Tag Archives: publishing

SHUT UP & PUBLISH – The Phony Lid Manifesto


For five years, before I went broke and half-insane, I was a small press publisher. I started out doing zines and then moved on to trade paperbacks. In true DIY spirit, I handled every aspect of the operation myself: the editing, the designing, the printing, the distribution and the marketing… It was all about becoming the media and my steadfast determination to take a crackpot idea as far as I possibly could, despite the lack of money or the fact that I had no business running a publishing company. 

For most of my career as a publisher, I did odd jobs to survive. For a while, I was homeless and distributed zines out of the trunk of my car. I scammed print jobs from copy shacks. I stole paper and rarely paid for office supplies. To promote my titles, I became an internet flamer and through my reckless harassment, drove one fellow publisher into the loony bin. I finagled. I lied. I browbeat. I was arrested while soliciting ads. I turned my friends against me. I pissed off writers for not publishing their work. I pissed off the writers I published for not presenting their work in a way they preferred. I was threatened with multiple lawsuits, investigated by the State Attorney General and taken to small claims court by a former partner.

And that’s just what I can remember. Most of the time I was in a thick haze of self-importance, fueled by cheap drugs and the effects of untold hours in a small, poorly ventilated room in a burned out garage staring at a computer monitor until my eyes bled.

From the beginning I cultivated notoriety over prestige. I entered the world of publishing guns a-blazing. I embraced infamy, ready to do anything to crawl out of the muck of obscurity. I never intended to create an innocuous rag that might impress somebody’s literary-inclined relatives. I wanted to make something that would get me in trouble.

All the while, I held onto the delusion that what I was doing was noble: I was promoting literature. Real literature. Not the crap that was getting published in the New Yorker or the elitist academic lit journals. The way I looked at it, real literature came out of the trenches of the workaday existence. Real literature was created by true outsiders, not just those who could afford MFA degrees. It came from those born to misfortune and raised in families torn asunder. It rose up from the lost, the mentally imbalanced, the rude motherfuckers everybody loved to hate, the victims, the sluts, the whores, the wallflowers, the creeps, the losers, the purveyors of vice, the drunks, the druggies, the acid casualties, the thieves, the conmen, the liars who make it up as they go along and the liars who have their reasons for lying. Real literature was messy. And if you wanted the grit, you took the grime.

Once I embraced the role of a publisher, it became my life. Publishing was all I thought about, all I talked about, and all I wanted to hear about. In my zeal to publish more and more titles, I assumed more responsibilities than I was capable of accomplishing. I took on projects that were impractical. I turned away those that would generate profit. I was a horrible businessman. Not that it mattered. The small increments of money that showed up in the post office box were never enough to keep me flush, much less print more titles. What I earned as a painter, a handyman, a line cook, a bookseller or any one of my jack trades barely kept me alive. Eventually, I became unemployable. I had my sights set for loftier goals than maximizing the minimum wage. I just kept pushing forward, against the will of the universe, filling a catalogue with titles and announcing future publications, cajoling and lying and making empty promises, always hoping for the best.

Phony Lid lasted five years, all by the skin of my teeth. But in the end, I admitted defeat. Not because I never made any money, achieved any real acclaim or got the recognition I felt like I deserved—sure, there were some accolades, but who cares about that? No, I failed because other people’s writing overshadowed the one story I needed to tell.

And that was the story of Phony Lid.


from Pamphleteria: The Rise and Fall of Phony Lid


Related Posts:

Piltdownlad #9 – Pamphleteria: The Rise and Fall of Phony Lid


Piltdownlad #9 – Pamphleteria: 
The Rise and Fall of Phony Lid

Part One: Shut Up and Publish

For five years, before I went broke and half-insane, I was a small press publisher. I started out doing zines and then moved on to trade paperbacks. In true DIY spirit, I handled every aspect of the operation myself: the editing, the designing, the printing, the distribution and the marketing… It was all about becoming the media and my steadfast determination to take a crackpot idea as far as I possibly could, despite the lack of money or the fact that I had no business running a publishing company. 

