What bothers more than just about all else in the writing and publishing of words is the felt need (by some) for mystique, a backstage. When I’m in the audience I don’t like being pandered to or protected from what goes on in the making of the spectacle I’m there to engage. I guess because I’m not there to escape–where is there to escape to? What is there to escape?
Most of all I don’t want to contribute to the faking of mystique (unreal/unrealizable context) to surround objects–books are objects. I think that consumer objects and art objects are both mystified–consumer objects mystified by an absent context they seem to come out of, to you, bringing you into that context, and art objects by the mystery of their creation, their artist and his or her “inspiration.” (While I think that plenty in life is mysterious or outside of my understanding, I do not think that the mysteries inhere or gather or thicken in exchanges of product and $. They’re there in other ways.)
For those who want to know, what follows is as precise an account as I can remember the details of about the production of Dewclaw. I’m including personal details (like how much money I made in 2008) for context.
The first thing I did was make a page for Dewclaw on this blog, which Adam has helped me a lot with setting up and maintaining. Then I emailed some people whose writing I admire and which I thought would correspond when placed together in a book, asking if they’d like to contribute. All but one said yes and sent something. One person said they would have to see if they would anything to send me in a couple of months.
Duotrope soon listed Dewclaw and I got lots of submissions. I haven’t kept a count, but I’ll estimate that for issue one I had about 50, at least 50, unsolicited submissions, some of which I accepted.
I searched for a publisher. This part produced the most anxiety for me of any part of making Dewclaw.
I really wanted to use a local printer I could bike to and haul the books home from in a trailer–that’d be ideal, and it did not happen. In April sometime I called 1984, chatted with a nice person there, and said I’d call back after getting more quotes. In early May I called back and left a message, but they didn’t return my call until yesterday, by which time I’ve already hired a different printer. In April I also talked to Eberhardt Press in Portland, and while they seemed friendly the style of their books was not what we were looking for.
Then, at an HTML Giant reading in Seattle, I talked to Kevin Sampsell (of Future Tense) about the printer he used for Chelsea Martin’s book. That’s how I found out about Lightning Source, who we tried and failed to work with because they wouldn’t accept our files, the reason for that being, I think, that the files were converted to PDFs using an open-source layout program (Scribus) that they didn’t support (technologically, not ethically, I think). Adam went to the University of Washington’s library and used an Adobe program (Distiller) that Lightning Source recommended for making PDFs in a format they accept, and even after doing that, after we’d done what they told us to do, they wouldn’t accept our files.
So about a week ago I started to look for a different printer.
I liked the quality of printing of Matthew Simmons’ book (A Jello Horse), so I emailed Adam (Publishing Genius) asking which printer he uses. 48 Hour Books. This morning we uploaded our Dewclaw files to their site, and this afternoon, our proof is laid out and ready to order. They quoted us a price of $715 for 150 copies (3 color pages), and 25 free copies. Adam and I are splitting the cost.
(Lightning Source quoted us a price of $4.84 per book for 250 copies with 3 color pages and a 4-color cover. They gave us a 20% discount for ordering 250 copies, which made the price $4.30 or something.)
To make back our money, which I’d like to do so that Dewclaw is sustainable, we need to sell about 72 copies. So far, 14 copies have been pre-ordered.
48 Hour Books is easy to work with so far. Our proof is on its way, and shortly after, so will be the Dewclaws.
Yet of course it isn’t perfect–
Here’s what Adam (not the PG Adam) said after looking at our proof:
48hrs’ application doesn’t give their files a usable filename when you download them, so you have to rename the files yourself. That’s annoying.
My gross income on my 2008 tax return, before taxes and adjustments, is $10,169. In 2007 I made about $16,000. This year, I expect to make something in between those two numbers. I don’t have health insurance. I don’t drive a car, though, which saves a bucket of money.
I like knowing where my objects come from, and what their makers need in order to keep making them.