Catalyst Book Press

The places, ideas, and people that change us

off to printing

Last week, I finished the design on Ken’s book, Are You Famous? Touring America with Alaska’s Fiddling Poet, and I got it off to press. I’ve never been so exhausted in my life! And I’ve never had so many people be so nice….

Let’s start with my dad, who has designed books before, who uses Adobe In-design for some of his geological reports. Despite being busy with his own work (which pays about 200 times more than what I don’t pay for his free advice), he read through the first few chapters of the book, made both copy editing and design suggestions, and spent a few hours on the phone with me talking me through the software.

Or maybe we start even earlier, when Sara Juday, a salesperson for Ingram, and a friend of Ken’s, helped me work through some design issues. I had cheerfully designed the book and cheerfully made what corrections I thought were necessary and cheerfully sent it off for Advance Reader’s Copies to be printed. And the results weren’t bad, I swear, but they were clearly the efforts of a beginner. “You need more leading,” Sara advised me. “And you need to choose–either justify all the chapters or let them all be ragged. Personally, I like the ragged look but most nonfiction books are justified.”

And then there’s the wonderful, talented, generous Kathy McInnis, who designed the book cover and, 16 hours before I sent the book off to press, offered to look at the print ready files. Then she spent nine or ten (or maybe more) hours tweaking it; I know she was up late that night because at 1 a.m. her time, she was still working on it. I could really see the difference when she was done. Such small but important changes!  She was generous with her time and didn’t charge me for it because, she said, she wanted my book to be successful. She had had a lot of help when she was starting out and it was her turn to offer help, she said. Thank God for the Kathys of the world.

And then there was Ken Waldman himself, who read through each new draft, making corrections, offering suggestions. At the very end, I’d submitted the files to the printer, and offered to send him the print-ready .pdf so he could print copies of Robin Metz’s introduction with the new design, so he could point out to prospective buyers that the design was so much better than the Advance Reader’s Copy and they could see for themselves, now, couldn’t they. And then he called me, literally 30 minutes after I had submitted the files to go to print for a proof copy: “You’re gonna hate me,” he said. “But I found an error on the first page.” The first page! The first page! You can’t let something go to print if there’s an error on the first page. God, how had we missed it? How had we missed it? But we had, and so I had to make the changes, and submit new files, even though it cost me $40 to make the changes. ($40 is a cheap way to catch a mistake, much better than spending $4000-5000 for printing costs, only to discover the same error.) Yes, I’m grateful to Ken, and grateful for the fact that he keeps a good attitude about it all, even while I make the many (perhaps inevitable) mistakes of a first-time publisher.

In the midst of it all, there was the panic because I’d forgotten to enter the book information into Bowker’s and it wasn’t yet in Ingram’s system, so bookstores couldn’t order it much less find any evidence that it existed, and of course Ken is trying to set up readings and in-store events and the like.

Will the mistakes never end?

They’ll all be great stories someday….yes, someday.

June 24, 2008 Posted by | Alaska's Fiddling Poet, art, bookstores, Catalyst Book Press, independent book publishers, independent publishing culture, indie, Ken Waldman, literary presses, publishing, small press, traditional publishing, writing & publishing | , , , | Leave a comment

Ken Waldman Q&A

I’ve posted common questions Ken Waldman has answered in his career as a fiddling poet. These are on Catalyst’s website here.

May 26, 2008 Posted by | Alaska's Fiddling Poet, Catalyst Book Press, Ken Waldman | Leave a comment

Are You Famous? book cover

Here it is, folks!

May 5, 2008 Posted by | Alaska's Fiddling Poet, Ken Waldman, paperback, the artist's list, the writer's life, writing & publishing | Leave a comment

Life on the Road

Ken (Alaska’s Fiddling Poet) calls me every couple of weeks from somewhere else in the United States. He spends his days, running from place to place. At each place, he plays the fiddle, reads poems, meets friends, hears interesting stories, gathers some more and heads on to the next place. Sometimes he makes a lot of money, sometimes he makes less. Sometimes he sells a lot of books, sometimes just a few. Last week, he had car problems–with the van that has criss-crossed the country ten times or more, been his home-away-from-home for years now–and called to say he hoped it wasn’t biting the big one this time around. It didn’t but it’s just a matter of time.

There are times I envy his life, though more to the point, I think I envy his willingness to stake his everything on his art. And then I realize I’m living my own version of his life: the artist’s life outside of the academy never looks the same from artist to artist. I love travelling but I also love the idea of holing up somewhere, being a hermit, alone in a cabin, alone with my thoughts and maybe a dog, just writing. In the last year, I’ve spent quite a bit of my own time on the road as an artist: 3 weeks travelling Texas and New Mexico, another week in El Paso, a few days in Colorado, a week in Utah, a week in New York, another week in El Paso. I’m planning a trip to Book Expo America in May, then possibly a week in South Dakota in June, and then five weeks in South Africa–all in pursuit of the writing life. All of it necessary to sustain the writing life but much of it taking time away from the writing life. 

Ken has learned the way to keep himself sane while spending most of his life unsettled and in strange places (sometimes with strange people.) One thing he’s learned to do is write in public, on public computers. I haven’t yet learned the tricks of the trade for how to mesh writing and travelling, or how to find calm and peace in the midst of a hectic schedule–but I know I need to find the things that allow me to do it.

March 27, 2008 Posted by | Alaska's Fiddling Poet, Ken Waldman, the artist's life | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment