Awkward Press

Independent publishers of imaginative fiction and daily meditations on the ridiculousness of the universe.
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The Inside Scoop on Publishing

August 14, 2009 By: Category: Publishing

The Face of Modern Poverty

The Face of Modern Poverty

Hey there, friends. Since we put Awkward One up for sale, we’ve received a few questions. We’ve actually only received one question, and it’s not really a question. The question is: You guys are jackasses. Paypal sucks. I will not buy your book through Paypal.

Okay. Fair enough. But I thought I should come clean about why we’re only selling our book through Paypal. Amazon takes a pretty signficant chunk of the profits on every book it sells(55%.). Most indie bookstores sell books on consignment at a 60/40 split, meaning 60% goes to the publisher. Through a bookstore, we would collect $5.40 on each sale. Through Amazon, we would only make $4.05 for each sale. Between design costs, shipping, and printing, we paid about $5 for each copy. As anyone with a Harvard MBA like me can easily understand, selling a book for $.95 less than it costs to make is not a very smart business model.

However, The more we print, the more our costs go down. If we can sell 1,000 copies, the per copy price goes down dramatically, and the idea of selling on Amazon starts to make sense. But first, we need to make back our cost. And that will happen when we sell 300 copies.

I have made a deal to my partners that once we hit that number, we will put our book for sale on Amazon. This will give us legitimacy and a place at the table of books, the book table, where people eat books and sit on books and light books on fire in the middle of the table like literary candelabras. (What?)

So that, my friends, is the number that we are aiming for: 300. And if you’re thinking, “what the fuck? Why would I buy a book now when it’s going to be on Amazon soon?” I say this: it really doesn’t make a difference. The price for you will be the same either way. You do have to sign up for a Paypal account, which is, indeed, a slight annoyance. However, the good you will be doing in helping our fledgling publishing company get off the ground basically guarantees that God will find a place for you in Heaven. So, there’s that.

What I’m saying is: please buy our incredible book!

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

July 28, 2009 By: Category: Publishing

Only Moz knows my pain.

You're the only one who knows my pain, Moz.

This is hard.

You might not know who I am. You may have come to this site because I found you on Twitter through other independent publishers that you have chosen to follow. (Yes, I’ve been doing that, and I’m not proud.) Or you may have known me for 25 years, as have most of the (two) people who seem to be posting comments.

My name is Jeffrey Dinsmore. I helped start a publishing company called Contemporary Press. You have probably never heard of that, either. Shortly after 9/11 (I think … I’m a little foggy on the details) my friend Jay came up with the idea of starting a modern pulp fiction publishing company. I jumped on board, as did five of our other friends. We threw a couple hundred bucks into a pot and started writing books. My stipulation before joining CP was that I be allowed to write a book called Johnny Astronaut. I didn’t know what Johnny Astronaut would be about, but I knew I had to write it. I wrote it under a pseudonym, which makes perfect sense if you read the book. The author becomes a character. It’s very meta. My own family didn’t get it and most of them never bought a copy. They knew I wrote it, but they didn’t want to read it unless my name was on it. That’s very meta, too. Today, Johnny Astronaut is out of print.

I wrote another book called I, An Actress: the Autobiography of Karen Jamey. I personally am more attached to this book than the other one, but a lot of people I know didn’t really care for it. There are 1,000 copies of I, An Actress available. You should buy all 1,000 and blow our distributor’s mind.

CP was fun. We went to publishing conferences. We were blurbed about in GQ. We got a kick-ass review in The Believer. We lost our shirts. We never had an office. We did all our business on Wednesday nights at a bar. We threw parties in New York featuring musical performances by soon-to-be semi-famous bands like We Are Scientists, Bishop Allen, and the Oxford Collapse. I put my heart and soul into CP, and it broke into a million pieces. Both my heart, and CP. We still owe our distributor money. We were really good at drinking, but we were not so good at business. We were also not so good at proofreading, as a visit to our now dark website will prove.

