Friday, June 29, 2007

I've just received

my copies of the latest round of Otoliths books. One of the many disadvantages of living beyond the edges of the known world is the length of time such things take to get to me. Across the continental US, transship, across the Pacific to Sydney, the only city on the Australian landmass most people are aware of, transship, to Brisbane the state capital, transship, to the backwaters of Capricornia. Deliver.

It's because of that delay that I never to see the books in proof stage — that stays with the author in, usually, the US. Sure I see them in manuscript, in mock-up pdf, in print-ready pdf; but until, late in the piece, when they finally arrive on my doorstep, not delivered by the postman but by the local courier company, I have no idea of how they actually look to the eye, how they feel in the hand.

This latest round delights me, makes me extremely proud of what I've done. The quality of the context & the production, their diversity, the fact that in many cases these were projects that nobody else would be willing to take on. & I'm especially proud — & this is taking nothing away from the other books in this offering — of being able to publish Nick Piombino's Free Fall.

This is, to put it simply, a GREAT BOOK, & will undoubtedly be recognised as such in, hopefully, the not too distant future. Nick created his notebook in 2001, back in New York after a trip to Amsterdam, in the days immediately after 9/11. It's a "visual collage novel", made up of strips & cuttings from posters he'd torn off the walls. It contains no text except that which was in the posters themselves, it's as bright & vibrant as the designed-to-catch-the-eye purpose of the posters, each page is brilliantly constructed, individual works of art, the entirety flows, has continuity. I am aware of only one similarly constructed book, & that by Max Ernst, so the precedent is rare but the pedigree is exceptional.

Nick & I laboured long & hard putting this rendition of his notebook together. The original was a work of art that couldn't be destroyed or put back together again if the pages were removed. So a series of double-paged scans that then had to be cropped & trimmed, aligned, not too much of the spiral binding, not too much of the edges of other pages that crept in in the scanning process. Part-done print proofs sent to ensure the integrity of the process. An eventual manuscript that took the better part of two hours to upload to the printer. A labour of love that the original labour of love deserved. There are some pages included in the last issue of Otoliths, there is a preview up on the Otoliths Shopfront at Lulu. If you go no further than that, they should be checked out.

The response from those who've visited the sites is effusive; but the complaint is that the book is "so expensive". It gobsmacks me, strikes me as being a perfect exemplar of this barter economy we seem to have developed. "Sure I'll support other poets, but only if they give me a free copy of their book." Or: "Give me a copy to review" but the review never comes.

I would possibly sell more copies if I distributed through SPD or Amazon. But, apart from the very basic reason that they don't like to — or won't — deal with non-US publishers, their markups would push the price of Free Fall up to $50 or $60, closer to or beyond the latter if I wanted to recoup any of the costs. So I stick with Lulu & a minimal markup, $35.95 plus p & h. For what Free Fall is, for what it cost to produce, it's not expensive at all, in fact, it's a bargain. &, as I said before, a GREAT BOOK that, putting it together, I have fallen completely in love with.

1 comment:

Karri Kokko said...

What you say about Free Fall is absolutely true, Mark. I also think the price is right for 150 plus collage images in full color. And, hey, you can't get them from anywhere else, can you?

Going thru my purchase history at Lulu, I can see I just shopped for five different books. Besides the Piombino, there were two other Otolith titles (Leads by Rochelle Ratner, and The Case by Sheila E. Murphy) and two from Leevi Lehto's new venture, ntamo (Word in Progress by Aki Salmela, and Toinen runous by LL himself). This lot cost me all of 106 US dollars, delivered to my door (from Sevilla, Spain) in about ten days. In my mind, that's a very reasonable price.

In comparison: I just bought seven poetry books (all used) from Amazon (UK) and they cost me ca. USD 140.

One final thing: Leevi has a strict policy of No Free Copies to Anybody. Not friends, not colleagues, definitely NOT reviewers.

"One Satisfied Customer"