Slated for Success
One year in, local publishing company Blank Slate Press is picking up steam.
As many great ideas do, Blank Slate Press began with a bunch of creatives and some cocktails. Freelance writer/editor Kristina Blank Makansi and writer/marketer Jamey Stegmaier started the local publishing company with the mission to “discover, nurture, publish and promote” talented writers and voices in the greater St. Louis area. Now, one year after bringing its first novel to press, the team is putting the finishing touches on a third release.
PRESSING THE ENVELOPE
From the very start, Blank Slate Press has been anything but conventional in its methods. Rather than searching for novels to invest in, Makansi and Stegmaier look for people, choosing writers based on the talent or potential they demonstrate. For the initial round of recruitment, they invited all the writers they knew over for cocktails, and through the informal chats that evening, they met the writers who would become their first two published novelists. Instead of traditional query letters pitching a particular work, would-be Blank Slate writers submit samples (often a short story rather than an in-progress novel) and fill out a quirky questionnaire. The application asks writers to “Tell your life story in six words,” and “Describe the ideal jacket photo of you on your fi rst published book,” and is meant to help the publishing team get to know the author they’re considering investing their time and money in.
KEEPING IT SIMPLE
Makansi and Stegmaier intentionally keep their operation small—with only a couple of books in the works at a time—so they can be sure to give each project personal, hands-on attention. They even launched a Kickstarter campaign this past summer to raise money for advances for the next two writers who signed on. The books are printed in small batches from on-demand printer Lightning Source to keep overhead costs low.
ON THE BOOKS
The first Blank Slate Press book, released in February 2011, was “The Samaritan” by Fred Venturini, a native of Southern Illinois who had previously published exclusively short stories. The novel, about an emotionally disturbed man who can regenerate his damaged limbs and organs, was awarded the Cross-Genre category in the USA Book Awards, is currently shortlisted for a Kitschie Golden Tentacle Award in the UK for best progressive, intelligent and entertaining debut fiction and was hailed by “Sci Fi Magazine” as the most powerful science fi ction novel of the year. Rumor has it, there was even some interest from Hollywood. Venturini is currently working on his second novel, a drama about the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The second Blank Slate book, “Dancing With Gravity” by Kirkwood author Anene Tressler, tells the tale of a St. Louis priest facing an identity crisis. The novel (Tressler’s first) took home the Literary Fiction prize in the 2011 International Book Awards and was recognized by the “St. Louis Post-Dispatch” as a book with plenty of “local flavor.” The third release, titled “Slant of Light” and due to hit the market this spring, is the story of a Utopian society in the Missouri Ozarks at the start of the Civil War. Author Steve Wiegenstein, the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies at Columbia College in Columbia, MO, writes from a philosophical interest in Utopian societies, with richly developed and relatable characters.
Makansi says the original intention was to only accept writers from the Midwest, but now that things are going so well, she and Stegmaier have decided that they’re open to the idea of expanding their reach someday.
For more info about Blank Slate Press, or to purchase one of the books, visit blankslatepress.com.
Slated for Success
Slated for Success
Photo credit: Carmen Troesser