Last month, when Fictional Film Club by Mark Savage was named as a finalist for the 2021 Oregon Book Awards, it marked a major milestone for Deep Overstock, a small press launched in 2018 by booksellers dedicated to publishing the work of booksellers, librarians and other "champions of the book."
"Booksellers are a creative bunch," said editors-in-chief Robert Eversman and Michael Collins, who first met while working as shelvers at Powell's Books in Portland, Ore. Just about everyone at Powell's, where they worked alongside consulting editor and author Jonathan van Belle, was writing, illustrating or creating something of their own. With so many booksellers "dreaming up" original stories while shelving books published by big authors and publishers, they wanted to help give their colleagues a push toward publishing their own writing.
The press's name comes from the bookstore term for those "high shelves you need the staff-only ladder to reach," which could be anything from a hundred extra copies of Harry Potter to classic titles so obscure only collectors ever ask for them. Whether the titles published by the press turn out to be mega hits or cult classics, Eversman and Collins noted, it's about pulling those books down from "deep overstock" and getting them out into the world.
"Deep Overstock wants to give booksellers the opportunity to shelve their own work for a change," explained Collins.
Deep Overstock has so far published poetry collections, novels and, most recently, creative nonfiction. Their focus is not on any single genre or subject but on creative work that crosses genres and excites them. As booksellers, they noted, they spend a lot of time reading and they "know what's out there." Their hope is to publish innovative work from booksellers and others in the industry who also know "what is missing from the shelves."
The press's first title was Midnight Mistress Muse, a poetry collection by the late Bryony Blaze, who founded Portland's Queer Poetry Takeover (now Queer PDXpression). Andy Anderson, a Portland poet and a fellow bookseller, approached them about publishing Blaze's unpublished work after Blaze's death. That year Deep Overstock published Fictional Film Club, and in 2020 released the illustrated science fiction novel Hypnotize: The Birth of Hypno by Jason Squamata and the poetry collection Light Sleeper by Coleman Stevenson. On Valentine's Day this year, Deep Overstock published Zenithism by Jonathan van Belle, the press's first nonfiction title.
Eversman, Collins and the Deep Overstock team also publish four journal issues per year. They "cycle through the themes" as if they were spending a day in Powell's, with each issue based on a room at the bookstore. The first journal's theme was Space Exploration, from the Pearl Room at Powell's, and the most recent was Mysteries, from the Coffee Room. The team is accepting submissions for the next journal, Future, which takes its theme from the Red Room (submissions are open until May 31).
When Deep Overstock heard that Fictional Film Club was a finalist for the 2021 Oregon Book Awards, Eversman said, the team "felt a great sense of pride, but really for Mark's sake." At the same time, there was perhaps a "little bit of relief," as the announcement helped serve as an indicator that they're doing something right. "We've been around for three years, and with each issue and title we're growing, but with an award finalist it feels like we're legitimate." --Alex Mutter