Thursday, April 10, 2014


I'm sharing an article (below) on a recent initiative by one of my favorite publishers, Cinco Punto Press. Founded in 1985 by writers Bobby and Lee Byrd, Cinco Puntos is located just three miles north of the US-Mexico border in El Paso. Their catalog is brimming with culturally (and linguistically) diverse titles for adults and youth in every genre. Writers fortunate enough to work with the Byrds, call them "family," for these relationships are based on mutual trust, respect and admiration.  So when an initiative comes out of such an auspicious environment, we should all pay close attention . . . 

On Breaking Demographic Borders for Books With Crowdfunding
By Lisa Y. Garibay

EL PASO, TEXAS: What first catches a visitor’s eye on the Cinco Puntos Press Rockethub crowdfunding campaign page is the video. It features press co-founder Lee Byrd right up in the camera and thus the viewer’s face, delivering less of a “why you should donate” pitch than a homespun, off-the-rails monologue about her husband, poet and Cinco Puntos co-founder Bobby Byrd. Her anecdotes about Bobby’s and forthcoming book for which the campaign is fundraising are intercut with a home video of a previous grassroots outreach effort for his 2006 project, a CD that matched Bobby’s poetry with music by noted rock ‘n’ roller Jim Ward of Sleepercar, Sparta, and At the Drive-In.

The video’s content and quality are quite different from other much more composed, deliberate videos that are the result of standards and practices put into place by a few years’ worth of crowdsourcing. In other words, the video is very much in the spirit of Cinco Puntos Press, which has been doing things differently—that is, in ways that most other people in the profession would deem unworkable—with measured, ever-increasing success over its three decades. (An earlier Publishing Perspectives article on Cinco Puntos press offers more detail about their unique business model.)

The concept of crowdfunding (which is raising money to bring a fully fleshed-out project to fruition versus crowdsourcing, which brings resources and talents together to complete a project) hadn’t been on the Byrds’ radar until Rockethub’s founder Brian Meece traveled to Cinco Puntos’ hometown of El Paso, Texas. Meece conducted a public presentation for local entrepreneurs based on his successful partnership with the West Texas athletic shoe companySpira, which resulted in promotion by A&E and a tie-in with the popular reality show Duck Dynasty.

The Byrds had been looking into new ways to capitalize after their long-time author Benjamin Alire Sáenz received the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction last spring, resulting in a jump in sales. This capitalization included not only literal revenue streams or long-range investors, but also a better reaping of their audience.

Cinco Puntos’ third partner, Lee and Bobby’s son John, believes that the company has always been good at identifying market inefficiencies within the publishing world, and wanted crowdfunding to be part of that tradition. 

“Most books published are by white writers who live on the East Coast,” John told Publishing Perspectives. “So we realized that demographically there’s a large audience for non-white writers, so we’re seeking to capitalize on it and we’re really good at it, but we’re trying to connect with some additional capital so that we can take what we’re doing further.” 

“We realized that demographically there’s a large audience for non-white writers, so we’re seeking to capitalize on it.”

Crowdfunding was a big draw given that, ideally, it provides both capital and publicity, not just one or the other. “[Meece] was talking about it a lot as an opportunity to not only sell what you’re doing but to create a broader audience for it. We’re always looking for ways to push beyond the people that we know enjoy our books and are buying our books,” says John, whether those methods are within or outside of the traditional publishing framework.

(To read the rest of the article, click here).

What do you think about crowdfunding for the publishing industry?  Is is a potential game changer for Latino writers? Or just another way to highlight disparity?  ¡Opina aquí!


Anonymous said...

“We realized that demographically there’s a large audience for non-white writers, so we’re seeking to capitalize on it.” [from above article]

Ha! Ha! y otro Ha! Cinco Punto Press may be three miles north of the border physically but it is three trillion miles away from sensitivity to Chicanos and Chicano culture.

Last time I checked my hide, I was non-white (Chicano). When I called Lee Byrd, she said, "Seen-Ko Poon-Toe Press." (a reference to the Jewish Five-Star of David, I assume and presume.) Ifn' you're going to use a Spanish name, at least learn to pronounce it.

Anywho, I told her I had written a story about Chicanas/Chicanos in East L.A. and started to give her a quick synopsis. She interrupted me with a "No chance," a mantra she repeated as I tried to complete the synopsis.

Without letting me end my synopsis, she tersely said, "Send me the first ten pages," adding, you guessed it, "No chance!" When I repeated her instructions for confirmation purposes, she said tersely AND loudly, "YES, IN AN ENVELOPE WITH FORTY-FIVE CENTS POSTAGE!"

Now I've been writing for a fair piece. I've been rejected by every kind of magazine on the planet. Some were encouraging, some indifferent. I still keep writing. So, her level of discouragement (especially never having read a single word of my writing) did not faze me. My concern is for younger Chicano writers trying to establish their confidence as writers. Her words could send a young writer into a tailspin and dampen his or her spirit but for good.

By the way, Lee Byrd, my book has been published as well as a collection of short stories, both works set in East Los Angeles. I did have a chance. Sorry.

This balancing of information regarding Lee Byrd and her "Seen-Ko Poon-Toe" Press will be censored by deletion, I'm sure. This would be unfortunate since La Bloga should be a forum for ALL writers and opinions.

Anonymous said...

Correction: Seen-Ko Poon-Toes Press.