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DIY Poetry Publishing Cooperative

June 02, 2006

Hey, good news!

Those of you who participated in the shared storefront conversation (here) will be happy to hear that a shared Lulu.com store is currently being built!

I haven't had time yet to do much more than create the DIY Poetry Web Ring store and smack a few titles up, but I should be able to come up with something pretty slick in the next couple of months (customizing the html template, trying out a few things) and at that point will link it up here. The store will highlight a rotating selection of titles, and hopefully I will also be able to include reviews, etc. There will be a built-in function for submitting titles for consideration, & readers will be able to purchase items from various Lulu.com publishers in a single checkout.

Nifty, eh? Stay tuned.

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The break-even point: traditional offset vs. POD

I missed a few interesting things last week while reporting in excruciating detail on my letterpress class, y'all. And one of them is this post by Meritage Press publisher Eileen Tabios.
Having just released my first POD title, I can make some comparisons, including the number of book sales I must sell to cover costs related to printing and designing a book. Here's a comparison of this "break-even" sales point for a POD title versus a title printed through more conventional means, to wit:

POD title: about 133 books

Conventionally printed title: about 435 books.

These numbers are based on moi Meritage Press' experience -- but possibly reflective of many poetry presses. The comparison results mostly from how a publisher doesn't have to incur right away the costs of creating an inventory, which, for Meritage Press titles, historically has been about 1,000 copies. That inventory cost offsets the advantage of conventional printing in its lower cost-per-book basis.

For a POD title, I'd probably first order about 200 copies to cover anticipated review copies, some initial sales, author copies and so on. That's 200 versus 1,000 copies I need finance right away. (Of course I'd order more than 200 copies, depending on a particular poet's "market" but it likely still wouldn't near 1,000 right away.)

Now, if you're a poet or publisher, you know that selling 133 books -- let alone 435 books -- is a chore. It's probably a near-impossibility for many poetry books, at least within a reasonable period of time. (Let me stress -- I'ma talking real poetry sales, not comps or trades. Sales.)

As Eileen notes, the break-even point will vary for each publisher, and is affected by how much is spent on promotional activities such as advertising and complimentary review copies (and their postage), etc., in addition to the base operating costs of running a press (which depends on the size of the outfit, number of employees, distribution system used, etc.) But her analysis gets straight to the advantages of POD over traditional offset printing and warehousing of a full print-run: less money up front and greater flexibility in terms of resource commitment and even storage space (which some publishers have to pay for as well). Cheers to Eileen for sharing, and don't forget to check out Meritage's books!

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Kate queries Geraldine Kim

How has your life been different since your book came out?

I became $1000 richer. Which helped cover my rent for a month or so... I also went on a mini-tour for the book. (I'm rather bored of Povel since I've been promoting it for a year now--ready to showcase other things. Had my last reading a week ago.)

I think I'm the same.

I got s'more hits on my blog.

Um, people invite me to do readings now. And to submit to their zines. (I tend not to submit because I'm always afraid of submitting things because it never feels "done" and also, I hate rejection and I am OK with not sharing what I write.)

Read the rest here.

May 31, 2006

More pics from the letterpress class

The rubber-based inks are thicker than I expected, and can be mixed to match standard Pantone swatches.

The printshop is on the left side of the central gallery. You can see three flatbed presses here, and racks of reglets and furniture along the windows.

A line of type, on the composing stick, upside down and backwards.

The brass bottles in the foreground contain California Wash (large) and alcohol (small) for cleaning the ink off the presses. The metal canister contains ink in Rubine Red. In the background, you can see a clam-shell platen press, as well as more racks of furniture.

A couple of students designed custom letterpress stationery. I like the way this student (a graphic designer) mixed the point sizes and typefaces here. That's more complicated to do, because your pieces vary in size and you have to build around them to make them stable.

Another example of letterpress stationery. One student made her own wedding invitations (not shown--too much personal info!), and another made thank you cards for her cousin's wedding. The student shown in the printshop picture above made business cards (she's a visual artist) and coordinated blank greeting/thank you cards for galleries, etc. Those were really cool, because she impressed the cards with uninked type for an embossed effect. (We'd seen a broadside example using a similar idea.)

Each drawer is a different typeface and point size. (This is just one side of the central work area. There are many more!)

I didn't get any shots of them (and they don't allow photos in the gallery), but the walls of the whole studio are covered with broadsides, even in the bathrooms. There's poetry everywhere (even some of yours): Lisa Jarnot, Ange Mlinko, Rene Gladman, Rodrigo Toscano, Patricia Carlin, Jeanne Marie Beaumont, Joe Elliot, Patricia Spears Jones, John Yau, etc.

At a table in the back corner of the printshop, a book artist was working on a big orange leather-bound hardcover. As I walked by, I saw that he was piecing "Gravity's Rainbow" on the spine in black-shadowed blue letters. (I guess he was basing his design on the classic Viking cover.) Then I noticed the other books on the table, all leather-bound, awaiting their lettering, including a big tan one with a tooled "V." I assume the rest were also Pynchons. Yeah, might have to take that class too. Imagine, being able to recover your favorites!

Obviously, I loved Letterpress I. Now that I have, I'm eligible to rent the presses, so I'll definitely be back. (Got something you want letterpressed? I'll do it for free, if you provide the paper, and we can split the press rental? I'm a member, so it's $12 an hour. Not sure if that includes typesetting time, or just the press time. I'll have to check.) You could take it too. Or at least stop by for one of their events, and take a peek around the place.


May 29, 2006

Brent Cunningham tells Kate Greenstreet about his first book

Before you had your book in your hands, did you imagine your life would change because of it?

Given my job, I'm certainly someone who ought to have had a good idea what was about to happen. And actually I don't think I had many delusions about money or fame or other life changing events, even in modest ways. Mostly I tried to go into it with no expectations, although I did expect that my immediate family would be impressed. And they were: unduly impressed, really, since Ugly Duckling was pretty much the same as Random House to them. That's a big change: realizing just how strongly people hold to their idealized notions of what it means to be a published writer. In the case of my family, I've allowed them to retain their delusions in small ways where it benefited me, and I recommend that as a general approach. Part of the "small lies are healthy" school of thought.

I just love this series; don't you?

Read the rest here.