Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Funding and Contributor Copies

So... guess what. It's approaching the end of March, and I'm not done with the TOC. It shouldn't be long, though, so check back in a month. I'm working on it, but there's a lot of other stuff to do, too.

In the meantime, let's think about funding. Outside Voices is too young a press to be eligible for most grants, and I don't have any money. So there are two options: "normal" publishing, where I will need to raise $5-7k to pay for the run up-front (they don't take credit cards), and print-on-demand publishing (POD) which has no start-up cost but also allows fewer publishing options (the paper weight would be 55#, the cover automatically glossy, etc.--most books look like this).

I am in favor of raising enough money to print the anthology beautifully, non-POD. But for this to work, I need help. My idea is that if each contributor pre-sold 1 copy of the anthology to their local/university library, that would pay for the run and allow each contributor a free copy of the anthology. It is quite easy to sell a book to a library. I'll set up a PayPal button, you will go to your library (or your library's website) and request that they buy the book. You will send me an email saying, "Hey Jessica I just sold a book to University of Delaware Library." They'll click on the button and buy the book. I will keep a list of who's sold a book, and when the books come out, the libraries will get a book and you will get a book.

If this kind of plan isn't ok with ya'll, then we'll go POD. You'll then have the option of buying the anthology at cost (rather than at retail) which should be pretty inexpensive. But in this case, I will not have the money to buy you all a copy of the book.

I am open to other funding suggestions, but keep in mind that I am already doing everything-- choosing poems, formatting, working with the printers, etc.-- myself, unpaid, so I will not want to hear funding suggestions that involve me doing a lot more work. So, like, bake sales are out.

Let me know what you think-- I've opened the comment fields.


Blogger Amish Trivedi said...

I'm not sure how many libraries are down with "pre-ordering" things. I can ask the person I know who buys this stuff to see if they would be interested and hopefully she might have suggestions.

2:12 PM  
Blogger Jessica Smith said...

Well, we don't have to call it a pre-order when pitching it to libraries. There's only a couple weeks' turnaround once it gets to the printer. So there would just be a delay of a couple of weeks in shipping. That's not unreasonable.

Another option is that someone can loan me, like, $5k. Eh?

2:16 PM  
Blogger Amish Trivedi said...

You know, I know it's small, but maybe you should consider grants. I think what you're doing could/should transcend such a rule. On the other hand, I have little to no awareness in poetry politics.

2:30 PM  
Blogger Amish Trivedi said...

Also, what is your goal of getting it out? I'm guessing the purchaser might want to know...

2:33 PM  
Blogger Jessica Smith said...

Amish! Aren't you listening? I *am* considering grants, but OV isn't old enough for most of the bigger ones. I'm applying for smaller ones, but even if I get them, $200 here and there does not $5000 make.

The anth will be out 1 Jan 2008. Hopefully I'll get around to organizing some sort of release party.

2:43 PM  
Blogger Jessica Smith said...

Oh, and the age of the press isn't a matter of politics. The grant forms will say, "must have been in operation for 3 years," or whatever.

Anyone who would like to help me (??) apply for grants is more than welcome to, esp. if you live in a state other than VA (I can get VA state grants but not, for instance, CA state grants).

2:45 PM  
Blogger Amish Trivedi said...

I was born a bad listener :(

I'll dig around IA for grant stuff..

2:53 PM  
Blogger RW said...

I think your idea of printing it non-POD, and that each contributor could get a library to order one is a great idea! It's really not hard at all to get libraries to buy books. And let's face it, many of the contributors have access/membership to more than one library.

Personally, I'd put in requests at three: my local public library; the university lib; and the public library in my parents' hometown. There's no reason why every contributor couldn't get AT LEAST one copy sold, pronto. There's also the fact that most chain bookstores (Barnes&Noble, Books-A-Million, etc) have a policy where a customer can order a book, and they don't even have to buy it.

For example, I go to the Books-A-Million in Tuscaloosa and the 2 (at least) Barnes & Nobles in B'ham and request they order the book. I don't have to buy it; they don't even require a credit card. And then the anthology is on the shelf there.

I know there is a lot of baggage that comes with a relationship with a corporate bookstore; but in this case, I think it's worth it. #1-They have it on their shelf. #2-Some person who was browsing in the poetry section might buy Outside Voices instead of the other (not-so-good) anthologies that are usually on the shelf. #3-We get sales.

Regardless of the Corporate Bookstore angle, I feel strongly that doing non-POD would be better in the long run: that way a more beautiful, lasting object is produced. And it really isn't hard to get, as I said, one (or more!) library to make a purchase from each contributor.

3:17 PM  
Blogger Gillian said...


Are you going to offer the pre-order Paypal option on your website as well? Surely, at least one or two of your readers isn't already in the TOC, and maybe they too would pre-order to help offset the cost of publishing. I, for one, would gladly pre-order and link to the pre-order page on my own blog.


