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Re: [PPLetterpress] Re: Fine Press Poetry Books (a report from the front)

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  • T Howard
    What a fine success story, Alex. Thank you for sharing it. I m learning printing specifically to someday make books, and thus preserve some things that
    Message 1 of 29 , Feb 9, 2006
      What a fine success story, Alex. Thank you for sharing it. I'm learning printing specifically to someday make books, and thus preserve some things that should not be lost. Tales such as this inspire us all to continue the endeavor.

      As to the need to follow different roads to make a living, many years ago I read Robert Frost's "Two Tramps in Mud-time", and adopted a portion of it as a personal creed:

      "But yield who will to their separation,
      My object in living is to unite
      My avocation and my vocation
      as my two eyes make one in sight.

      "For only where love and need are one
      And the Work is play for mortal stakes
      Is the deed ever really done
      For Heaven's and the Future's sakes."
      Robert Frost

      The result has been an ability to fully commit myself to whatever employment I've had, and miraculously, in doing so, opportunities opened within those staid business milieus that have allowed me to express and use all my talent, skill, art, and soul. It's the strangest thing. It really is all about the daily doing, casting the bread we have on the waters we see and being there when the moment comes.

      The book is something to be proud of, and likely the first of many. Your wedding invitations are treasures that some will hand down as heirlooms. And every once in a while, a poem written on a napkin at a cafe table might be worth preserving.


      alex brooks <alex@...> wrote:
      On Aug 12, 2005, at 10:27 PM, Paul W. Romaine wrote:

      > I see a lot of people who print privately coming out these
      > traditions, but without the subsidies or tax-exempt status which
      > their teachers had. Often, they run into the brick wall of what to do
      > about making a living, and then they have to find other jobs as
      > designers, job printers, wedding invitation printers, etc. A lot of
      > idealists here too, and often they'll make a run of it.

      That's me, idealist printer... up against a brick wall ...
      I found this thread from a few months back interesting, if a little
      academic. Here's a real world report: the record of my first

      Not my first book, but my first publication, a short book of poems of a
      local author who just happened to be one of my professors when in

      specs: 12 poems, 24 page, 5 3/4" x 8 1/4", edition of 200. Hand set in
      Plantin type, on hand-made Velke Losiny paper. #1-50 bound in cloth
      (sewn boards binding) #50-150 bound in very nice paper wraps.

      money: I bought the paper at half off, an odd lot that the vendor
      wanted to be rid of. I provided all of the work myself: editing,
      typeset, illustration, printing, binding, marketing & promotions. So i
      didn't have to pay anyone else. I actually turned away help in order to
      insure that everything would be bound in a professional manner. The
      books came out to cost me (including incidentals and wastage) $6ea for
      paper & $12ea cloth. I sell them retail for $30 and $60. Usually I go
      through a book store or other seller so I actually receive $21 and $42
      respectively. That brings the profit to $3,750. I gave up very early on
      counting my hours in the project... probably close to 3,750. From start
      to finish (I still haven't finished all the cloth books) the project
      has taken about 2 years, mainly due to moving, buying a house, working
      at a restaurant, and printing wedding invitations.

      reception: I debuted the book at the Frankfort Book Fair in November.
      At this event writers sit at tables filling a convention center and
      sign their books. Most, almost all of the books were conventional trade
      books. There is one other letterpress printer in the area, very
      established, and he had his own table. I prepared only 40 paperbacks
      for this fair, expecting lax sales - it is, after all, a slim volume
      with a high price point. Instead, the author sold them all. I was
      amazed. I made enough money to buy x-mas presents. But the real reward
      was the joy on the author's face, and the joy she took introducing me
      as her publisher (also the confusion on peoples faces as they struggled
      to understand how this twenty some odd year old kid was a publisher of
      anything). I sold half of the books before x-mas, without any
      advertising or effort at all besides taking them around to book stores.
      I couldn't bind them fast enough. Interest has slowed since christmas,
      but I am positive that the edition will sell out.

      reflections: It is not the best work I have ever done, it is far from
      perfect. I doubt any critic could raise an error or flaw I haven't
      seen. But these are selfish concerns. Right now, there are one-hundred
      people reading poems that would not have been read. This is not an
      amateur poet, she was publishing poems before I was born, yet this book
      that I brought into the world brings her so much joy. And I have heard
      nothing but praise about the whole affair. In Kentucky, in my neck of
      the woods, it's about writers who could not live without writing,
      printers who could not live without printing, and readers who could not
      live without reading. It is a community. And surprisingly, not a single
      person has asked me why that book costs so much.

      interested in looking?

      press eight seventeen
      lexington, kentucky

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