An Interview With Publisher Roland F. Pease, Jr.

Kevin Larimer

After 15 years of publishing, Zoland Books has ceased operations. The independent Cambridge, Massachusetts-based publishing company produced approximately 125 books by authors such as Bill Berkson, Rudy Burckhardt, Lisa Jarnot, Ha Jin, Sheila Kohler, Ange Mlinko, John Yau, and Kevin Young.

Poets & Writers Magazine asked Zoland publisher Roland F. Pease, Jr. why the press with a respectable stable of authors was forced to go out of business.

Roland F. Pease, Jr.: Well it's a combination of things. I wasn't able to change my enthusiasms for the very literary—whether it be poetry or literary fiction—which doesn't necessarily have the market that could keep a literary press, a for-profit press, viable. I'm just not as interested in doing some of the nonfiction that some of the other presses do in order to keep going.

It's always been a challenge, and I've enjoyed the challenge of it. On a good day it's a challenge; on a bad day it's a frustration. I thought, 'Better get out before I've grown too bitter.'

It's always more complex than even I know. [Book publishing] wasn't something I had ever planned to do. I was a poet, and I just stepped in and starting doing it. I was spending more time looking at the sales reports than I was looking at the incoming manuscripts. And I knew that was a sign.

P&W: What happens now? What happens to your list of authors?

RFP: Well they're in print. I'm keeping a good number of them in print for the foreseeable future. We just put out four new books this fall. We have a Web site; we have a distributor. I let my staff go so I'm the only one in the office now, which is a little odd after all this time. But I will keep things going and we'll see what happens.

I'm doing a lot of my own writing right now. I'm back to my poetry—the faucet is on, the stuff is tumbling out. It's a little rusty but it's fun.

P&W: What aspect of running Zoland Books will you miss the most?

RFP: I was totally turned on by good writing. There are lots of good writers who I published who haven't won the awards and haven't had the acclaim, but I think their books are equally valuable and that's what fed me over the years.

Who knows what will happen down the line. I doubt if I'll ever go into the trade again because it's just not really accepting of certain titles. I was always sort of surprised that there wasn't more acceptance from ... even bookstores. But commerce is king, so if you can't prove that the book will sell then it's just not possible to have them take many of your books.