Bottlecap Press started in the summer of 2014 with a dream. A dream to spit in the face of the establishment, give rights back to the authors, and in the process shake up the literary world. Now one year and 25 books later, Craig Mullins (aka CA Mullins) and Brendan Kolk are ready to take that dream further than ever before. So we sat down with them and discussed whats next for the experimental thought-factory known as Bottlecap Press.
1. Let’s start with how Bottlecap started. How did you two meet / start working together?
Craig: Well, I started BCP all on my lonesome in Summer ‘14. At the time, it was a rinky dink little operation, and I had no idea what I was doing, but I was determined, dumped my savings into printing equipment, taught myself to bind books, the whole shebang. I’m just a guy with a dream, though. Brendan coming in in Jan ’15, I think was think was what gave Bottlecap Press real direction. He helps me get my head out of the clouds and turn ideas into actions. We’ve been close friends since high school, we’re both creative people, and spent a fairly large portion of the last eight years coming up with cockamamie ideas for projects. Conversations always used to start with “let’s start a podcast” or “let’s write a comic book.” Most of the ideas were half-baked, and they almost never amounted to anything tangible, but we’ve always been schemers. It was only natural that once I finally got BCP off the ground, he would end up playing a role. Originally, the deal was that he’d stick around for six months, and then decide whether our growth in that amount of time warranted a long term commitment. Of course, six months passed, and we haven’t looked back since. I think we’re probably both going to end up retiring with this company someday.
Brendan: Craig and I met in High School, sharing an honors English class of course! We quickly became friends, gelling well with a goofy, geeky sense of humor, and a desire to push the envelope.
One project we had to work on in that class was a video project. I don’t particularly remember why, but we had to make a parody of something, and we did it in our style of course. A buzzing topic at the time was the 2008 election, and political debates, and so we ended up doing a parody of the debates. Which we did so in such a way that I think many people either didn’t get it, or thought we went “too far” with our ideas and jokes. So maybe the seeds for this ultra creative publishing company were planted there. We both were always guys willing to push the envelope a little bit in order to do something creative!
2. What is your weirdest story behind making a book?
Brendan: I’m not sure I’ve got a particularly weird story about making a book. But around BCP, the funniest story I’ve got is our BCP X campaign. BCP X is the name of our monthly ebook subscription service, where every month we release one of our previously released books through that. So when we were trying to think of what to call this thing, I just started using BCP X as a place holder, which one of us remarked sounded like some sort of toxic secret chemical. So we were off and running with that as a dumb joke, which eventually turned into a whole marketing campaign. Which was a lot of fun to make, with a bunch of funny videos of us being goofy, and portraying ME as a villain!
Craig: Not really a story, and not really about making a book, but a weird observation: something we say a lot is that time means nothing here. We keep ourselves so occupied with our projects, and things have grown and evolved so rapidly that we often look back just a week or two into the past and it feels like an eternity has gone by. I wouldn’t be fazed to hear something that happened as recently as November being described as “the good old days.” To confound things even more, because our work hours are so random, and often so intense, our sleep schedules tend to be fairly bizarre. I don’t think I’ve seen daylight in the last week, and that’s normal here. And there are times when there’s been so much work to do that I’ve sat down and my desk and become so engrossed that I didn’t get back up for more than 24 hours. I love it.
3. What is it about indie lit that excites you right now?
Craig: I think the most exciting thing about indie lit, to me, is the innovation. I see language used in entirely new ways almost every day. There’s so much artistry, and so much talent. The mainstream presses are missing something huge here, and I am grateful and floored that I get to be a part of it.
Brendan: I think personally, the way the indie lit community is weaving itself together, helping and networking with other members. That’s really great to see.
My background as a creative person was more in music at first, and so to see indie lit catching on maybe in a way that indie music did years ago is refreshing and revitalizing for my own interests in literature.
