Q: Are THE IMPROBABLE reviews paid for? Is this advertising?
A: There is no advertising on The Improbable nor are reviews paid for (everyone is volunteering their time). Nothing is directly monetized in this endeavor, but we've created The Improbable to instigate a chain reaction that ends with readers discovering an unusual book and daring to buy it at their local store rather than on Amazon. That choice, on the part of the reader, to pay just a few more dollars is extraordinarily meaningful. It translates into not only a stronger economic reality for the artist/author (who will often see a higher royalty), for the publisher (who will have a higher return on that single book), and for the independent bookstore (who will make the sale), but also a different value system in which the book is not simply a commodity at the lowest possible price. Instead, it places the highest value on artist/writers who have the tenacity of vision to pursue work outside traditional paradigms, on publishers who have the courage to take great risks in advocating for and investing in this work, and on booksellers who trust their customers are intelligent, curious and desiring to discover something truly new.
Q: How do you choose the books for THE IMPROBABLE?
A: The most important common denominator is literary-visual hybridity. By that we mean the artist/writers' use of the space of the book (and the page) to intertwine image and text in ways that go far beyond the illustrative or the documentary. We aim for the selection to be eclectic and idiosyncratic but also rigorous; in other words, dependably surprising and provocative, emphasizing the quality and inimitability of the work/book with no allegiances to particular aesthetics, subject matter, etc. We also emphasize books that are in print, readily available in the U.S., published by independent presses with some distribution mechanism so that bookstores can easily stock them. That said, once we put a book on the list, it has to be chosen by a reviewer to write about.
Q: How can I write for THE IMPROBABLE?
A: Reviews are written by booksellers and staff at independent bookstores as well as at museum, contemporary art and specialty stores who have an insatiable love for books and appreciate what a book can be beyond a simple delivery device for words. We're looking for well-written reviews in a personal voice as if you're having an intelligent, passionate and thoroughly enjoyable conversation with a friend or colleague (i.e, other booksellers and readers). Just send us an email if you'd like write a review, and we'll go from there.
Q: How can I get a book considered for THE IMPROBABLE?
A: If you're a publisher, artist or writer with a book that doesn’t obey the boundaries of media, disciplines and genres—and has equal footing in the visual and literary arts—please let us know! We're particularly interested in learning about front list and forthcoming titles but also back list titles that are still in print and are easy for bookstores to stock. Send us a short (50-75 word) description of the book along with a link to download a pdf. Since this is an all-volunteer situation, we'll be in touch only if the book is selected for the list. Thanks for your understanding!
Q: Who is THE IMPROBABLE?
A. The Improbable is edited and managed at Siglio Press in Los Angeles by Lisa Pearson. It is an extension of Siglio's mission to cultivate wider audiences for the kind of uncategorizable, literary-visual hybrid works that often get lost in that corporate machinery and mainstream media din. (For more on our mission, see "On the Small & the Contrary.") The Improbable couldn't exist without the dedication of time, resources and energy of dozens of independent bookstore staff and small press publishers. As The Improbable grows, we'll have a list of those participants so that readers can follow their favorite reviewers and presses, too. Ultimately, The Improbable aims to unite booksellers, publishers and artist/writers on this common front so that these truly spectacular—and often quiet, under-the-radar—works can find the readership they deserve.
Image above from A brief account of some travels in divers parts of Europe by Edward Brown, 1685.