baseball, poetry, and kim chi

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Good News

Jim, have been very glad to hold down the shop, though you may want to change the password, just make sure please that I can get copies of my drafts, thank you. I'll be posting at for the next two months as part of my residency.

So, I don't mind getting called out in public, but as I said in our previous IM conversation -if we trade, you get a book, I get a book, but what does the press get?

Yes it is about money. And yes it isn't about money. The lovely publishers at Subday, and I assume many other small presses, aren't necessarily in it for the money. That is yes they need to make their money back to keep the press running; but making money is certainly not the goal as much as publishing, excuse me, wonderful books of poetry that may not have a chance of being made in the "real world" not because they're poorly written, but because they don't sell well.

I myself am afraid to know exactly how much my friends are losing economicly on me. This of course, among many other things, gives me great economic guilt, and leads me to ask a couple questions:

Can the production of "art" alone create a shift of prioritization in the making of profits within the ruling class?

And more imortantly: Is it true that because there is a "shift [within] the majority of people from farming and small-scale tradesmanship to wage slavery [which] creates widespread poverty, massive unrest, and brutal repression," we are automaticly led to a favoritism of escapist art and literature within the majority of the culture? -See Beauty Trouble: Identity and Difference In The Tradition of The Aesthetic, Steven Talyor, Civil Disobediences, Coffee House Press.

I agree with Talyor, if I'm not reading him wrong, that the trouble lies within our disagreement with the "real world" ruling class, who insist the educating of the lower class will not be done "with essays and social treatises and learning that truth is negotiable." "A society," Taylor says, "in which history is increasingly obscured or regarded as irrelevant, is a society in which people are increasingly powerless."

Nor, I hope, are we willing to accept escapist ideology. Rather, we all do in fact want to escape, i.e. actually change, this hellish state of affairs, this catastrophacy in which we live. And yet, we're in the thick of it as much as anyone else. That is, We, the upper and lower and escapists and non-escapists classes, are all necessarily in it for the money as both the means and the end.

Now, if you think creating a barter system is a solution to this mess, I'm up for giving it a go, only we're going to have to convince a lot of people who aren't necessarily our friends.

One way or another the costs can be traced back and we're still going to have to decide what the press gets out of this.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

didn’t mean this as a public calling out. It is nothing personal. I think yr point is valid, and I bet it is shared by many. I think it is as much a calling out of me as it is of you. and really, I think it is neither. I just found this interesting as a part of poetic economy. I thought it would be interesting to the community.

I understand completely. But does the press get shut out? The author gets free copies to send where they like. When these run out, the author can buy books at a discount. Where does this discount come from? Is it out of the author’s pocket, or that of the press? If the author loses the royalty, no problem, their royalty is the other author’s book. however, it the press loses money, that is a problem.

Q: Where does the discount come from?
Q: If the press loses money, how much?

I couldn’t do this trade with Langley (I already have his book). If this was yr first book, I couldn’t do it either (I already have it). Seems that it is a rare instance where this barter can come into play. first, we have to like each other’s work. and second, we must be w/o the others work. And finally, we must have a level of intimacy, a dialogue, where this question can even be asked.

I just don’t think the publisher, even if they lose a bit on a few transactions, is going to feel any pain bc of it (but it would be better if they lost nothing).


9:07 PM

Anonymous sean mac said...

Well Jim, I didn't feel as though it were a personal attack, I suppose the humor of being called out was missed because of the seriousness in the rest of the post.

Only that you persisted with your point, so I persisted with mine.

You're asking about the relationship an author has with a press, and whether or not that relationship orbits around a contract.

I don't have a contract with Subday. I get five free books and have never asked about a discount, I gave some of the first book away and paid the press out of my pocket for those, as I'm not going to cheat them out of their money.

You have to realize there isn't a big profit margin with these books. I mean, my book may be tiny, but it is still one hundred pages of recycled paper with a colored cover for only eight bucks. Nobody is getting paid here. Not me. Not the publishers. Not Stacy for her cover art. No one.

This is what I get out of it. Book published and creative control over its presentation. And one hell of an editor, whose insight on my work facinates me. Plus the many doors that open along the way for a published author.

Maybe one day when I get a print run of a few thousand, which by the way is the standard for presses the size of Coffee House, not much when you think about it really, and I get a few more free copies then I'll send one your way, but until then you'll just have to be satisfied with being thanked in the front of the book for helping me with my ideas.

Too, until then a little bit goes a long way.

Yeah, so you know I wasn't angry by any means, only that this is a serious issue at hand in my life and in many of our lives, and thought it deservered some serious thought.

I enjoyed posting here, I was glad for the oppurtunity. I tried to keep up with the topics, Poetry, Kim Chi, and Baseball.

See you in my dreams big guy.

11:56 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

it would seem to me a publisher can/should print some extras for the writer and for comp/review copies. i don't see why micropublishers can't pay the writer like that. and some cash too if its there. or whatever they want that the publisher is willling to "pay". a publisher can save money in several ways by buying materials thoughtfully and in bulk and by doing some of the printing/bindery work themselves. small run stuff can cost more to produce than large run - its just the way it works. so buying parent sheets of paper and using ones own equipment will save one a good bundle in the end. but i certainly think a publisher should provide a decent amount of copies to the writer and be supportive of copy requests after that. afterall, the writers themselves are often the best marketer of their own books and they should be involved in its distribution as much as the publisher. at least armed with some copies for interested parties. when we are talking little house publishing, etc. its readers we want not dollars. a good publisher i would think will figure out before hand what it will take to make their money back as well as a little to throw in the coffers for future projects.

2 cents

Scott Pierce

i don't know about contracts, but being clear about what the writer and what the publisher each want from the experience is important. of course a publisher is interested in money. good money management can take some burden off of a publisher's shoulders and their venture can sustain itself.

5:11 PM

Blogger Sean Mac said...

i like this conversation. it gives me ideas. for instance - sean, if you stop by again, you should know (thought you did) that authors can buy additional books at cost. not the whole run obviously, but the option is there. and sending copies to reviewers and a few elder poets is an important part of the game we are just awakening to - and if an author sends 8 or 10 copies out that way we wouldnt expect them to have to pay us for it. it helps both parties, author and press.

as to scott's points, it so depends on the publisher. living in a tiny apartment, things like my own equipment etc are out - esp. when we are talking about perfect binding. best i can do is build a relationship with the best printer i can find for both price and quality. for smaller books, for lil saddlestappled or sewn chaps, we can do everything so cheaply money hardly enters the equation - just time. it is a powerful incentive to make it small. with micropress, an author can put out their own small projects in a manner they desire, learn new skills, and network their work all in their free time.

what i aim for - and i sense this in scott's post - is the general spirit of being thrifty, adventurous, dedicated to the work, and being not money centered, but money conscious. but subday has never come close to making a cent for either summer or i, thats not even what its for.

8:45 PM


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