Saturday, September 20, 2008

I / have spent / the past week

reading, weeding the garden, catching up on cable movies, adding some more things to the next issue of Otoliths, deliberately avoiding putting (metaphorical) pen to paper.

Mainly, though, I've been doing a deal of soulsearching about the future of the book component of Otoliths; &, regrettably, have come to the decision that the round outlined immediately below this post will be the penultimate formal round I'll bring out. There'll be the occasional single book & the print copies of the e-zine after that—I have a few commitments, & there are still some things in the wind that I'd dearly love to do—but to the full-on schedule I've been running with for the past couple of years I bid adieu. The reasons are multitudinous, but basically they're variations on or combinations of three things: market, economics, geography.

The obvious response is what market? I've previously outlined some of my thoughts on this in response to Eileen Tabios' questionnaire about book-buying habits. But one thing I noted in the fuller responses she published was the high percentage of books bought that were selected or collected volumes especially by authors with a longtime reputation. New books by newish authors didn't show up much. Additionally, I am limited to direct selling via Lulu. My non-U.S. resident status & lack of a U.S. bank account mean that places like Amazon or Barnes & Noble are out; I refuse to go through SPD because their markup means that the books would be —to me, at least— overpriced, especially those that use color; & if I set the selling price at what I thought reasonable, I'd lose money on everything I sold through them. Plus, 50 copies of, say, seven books per round, paid for up front because that's the way print on demand publishing works, even for the publisher, would be a total impost I couldn't afford. & booksellers? These days they work on sale or return, consignment stock in other words.

If I followed the—what seems—normal route of many small presses, that is, publish a book & that's the end of the story—should the author want copies, s/he has to buy them—then I wouldn't have any problems. There'd be no expenditure. But, even though I don't pay royalties, I do give the author a number of copies, the number varying on the basic cost of the book, they get proof copies to check, they can buy any additional copies they want at a significant discount, the cover artist gets copies, I pay for the ISBN. So, adding all that up, I have to sell quite a few copies to recoup my costs. So far, I think I've broken even on roughly 15% of the titles I've sold & they have all been relatively low-cost productions where the author(s) have done their own p.r. & now, the exchange rates being what they are at present, the $AUS is currently worth less than cUS80 so that a $10 book converts to $12.50 in local currency plus I get slugged an additional credit card charge because the transaction was in a foreign currency.

So the distances are, Galatea. I would love to keep copies & sell directly as an additional avenue. But whatever market there is is primarily in the U.S.A. & supplying it by this methodology would mean a couple of trips across the Pacific for a book, & the postage is horrific. As well as that, if I was paid by check for a book, it now costs me $15 per check for the foreign exchange conversion, even if the check is for less than that. Forget about it.

But I've enjoyed doing it all. I've brought out some great books, & I'm proud of the catalog which will continue to be available. I've had immense help along the way, especially from harry k stammer who has made the books great-looking as well. My thanks to the cover artists, & to those typesetters who I've occasionally had to call on to negotiate some tricky passages. & my heart-felt thanks to all the authors I've had the pleasure of publishing. I hope I've done you proud.


Blogger AlexG said...

working with you Mark has been one of the lovely experiences in my book career. thank you for including me. it's been an honor to share yr shelf with so many writers of wit & distinction.

11:55 PM  
Blogger Lars Palm said...

although i'm very sorry to read that, i understand it completely & this post perfectly outlines the reasons i publish online


12:25 AM  
Blogger Geof Huth said...


I would have assumed another reason for all of this: Burnout. Given the number of titles you brought out a year, the amount of work each obviously takes you, all atop everything else you do, something had to give. Be proud of a great catalog, and thanks for letting me be part of this. Otoliths the press will be missed, but you've also given me a chance to catch up on buying the titles I don't have. May Otoliths the journal continue anon.

Thanks for what you've done, do, and will continue to do for the world of poetry.


1:44 AM  
Blogger harry k stammer said...

I concur with geof huth. It's been a great experience and I'm still in the excited phase of it, though, it may be coming to an end.

As usual, I like to think of this as a transition to something even better, so, may is the operative word/expression.

always in transition, harry

11:47 AM  
Blogger EILEEN said...

The OTOLITHS CATALOG is something to be proud of...and something I'm proud to be part of ...

... and the fact that burnout is actually not part of the reasons for your decision bespeaks something about the nature of your high commitment to Poetry...


2:15 PM  
Blogger KK said...

There are a variety of sentiments I'm feeling, reading through your post. All of them are good; and why, because they are all real feelings.

A few words on geography, the non-material side of it. What Otoliths has meant to me is that it has brought the world to me (and in a small way me to the world) in ways and forms I'd never imagined possible. Here, my sentiment is pure, and it spells gratitude.

4:42 AM  
Blogger Jordan said...

Eternally grateful for all you've done, and so uplifted to be a part of it all.

Thank you, Mark.

1:54 AM  
Blogger Nicholas Manning said...

Mark I know we all here can't quite express how grateful we are for the time, heart, money, soul, effort, which has created these books of the big O. Especially, as you say, for new or young writers, this sort of commitment and belief and dedication changes everything. Merci cher ami.

7:34 PM  
Blogger Ernesto said...

Thanks for all you've done, Mark. Otoliths is a wonderful thing. Un largo abrazo.

8:12 PM  
Blogger sandrasimonds said...

I am so grateful to you and your press. My first chapbook! Plus, I got to read so many poets I wouldn't have read otherwise. This will be a real loss to the poetry community----but I know that it's so difficult to keep these things running. I hope that you are doing well.


10:36 PM  

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