Perceval Press, the publishing house founded by the actor in 2002, just released in Argentina and the United States a Spanish edition of the Anthology of New Argentine Poetry, a compilation edited by Gustavo López. The imprint has a varied catalog which includes art criticism, painting, photography and poetry. In this compilation figure some of the most prominent names of the so-called "90's Generation" included are Fabián Casas, Gabriela Bejerman, Washington Cucurto and Martín Gambarotta, among others.
"Before starting to be an actor, I was already a writer," Viggo Mortensen says now. His publishing house, Perceval Press, just published the Anthology of New Argentine Poetry - a selection by Gustavo López, founder of Proyecto Vox - which includes 22 poets from the so-called " 90's Generation" like Fabián Casas, Damián Ríos, Marina Mariasch, Mario Artecca and Martín Prieto, among others. The print run of two thousand copies is something unusual for its kind in our country. Perceval's catalog - containing more than 30 titles - includes art, photography and painting books, disciplines which the founder is excited about. His fame is a plus, he says, because it draws attention and attracts more readers. "Although I'd been acting for 15 years, it was through Lord of the Rings that people got to know me, but I wrote and read poetry in the 80's."
Why start a publishing house?
"I had a book published in '92 or '93. After that, they published two catalogs for two exhibitions of my painting and photography and poetry in English and Spanish. And there I learned a lot, accompanying those responsible for the printing, for example. As a photographer, (the cover image of this new book is his) I was very concerned that the reproductions were good, and I thought, 'I like books, I like to read, I like to meet new writers, new artists.' And right before the opening of the second Lord of the Rings film, I thought that I could use the recognition to launch a small publishing company. I wanted to publish the artists I know that had not been published or perhaps they were published in a way they didn't like. Since people knew me, I published two books of my own the first year along with other books by people that were not known."
What is the structure of your publishing house and your work?
"Each book is done the way the artists want. I give my opinion as publisher, but nothing is done to a book that they don't like. I work with my brother and at times with my son; when I am not there, because of my travels, they are in charge. We sell in bookstores and on the internet."
What determines your print run?
"It depends on the book. Once we printed 5,000, but in general we print 1,000, from time to time 500. Poetry maybe a little more than here. If it is one my books, I know that people will buy it so I can feel free to print 2,000 and reprint, because they sell."
With the scale of your publishing house, what does it take for a book to be a commercial success?
"We have to sell everything. The design and the paper is very nice; we don't make cheap stuff and we have to recoup the costs. So the contracts are quite open. If we cover our costs, of the money that comes in, which is usually scarce, half is for the author. I know that the publishing house is something from which I'm never going to earn real money. My books help to call attention to the others and to economically balance the issue a bit economically. I like to do it. The authors tell me if they have an idea, a preface, an image and I might suggest, for example, a person who specializes in whatever the author is writing about. But I make the decision with them."
What do you say differs from the structure of most publishing groups. What difficulties does an independent publisher face in the United States?
"There are publishing houses that begin like ours, and, if their first years are successful, normally a bigger company buys them and makes them into one more of their brands, one of their prestige imprints. This is a good way to make money, but they also say to you, 'not this author, we want to publish someone who sells.' They are going to set limits, and I don't like that. I'm happy with what we do; if they were to get others to tell us how we have to design or what to publish, that would ruin it. It's possible that this book will sell well: I already said to Gustavo López that obviously it doesn't include all of the poets of the 90's, so it might be good to do another volume with the poetry of this generation."
How did you arrive at this project?
"Via Kevin Power, an Englishman who travels to Argentina a lot. Those who were going to publish it couldn't do it. I was interested in learning; which happens when you read these poems over and over. And it seems okay to me to take advantage of the fact that people know me to attract more poetry readers."
Is there an editor that has turned out to be an inspiration for your work, any role model that you could mention?
"No, I could have tried to sound very intelligent and name a lot of them, but the truth is, no. (laughs) We don't have a fixed idea of what we are going to do in three years, but we do have the next two years covered. The problem is, when I talk about the publishing house a bunch of stuff shows up afterward. And since we have so much to do and we go so slowly... We are not asking for submissions."