P.S. No one makes any money with bake sales. At least not since the 1950s ended.

3:59 PM  
Blogger Jessica Smith said...

Amish, it's be great if you could see if there are Iowan grants. I think anyone who's able to get grants for the thing should be on the Editorial Board.

Ray, it's your Tuscaloosan idea that gave me this idea. You're right-- it's not hard to get libraries to buy stuff. You just request it, and they pretty much order it-- it's not like this is a $900 Dada book or something. Good idea about bookstores.

I think everyone's connected to at least one library, and like I said, we don't have to *say* it's a preorder. Just tell them to order it. It'll get there eventually.

But I'm thinking of asking them to order it in, like, November. I'm just trying to think ahead about $$.

Gillian, thanks! Yeah, I'm planning to offer it to the public, closer to the completion date. (... the 1950s ended?)

4:57 PM  
Blogger derek beaulieu said...

well jessica, i dont know abt pre-selling to libraries, but i'll purchase 2 copies on top of my contributor copy for sure...

6:08 PM  
Blogger T.A. Noonan said...

I'll definitely go to my libraries and get them to order it. (Which reminds me--I still need to get them to order OFC.)

7:12 PM  
Blogger jeannine said...

I don't mind POD, though I think if you asked the writers to either sell to a library - or buy an extra copy - or get a bookstore to order it - that might work too. I want to start a press myself and struggle with the beautiful printing versus no money/POD thing myself.

10:29 PM  
Blogger Jessica Smith said...

t.a.-- yeah, get 'em to order ofc!

jeannine-- POD is a workable alternative. i wish there were more options for paper weight and things (flyleaves, flaps, cover finish). but POD quality is underrated. i've been very happy with the POD things I've made, and it's so satisfying to put in the file and get out a book, and not have to deal with printers for a month before seeing the final product. Plus, POD handles all s&h operations which would otherwise be my responsibility and which is a pain in the arse.

essentially, i don't want people to have to pay for a contributor's copy. ideally, authors would be able to buy unlimited copies at cost. that ideal is POD. but some people are very against POD in terms of production quality. so... what's the best middle road for negotiating price v. quality?

but yeah... starting a press while a grad student... not the best $ planning... ;-)

11:29 PM  
Blogger theseus said...


i think the library thing sounds feasible. i, like others, would happily buy at least one copy on top of my contributor copy.


11:45 PM  
Blogger C. S. Carrier said...


I'm down with normal publishing. I'm down with the library idea. I can think of at least 4 I could hit up. Bookstores too. I don't know how much traffic my blog gets, but I could certainly set up a link & advertise the anthology there. Maybe I could coerce my students: buy it, get an A. Also, I'll probably want to buy 1 or 2 copies.


5:16 PM  
Blogger Ryan Downey said...

I will tell my library (UGA) to buy it and I will buy a few extra copies for friends.

credit card debt is abstract and therefore does not appear as menacing as it really is. hooray.

7:55 PM  
Blogger tmorange said...

i dunno how easy getting libraries to buy copies will be since libraries are about as broke as poets are.

frankly, 253 contributing poets each kicking in $20-$30 will get you the 5-7K you need pretty easily. i'm not in this for a free contributor's copy personally; you've agreed to publish us all and put the whole beast together, so it seems the least we can all do in return is to make a small investment in the project. makes it feel more like a collective effort.


10:39 AM  
Blogger Ray said...

I can get U of Wisconsin-Madison to order them. What's info should we give them? ISBN#?

12:11 PM  
Blogger Michelle Morgan said...

anyone with any ties to any university anywhere should be able to get at least TWO copies ordered: that's what all that sucking up to professors was for.

let's have a contest- whichever one of us pre-sells the most copies gets TWO contributor's copies.

it's on!

7:46 PM  
Blogger Michelle Morgan said...

oh, wait, i wasn't done.

also, if you are from a smallish town-

despite the fact that libraries are as broke as poets, local libraries seem to really dig the local talent. plus, i know my mom, at least, will order one.


7:49 PM  
Blogger Jessica Smith said...

mm: yeah, the "local talent" angle is def. the way to play public libraries (rw above clued me into this)... thanks for saying that. they like to have the books of home-grown talent on their shelves.

tom: i know libraries "don't have any money" in the abstract, but they do order books when you ask them to. i've ordered many a book from Buffalo (who were so broke that they had a book-buying freeze, which is unheard of and a disgrace in academia, while i was an undergrad) and UVA, and they buy them. I don't know if people really know how easy it is to get a library to buy a book. THere's usually a form online that you fill out the ISBN, author, publisher, and the library orders it.

ryan: totally. it's just a plastic card! it's not "real money." my credit card issuers are really glad i think that way ;-) if the printers took credit cards, i wouldn't even be asking about this. but it's probably best that they don't! it forces me to find other $ options without going into more personal debt.

mm, tom, ryan, csc, ray, & cg: thanks for the imput and for your willingness to collaborate on the funding end of this project.

I am thinking about some other options, too. For instance, I am thinking of asking for patrons among more commercially successful poets and others who have track records of giving $ to publishing projects. there are such people.

Also, Michelle, I've been thinking about "what if you sell multiple copues...." maybe for every copy you sell at sticker price you could earn the right to buy a book at cost (for yourself/family)... or something. Or I was thinkinga bout selling Girl Scout cookies, and how there were prizes for who sold the most. Maybe some kind of prize.

Basically I want a Robin Hood scheme... where people who have money will put money into the project, and young poets who don't have any money will have a place to publish and will be able to get copies of their at reduced rates.

10:55 PM  
Blogger Lee Herrick said...

If you decide to pursue your initial option (asking libraries to order or pre-order), I can get my college and local public library to commit, I think. I'll check back in later here to know whether I should approach them. Best wishes with it, Jessica.

10:42 AM  
Blogger Andrea Baker said...

hum... my local library is the nyc public library system and, in my experience, they're impenetrable.

but I'd be glad to preorder my copy and really wonder about free contributor's copies. why is that so important?

7:25 PM  
Blogger jasmine dreame wagner said...

I'll try to get my library to purchase a copy. And my parents. And my houseplants, squirrels outside, neighbors. I'll buy an extra copy, too.

2:30 AM  
Blogger shadmarsh said...

some suggestions:

selling of the crack

a rent party

Nigerian email scam

existential raffle

8:44 AM  
Blogger Ofelia said...

I will sell copies to libraries and colleges and to old college professors and various people I know. As long as there is a paypal button I will become an anthology marketing genius and enlist small children and other things.

7:52 PM  
Blogger MissWanda said...

I can get my library (Concordia.ca) to probably pick up a copy or two. Can probably get Ottawa libraries to get a couple copies too. And the special poetry library in Montreal--Atwater. It can be done.

I'm good either way.

8:41 PM  
Blogger Dan Coffey said...

Jessica, as the selector ("buyer") for English Lit at Iowa State Library I can tell you that we don't do Paypal, and that our acquisiions dept. is really cagey about pre-orders since they quite often never see the books.

We do strive to order books that patrons request through online forms, but increasingly I'm seeing publishers using forms masquerading as grad students (when I try to follow up on their "Iowa State" email, it usually ends up to be a fake) which irks me to no end.

Usually when libraries say they have no money, it's for serial pubs, not for books.

Also, I was there at SUNYB as a temporary librarian when they had the book-buying freeze that you mention. That was sheer publicity on the library's part to demonstrate how the library couldn't function under present university budget conditions. When a big donor or two caught wind of the situation, things changed mysteriously. It was funny, though: no money to buy books, and yet, at the reference desk there were pegs off of which hung free plastic bags with the UB Bulls logo, to promote the move up to Division 1, which cost a HELL of a lot of money, and which was an embarrassment in terms of ticket sales.

Bottom line, though: if you offer a way to pay that can accomodate a purchase order and a check, we'll preorder two. I'll make sure it happens.

10:48 AM  
Blogger Jessica Smith said...

thanks, everyone, for your gung-ho-ness. enthusiasm! over the project. i feel somewhat less stressed about money now and am beginning to think about organizing a New Year's release party (or multiple satellite parties)...

andrea, although free contributor's copies aren't an issue for some, they are an issue for many. i want to make as many people happy as possible! but if you want to donate, like, twenty bucks to offset the cost of printing, you're more than welcome to do so.

dan, thanks for the inside track. i will ask the boys at Bootstrap how to set up this P.O. stuff. I wouldn't order books at libraries myself... with a fake email... like you say. That's why it's nice that everyone is attached to a library, or in some cases more than one library.

11:06 AM  
Blogger CandyDishDoom said...

I like the library idea and would certainly be willing to give her a whirl--but since the anthology will include multiple poets from the same cities, what if multiple poets try to sell the book to the same library?

Also, I don't know how feasible this notion is, but what about offering the anthology for sale in etsy shops? I'd be glad to offer it in mine and then forward any profits to your Paypal account, etc...

Juliet Cook

3:03 PM  
Blogger mostros said...

i'm in support of non-POD. i'll ask my university, grad school, local branch, and hometown libraries to purchase a copy... as well as friends and fam. you've got a great idea. good luck, and keep up the great work. - seflo

2:40 PM  
Blogger Andy Gricevich said...

I'll try to get my workplace (one of the Madison city libraries) to pre-order one. I don't have any pull, but they like me.

10:08 PM  

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