Radix Media, a Brooklyn based printing shop dedicated to doing things the old-fashioned way, has recently ventured into small publishing with the launch of their book AFTERMATH: Explorations of Loss & Grief (2018).
CLMP recently sat down with co-owner Lantz Arroyo to discuss Radix’s journey into independent publishing.
What is Radix Media and how did it form?
Radix Media is New York City’s only worker-owned, union print shop and publisher. Our story began in Portland, Oregon, as a single person with a one-color offset press. We did (and continue to do) a lot of work for social justice movements, independent publishers, musicians, etc.
In 2012, we relocated to New York and merged with OccuCopy, another worker-owned shop that sprouted from the Occupy Wall Street movement and focused on digital printing. Then, in late 2017, we merged with Wasp Poster & Print, a high-end letterpress and design shop. This allows us to provide a larger array of commercial printing services in a single location and opens up a lot of opportunities, such as combining print processes.
Our knowledge in these areas also come into play heavily when it comes to our publishing work, and because of our familiarity with the processes and materials, we’re able to make cost effective decisions that make our titles stand out while also keeping them accessible. It also means that our promotional items are very nice!
What prompted you to segue from printing into independent publishing?
Publishing is something that we’ve always wanted to do, but commercial print work always kept us pretty busy. That hasn’t really changed, but we felt that the moment was right to expand this program. Building a platform for marginalized voices has always been necessary, but it feels especially urgent now. We’re still printers, but one of our current goals is to combine the printing and publishing into something singular and unifying.
Can you please describe your work environment?
Our work environment is pretty awesome! We operate out of a commercial space in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, with all of the production machinery in the main room and our office in the back. One of the great things about being a worker-owned shop is that, while we do have our areas of specialization that we bottom-line, we’re often doing a little bit of everything. For example, my day usually includes customer service, bookkeeping, running the digital or offset press, ordering paper for jobs and other projects, editing, putting together blog posts, doing outreach for our titles, etc. It keeps things from getting stale and also gives us the opportunity to directly interface with people at every stage of their project. We’ve enjoyed keeping the book contributors up-to-date on the progress of the book by actively posting behind-the-scenes images and videos on social media.
Can you please elaborate on the various equipment and printing processes that Radix uses in-house?
We utilize three printing processes: offset lithography, letterpress printing, and digital printing. Our book AFTERMATH is actually a combination of all three processes. The text on the interior is offset printed, which is a much more affordable method of producing larger quantities, especially when it’s just text printed in black ink. The color images that appear throughout the book were done on our digital press, and the cover is letterpress printed with three colors in addition to foil stamping.
Because we own the means of production, these different processes were accessible to us, and we know how to manage all of the different elements to make a print project successful. Doing things this way gives us total control over the look and feel of our books, in a way that’s very hands-on, intentional, and personal. We hope that this makes our books stand apart from the thousands of others on the shelves.
In terms of the technical aspects of the three processes, they’re all pretty different, and each have their own strengths and weaknesses. A really elaborate answer can be found on our website
We’re also always down to geek out more with people about this sort of thing. So if you’re interested and really want to go down the rabbit hole, reach out!
What was the process of printing your first book, AFTERMATH: Explorations of Loss & Grief?
In May 2017, we put out an open call for submissions that lasted for three months, and we received nearly a thousand of them! It took months to organize everything, read and rate submissions, and ultimately whittle it all down to the thirty-three contributors that appear in the book. We knew right away how we were going to print it, so we let that guide our design aesthetic and process.
Actually producing the book was a ton of work and involved every printing process we offer across three different presses. Each spread of the book was laid out onto a larger press sheet for which we then made a printing plate. A press sheet can only be printed on one side at a time, so we ran more than 36,000 sheets of paper through the offset press—then flipped them all over and did it again! The spreads with color images then had to go through our digital press, some of them on both sides. Finally, we cut and collated the sheets down into book blocks to prepare them for perfect binding, which is the only thing we didn’t do in-house.
Why did you choose to focus on the topics of loss and grief for your first book publication?
We’re living in a very heavy world right now, with lots of things to process. One of the things we want to do with our publishing is provide a platform for people and experiences that might otherwise go unnoticed. What does it mean to be an immigrant family in the United States with a very anti-immigrant president in power? How does our crumbling healthcare system affect those with older loved ones? Questions like these are important, and we have more to gain by exploring them fully than by not.
What do you see for the future of Radix Media in independent publishing?
The roster of contributors for AFTERMATH is majority women and also very racially diverse, so we’re hoping to continue on that thread and publish more writers from underrepresented communities. No matter what the project, we’ll always take our time with it and ensure that each title we release is a beautifully printed piece of art in addition to featuring powerful content. We would love to do another themed anthology at some point, but our next project will likely be with just one person.
More than that, we’re looking forward to forming stronger relationships with other independent publishers in New York City and beyond. In the year that we’ve been with the CLMP, we’ve learned a lot from other publishers via the listservs, and have met some amazing people. We’re also currently developing some different discount commercial printing options that will be attainable through CLMP membership. It’s the most obvious way we can situate ourselves within the indie publishing eco-system, and we just really love independent publishing. There are so many people out there that we’d love to work with, and I hope that we’ll get to some day!
Check out our previous Member Spotlight on the South Carolina Review