The Life of a Musician Publisher

Holy shit, if you are reading this that means The Dionysus Effect's debut album is out RIGHT NOW. Putting out a book as a writer or a publisher is hard, but putting out an album feels like an act of extreme hubris. The recording, figuring out the order of the songs, pitching them to playlists, and just hoping anyone will give a fuck—it’s a hell of a ride.

The last few years I’ve been less of writer and more of publisher-musician or musician-publisher. My plate got really full after my press was accepted for distribution and my wife and I had our first kid. It was too much. Something had to go. It ended up being the writing. Not to say I don't write anymore, but going from writing every day to being lucky to write once a week was a major change for me.

The only way I was able to keep my mental health intact was to put all that creative energy into music. Like I told Brian Keene at StokerCon, I am able to stay sane as a publisher because I have a band. I have an outlet. I have a place to take off that heavy as hell publishing hat where I only have to give a fuck about staying on time and staying in key.

Publishing and music are such a pivotal part of my life. They both pretty much take up most of my time. One is a job, one is a passion. They influence each other in fun and surprising ways. I have recorded songs inspired by books I published. "Girl Like a Bomb," "Darryl" and "Secret Song" (aka the In Defense of Ska song) are all on this album. We already have new songs written that are inspired by other books I’ve worked on for the press.

There needed to be a press that lived somewhere in-between the micropress and corporate publishing for risk-taking, un-agented books.

I am very lucky and privileged to be a working publisher and editor. Very lucky, but there are trade-offs. It’s not an easy gig and it’s super stressful almost every day of the week. I joke that I am a Pisces who had to become a Capricorn. There is so much draining stuff I have to do behind the scenes. I've really gotten to see how the meat is made in publishing. It can be very disenchanting.

I’ve seen excellent books not sell like I thought they should, would, could of because of a risk-adverse industry. It’s heart-breaking and frustrating. You feel a bond with writers you work with and the worst feeling in publishing is feeling like you’ve let a writer down. That is my personal hell, and in an industry obsessed with celebrity and the easy sell, it’s bound to happen almost every publishing season.

It's a lot of pressure. Unfortunately with music you see similar bullshit. Commerce driven choices and gate-keeping. I see writers getting annoyed at magazine editors, but I promise you book and magazine editors are the lesser of the evils compared to playlist organizers and Spotify. And Bezos makes Spotify look like a non-profit. The digital age has given us just as many challenges as advantages.

Despite all the obstacles between musicians and their potential audience I still create and distribute music because I love it. My heart is in it. I get to write songs with my two best friends, record them, and play them live. There would be a void in my life if I didn’t have this band. This band is like medicine for me.

The band and the press operate in different ways with different energies. The press is me attempting to give writers what I want in an indie press, and the band is about me writing the music I want to hear. It was not my “dream” to be a publisher, but I saw from my own experience there needed to be a press that lived somewhere in-between the micropress and corporate publishing for risk-taking, un-agented (though we do work with agents now) books.

It is a cool paradox. Focusing on helping writers has come back to me in musical inspiration. Even though I hardly write myself these days, the music is flowing. I give a lot of credit to the band, but a lot to the authors I work with as well. For example, the opening song on our album, "Go," is totally inspired by Tea Hacic-Vlahovic’s Life of the Party, with that first line “Let’s get wild tonnniiiight, going out and I can’t decide.” She and Eric LaRocca have inspired future songs that have this Goth party rock vibe. Even the recently released The Longest Summer inspired a song with one of the catchiest choruses I've ever written. I just keep writing songs when I'm not doing press work. Inspiration is a real thing and working with a bunch of awesome unique authors influences my art in unexpected and rad ways.

I am proud of this debut album. I have a standard as an editor and kept that same energy when recording songs. I hit my standard and I tell writers I work with, hitting your own standard for where you want your art to be is its own reward. I did my part in making a pure unadulterated rock n' roll album. How that does in the marketplace is now out on my hands. How people view me, whether it is as a publisher or musician, is out of my hands, too. None of that really matters, what matters is the work itself. It’s out and the album is no longer mine, it belongs to you and everyone else who wants to listen to it. I’m going to celebrate and get ready to work on the next one.

Listen to the debut album by The Dionysus Effect HERE

Christoph Paul

Column by Christoph Paul

Christoph Paul is the Managing Editor and owner of CLASH Books, who have published over 60 books and have been covered by NPR, Poets & Writers, Rolling Stone, Believer Magazine, Oprah Magazine, The Observer, Fangoria, and Publisher's Weekly. The press has had books translated into Spanish, French, and Italian. He has been editing books in almost every genre for over a decade. As an author, he won a humor award and had viral cult success under a pen name. He is the lead singer and bass player of the rock band The Dionysus Effect, who have received positive reviews in Loudwire, EARMILK, and Red Rock Magazine. He sometimes writes songs about the books he publishes because even artists are inspired by their day jobs. Follow him on Twitter @christophpaul_ @clashbooks @dionysuseffect.

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