Catalyst Book Press

The places, ideas, and people that change us

Book Expo America And This Small Press

I spent last weekend at BEA, Book Expo America, an absolutely overwhelming insight into the book world. This is actually my second trip to BEA, so I was forewarned. My mother always used to say, “Forewarned is forearmed,” but, um, well, I’m not sure if that’s true. The sheer number of people, books, and other publishers would put any little publisher in her place and send her back to the very small unimportant San Bruno with her tail between her legs! Oh, well. There’s no way Catalyst Book Press can compete with giants like, oh, Knopf or Random House or hell! even Harlequin. But I guess that doesn’t matter. The books I’m bringing out are important books, and they’ll make a difference in people’s lives. I feel extraordinarily lucky to be working with some of the writers who’ve agreed to be part of Catalyst’s books–Ken Waldman, Ann Angel, Frederica Mathewes-Green, Ariel Gore, Tina Cassidy, and all the other writers, named and unnamed, who have put a piece of themselves on paper and staked a claim on their art and in Catalyst….

Anyway, at BEA, I visited with Ingram’s and Baker & Taylor, both of which seem willing to carry my books so bookstores & libraries can order them. That’s not the same as having a sales force but it’s something very important.

I got a number of totally cool books, including a signed copy of The Reggae Scrapbook and the latest y.a. offering from Ellen Hopkins, Impulse. I felt totally dwarfed by such giants as Judy Blume, Sherman Alexie, and Neil Gaiman. (On my personal blog, I’ve written about this, which you can read here.)

Here’s a few things I heard this weekend that are worth quoting:

*In a panel about how to create loyal online communities: “Failure on the internet comes free” and “People create an emotional bond to authors via blogs–there’s a sense of family, even while it can be creepy.”

*”Story of the production of the book can be as interesting as the story inside the book.” Hmmm. Not sure I believe that. But it’s worth putting up here.

* “Blogging is like note-taking for all the other writing you do.” Okay. Maybe. But if you write blog posts that are essentially your book, aren’t you giving away all the goodies? Maybe that’s why I haven’t yet created a wildly popular blog that’s made me an internet celebrity, feted at places like the BEA.

Okay, my FAVORITE from one of these infamous internet celebrities: “I blog 16 hours a day!” What? 16 hours a day? When do you eat? When do you sleep? When do you shower? When do you do other, personal, private things that should remain between you and the toilet?

P.S. I’m glad to say that I met a fellow newbie to the book business, who has become a good friend in the last few months.

June 2, 2008 Posted by | Catalyst Book Press, independent book publishers, independent publishing culture, indie, literary presses, publishing, small press, traditional publishing, writing & publishing | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Book Expo America

I’ll be schlepping to the BEA in L.A. this upcoming week, with Advance Reader’s Copies of Ken Waldman’s book. It’s weird to think that a year ago, all I wanted was a break from grad school and a chance to focus on writing…And here I am, publishing other people’s books.

More on BEA when I return!

May 25, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Publishing & the Public

Everyday, I run into people’s curiosity about the book business–as well as a lot of misperceptions about it. I guess when you become a publisher, by default you also become an educator. Perhaps it’s that way with any business.

 One of the most common misperceptions about publishing is that there is a lot of money in it. That would be great but most independent publishers do what I’ve heard called “publishing by Visa.” Meaning: They’re in debt. Sometimes, a lot of debt. (This, I am trying mightily to avoid!) Unless you use print-on-demand (digital imaging technology), it costs a lot to get a book together. Even if you do use POD, it can cost a lot. Plus, the risks are many and profits low. Let’s say a press manages to get the cost of printing a book down to $2, and they charge $16 per copy. They have to sell it at 50% off to bookstores, which means they sell it for $8.00 per copy, for a total of $6.00 profit per copy. But that doesn’t include publicity costs, shipping costs, receiving un-sellable returns from bookstores that couldn’t sell it, or the cost of warehousing/storing the book, not to mention royalties or other payments to writers.

Another common idea is that all you have to do is publish a book and it’ll do well or be available in bookstores or that it’ll sell thousands and thousands of copies because so many people across the U.S. will be interested in the book. I really, really wish that were true. I went to the Book Expo America in 2003, the most important conference in the book industry. That year, over 100,000 new books were published. 100,000! Even if all 250 million Americans bought a book each year, there wouldn’t be enough to go around.

My novel, The Confessional, has done all-right and has received excellent reviews. Plus, it’s published by one of the big guys, Knopf. But I get emails from people all the time who say they couldn’t find it in the local bookstore, including the local bookstore in El Paso, where the book is set and where it’s sold really well! So you never can tell why a bookstore will stock a book and why they won’t, but I’ve heard through the rumor mill that B&N gives a book a “two week window” to sell and then they return it. Maybe that’s exaggerated and it wouldn’t surprise me–but it also wouldn’t surprise me if it’s true!

Anyway,  I guess I’m going into publishing because I really, really, really LOVE books. And if they can bring me some income, enough to make it worthwhile, that will be great. But I’ll probably do it anyway. It’s just like being a writer: I write because I love writing. Am I paid what my writing is worth? No, not really. But who is, except J.K. Rawling? (and we can’t all be her…)

March 10, 2008 Posted by | bookstores, digital imaging technology, independent book publishers, independent publishing culture, indie, literary presses, POD, print on demand, publishing, small press | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment