Publisher Spotlight: Cinco Puntos Press

With roots on the U.S./Mexico border, Cinco Puntos publishes great books which make a difference in the way you see the world.

Welcome to the Cinco Puntos Press website. We’re really glad that your travels on the web have brought you here. To tell you the truth, we’re a little bit surprised to be here ourselves. If you’d told us some twenty-six years ago when we first cooked up plans for Cinco Puntos in our house that we’d be meeting anyone out in cyberspace this many years later, we would have been amazed. And we still are amazed, because publishing is one miraculous business. To watch a book unfold, to watch it find its audience and its life in the hands of a reader is a stunningly miraculous business.

We are Bobby and Lee Byrd, owners and publishers of Cinco Puntos. We started Cinco Puntos Press in 1985. We are a small, very independent publishing company rooted here in El Paso, Texas, not three miles north of the U.S. Mexican Border. We are both writers. We started Cinco Puntos because we wanted more time to write and we found as we have moved further and further into the publishing life, that publishing, like writing, is an act of self-discovery. Every book takes us to a new place. Each book leads us into unexpected intellectual terrains. These are places we might have never experienced without the provocation of new books and the business of making and selling them.

Publishing, like writing, is an organic process. We don’t know exactly what the book will become when we first see it in manuscript, but in the give and take between us and the author and, as it passes through our hands as editors, and through the hands of the people we work with who translate or design or illustrate the text, it becomes something new, different, and wonderful—a true collaboration.

We come to publishing as writers. We aren’t educators. We think it’s important to note that. Manuscripts are really interesting to us when the writing is amazing or the voice of the author is unique or the book opens up a door into a culture or a people that hasn’t been opened before. Or when the writer is someone whose work we’ve just plain admired over a long period of time. There are so many fine publishers who understand the educational needs of children and what kids should be learning at what age, but that’s not how we approach publishing.

Because we are so deeply involved with the books we publish, they are BOOKS to us, not products, not items. They’re more like children, and when people love them, we are very proud and very pleased. And even when people don’t love them, we still have that sense that they are very good and they give us a great deal of satisfaction.

Our first three books—Dagoberto Gilb’s Winners on the Pass Line; Joe Somoza’s chapbook Backyard Poems; and Joe Hayes’ La Llorona, The Weeping Woman, our best-selling book ever—established a DNA imprint of how we were to grow. These authors were all close friends, they had these three wonderful books, each was very generous to trust us. We wanted very much to be publishers, whatever that meant to us at the time. Our initial ignorance about publishing was not bliss, but it did translate into innocence and energy and curiosity. If we had known what we were getting into back then, we probably would have been frightened away.

But we weren’t. Since those first three books, we have published close to 130 books, each one with its own story. We have moved the business from our home in the Five Points neighborhood (thus, the name of our press: Five Points in Spanish is Cinco Puntos) to Texas Avenue in downtown El Paso. And in 2004 our son John, who grew up packing books for us, came home from Austin to work with us. He’s been vital to our understanding of what Cinco Puntos is and what we are to become.

We are distributed to the trade by Consortium Books Sales and Distribution, now owned by Perseus. We can’t say enough good things about Consortium, about the people we work with, about their professionalism and their enthusiasm for our books, and about all we’ve learned by being affiliated with so many like-minded indie publishers through Consortium.

In recognition of our importance as a voice for this region and our commitment to literature, we have received Cultural Freedom Fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, and an American Book Award for excellence in publishing. We’ve been inducted into the Latino Literary Hall of Fame. We’ve received five publishing grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, and three similar grants from the Texas Commission for the Arts. The Border Regional Library Association, in addition to awarding Southwest Book Awards for many of our books over the years, presented CPP with a special Southwest Book Award in 1993 for outstanding achievement in bringing national recognition to our regional literature. We have also received two grants from the Fideicomiso para la Cultura de México y Estados Unidos (funded jointly by the Belles Artes and the Rockefeller Foundation).

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