(more…)

That’s Right, Dave Eggers

July 16, 2009 By: Category: Greatest Hits, Publishing

Away We Go, but Not Publishing, Because That's Not Going Away

Away We Go, but Not Publishing, Because That's Not Going Away

Dave Eggers, like This American Life, is someone I would like to backlash-hate but cannot because he’s just too damn good. I mean, I don’t have a huge opinion on his writing. I thought A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius was an interesting story that was well told, but not necessarily the work of genius it purported to be. I hear What Is the What is supposed to be good. And the McSweeney’s stuff is beautiful, but I’m not particularly excited by the words lurking inside their beautiful packages.

All that being said, the thing I have a tremendous respect for his commitment to putting good things into the universe. Using his money to start tutoring centers for goods is without-question admirable. And then there’s this, from a Salon interview with Andrew O’ Hehir:

I notice that you’ve been inviting people to appeal to you for a pep talk on the future of the printed word, which we’re all very worried about. So if I were to write to you and say, “Dave, cheer me up about the future of writing,” what would you say?

Salon still exists, thank God. And I think that there’s a future where the Web and print coexist and they each do things uniquely and complement each other, and we have what could be the ultimate and I think best-yet array of journalistic venues. I think right now everyone’s assuming it’s a zero-sum situation, and I just don’t see it that way.

Our students at 826 Valencia still have a newspaper class, where we print an actual newspaper, and we do magazine classes and anthologies where they’re all printed on paper. That’s the main way we get them motivated, that they know it’s going to be in print. It’s much harder for us to motivate the students when they think it’s only going to be on the Web.

The vast majority of students we work with read newspapers and books, more so than I did at their age. And I don’t see that dropping off. If anything the lack of faith comes from people our age, where we just assume that it’s dead or dying. I think we’ve given up a little too soon. We [i.e., McSweeney's] have been working every day on a prototype for a new newspaper, and a lot of what we’re doing is resurrecting old things, like things from the last century that newspapers used to do, in terms of really using the full luxury of the broadsheet newspaper, with full color and all that space.

I think newspapers shouldn’t try to compete directly with the Web, and should do what they can do better, which may be long-form journalism and using photos and art, and making connections with large-form graphics and really enhancing the tactile experience of paper. You know, including a full-color comic section, for example, which of course was standard in newspapers years ago, when you’d have a full broadsheet Winsor McCay comic. So we’ll have a big, full-color comic section, and we’re also trying to emphasize what younger readers are looking for, what directly appeals to them. It’s hard to find papers these days that really do anything to appeal to anyone under 18, and the paper used to do that all the time. I think there will always be — if not the same audience and not as wide an audience — a dedicated audience that can keep print journalism alive.

Exactly! Exactly, Dave Eggers. You hit the exact nail on its exact head. Print will NEVER be replaced entirely by “screen.” I can see the benefit of the Kindle and I wish they would make it slightly more useful and lower the price. I do not disparage you reading my work in whatever format you choose. However, I agree with Eggers 100% that all this hoopla about the death of printed media is being generated by a bunch of old, nervous people worrying that they no longer understand how the world works.

Well, I am the John Locke at the center of the printed world future past, and I can tell you that books printed on pieces of tree will never be embarrassed out of existence. And that’s why my friends and I feel it is important to start a publishing house right now. Because now is the time when all the people who are concerned mainly about sales figures are beginning to conclude that print is not a lucrative enterprise, and they will be leaving the market to people like us who firmly believe that there is a power to reading a great story in a well-designed package. And if fewer people are buying books, it doesn’t tell me that people have lost their interest in reading … it tells me that no one is printing anything they would want to read.

So, good on ya’, Dave Eggers. Thanks for your charitable endeavors and your great work in the publishing world and for writing a movie that the totally underutilized Maya Rudolph can star in, even if it’s not supposed to be that great. (End on snark, my mentors always said.)

Your Government at Work

June 16, 2009 By: Category: Publishing

I just called to check on the copyright status for our first book. According to the electronic man on the other end of the phone machine, it currently takes 1 year for copyright requests to be processed. One year! Dear President Obama: please hire some more people to work at the copyright office. Thanks!

Also, the Library of Congress’s website suggests that you use “Netscape 4.5 or Microsoft Explorer 4.0″ when viewing their website. Does Netscape even exist anymore? And was there really a period when IE was called “Microsoft Explorer”?