Deep Vellum expands literary and translation options in North Texas

Rory Moore | Mercury Staff

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The smell of coffee welcomes guests into Deep Vellum, a small bookstore where a curated selection of translated books from every corner of the world fills shelves top to bottom. These translated works transport readers to all corners of the Earth — from well-known Japan to smaller countries like the island nation of São Tomé and Principe.  

Deep Vellum started as a publishing house in 2013 and opened a nonprofit indie bookstore in 2015 under Will Evans, a publisher, translator, entrepreneur and UTD professor. The small bookstore sits at the intersection of S. Walton Street and Commerce Street and specializes in publishing and selling translated literary works from all over the world. Writers include authors both from the Dallas area — like poet and inaugural Poet Laurate Joaquin Zihuantanejo — and those from abroad — like Norwegian author and 2023 Nobel Prize winner, Jon Fosse. Selections including short stories, poetry, romance, fiction, nonfiction and more can be found sifting through the bookstore. 

“[Our] mission is to pick books that you can’t find anywhere else in Dallas,” said Abigail Lesage, literature senior and Deep Vellum bookseller. “I really like that a lot of the books [at Deep Vellum] I don’t know, or I’ve never heard of before, which to me is very refreshing. And I see other people say that that’s refreshing as well.” 

Evans said he always had a love of literature but never expected to be the owner of a publishing house and bookstore. After five years of touring with a band and working in the music industry, he felt he needed a change and settled in Austin. While in Austin, Evans tried his hand at translation after reading Vilnius Poker by Ričardas Gavelis, translated by Elizabeth Novickas. This book introduced Evans to publisher Chad W. Post, who became his mentor in creating Deep Vellum.  

“For us, literature becomes this way to build the bridge into connectivity between individuals and between entire cultures,” Evans said. 

Evans created Deep Vellum after noticing not enough published translated books and decided to fill this gap in the book industry. He said it took him 5 years to get Deep Vellum off the ground, because of its nonprofit status. Without any prior knowledge of how to get started, he embarked on a solo journey of what he wanted to create. 

“I started [Deep Vellum] because I had to create the thing I wanted to see in the world,” Evans said. “That kind of entrepreneurship is fun, bold, but the mistake I made was that I did it alone.” 

About 3% of books published in the U.S. are translations. Of those books, 11 publishing imprints are from the Big Five publishers— Penguin Random House, Hatchett, Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster and Macmillan. The Big Five publishers are conglomerates of the book publishing industry, generating over $12 billion in revenue and controlling about 80% of the industry. Most published translated books are still published by independent publishers, like Deep Vellum.  

Shelby Vincent, associate director of the Translation Center at UTD, said publishers are sometimes hesitant to publishing translated works because they think Americans don’t like to read translations — even though Americans are well-versed in the works of foreign writers, like Dostoyevsky, Proust, Kafka and more. 

“All of the world’s knowledge comes to us through translated works, whether it’s philosophy or history or literature, the knowledge that’s imparted is going to come through works in translation,” Vincent said.  

Deep Vellum has encouraged the growth of the literary community in Dallas since its start. Deep Vellum launched the Dallas Poet Laurate with the Dallas Public Library and the Office of Arts and Culture in April 2022, using public readings, workshops, classes and events to cultivate a community appreciative of arts and literature. They also work with adult literacy programs in Dallas, helping to bridge the gap between publishers and readers. 

“Being a nonprofit is not just about publishing books for [that] people already know, we’re also bringing more readers into what we do,” Evans said. “We need to have something for readers at every stage of their reading life and their reading journey.” 

To celebrate Deep Vellum’s 10th year in retail, they will host a join party with The Wild Detectives bookstore, which opened its doors the same year as them. The bookstore’s 10-year birthday celebration is a free three-day party weekend from April 19-21 that will include storytelling performances, DJ setlists, tattoo artists and merchandise available for purchase.  

Evans said he is amazed at what he was able to accomplish by running a small indie bookstore. He says Deep Vellum is now becoming international as they expand their administrative offices to New York and possibly London. 

“The most important thing is that this work is very fulfilling, and it means a lot and I know it makes a difference culturally and it’s changed my life,” Evans said. 


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