4. Can you tell us a bit more about how you personally got involved in the literary community?
Brendan: Well, my involvement is a bit less grand than Craig’s. It really simply comes down to, for years I was a friend supporting Craig’s writing, while studying communications and journalism at University. So when Craig went to start Bottlecap Press, and needed someone who could do editing and some graphic work and the ilk, it made for a good match for my interests.
Since then though, I’ve definitely become more involved, and love participating through BCP in the community. I like the idea that this is a way of helping authors grow, while I myself and BCP also grow. Or if it’s not authors that need to grow, authors that might be overlooked by larger publishers.
Craig: Although I’ve been writing for quite a while, community eluded me for a long time. I (much like your book!) am a bit antisocial. My first couple books were distributed almost exclusively among friends. I was naive, and I thought that was just how it was done. It wasn’t until BCP started up that I actively began seeking out community. At the time, finding writers I fit in with, and that my dreams for BCP fit in with, was simply survival instinct. In a way, being broke and determined was what got me out of my shell. The internet played a big role. Message boards and Reddit, and eventually Facebook and Twitter started pointing me toward thriving communities of writers who I had so much in common with, and I was amazed that these communities even existed. It was a little intimidating at first, coming in as an outsider during a time (mid ’14) when indie lit was in such a huge upheaval. I was afraid I wouldn’t be accepted. Now, I don’t know what I’d do without all the wonderful people I’ve met along the way. The writing community filled a hole in my life that I didn’t even know was there. There are so many amazing writers and small presses all helping each other out for the sake of their art. It’s beautiful.
5. Bottlecap Press is known for being experimental in all context of the word. What drives you guys to keep pushing the limit on what literature is? Is there an end goal?
Craig: Well, out of Brendan and myself, I’m the more experimental of the two. We’ve got a bit of a yin and yang thing going on. I like to push the envelope. I suppose it’s in my blood. I’ve been writing in a fairly experimental fashion for years now, though I was mostly without a community until BCP opened up. My first book, Day Drunk Blues, was pieced together from scanned typewriter pages and pencil drawings. There are so many things that literature can be, and I want to help to express them all. It’s important to me that the boundaries of literature be expanded to embrace new forms. It’s a fine art, but I don’t usually see it treated that way. I want to change that. It seems to me that most of the greats wrote in styles that were considered wild and experimental at the time, and it’s shameful that mainstream presses have moved away from publishing risky books. Bottlecap Press is willing to take the chance on projects that try new things. We’re misfits, and I don’t think the world of art can survive without misfits. There’s something to be said for tradition too, though, and I don’t think traditional writing is unrepresented in BCP’s catalog. Part of it, I think, is just that we publish books we like.
Brendan: Well, it’s not us that’s pushing literature, it’s the work of our excellent roster of authors, which grows larger every month!
As far as why we enjoy that direction, I think it’s part of the evolution of literature and art in general to push the boundaries, stake out new territory.
Although there are several titles we’ve been involved with that are less “out there”. I’d think. Certainly some of our best sellers so far, like Uptalk by Kimmy Walters, are very popular, so there’s a certain level of universal enjoyability to a work like that. And one title I was very happy to work on was Amanda Dissinger’s “This Is How I Will Tell You I Love You”, which was a collection of very unique poems about love and heartbreak. But it’s the way that they’re told, and not the subject, that I fell in love with. It felt like a very genuine collection.
6. What changes and experimentation can we expect to see from the Bottlecap in the future?
Brendan: Well, I’m glad I get to answer this one!
BCP X launched in December, and so while maybe that’s the past, I think its best days lie ahead. The ebook market is one we were keen to get into, but we wanted to find the perfect way to do it, so that it wasn’t just our entire catalog, but as ebooks. That can happen in the future too, but we wanted something more intriguing for our readers. Some way we could turn the ebook market into a way to promote all of our authors.
