News & Politics

Relegation Books Launches Student-Run Imprint at GMU

A local author’s effort to find a place for his own writing is about to help student writers negotiate today’s publishing jungle

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A local author’s effort to find a place for his own writing is about to help student writers negotiate today’s publishing jungle. Dallas Hudgens, whose novels Drive Like Hell and Season of Gene were released by the august Simon & Schuster imprint Scribner, turned to self publishing in 2012 for his story collection Wake Up We’re Here. “My time was up to prove myself through traditional publishing,” Hudgens told me over cappucinos recently. “I spent years asking others to take a chance on me. It was time to take a chance on myself.”

He needed a name for his self-publishing venture, and decided to be very literal. He called his imprint Relegation Books “because I felt relegated to a certain niche in traditional publishing and bookselling,” said Hudgens. While he wanted to leave the frustrating aspects of NY-centric publishing behind, Hudgens also felt strongly about producing a properly edited and designed book; he turned to professional colleagues Steven Bauer and Zach Dodson for those services.

Bauer and Dodson will work with Hudgens as Relegation makes its move to a bigger stage this year, releasing its first book in September: On Bittersweet Place by Ronna Wineberg. “I wanted to work with an author who hadn’t found an audience yet,” said Hudgens. “Someone who was worth a second chance.” In widening the circle of authors Relegation Books will publish, Hudgens also decided to widen the group of professionals with whom he works, adding Manhattan-based literary publicist Lauren Cerand to his team.

Cerand’s work with Relegation is no accident; the Potomac, Maryland native grew up reading the Washington Post and, like Hudgens, is “protective of DC,” meaning that both believe it is a place in which literary ideas and groups can flourish. As Cerand rode the train down this way to give a talk to George Mason University MFA students, she spoke with me and said “It’s no longer all about AWP or BEA in the writing and book worlds. Writers, authors, and publishers need to look at what’s going on down the street. That’s what makes a literary life.”

Making a literary life is the idea behind Relegation’s newest–and as yet unnamed–initiative: Giving seed money and direct support to a GMU MFA student-run imprint that will both help writers learn about the publishing process and how to publish their own work. “It’s their vision,” Hudgens emphasized. “How do you define success? How do you want to make books and writing part of your life?”

Hudgens and Cerand have coined a new moniker for what they’re doing: “craft publishing.” As Cerand notes, “There is no longer just one path to publish a book. It’s about looking at the best possible path for each book; they’re not all cut from the same cloth. One of the reasons I’m speaking to the MFA group regularly is to help them learn the latest best practices in book PR and marketing, but also to help them identify the places where there are no answers–yet.”

Dallas Hudgens knows there are places with no answers, and he hopes that Relegation Books and the nascent GMU imprint to realize that it’s time to ask new questions. “What is possible? What works best? The important thing, for me and for Relegation, was to take time and make what we put out be high quality work.”

That sounds like a great definition of success to come. Watch this space for more on Relegation Books and the GMU MFA imprint program–which [Ed.: THIS JUST IN!] will become known as Stillhouse Press.