Friday, 20 August 2010

More on the Small Presses and Wordsworth Books

There's been quite a bit more on this ongoing discussion on the Vault of Evil, and some good points are being raised on it.

This is from one of my own last entries in the debate:

Today at 6:13am, jamesdoig wrote:

I imagine choosing a title for publication must be the product of a careful business decision. Derek mentioned, and I hope I'm not misquoting, that in recent times some Wordsworth titles haven't sold so well. There must come a time when you've exhausted the choicest crop of quality authors and titles and you struggle to sell the 2nd or 3rd tier stuff. I imagine Lovecraft, M.R. James, Robert E. Howard, le Fanu, Dickens, Conan Doyle, Kipling do all right - they always have - but it must be difficult to sell 1000s of copies of Lettice Galbraith, R. Murray Gilchrist and Amyas Northcote, as desirable as they may be to aficionados and fans. Even the specialty presses struggle to flog 500 or even 200 copies of long-dead authors who on the face of it look worthwhile reprinting - a saturation point is easily reached.

And the digitisation of public domain material must make it tough to sell print copies of out-of-copyright material - many of the texts are freely available and the only value-add is a decent intro or critical apparatus. I know a few researchers/editors who are struggling to sell collections by interesting authors, or have sold them and seen them published, but haven't received a brass razoo.

Which is why I think there are grounds to believe that a company based on this model, but selling up and coming newer writers whose names can be promoted online and elsewhere, but offering otherwise very small financial returns for the author (who would otherwise never even get their collection published, certainly in large numbers, lets be honest) might have a chance.

On the plus side for the writer, besides getting published and a higher profile, they could very possibly, even on low royaltiy percentages, end up with more than they would through traditional small presses.

Going on from others' comments, including Craig, about slow sales returns, this would have to be taken into account of course. The money spent on any publication would have to be regarded as shelved for quite some time. The important issue is how much it would cost to put out a collection of 2 or 3 thousand copies (or whatever) of a particular writer, taking into consideration all the cost cutting that could be involved.

Obviously it would be important to choose writers whose work could be attractive to as wide a range of the buying public as possible, with quality work that is readable and interesting.

There are a lot of things to weigh up on this.

I am going to make some enquiries into printing costs. If anyone has some already or some useful contacts I'd appreciate it.

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