3 of 3 cool things: XOXOX Press

Photo courtesy of Jacqueline Bischoff

The third inspiring example of literary craft discovered at the Kenyon Review Literary Festival is delivered by XOXOX Press, the four-year-old independent publisher in Gambier, Ohio. In the spirit of McSweeney’s (and maybe four-year-olds), the founder of XOXOX, Jerry Kelly, publishes what he likes with confidence that readers will concur. We just might.



Kelly explains the name of his small press is a nod to the collections of correspondence that form several of the titles on its list, which includes short fiction, novels, nonfiction, poetry, oral history, and a CD recording. Something about old letters—the guilty sense of invading people’s privacy?—hooks me the way reality television draws audiences. Kelly’s intuition is apparently heavy on logic or carefully attuned to human nature.

Visiting the XOXOX Press website is like walking into a tiny bookstore for a chat with the quirky salesclerk. The copywriting is first-rate—convincing evidence of affection for the product.

One of the site’s more experimental offerings (not counting the sound recording of an Ohio barnyard at dawn) is a free ebook, Trinity: A Haydn & Speaker Mystery by Reed Browning. By way of introduction, Kelly remarks:

We are eager to see how mystery readers respond to this first fiction from an outstanding nonfiction writer and award-winning teacher. As the mystery world is new to this writer and this press, we present this title online in the hope of finding an audience and making a judgment as to publication of future titles in the series.

I don’t expect to be alone among the offbeat onlookers hoping for this unconventional publisher’s success. Standing apart from the usual ostentation, XOXOX Press is what it is: “Bright, unique little books.” Impressive.

Photo courtesy of Ria Hills

4 Replies to “3 of 3 cool things: XOXOX Press”

  1. I love the apt comparison of this site to McSweeney’s, Ohio style…I will say it until I’m blue in the face: it’s wonderful that you went to this festival, since it was a way for all of us to go along.

    Much thanks!

  2. What a lovely sentiment, Jo. By writing about XOXOX Press, I was trying to tease out the reason I instinctively liked the concept and the brand image. It wasn’t something I could instantly put into words.

    I’d love to attend Litquake one day. Wouldn’t a big meetup for that purpose be fun?

  3. Absolutely! I have never been to Litquake…and promise myself to next year.

    After all, this year I saw Springsteen in October. Next year, Litquake and the possibility of meeting Robin! I’m starting to love the prospect of October in California…


  4. Speaking of the publication of personal letters, this month, as noted in a press release on its website, “Harper Paperbacks has acquired Letters to a Bullied Girl by Olivia Gardner, a middle schooler from Northern California who was severely bullied at school.”

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