I’ve personally been working on a bit of a project in CD manufacturing and music production. Being a musician, the idea of expanding BCP into the music market, and helping artists there, has always been something that appealed to me personally. I don’t have any project lined up just yet, but it’s another medium Bottlecap will be looking into. Bottlecap Records, maybe? Hmm…
Any way to give artists (authors, musicians, whomever!) another chance to get out there, that’s what I’d love to see, and what I love doing.
Craig’s been working on some video channel ideas. For more specifics on that, you’d have to ask him.
Craig: We want to expand from simply publishing chapbooks and the occasional novella into a much greater variety of media. My ultimate goal for Bottlecap Press is to bring people together from across the artistic spectrum, and to help foster a wider arts community as a whole. This means working with visual artists, musicians, filmmakers, you name it, and creating entirely new types of artistic endeavors. I want to create a literary world that isn’t tied down to words alone. Anything can be literary in the right context. We’re preparing to dip our toes into the music scene fairly soon, I’ve got some animation projects in the works (it’s always been a hobby of mine), I’m fascinated by certain types of software projects, we’ve even tossed around the idea of making a board game. I’d like this press to slowly evolve into something that falls in the grey area between the old Parisian literary salons and Andy Warhol’s Factory. Most of this is long term, but you’d be surprised how many different types of projects we’ve already begun conceptualizing. It won’t be a departure from what we’re already doing, and I we’ll always have our roots planted firmly in the book world, but in time, you can expect so much more.
7. Give us the lowdown on your GoFundMe. We are psyched for Bottlecap to make it happen.
Craig: The GoFundMe is an answer both to immediate needs and to future growth. BCP recently moved into a new house in Illinois, and as great as this place is, it needs a lot of expensive repairs that are going to set us back. On top of that, if we want to start producing more volume, we’re going to need to upgrade a lot of our printing equipment, and in some cases, buy new equipment altogether. We published 20 books in 2015, and we want to double, maybe even triple that number in 2016. We’d also like to start buying our materials in bulk so we can cut costs down, both to provide more profit to our authors, and to be able to set aside more money for bigger projects. As well as that, If we meet certain goals, we want to use some of the funds to make the equipment purchases necessary to start diving into new types of projects: things like CD burners, a 3D printer, the list goes on. We’re doing our best to keep our feet on the ground though, and so the primary goal here is to take the Bottlecap Press you know and make it bigger and better.
Brendan: We’ve got some videos and rewards lined up for contributors, and the money will be put toward direly needed things for BCP to take the next step, or new equipment to make what we do better, or to break us into those future plans I mentioned previously. And one thing I’ve been saying recently is that BCP’s greatest asset is it’s employees and authors, so a project like this will hopefully go towards feeding some starving artists!
8. One Last Question: What do you think sets Bottlecap Press apart from other presses in the community?
Brendan: Well, I guess my best answer would be that Craig and myself are what is different. Craig and I, having the camaraderie we have, we work hard to exude our philosophy in what we do. The belief that publishers should work for authors, and not the other way around. The idea of pushing the art in new directions. Not clipping the wings of those who are inherently creative and unique.
Craig: This is a hard question to answer, because there are so many small presses that I love and respect. I think the biggest thing that sets Bottlecap Press apart is its philosophy. We believe the artist should remain firmly rooted in the artistic process, and because of this, we treat our authors as friends. We believe in working with artists on all levels, both established writers and ones who are brand new to the scene, and helping them grow. Our active interest in multimedia also means that writers with new and unconventional types of projects can find a comfortable home at BCP. We’re flexible, and open to wildly new ideas. Aside from that, Brendan and my long history and camaraderie play an important role. We work together in ways that many can’t. My wild imagination brings big new ideas to the table, and his common sense helps to turn those ideas into a reality. We balance each other out, we’re able to successfully navigate a wider range of possibilities than many presses would even consider. We have a camaraderie that encourages us to grow, and grow, and grow, sometimes in surprising new directions, and I think the biggest thing we can offer to artists is the opportunity to come and grow with us.
Check out Bottlecap’s catalog and support the Bottlecap Press GoFundMe here: https://www.gofundme.com/bottlecappress