They’re almost sold out, and we won’t be reprinting. You can get yours here.
This month, we were thrilled to be able publish an edition of Nancy Campbell’s How to Say ‘I Love You’ in Greenlandic: An Arctic Alphabet. Usually we have some grace after the actual release date to bring the book to this space, but—incredibly—the edition has almost sold out. We have about 30 copies left of an edition of 175, as well as a huge amount of gratitude for all of those who’ve placed orders. Thank you.
Printing the books was always going to be a risk: we wanted to have the cards and paper wrappers that comprise the books be 100% cotton paper (more expensive) and to have the belly bands foil stamped. But the number of people who placed pre-orders alone covered almost half the cost of printing the edition (just over €1200). It was a huge relief (because we figured that then the rest of the printing costs would be covered by sales in the longer term). What a surprise and what a joy that the orders have continued to come for this book. Thank you.
The books are beautiful. Nancy’s monotypes reproduced so well. Tompkin Press, our printers, did an incredible job. The silver foilstamping shines and is clean and precise (it was done by De Sloovere BVBA). The effect of the book, wrapped in the pale blue coversheet and bound by the crisp white belly band with the silver foil, is like a very cold day after a heavy snowfall—that kind of shine. Nancy, qujanaq.
What are the real costs of making tiny books like these? I suppose this is the thought that went through the mind of the guy who picked up a copy of Langoustine at the RGAP fair in London in November, asked me how much it was, and sputtered when I told him it was £9.
Nine pounds might seem like a lot (although I think also there’s a certain expectation in the UK about cheapness/’affordability’—although what’s affordable, and for whom, are other questions—that’s its own problem, and I’m not going to deal with that here). It is a lot. It is three fancy coffees. A week bus-pass here. It’s two or three lunches out, or a week’s worth of packed sandwiches. I realize that. I realize when I price the books that I am asking people to put their hard-earned money out; that I’m asking for a kind of commitment from them. It’s not easy to ask, and it’s not necessarily easy to offer.
But here is what’s behind those nine pounds/nine euros.
First of all, there are the hours spent making the books: designing them. Binding them. There are two of us who do that; neither of us pay ourselves for the work. There is the time to do the accounting: Belgian taxes are complex and exhausting. There is the time to set up the webshop (and to keep it running), and post here on the blog and Facebook and Twitter.
Then there are the costs to print the books (usually between €250 and €500 per 150 books, depending on the simplicity of the design—die cuts cost more, vellum costs more). (And these costs are all out the window when it comes to books like Lisa Solomon’s, which is full color and was bound at the printers’.)
Then there are taxes. We pay 6% sales tax (BTW) on books (not bad!) and 21% sales tax on everything else (oof). But on top of that I pay about €700 every quarter for self-employment tax (basically my Social Security payment) and then income tax has to be paid as well.
And there are the associated costs: paper, ink, envelopes, tape. These have to come out of the money made from books (they’re not covered by shipping fees—the postal service here is just too expensive to ask a further one or two euros per order to cover packing/etc.).
Last but very much not least, there’s the issue of paying writers: we do it, for the moment—although this will change in 2014, I hope—in books, and the shipping of the books. So the calculations we do about how many books to print versus how much that will cost versus how many we can reasonably expect to sell off the bat (i.e. how much of the investment is likely to be covered so that we can plan to print more books) have to incorporate 20 or so books that will be sent to the writer. There will also be review copies sent out and given away; these, too, have to be counted in.
That is why the books are ‘expensive’. I suspect it is similar for many, many small presses. Because when you take away about €3 per book for printing, then another 54 cents for sales tax, then a euro or so for packing, and there are about five euros left to cover income tax, Social Security, and, oh, yes, printing more books, not to mention saving something up to be able to offer writers—nine euros is not a lot.
It’s important to me that the books stay somehow affordable, though. I don’t want to get into the realm of the €20 chapbook (that’s one reason we use digital and litho printing rather than letterpress). I want people to have access to them. And I’m in a position (extra paid work on the side; partner with a steady job) that lets me work for free and keep the prices, if not ‘affordable’, then certainly at least within the realm of the possible for many people. All that said, Reader, if you are ever in a place where you cannot afford the book+shipping, please get in touch and we can figure something out. It’s more important in the end that the book be read than that it be paid in full; the money will eventually even itself out.
We want to start the year off by returning your generosity and support of MIEL during 2013, and so all our remaining stationery stock is 50% off (until it’s gone—and there are only two or three of each thing left).
On top of that, all our current (2011-2013) books and journal issues are buy one, get one free* until the end of the month.
All you have to do is put a note in your order (click ‘notes to seller’ on the PayPal screen) with the title of the book you’d like—our only stipulation is that it has to be less costly than the one you’ve paid for.
We’re looking forward to our 2014 list already—and we’ll be announcing a couple of very exciting projects soon, including something that we think would be perfect for your Valentine (whether platonic, familial, or romantic), subscriptions to our 2014 list, and more!
Thanks for your support this year—it’s not an uncomplicated thing, making books and getting them out into the world, but it is exhilarating and I feel incredibly lucky to get to do it.
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* buy one, get one free only applies to items of lesser monetary value than purchased item. Does not apply to books or journal issues published after January 1, 2014.