No one could predict that the internet and social media would turn the spotlight on niche magazines and indie presses. And yet, according to market reports and sources like TheMediaBriefing.com, there's never been a better time to be a quality publisher. Some say it's the golden age of small, independent presses and publishing houses that push boundaries while their established colleagues compete for the next big series or bestseller.
Alternative magazines, following in the footsteps of Kinfolk and Lucky Peach, are also blossoming. Sometimes funded by crowdsourcing sites like Kickstarter, and often artfully designed, they provide an alternative to the media cycle, in which "recycling" is a key word. Unlike nationally circulating lifestyle brands, each independent magazine carries a sense of the place, atmosphere and area in which it was created. No wonder niche magazines are increasingly being called "time capsules."
This is very much the case with the InvernessAlmanac, a biannual print publication from West Marin, a region abundant with past niche publications, such as the well-loved Floating Island and Estero journals. With only four volumes since its inception around two years ago, InvernessAlmanac managed to set a certain tone. Each cover features an image from nature. Inside, local poetry, art, naturalist essays and inspirational ideas fill the pages.
This past month, the team behind the publication put it to rest to focus on their next venture, Mount Vision Press, without really leaving the niche category. The group consists of Jordan Atanat, 34, a woodworker from Point Reyes Station; Katie Eberle, 30, a radio host, DJ and designer from Marshall; Ben Livingston, 28, a farmer and musician from Inverness; Jeremy Harris, 30, a musician from Inverness; and Nina Pick, 33, a poet and editor who travels all over.
The five came together united by their love of West Marin and creativity, and married their individual skills. "We were inspired both by the beauty of West Marin, as well as the rich community of artists, writers and naturalists who live here," Harris says. "West Marin also has a tradition of local publications such as Floating Island, Tomales Bay Times, Pacific Plate, West Marin Review. Basically, the Inverness Almanac is the publication that we wished to exist. It didn't, so we decided to create it."
Ben Livingston remembers the exact conversation that encouraged him to join. "The idea was brought forth around a campfire in Bolinas. Jordan Atanat told me about his vision for a local publication, and I was immediately on board. It was a perfect venue for sharing my experience of the landscape I had grown up in, as well as embarking on a larger creative project than I ever had before."
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ON THE MAP West Marin is the home of Mount Vision Press and also a wellspring of inspiration.
While "the dreaming phase flowed pretty easy," according to Livingston, the practical part was educational, to say the least. The Almanac was printed in Minnesota and Wisconsin, to avoid the high costs of the Bay Area, Harris says.
There were other obstacles, too. "There is the actual making of the book, and then there is interfacing with printers, figuring out business structures, promoting the book, selling the book, planning release parties, on and on," Livingston says. "Dealing with the business side of things is probably the most difficult for me."
The first issue came together with help from the local community of artists, writers and artisans. "We put the word out that we'd be collecting submissions to form a publication about our landscape—the place, the people who live here and what gets made here," Harris says, and submissions poured in. By the fourth volume, which will be released this month, the team "received many more attractive submissions than we had space to include."
Embodying the West Marin spirit, the InvernessAlmanac has been sold in some of the best boutiques and decor stores in the Bay Area and beyond.