Paseo Arts District’s Literati Press continues its mission for quality content as it changes spaces 

click to enlarge Literati Press founder Charles Martin, with partner Kristen Grace, carefully curates the selection of titles in the Paseo Arts Distict bookstore| Photo Gazette / file
  • Literati Press founder Charles Martin, with partner Kristen Grace, carefully curates the selection of titles in the Paseo Arts Distict bookstore| Photo Gazette / file

Literati Press Comics & Novels is moving to a new location, albeit less than 30 feet from its current one.

Holey Rollers, the popular vegan-friendly doughnut food truck, officially opens its brick-and-mortar business this month near the shop window at The Paseo Plunge, 3010 Paseo St. The highly anticipated opening also means the curated book boutique and independent publishing label Literati Press, which splits its space with Jennifer Woods Jewelry and Geeky Dweeb Apparel, is moving back into the building in an area formerly occupied by the building’s gallery space.

Charles Martin, Literati’s founder, said the shop will be moving from its current spot near the Paseo Plunge entrance to a south-facing corner where temporary art exhibitions had been displayed. Exhibition art will now begin in the entry space formerly occupied by Literati.

The move, Martin said, will afford the bookstore more space, which means growing its small but carefully selected inventory.

Part of the Paseo Plunge building, a former public swimming pool facility, is open to the public while much of the interior is being renovated for future use.

Martin said when the space is ready, Literati will eventually move to a permanent home within the Plunge in an area not yet open to the public.

Launch pad

Though Literati has not yet matured into its final, full-sized form, it has gone through some significant growth in recent years. The operation began in 2010 as a small publishing company essentially operating out of Martin’s bedroom.

As a young writer, Martin was not quite sure what to do next. In school, the writing industry he was taught about was one where writers wrote their books, sold them to a national publisher and let corporate figures work through promotion and distribution while the writers merely had to show up for book signings. This was far from the model he encountered in the real world. Writers had to prove themselves on a smaller scale before they could ever dream of reaching a larger publisher.

“When you’re choosing your publisher, what you’re looking for is a publishing company which you feel comfortable collaborating with — their values meet your values; their library will be a good fit for your title,” Martin said.

Small local publishers often have a reputation for taking any and all comers for eventual print. Martin’s philosophy for Literati is to be a little more selective. The wider array of titles a publisher offers, the less able that publisher is to adequately promote them.

“Our goal was to make sure whatever title we brought in made sense on our table,” he said.

Literati saw its first wide success after publishing Natasha Alterici’s popular comic book series Heathen, which grew such a strong following that Martin soon found that the publishing label just did not have the infrastructure to support it in the way it needed. He has since passed on the title to the larger Montana- and Maryland-based Vault Comics.

That transition helped Martin realize a new part of Literati’s mission.

“It’s kind of in the same way a small indie music label gets that first title out and, once they see success, move them onto a larger label,” he said. “The benefit from that is that you can retain content from that writer and as they get more successful, that title continues selling.”

Careful consideration

Though publishing is still at the core of Literati’s mission, the bookstore side of the business is likely what most locals recognize it for. In the age of Amazon and Barnes & Noble, Martin said Literati will always value quality of selection over quantity.

Martin operates Literari in partnership with shop manager Kristen Grace. The duo also hosts the podcast Literati Book Club in which they discuss larger topics through the books in the store’s inventory.

Literati only sells books that either one of the two has actually read or has a specific reason for offering it to the community.

“We feel comfortable in anyone coming in and telling us the kind of books that they like and matching them up with a book,” Martin said.

Literati describes itself as a bookstore that specializes in cerebral and progressive storytelling. The books on its shelves are usually meant to challenge the way readers view things and broaden the way in which they see the world.

Martin said they’re selective not just as a way of insuring the quality of the stock, but as a tool against book burnout.

“When someone comes to us and says, ‘Oh, I don’t read books,’ it’s because they don’t know the books that they want to be reading,” he said. “There’s books for everyone.”

Martin sees this mission as particularly important in Oklahoma, where a frequently outmatched education system is challenged to foster a love for reading.

“In Oklahoma, if you give a bad book to somebody, they may not read another book,” he said. “Part of this shop is trying to change that culture.”


Print headline: Page-turner; Paseo Arts District’s Literati Press continues its mission for quality content as it changes spaces.


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