Sander Hicks: Rebel Bookseller and Entrepreneurial Punk
I briefly mentioned Sander Hicks in yesterday’s post about Sam Calagione’s Dogfish Head Microbrewery, although it occured to me that most of you probably don’t know a whole about Hicks’ entrepreneurial history. It’s actually quite fascinating, and if you happen to live anywhere near the New York City area, you can even visit Hicks’ latest project yourself — it’s a politically-minded bookstore, coffee shop, and independent publishing resource center in Brooklyn called Vox Pop.
Hicks’ entrepreneurial career began back in 1996, when he launched Soft Skull Press, a staunchly independent publishing house that quickly became known as one of the oddest, most unusual, and most politically outspoken organizations in the book world. Hicks sold his company to Winton & Shoemaker in 2007, and today he operates a truly unique publishing organization of another sort — it’s known as Drench Kiss Media Corporation. Hicks himself describes Drench Kiss as “a multi-media attack that includes print publishing, new media, and innovative projects in television and film.” On the company’s website, Hicks goes on to say that “Drench Kiss publishes books that are so truthful, so powerful, other publishers are frightened of them. We will examine secrets currently unexamined and broaden the parameters of public discourse set currently by the Establishment media.”
I’ve never been much of political junkie myself, and yet I can’t help but be at least somewhat fascinated by what Drench Kiss is doing. That’s probably because Hicks has always been the sort of entrepreneur who infuses all of his projects with a great sense of theatre, and with a touch of the absurb. That can sometimes be very useful, especially when you’re attempting to sell something as serious and heavy as political theory.
When it comes to bookstores, however, I simply can not stay away. I haven’t yet had the chance to visit Hicks’ Vox Pop store, but from the looks of the website, it seems to be quite an unusual spot. A popular Brooklyn-based weblog described the store thusly: “Part bookstore, coffee bar, performance space, instant publishing center, community center, Vox Pop is sort of a live blog, with tons of atmosphere and cultural vitality.”
Are you curious to know what the “instant publishing center” is all about? Apparently, Hicks and his army have very recently opened a second retail space that sits next door to Vox Pop; it’s called Publish Yourself!, and from what I can tell it has a lot in common with DIY resource centers like the IPRC in Portland, Ore.. Publish Yourself! offers print-on-demand solutions for authors, as well as editing, graphic design and book binding services. I can’t say for sure just yet, but it sounds to me that this place may in fact be the very first writer’s assistance center of its kind in the country. I have plans to be in Manhattan during the first week of December for a journalism course, and if I can spare the time, I’ll certainly head on over to Brooklyn in order to check out Hicks’ new media empire for myself. I’ll post an update of some sort here — probably in about two weeks — if I’m able to see the space.