The co-owners of Glass Bookshop have now become publishers to encourage and elevate the kind of work they want to sell in their independent bookstore.
Glass House Press launches this week with the publication of three chapbooks: Bellow by Shima Robinson, aka Dwennimmen, Notes on Digging a Hole by Zachary Ayotte, and Ancestors and Exes by Emily Riddle.
"It was always something that my business partner, Jason Purcell, and I wanted to pursue together because our mandate is to support queer and racialized authors and independent presses," Matthew Stepanic said, adding that he and Purcell know many talented local writers who don't have their work published in book form.
Glass House Press will benefit from promotion through the bookshop, but it will exist as its own non-profit entity. Stepanic describes it as "two different businesses that work together naturally and makes sense to be contained in cohesion," similar to House of Anansi in Toronto. By setting it up that way, the press will be able to access grants and funding to remain sustainable.
That element of sustainability is integral to ensuring contributing artists are paid fairly for their work, said Stepanic, who has a background in publishing and co-founded Glass Buffalo magazine. Chapbook presses within Canada don't often pay their authors, he explained, instead opting to use the funds generated from sales to pay for future chapbooks.
"I think artists should be paid for their art ... that's really the only way that they can continue to make and create new art," Stepanic said. "With the press, there are no plans for it to make a profit other than to keep reinvesting in itself ... to serve the artists that it's working with."
He and Purcell have worked to strike a balance between operating a viable business and doing good with Glass Bookshop as well, where they pay staff a living wage and aim to build a better literary ecosystem in the city and across Canada.