The first part of a three part series, this is the story of how I started publishing my first zine, Vagabond, back at the turn of the century. I’d just acquired a computer and was ready to take over the world. Or course, life got in the way. So it’s also about dealing with failed relationships, having a fucked up family, working dead end jobs in Birmingham, Alabama, and the search for existential meaning. Or just something to take my mind off all the bullshit. Still, a work in progress.

half-size . 64 pp . perfect bound

trade or etsy


Related Posts:

Erratic Printing – The Evolution of Phony Lid


The story of the first Phony Lid book

“I didn’t know what to do at first. The covers looked horrible. I set them out in the sun, hoping to dry the ink. But after a day, there was no improvement.”


Related Posts:

The Phony Lid Archives: Vagabond Review #2


Vagabond Review #2

Released in the Spring of 1999 in Birmingham, Alabama.


featured work by Ace Boggess, Louis Baudrey, Artemis Verde, Paul Perry, David Rowe, Errol Miller, Stasia Collins, G. Tod Slone, Scott Howdeshell, Kelley Braverman, Russell Helms, Marie Kazalia, and Jack Miller, with artwork and photographs by Aaron Van Argersinger, G. Tod Slone, Roi Tamkin and James Kelewae

64 pages

Read the PDF


Related Posts:

New Logo for Phony Lid Books


Related Posts:

Editor’s Note to SEX & GUTS 4

By Gene Gregorits

Sex & Guts began in 1997 as a xeroxed, stapled along the spine fanzine by Harrisburg, PA native Gene Gregorits. The publication has evolved greatly with each subsequent issue. Having established a tradition of publishing in-depth (and usually invasive) conversations with musicians, filmmakers, writers, and artists, the magazine has cultivated a marginal cult following, while striving to break out to a wider readership.

“My earliest ambition with Sex & Guts,” says Gregorits, “was simply to cover the kind of films, literature, and music I appreciate most, that being the dark stuff, art which is concerned more with real people, their problems, their situations. I’m an idealist, or at least a realist, and I’m constantly searching for things that reflect the way I feel about the world today. I think that is the function of creativity, to express how you feel about the world around you. I’m especially interested in fucked up, creative people, why and how they do what they do. How they survive. Their obsessions. A lot of these people do not have a collective voice in contemporary entertainment media. The independent film magazines that are out there aren’t interested in the same people, and they can’t even manage to be entertaining or engaging. Neither can the mainstream magazines. If a magazine can provoke as well as inform, why not do both?”

“But by the second issue, I’d realized that a magazine devoted only to this kind of material didn’t exist, and at that point started seeing Sex & Guts as something much bigger than a fanzine, whether or not a large audience for it existed. Entertainment journalism has grown so unbelievably stale, and the underground is practically dead. I think the world needs a truly outrageous arts and entertainment magazine, something to breathe some life back into the newsstand. Into culture, generally. Discovering new things, keeping up with the independent art culture, that should be fun. And I don’t see why reading a magazine shouldn’t be any less a confrontational or emotionally stimulating experience than reading a novel.”

Legendary “punk diva,” raconteur, and spoken word/performance art icon Lydia Lunch became involved when Sex & Guts was revived after a three year hiatus. (Her first appearance in the zine was in 1998, interviewed by Gregorits.) Lunch’s second stint as Sex & Guts co-editor is the current release, a 280 page large paperback, published by small press veteran Kelly Dessaint’s Phony Lid Books.

“I really think that we cover things that matter, that we talk to people who need to be heard, who should not be living in utter obscurity, or poverty…but do, and live their lives dedicated to producing work that, while shocking or upsetting to some people, expresses feelings and thoughts that relate to us all on some level. This is not a time in history when either passion or urgency exist in any kind of abundance. To me, that is more than reason enough to take chances. I expect that kind of attitude from people, I expect it from movies and books too.”

It’s difficult to define Sex & Guts as a magazine or a fanzine or a book. It’s perpetually in flux, and although the subject matter itself is often of a profane manner, it is the integrity and heartfelt humanity of the work, and of the artists covered, that makes the publication valid.

“I aim, first and foremost, to communicate ideas with Sex & Guts, but I also try very hard to produce a kind of journalism around those ideas that is entertaining, to profile and promote these artists in a way that compels, and maybe even amuses.”


Table of contents can be viewed here.

Many of the interviews from Sex & Guts #4 and earlier issues can be found here.

Related Posts:

ZineCon Las Vegas 2000 interview

I’m on the youtubes! Interview with me at Las Vegas ZineCon in 2000.

Related Posts:

%d bloggers like this: