It’s now a common thesis in media coverage of the book industry: The independent bookstore is resurging, ebook sales are tapering and print is back. Anecdotally, in Las Vegas anyway, the fact that The Writer’s Block on East Fremont Street remains alive and kicking supports this idea. So it shouldn’t be surprising that a new local press, with an emphasis on regional travel and local crime fiction, has emerged in the post-Kindle age.
What is unusual is that Imbrifex Books was launched by locals with a serious stake in, and experience with, internet publishing. Indeed, before making a go in the realm of printed books, publisher Mark Sedenquist (who is also the VP of Flattop Productions, which owns Imbrifex) created one of the very first travel blogs, roadtripamerica.com, in 1996, well before the term “blog” was even coined. What may appear as a leap of analog faith is, in his view, a natural progression—even an extension—of his trip-planning website’s aesthetic.
“It’s an exciting moment to be a publisher. The tech just gets better and better, and there are so many stories people want to share in print.”–Mark Sedenquist, Imbrifex publisher
“We’re having a great time,” says Sedenquist, clearly pumped on the eve of releasing his fourth title, Strings: A Love Story by Megan Edwards. “It’s an exciting moment to be a publisher. The tech just gets better and better, and there are so many stories people want to share in print.”
Sure, some stories sell better on the web, and in ebook and audiobook formats, but there’s still nothing like a book that you can hold in your hands. “This is a challenging field to be working in, no doubt,” concedes Sedenquist. “But I’m of the opinion that, if you deliver good products, you’ll find success.”
On a literary level, Imbrifex products are quite good, even genre-expanding. Take, for instance, H.G. McKinnis’ A Justified Bitch: A Las Vegas Mystery, about a cat-engulfed, hallucination-prone hoarder who finds a severed finger in her yard, leading authorities—and her friends—to suspect her of murder. The dialogue is quirky, the plot headlong. Then there’s Edwards’ Full Service Blonde, the second installment in the Copper Black Mystery series, in which the journalist-narrator, Black, begins her story by summarizing her adjustment to Southwest desert living:
“Not that I haven’t learned a lot in my nearly eight months in Las Vegas. I know about high pollen counts and flash floods, the shortage of obstetricians, and the abundance of Mormon churches. I’m an expert at giving directions using casinos as landmarks. I know even when real Nevadans said “Nevada,” the VAD rhymes with MAD. Only newscasters broadcasting from Rockefeller Center say Ne-VAH-da. Well, I used to, too, but I’ve acclimatized.”
Getting the details right is part of Imbrifex’s aim, a holdover from Sedenquist’s work on roadtripamerica.com. “I’ve always sought out voice-driven authors who possess an intimate and particular knowledge of their settings. We’re after a similar quality with our novels and travel guides.”
“One of best lessons I’ve learned from running a travel website is that there’s no such thing as a boring place,”–Sedenquist
Sedenquist’s roster comprises, for the most part, experienced mid-list authors represented by agents. A few are making their debut and relish the collaboration and mentorship, which today’s big publishers have mostly abandoned in favor of blockbuster releases. “Imbrifex has been amazing,” says McKinnis, a first-time published author. “They took me by my inexperienced hand, walked me through the whole process.”
Edwards (Sedenquist’s wife and Imbrifex’s acquisitions editor), meanwhile, shouldered the burden of being the indie company’s first author.
“I refer to my first novel [with Imbrifex] as the ‘monkey in space,’” says Edwards. “Somebody had to go first, and I was glad I had a manuscript ready for the launchpad. Nothing went wrong, the monkey lived.”
Now all Imbrifex needs is a steady stream of great manuscripts. Given their commitment to Las Vegas and the surrounding areas, there shouldn’t be a shortage of stories. Indeed, four more books are slated for 2018.
“One of best lessons I’ve learned from running a travel website is that there’s no such thing as a boring place,” insists Sedenquist. “We want to find authors who have unique and authentic stories to tell. When readers pick up our books, we want them to have a sense of what a place is really like.”