as well as the larger society. That means we are open to almost any genre, although we are set up as text-based right now. Our first four books are a wide range of genres, The fiction includes short stories seen from gay disabled perspectives to a dystopian neuropunk science fiction novel. The nonfiction spans a spiritually-grounded approach to activist burnout and a retelling of disability history with a memoir style.
No matter what the genre, we need to hear the disabled perspective leaping off the page even if it's in subtle ways. Sometimes it's when Raymond Luczak writes about how newly disabled men create a sex playdates to help them explore their new bodies or when Naomi Ortiz talks about the ways the Sonoran desert cacti echo her gnarled hands. Other times it's writing disability truths that are hidden, such as the violence against disabled people shown in Selene dePackh's writing.
At the end of the day, we publish writing that we believe makes a difference, that adds a new level of complexity to the stories being told about disabled people, and that we are glad we read. We seek authors that are knowledgeable about the limitations of working with a new small press. We cannot provide publicity and marketing services so we function more as bridge between self-publishing and large publishers.