On Saboteurs, innovation and publishing

Later this month it will be four years since Burning Eye Books published its first title, Slinky Espadrilles by Ash Dickinson. Earlier this month it was announced that Burning Eye had been nominated by enough people to make the shortlist for Most Innovative Publisher in Sabotage Review’s Saboteur Awards. This was the fourth time Burning Eye has been shortlisted for this award. We didn’t win in 2013, 14 or 15. I don’t think we will win this time either. That’s cool we are kinda small and kinda fringe. As I am fond of saying, just getting nominated is not bad going for a press run part-time from a spare bedroom near Bristol. But as usual it has made me ponder the innovation question. What exactly is it that we  do that makes people think us worth nominating? On the face of it,  you see, we all (the shortlisted publishers) publish physical books. Either fairly standard trade paperback format or fairly ordinary (in terms of the physical specification of manufacture) hardbacks. Some aspects of  how we try to work in a collaborative manner with our writers might from some quarters be seen as innovative, but we are not alone in this and unless you have worked with us as a writer you would not necessarily know the specifics of that, so the number of potential nominators would be pretty small. There are some under the hood kinks in the Burning Eye business model that might arguably be considered innovative from some angles, but these are known only to a handful of people. So what is it?

My perception is that Burning Eye gets nominated for publishing what we might call standupslamperformancespokenword poetry. In which case the nomination is perhaps best understood as a vote of appreciation for the curation of the catalogue of writers. But is it innovative? Maybe I am wrestling with that I-word too much. Looking for atom splitting invention when innovation in the 21st Century is more about small incremental change rather than revolution. Maybe it is my outsider/imposter syndrome kicking in. What Burning Eye? Really? Innovative? Are you sure? We just publish poetry we like and work with people we like working with, is that innovative? Maybe I just need to shut up and do some work. After all it is the 11th of May as I write and we have only put 10 books out so far this year (combined Burning Eye and BX3)  and we are not even half way yet!